Tonight: Debates, dispensaries and the demon weed

Wed, Aug 18, 2010


For free entertainment, head for the downtown library to listen to Sean Paige, Tom Gallagher, Mark Waller, and Dan May square off in passionate debate at 7:00 p.m.

The subject:Marijuana dispensaries.

Will there be tendentious position-defining? Meaningless posturing? Bewildered, clueless politicians and/or law enforcement officials? A packed house, thanks to folks with a dog in the fight?

You betcha! … as my favorite politician/opportunist/former governor of a thinly populated state might say.

For those of us still rooted in an earlier America, where dope was dope, the law was the law, dealers were criminals, and medicine was something you bought in pharmacies, the swift evolution of marijuana from scourge to panacea has been…interesting.

People, this is Colorado Springs, not Berkeley, not Boulder, not Key West, not San Francisco. Our sobersided elected officials don’t waste their evenings talking about marijuana – they don’t know what it looks like, what it smells like, or what it might do to their tidy minds. If ever there was a song for Springs politicians, it might be this ancient schoolboy chant:

“Rooty toot-toot! Rooty toot-toot !

We are the boys from the Institute.

We don’t drink or smoke or chew,

And we don’t go out with girls that do!”

As a grizzled veteran of the 60’s (not to mention the 50’s and the 40’s), it’s hard to take this stuff seriously. Is it really happening? Or am I in a medically-induced coma in a nursing home?

Sean Paige’s position on dispensaries is simple: regulate.

May’s and Waller’s: eradicate.

In a typically well-reasoned blog post, Paige noted that banning dispensaries will not affect the demand for medical marijuana.

That may be, but let’s be realistic. More than 100,000 residents of our fair state have applied for marijuana cards, enabling them to buy legal dope. If you believe that all of these folks suffer from medical conditions that can only be alleviated by a toke or two of the demon weed, then I’d like to talk to you about some Florida investment bargains.

Chatting with a dispensary owner the other day, I was amazed at his unctuous tone. Rather than cackling at the torrents of cash flowing into his business, he affected the grave manner of a mortician or an oncologist.

“It’s so wonderful to see the patients respond to the medicine,” he said, “and to be able to provide them with the exact variety they need for their condition.”

The language, the message – it was exactly that of 19th century purveyors of patent medicines.

Such nostrums purported to cure illness, to promote health, to heal the nervous system, and to bring light to darkness. Compounded by canny chemists who knew that “tincture of opium” would keep the customers coming back for more, these drugs armored our great-grandparents against the aches and pains of an earlier time.

Medicine may have made enormous strides since then, but we still love our organic remedies, our herbal concoctions, and our natural medicines. Of course, we’re opposed to mind-altering illegal recreational drugs!

As today’s ganjapreneurs have discovered, it’s all about marketing. Change the debate-it’s not a drug, but a medicine. They’re not criminals, dealing in a romantic and illicit substance, but healers helping those who suffer unnecessarily.

So expect the debate tonight to be all about patients, tax revenue, vibrant new businesses, and individual rights. Expect Messrs. Waller and May to be as baffled and bemused by it all as I was back in the 60’s, when I was the only straight person at a stoner party.

I left, not without feeling a little envious.

They looked as if they were having fun.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Ed Says:

    Here’s what we should do with marijuana:

    1. Legalize it
    2. Regulate it
    3. Tax it

    Our current experience with MMJ shows that it:
    1. Takes money away from criminals
    2. Provides new revenues to cities, counties, state
    3. Provides lots of new jobs
    4. Stimulates the local commercial real estate sector (in bad need of help)

    How about the EDC start a new focusto make Colorado Springs THE epicenter for all things related to the weed. Looks like a tremendous future growth opportunity for the economy.

  2. Andrew Says:

    I would be full of bologna if I said John was way off on saying many of those applying for cards aren’t actually suffering from a debilitating illness. Having said that, I also think that most people with little or no experience with marijuana have precisely zero idea of what they’re talking about when they start bashing it. Most notably, the origins of the illegality itself of marijuana have long since been ignored or forgetten, and for many people the founders themselves may very well have written them into the constitution (which, of course, they didn’t).

    On the contrary, many of us believe that the constitution protects our individual freedoms, and that hypocrisy alone draws the line of legality between marijuana and alcohol and tobacco. Is there any doubt that if marijuana had gotten the same foothold in our capitalist society that booze and cigarettes did that it would be every bit as legal and tax-revenue-intensive as they are to this day?

    I guess what I’m getting at is that the point shouldn’t be whether or not people are abusing the ‘system’, but rather that the existence of the system in it’s current form is itself just a societal workaround to an arcane, insatiable desire for control by the conservative-minded portion of our population… a demographic that, ironically, claims to be our country’s strongest advocate for individual liberty and personal responsibility. I guess they also believe that these principals only apply to, and are deserved by, those that either already fit into some cookie-cutter representation of the ‘average upstanding American’, or anyone willing to force their way into it.

    Put more simply, how can a person spend a minute of their time, or dime of their money, attempting to keep marijuana illegal, without devoting the rest of their time and money to making tobacco illegal?