Tripping over the irony of legalized marijuana
Ryan Summerlin January 19, 2014
During the 2012 election for the Carbondale Board of Trustees, candidate Doc Phillips proposed ditching the town’s name and replacing it with “Cannabisdale.”
Carbondale in fact feels a little like pot valley these days. It is certainly the commercial leader when it comes to marijuana in the Roaring Fork Valley and much of the Western Slope. On Jan. 14, the Carbondale Trustees voted unanimously to approve the first retail marijuana license west of Frisco and north of Telluride.
When Doctor’s Garden, located in a second floor space on Main Street, opened retail operations bright and early the next day, the line was out the door. Gary Pax waited two hours to be the first customer to buy legal recreational marijuana in the region. Staff from hotels in Aspen called to see if they might acquire some kind bud for their guests. A family from Utah bought a bit on that first day, to be a part of history and perhaps have a story to tell the folks back home.
Legalizing marijuana in Colorado has exposed the populace, law enforcement and elected leaders to a level of contradiction unseen in modern times. Given how often we elected contradict ourselves, that’s saying something. You really can’t take more than a step or two into the subject before tripping over the irony of it all.
Four of my fellow trustees, for instance, were mighty skeptical of medical marijuana in the days before the 2012 election, and appeared ready to ban new medical marijuana shops throughout town. That despite broad support for medical marijuana in the community. To their credit, those skeptics changed their tune after 71 percent of Carbondale voters came out in favor of Amendment 64, legalizing weed and all its iterations, in 2012. And, thanks to their and others’ hard work, the town now has a policy in place to protect both those willing to invest in the marijuana business and those worried about its impacts.
As a trustee, I have always advocated on behalf of medical marijuana businesses, and challenged overly restrictive rules that limited production and distribution to two small sections of town. That said, I also voted against Amendment 64. You might say I was in favor of marijuana before I was against it. While I personally may not think legalized marijuana is the best thing for our community, I strongly believe it’s my job to carry out the voters’ will.
Marijuana is not a harmless substance. I have a friend in Aspen who moved there at 20 and spent the next 40 years smoking pot every day. He worked a variety of odd jobs to pay the bills and buy the smoke. When he finally quit in the 1990s, he woke up from his buzz and noticed he was living exactly the same way at 60 as he had been at 20. Marijuana stole time from my friend. It stole experience. It stole opportunity.
My own experimentation with marijuana, at the age of 26, proved similarly frustrating. I was living in Seattle, just as the rock music scene was coalescing into what would become, briefly, the most dynamic and important in the world. I decided I wanted to be that cool guy who always had weed. My wardrobe and persona dripped grunge and ganja. I already knew members of Mudhoney, The Walkabouts, Tad and Beat Happening. Once I showed up at the shows and shared my ample weed … well, I’d go from being a distant acquaintance to their best buds. And the girls, no doubt, would flock my way.
Instead, I spent a sexless year watching TV rather than live music, eating day and night and packing on the pounds, and wondering why I wasn’t more popular. Luckily, with a combination of loneliness and horniness, I broke through the haze and quit.
Marijuana can be a lot of fun for people, and it serves a legitimate medical purpose. As a community, it’s important we recognize that marijuana presents a great opportunity for many. But it isn’t for everyone, and it’s also important to remember a perfectly good life can drain away, one hit or brownie at a time.
Allyn Harvey is on the Carbondale Town Board of Trustees, and will be writing a monthly column for the Post Independent. If you have comments or suggestions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.