There was an interesting little tidbit of information out of Aspen last week, with the Aspen Daily News reporting Wednesday on the opening of a fourth medical marijuana dispensary in the tony ski town known for its laissez-faire attitude toward drugs. The very next day the same newspaper ran a story detailing Colorado Attorney General John Suthers' concerns about the proliferation of such dispensaries around the state.
Suthers is right to be concerned. The opening of Alternative Medical Solutions in an office building in downtown Aspen added to what is now an estimated 100 or so dispensaries throughout Colorado, the bulk of which have opened in just the last few months following an announcement by President Obama that his administration would not prosecute medical marijuana purveyors.
Aspen, a town of about 6,000 people, has perhaps 120 who are licensed to smoke weed at the moment. You can expect that number to rise, though. In July alone, 2,000 people in Colorado got their weed licenses, and officials say that by the end of the year there will be 15,000 registered medical marijuana users statewide. Will that be enough to keep all the dispensaries afloat? We'll have to wait and see.
My take on the medical marijuana issue is that if you are sick or in pain and there is a natural remedy that makes you feel better, you should be allowed to use it. But one of the big arguments against medical marijuana has always been that it's really just a form of "soft" legalization, and that is, unfortunately, exactly what is going on right now in Colorado.
This is not just about glaucoma patients. I know people who have weed licenses for old knee injuries and achy lower backs. Very few of these folks are dying of AIDS and need to smoke pot to work up an appetite. These are just people who finally have a valid excuse to get high.
The sudden boom in dispensaries just gives ammunition to the forces opposed to medical marijuana, because it is soft legalization. People who were getting high illegally are now doing it legally, except that they're still doing it illegally because they're buying from a dealer rather than a dispensary to avoid paying taxes. But at least the government is getting a cut from the tourists who come to Aspen with their weed licenses and don't know anyone locally.
The marijuana issue to me is not a partisan one. This isn't about right and left, because people in the South and Texas smoke plenty of pot, too. This is about personal rights and, increasingly, money. We can continue to have Mexican drug cartels growing acres of cannabis in our national forests and selling it on the black market, or we can own up to the fact that there are a lot of people in this country who are not otherwise criminals who enjoy getting high. Then we can treat this issue as we would alcohol or tobacco, regulating pot and slapping a hefty sin tax on it.
I won't go into this debate any deeper. Plenty of people have argued the point much better than I could. I'll just say there are lots of reasons to legalize marijuana, and lots of people who will keep smoking it regardless. I will admit, though, that there are also reasons not to, and if you don't believe me, read this: Last night i smoked weed, HELP?
How does everyone else feel about this? Polls taken earlier this year indicate that the majority of Americans may now favor legalization. Is this really the case? And does anyone have any other compelling stories or links about why we shouldn't legalize it? I'd love to read 'em if they're as entertaining as the post by the kid who seen a tiger eat his friend.