Vail Daily column: Respect the will of voters
October 16, 2013
With all due respect to Barbara Allen and Buddy Sims, I would like to respond to their impassioned, but I believe mistaken, letter to the editor about madness and marijuana.
To put it simply, there is no disaster to turn around. The legalization of retail marijuana was a victory of truth over fiction, reality over lies and needs no apology.
The retail sale of marijuana is now enshrined in the Constitution of the State of Colorado. What that means is that it's not a law, now, but a constitutional right, just like free speech. I appreciate that they have personal moral objections to this fact, but that is not an acceptable reason under law to overturn the will of the voters.
The real madness is our long and shameful history of imprisoning adults for smoking a plant. This plant's toxic effect is so minimal that no one has ever overdosed and died from its use — which goes back 7,000 recorded years. The Centers for Disease Control does not even list marijuana as a possible cause of death as they have no statistics to show it's ever happened. At the same time, we permit selling alcohol, a poison that kills 75,000 Americans every year (source: NBC News) and is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the USA, after, not surprisingly, tobacco and poor eating and exercise habits. This deadly product is advertised as making you smarter, sexier and more attractive to the opposite sex. A similar argument exists for tobacco, which kills 440,000 Americans per year (source: CDC) and is so bad for you it cannot be advertised on TV or radio, yet it's legal. This remains one of the biggest intellectual disconnects of all time. The safest of the three products is the most illegal. That is true madness.
The reason that the people of Colorado voted to legalize retail marijuana by a clear majority, and those of Eagle County by an overwhelming one, is simple — the people of Colorado no longer believe the lies told us about cannabis for the last century. Lies about how black men would look white men in the eye when they are high. Lies about how it turns its users into crazed fiends. Lies about how it leads straight to shooting heroin. Lies about how it makes you fat, makes you stupid, makes you lazy and makes you worthless. The movie "Reefer Madness" was a comedy, not a documentary. William Randolph Hearst, J. Edgar Hoover and Harry J. Anslinger lied to you. They did so cynically, for their own personal gain. Hearst lied about the dangers of smoking marijuana because hemp paper threatened the value of his timber holdings, Anslinger and Hoover for power, pure control.
The madness here is a war on marijuana that in 2012 cost us $7.7 billion, yet in 40 years has made virtually no headway in reducing either the supply or the number of users, which according to studies includes one in four Americans. This pointless war has cost us billions of dollars, jailed countless Americans, and destroyed their lives. That is madness.
Here are some other points worth a ponder:
• The vast majority of the harm from cannabis has come from its illegal status, which leads to gang wars, gun running and lots of cash which attracts criminals. In fact, more legal damage has been done to marijuana users than physical damage. You can look under the link below about "harm reduction," wherein the punishment for using cannabis is worse than the product itself.
• Willful ignorance: This is a national problem, and its direct result of the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. As a result of that classification, research on marijuana was proscribed by federal law, under the classification. Schedule 1 drugs are required to have "no known medical benefits or medical use." This is according to the Food and Drug Administration and the DEA. Ironically, the FDA also holds a patent for medical uses of marijuana. Now, by law, a patent may not be issued if the claims are false. As we can see, our government wants it both ways.
• We have had medical marijuana in Colorado for a long time and no crazed wave of marijuana users have rampaged in the streets.
• Possession for adults has been legal since early January, in those 10 months no hordes of stoned individuals have rioted, gone on senseless rampages.
• Related to the two points above, if you spend any time looking on the Internet, you will discover that there are no links to marijuana use and senseless violence. A retired judge told me that in 20-plus years on the bench he'd never had a defendant in a spousal abuse case that smoked only marijuana and beat his wife and/or his kids, etc. When one reads about large crowds rioting, usually they are coming out of sports venues and other places where alcohol is served. The links to alcohol consumption and violence are all over the Internet.
• Stoned driving: We always seem to come back to this idea that we can't do an easy drug test for cannabis intoxication. My question is this: The point is getting impaired drivers off the road — since the gatekeeper for impairment is observed driving, how does the intoxicant used matter at all? If you are weaving and unable to properly control your vehicle you will be stopped and safety preserved. There is no easy test for any drugs other than alcohol, yet we don't get all bent out of shape about them. By the way, the judge in the above point also said that in his 20-plus years he saw one — one — case of a stoned driver arrested for impaired driving.
• Communities that fail to allow retail share in none of the tax income. In these economic times, is any tax revenue to be eschewed because you have a personal moral objection? Will you then support a tax increase equal to the forgone revenue?
• One of your arguments implies that the valley's absentee homeowners, if they were to vote, would be 100 percent against this amendment. I would not be so sanguine: National polling has recently shown that the pro-legalization numbers are polling over 50 percent in the U.S. The tide is in favor of legalization now as the truth becomes better known.
In closing, let me point out that, if cannabis is not sold here in Eagle County legally, it will still be here, and there is nothing the supervisors or anyone else can do to stop that now. The question that is before us is this: Are we going to be the responsible adults in the room and provide what the voters want with acceptable regulations, or are we going to take your approach, bury heads in sand and pretend that there is "no marijuana in our community, no sir!" I respectfully suggest that approach is too 20th century for the year 2013.
Eric Rosenquist lives in Eagle.
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