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May 15, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Who cares about cannabis?

More than 70 percent of Avon’s voters approved of legalizing marijuana in 2012.

Six of the seven Avon Town Council members today don’t think pot stores are a fit with their community.

There may be no constituency more at odds with its leadership over an issue than Avon and marijuana.

This goes straight to democracy’s prime question about the role of elected leaders: Are they elected to understand and do the community’s will, or to do what they believe best for their community?

That is, are they servants or lords?

Avon’s council has gone with lords, voting 6-1 to ban retail sales of marijuana in their town.

I’m kind of in the lord camp myself, at least with local government where the leaders are more earnest and less partisan than the larger levels, and perhaps a little wiser as a result.

Too often, most often, the masses find better ways to occupy their time and energy than to make the effort to understand municipal issues. They’d rather be ill-informed morons, basically. And they rather too proudly dismiss local governance as mundane, beneath their attention, even though local politics have the most effect by far on their daily lives.

What, you thought the world balanced on the fate of eastern Ukraine? How many Iraqis a suicide bomber got this time in Baghdad? What North Korea is up to now? That the PLO and Hamas seem to be merging?

Or is it the clown show in D.C. that so captivates? The issues certainly are serious: energy, education, security, the economy. But to the degree anyone pays attention, it’s to the simplistic ideology, to the certainty that conservatives or liberals alone have all the answers and the others are just devils intent on evil. Sure.

Only, we’re about as oblivious to the world and nation as we are to our own towns. It’s the highest state of privilege to have no need to understand the world — our personal, everyday one or the globe.

This is akin to more ancient above-it-alls who let their fingernails grow long and their bodies plump to show what was not required for their existence. Figuratively at least, we’re rich enough as a country for this to be the masses now.

Listen to me go on. Still, it’s hard to believe in the wisdom of crowds. Or voters.

Yes, that’s even with Avon’s chambers filling this week with 50 or more fans of building 6.5 miles of trails in the West Avon Preserve, some from Avon, some from Singletree and other parts of the valley. The council members voted accordingly 5-0 for the trails, which I think they would have done as readily with empty chambers as with the biggest crowd they’ve seen in memory.

Though I’m tickled as someone who loves to run trails that this one mustered the big turnout, it’s telling that 50 or 60 qualifies as the largest group of citizens seen at a council meeting, about half coming from elsewhere. It’s no doubt unfair to compare a council meeting to a concert, though.

Retail marijuana is a minor thing for Avon citizens. They’ll simply have the hassle of driving to Eagle-Vail soon enough for their THC equivalent of a six-pack or bottle. No big deal.

Now, higher-falutin’ towns than Avon count pot shops on the same level as liquor stores and coffee houses. Think Aspen and Breckenridge, both with much higher-end locals, part-time residents, visitors and reputations than Avon can boast.

Closer to home, Eagle flirts with a sort of a pot superstore, while other valley town leaders dismiss the vote tallies in their communities and keep retail cannabis at bay. Vail, Monty Python fashion, has formed a committee to study the issue. And reluctantly, I’d say, the county has to make some licenses available in unincorporated areas, such as Edwards and Eagle-Vail.

The pattern is the same as when Prohibition ended in 1933. Only a couple of years ago did the law loosen up in Colorado on Sunday sales of alcohol, and you still can’t buy liquor or full-strength beer at a grocery store. Pot will take awhile to waft into legitimacy.

Avon’s community could not rouse itself beyond a neighborhood over debilitating litigation between the town leaders and the developer of a subdivision bigger than the existing town, something I’d call truly important.

So it’s no surprise that the leaders feel quite safe from seven of every 10 voters — the logical ratio expected to disagree with the Town Council on this issue — marching on the council chambers to enforce their will.

The citizens have left it to the leaders, whether of disinterest or ignorance, to decide for them, pretty much as always.

The council is free to follow its own conscience. This core philosophical question turns out to have a practical and simple answer, absent a constituency that cares much what its leaders do.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.


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The VailDaily Updated May 15, 2014 09:53PM Published May 15, 2014 02:24PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.