Colorado Rocky Mountain High

By Richard Farrell 01/10/2014

John Denver loved his marijuana, and he would have had a great New Year celebration were he still around. January 1 2014 marked the opening of some thirty officially sanctioned marijuana dispensaries right across the state, as the locals went out and celebrated their final victory.

I was there, and I saw it happen! As I shared a joint with an old timer outside a local weed store, I learned that getting there was not easy. “I got nabbed in 1976 for just short of an ounce of cannabis I was planning smoking for a migraine,” he told me. “The $100 fine was real money those days. After my name appeared in the papers I lost my job too.” I found myself struggling to believe that there wasn’t a single legal marijuana dispensary back then.

My new friend was in his early fifties by the time the Colorado Health Department had gotten around to admitting the need for medical marijuana. “That helped somewhat,” he admitted. “Although I did still need to track down a certified weed dispensary care giver as they called them. Each one was allowed only five patients and the queue was mighty long”.

A Rasta joined us as I rolled a second joint. He told me about the 2007 Green Rush. I learned the State had lifted that cruel limit following a much publicized weed review. They removed the restriction of five patients, and business really boomed as exciting new weed strains with remarkable therapeutic properties hit the streets.

The year 2005 brought with it a relaxation of penalties for recreational use, and a converging approach to marihuana and alcohol. Meanwhile federal police carried on as if nothing had happened. Finally, the Colorado Amendment Act 64 of 2012 leveled the playing field, allowing the emergence of recreational stores alongside weed dispensaries.

All this became reality as the clocks struck midnight on December 31, 2013. One hundred and thirty-six stores flung open their doors and began trading with legitimate marijuana licenses. This is not to say there was no disagreement. Some conservative critics alleged the move “will lead to serious public health and social problems”.

Rachel Gillette of the Colorado Branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has a different take on the matter. “Colorado has found an exit strategy for the failed drug war and I hope other states will follow our lead,” she announced to deafening applause, and smoke gently curling up from the rejoicing masses.

There are many benefits to this bold new initiative. When Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bills on May 28 2013, he estimated state income would benefit to the tune of $60 million in taxation from marijuana dispensaries and retail outlets. The police can also now be deployed on more useful tasks. Well done Colorado. We knew that you would make it happen, and you did!


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