Littwin: Colorado is not the next Amsterdam
OK, I know. It seems like a drug-fevered dream, something out of Alice in Wonderland, the caterpillar at his hookah, Grace Slick at the microphone.
But, if the calendar says 2014, buying and smoking pot are legal in Colorado. You’ve heard about it forever, but now you actually get to live it.
It’s not just a new year, it’s a new day. Colorado is the new Amsterdam. And from now on, everything is different.
All right. I’m giving this away early. I’m voting on not. Yes, it’s wild that you can walk into a store and order up some pot to go, as if you were ordering a burger and fries. It’s giddiness-inducing stuff, and I’m not sure Colorado voters had really thought through it. They knew that pot should be legal. Of course it should be legal. But what would it mean when it happened for real?
Still, I don’t think much happens. There’s the first frenzied day. And there’s the first week or month, like there was the first week or month of Krispy Kreme. But eventually, it’s just another option for a Saturday night – pot store or the liquor store. Brownies or brownies.
Our politicians are, of course, scared to death by the whole idea. I loved the Denver City Council debate on trying to make the new rules. You can smoke pot, just so long as no one can see it or smell it. Come on, smelling pot is almost as good as smoking it. Smelling it is this wink that you’re in on the secret. Warm smell of colitas…
They had to change that one, but, still, the rules are pretty absurd. We voted to legalize the stuff, but it’s illegal – at least in theory – to smoke pot at a Phish concert because . . because . . . I don’t know, either. Did you vote for that?
The thing about politicians is that although nearly all of them have smoked pot, and some of them smoke it to this day, they are conditioned to say under all circumstances that drugs are bad, and that if they ever did them, they were just experimenting as if it were a chemistry assignment. And now after repeatedly saying no to drugs, they have to write rules to say yes to pot. Maybe they’ll also have to admit that the war on drugs has been a terrible failure and that they have been complicit.
Some businessmen are worried that Colorado will be the new pot tourist destination. I don’t see it. First of all, why would someone travel thousands of miles to buy a few ounces of pot they can’t legally take with them anyway? It’s not like there are pot shortages around the country – or that anyone has any trouble buying it illegally where they live. If there’s any risk of pot shortages, it’s at our pot shops. There apparently aren’t yet enough of them licensed to meet the demand, so people will probably be sneaking around the corners again.
And second, we’re not some exotic drug haven — and won’t be. Hunter Thompson, alas, has come and gone, although he’ll always be just outside of Barstow to me. If you’re Rocky Mountain high, it’s just as likely to be a buzz from craft beer, which is almost the opposite of pot, or at least pot as I first encountered it back in the distant day.
If someone is looking for Amsterdam when they come here, they’ll find instead an unseemly shortage of decadence, and, if anything, that we are the clean-living capital of pot consumption (although, to be fair, Washington state, which has also legalized pot, could claim much the same). Tourists come here for the same reason most of us did – for the mountains and the outdoors and to get away from the 70-hour workweeks in the cities of long hallways and short, crooked streets.
Looking back, it was inevitable that we’d be the first place – or tied for first – to legalize pot, although I confess I didn’t see it coming. It happened here because of the peculiar intersection of politics and culture that can happen in the West and apparently the Northwest. After all, everything is politics, up to and including lighting up.
And it’s Colorado, where we have always had this weird strain of Western libertarianism that it has now been joined by the same mix of social liberalism that has turned the state from purplish-red to purplish-blue — the young urban dwellers who can’t fathom that pot was ever against the law, the suburban middle-class types who fondly remember that first hit they took in middle school, the boomers who will insist on telling you late into the night how they invented the stuff.
But there is this exotic notion: Every time you leave the state, you’ll be the one they ask at the dinner party to tell the story of the first time you bought it legal. It’s not just the vision of the pot store round the corner. It’s a story to dine on. Until the rest of the states figure out they can be living the dream, too.
[ Image via daniellemharms ]
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