Last week, the Chaffee County Times published an article titled Legal pot creates minimal law enforcement issues, the third in a series on marijuana.
I found it interesting to note that time and time again, law enforcement and school officials state their belief that there are problems or there will be problems because of marijuana consumption, but they have no data to support their concerns.
Buena Vista police chief Jimmy Tidwell seems particularly concerned about edible marijuana products.
While Tidwell warns parents to keep access of marijuana edibles out of sight of children, the police department has not responded to any instances of children accidentally consuming marijuana edibles.
Apparently Summit County Sheriff John Minor and Pitkin Sheriff Joe DiSalvo have similar concerns.
“Our biggest problem,” DiSalvo said, “is definitely people consuming marijuana and consuming too much and then freaking out.”
I wonder if he’s equally concerned about kids getting alcohol poisoning or people freaking out on absinthe or sleep driving on Ambien.
Buena Vista High School principal Brian Yates says that he believes students’ “usage of marijuana is up from even 5 years ago, although there wasn’t a single student actually caught with marijuana on school grounds last year.”
Why isn’t he finding it on campus? One word: Respect.
“I do think more kids are using the drug, but I also think they’re respecting the school and not bringing it on campus,” Yates said.
And in Leadville, “police chief Michael Leake said that his department believes usage among teenagers and especially at the local high school has increased, though he did not have specific statistics to corroborate that belief.”
I hear similar claims nearly every day. People in positions of authority are quite certain that impaired driving is up or teen use has increased, or whatever the fear may be, despite the lack of data. It’s like they’re waiting for the sky to fall, and they’re just certain it will, and all their fear-mongering will be vindicated.
So many people seem to be under the mistaken impression that marijuana is new to Colorado. Like it just fell from the sky on January 1, 2014, when stores were allowed to sell marijuana to adults for recreational use. They don’t seem to have a grasp of reality.
The truth is marijuana has been in our communities for decades. Has everyone forgotten the 60s? Have you seen That 70s Show?
Back in the 70s when I was in high school, there was plenty of high quality marijuana to be found. Heading off school grounds for lunch and a quick toke with friends was no problem. Neither was borrowing an ID and sneaking into bars that sold 3.2 beer to anyone who’d passed their 18th birthday. It was a right of passage right along with getting your drivers license.
Driving under the influence was also a common occurrence. Under prohibition, if you wanted to go smoke some weed, you’d drive out to a corn field somewhere, sit in your car with friends and get high. What else were you going to do? Consuming in the comfort of your own home just wasn’t an option for most of us, even as adults.
In my adult years, I’ve often found myself at parties where alcohol was flowing freely, then someone finally lights up a joint or pulls out a pipe. For as long as I can remember, patrons at clubs and bars have been slipping out to the alley or car to toke among friends. Yes, we’ve been mixing alcohol and marijuana for decades too. Many folks find it to be a very pleasant combination and indulge in it regularly and responsibly.
It may appear that more people than ever are consuming marijuana, but reports don’t bare that out. Surveys show that consumption has stayed relatively stable over the years, even among teens. Now, under a legalized system, marijuana and all the issues that come with it are more out in the open and in the media. Hardly a day goes by without some marijuana-related story on the local news stations or in the papers. Under prohibition, it was so much easier to ignore what was going on under ground even when it was right under your nose.
People have used cannabis medicinally and recreationally, not just for decades, but for millennia. We have a vast network of receptors in the brain and throughout the body called the endocannabinoid system, more vast than any other system in the body, specifically designed to bring us into balance. The chemicals in cannabis are designed to fit that system, bringing comfort and healing to bodies in need. We have evolved right along side the cannabis plant.
Marijuana is nothing new. Get over it. Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop or the sky to fall. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, recreational use since 2012, and we’re still here. The streets aren’t filled with incoherent zombies high on marijuana. We haven’t had a rash of traffic accidents involving stoned drivers. No child has died from accidentally ingesting a marijuana edible. Teens aren’t damaging their brains on pot any more than we did (and there are plenty of successful stoners out there).
The Reefer Madness has to stop. The institutional bias must end.
Marijuana is here… and it always has been.
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