Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Colorado: The Land of Weed and Honey

"They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do just as well – you just realize that it's not worth the f***ing effort. There is a difference."  - Bill Hicks

Thought it'd be nice to balance things out with a post from the lighter side of things...

So I happen to reside in the Denver area at present, and for those who have been living in a cave, it was a year and a half ago that Colorado, along with Washington state, legalized marijuana for recreational use. Federal law still says it's illegal, but residents and visitors here alike could care less and are hitting the bong with wild abandon. Which is leading to absurd news pieces like this one:

DIA Rental Car Agencies Now Dumping Grounds For Pot

"DENVER (CBS4)- Rental car workers at Denver International Airport say pot tourists are regularly leaving them with marijuana that travelers don’t want to try to carry through DIA.
“It happens quite often,” a rental car employee at a national chain told a CBS4 employee. “Every couple of days. I just throw it in the trash.”
At another major rental car agency on rental car row at the airport, a worker said, “It happens pretty often. More during the weekends. Probably like four times a day. Me, I just throw it away. I don’t know about the others.”

Now I've never smoked pot and have no interest in doing so (among other things, the smell of it always puts me off), but a fair number of my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances have in the past or still do so I'm not clueless on the subject. So when I see a useless, meaningless news story like this, my eyes roll back and I'm reminded again why I watch so little TV news anymore. It's reads like they're trying to make an issue out of nothing, yet they can't even manage to convince themselves that there's any relevance to the story. I could replace this story with one simple headline that distills the truth of that situation: "Pot tourists leaving pot in rental cars; rental car employees respond, 'Dude this job rocks!... there's pizza and a South Park marathon calling my name tonight!'". At least in MY experience, half of the rental car employees who detail, wash, and prep the rental cars are late-teens to twenty-something kids whose primary motivation in working is to have enough money to buy weed and video games. And the "I just throw it away" quote... yeah, right. Possibly true, but not likely. I don't smoke weed and don't necessarily think it's a great idea for others to smoke it (or at least as much as some do), but even I have no reservations about taking it and giving it to a coworker or friend for a few bucks. Anyway, so long as the rental car workers aren't getting baked at work, then exactly where is the problem?

Another article trying to make something out of nothing

"DENVER (AP) — Officials at some Denver homeless shelters say the legalization of marijuana has contributed to an increase in the number of younger people living on the city's streets.
One organization dealing with the increase is Urban Peak, which provides food, shelter and other services to homeless people aged 15 to 24 in Denver and Colorado Springs.
"Of the new kids we're seeing, the majority are saying they're here because of the weed," deputy director Kendall Rames told The Denver Post (http://dpo.st/1l1vQER ). "They're traveling through. It is very unfortunate."
The Salvation Army's single men's shelter in Denver has been serving more homeless this summer, and officials have noted an increase in the number of 18- to 25-year-olds there.
The shelter housed an average of 225 each night last summer, but this summer it's averaging 300 people per night. No breakdown was available by age, but an informal survey found that about a quarter of the increase was related to marijuana, including people who moved hoping to find work in the marijuana industry, said Murray Flagg, divisional social services secretary for the Salvation Army's Intermountain Division."

Ok, so that shelter's estimate comes to an increase of 33% from last year, and their informal survey said a quarter of that was marijuana related. Even if we take this at face value, that means there's an 8.33% increase in the homeless population that is motivated in part by legal pot. If we round it up, that comes to 19 more people coming in this year to this particular shelter for marijuana related reasons. From a quick jaunt to this site, they list 35 such shelters in the greater Denver/Boulder area. Even if we were to assume this shelter is representative of all of them (which this being a single men's shelter I figure this is an overestimate), multiplying 19 stoners by 35 shelters brings us to approximately 665 potheads coming to the greater Denver area this year at least in part for the legal weed. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a good thing. But in the grand scheme of things this is a fart in a hurricane. It's a story pretending to be an important issue. And realistically speaking, many of those who decide to stay for the weed will probably have to get work at some point. Even if they go on public assistance, Colorado has already restricted the use of EBT cards at pot dispensaries. Perhaps Avis or Budget or Alamo rental agencies are hiring? ;-)

At the core of this I suspect is a part of society that still can't believe that since marijuana legalization, things haven't totally gone to... well... pot. And really I don't see any difference here in Denver, other than smelling someone smoking reefer a little more often as I go about my day. I admit I do find it to be rather annoying when smelling it as I walk through my apartment building's hallway, but minor irritants are not justifiable cause to step on people's personal liberties. And I think the other part of this is the TV news and mainstream news organizations are fighting to remain relevant, and feel they have to create and exaggerate controversy in order to stay in business. But getting back to the "pot is bad" crowd, I really I don't see how it's so hard for them to grasp the benefits. Let's put aside for a moment the personal liberty aspects of legalization, i.e. no longer putting people in jail for participating in an activity that harms no one else. Just from a purely practical standpoint, not only do we have to incarcerate less people (and thus spend less tax dollars) but the local governments also get some tax revenue from the sale? It's what we call a win-win. Though I suspect the tax revenue is the real thing that allowed it to happen.

As this continues to play out here and in Washington I suspect this will ultimately lead to legalization on the federal level. Not because of the injustice of imprisoning pot smokers or because it's better for personal freedoms.... it's all about the tax money boys and girls. The federal government in particular has demonstrated ZERO scruples when it comes to their self-preservation and maintaining the status quo, and all their so-called "values" they claim to uphold will take an immediate back-seat when the check comes due and they're scrambling for funding. Money talks, and I expect it will be talking rather loudly in the 2016 primaries and election.

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