Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes

The 4/20 rally in 2011

On Nov. 6, 54.8 percent of Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which allows adults to possess, consume, buy and grow marijuana in small quantities for personal use. Washington state passed a similar law that day, the first two states to legalize marijuana consumption for adults in American history. The nation’s, indeed the world’s eyes, as they say, are upon Colorado.

Now I’m guessing that not everyone who voted for the passage of Amendment 64 is a pot smoker. And there were more votes for legalized weed than for Obama as president. So, among other things, Colorado and Washington voters were telling the federal government that people in those states are tired of the wasteful spending and bullshit of the now decades-long federal War on Drugs.

That misguided effort, initiated by Richard Nixon and built upon lies and deceptions that continues under the Obama administration, has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of innocent people, helped boost overseas drug cartels’ profits and created a vast government bureaucracy despite never slowing the flow of marijuana to millions of U.S. consumers in all those years. Studies indicate that marijuana is now one of the top cash crops in the U.S., if not the largest. At least $1.5 trillion of our tax money has been wasted already, and the money is still going out the door (www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock).

The War on Drugs has been, and is, a massive, complete failure. And still it drones on. Though cannabis has been legalized for medical purposes in almost 40 percent of states, Michele Leonhart, the head of the DEA, during a congressional hearing last year, when asked if crack or heroin are more dangerous than marijuana, could only answer that “all illegal drugs are bad” (http://huff.to/LX5FT0).

Now Colorado has legalized pot, and a lot of things are going to change. The next few years, like those after alcohol prohibition, offer unlimited possibilities amid crazy uncertainty. How will the state regulate and tax it? How will it affect law enforcement and prison populations? What are the public health and cultural implications? What new entrepreneurial opportunities and businesses will become successful? Will, as a Camera columnist imagined recently, our streets be filled with looting teenagers consumed by reefer madness (http://bit.ly/105ipPr)?

One of the amendment’s strengths is that it doesn’t try to shove pot down anyone’s throat. You can’t smoke in public, and private smoking clubs are already involved in legal battles. Some municipalities have already exercised their right to ban commercial sales within their borders, Lafayette among them.

Look no further than this weekend to see the kinds of cultural changes that are changing the meaning of Rocky Mountain High. The state commissioned a task force to come up with recommendations for how the law should be implemented. One of the provisions was to allow “pot tourism.”

Which brings us to the already sold-out High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup, coming to Denver beginning April 18 and running through April 21. James Walker and Matt Brown, a couple of Denver entrepreneurs anticipating the opportunity, are offering people the chance to fly from anywhere to Colorado, be met at the airport by a marijuana-friendly limousine service to a marijuana-friendly hotel to spend the weekend attending concerts by Snoop Lion and Cypress Hill, panel discussions, cultivation seminars, hash cooking classes and an awards ceremony. And there’s a legal, outdoor smoking area for consumers, in accordance with the new law. Tickets sold out last week, with three times as many tickets sold as promoters hoped (http://worldcannabisweek.com).

Contrast that with Saturday in Boulder. The 4/20 event on the CU campus has become enough of a tradition that it’s mentioned in Wikipedia entries for the city of Boulder and the 4/20 event itself. After putting up with it for a long time, last year CU spent $278,000, which included dumping fish entrails on the Norlin Quad and restricting access to campus, to quash it.

As it turns out, the university probably blew its wad a year too soon. I attended a couple of the CU 4/20 “events.” Beyond the obvious “let’s party” atmosphere, at least part of the attraction was the ritual celebration of an illegal drug that many people felt should be legal. In Colorado, that battle is over. Any real incentive to gather to celebrate the sacrament or protest against CU’s resistance has, uh, gone up in smoke. Protesting something already legal isn’t in the spirit of Amendment 64, which advocates discrete behavior. It deserves to die.

Especially when the best marijuana in the world is available all weekend at the Cannabis Cup in EXDO Center and the annual 4/20 event in Civic Center Park. Welcome to Colorado 2013. Turn and face the strange changes.

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