Rocky Mountain High has new meaning after our ski vacation last week in Aspen.
I visited a pot shop.
The front half was empty save for an ATM machine. It’s a cash business because banks won’t support the industry. The back half of The Green Dragon Cannabis Co looked sterile like a pharmacy with various paraphernalia such as bongs, vaporizers, and water pipes housed in clear boxes along the wall, reminding me of museum and jewelry displays. Two employees worked with customers, answering questions, showing them products and ringing them up. The consumers were men and women in their twenties and thirties, dressed casually, talking and buying like it was de rigueur. By contrast, I am a teetotaler and felt awkward as I walked behind the six or so patrons and checked out the joint, pun intended. My husband and cousin came along to bolster my confidence. We left before we could talk with anyone.
Observing this was purely by happenstance, an inevitable byproduct of a ski visit. But, curiosity got the better of me.
On magazine covers, sidewalk placards, and store shingles, marijuana was an unavoidable discussion topic with my children. Colorado is one of four states (in addition to Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) to legalize it for recreational use, and this is part of a national issue. Just two months ago, I overheard Greenwich teens discussing pot.
“Don’t you want to hear my story?” a girl said. “Jackson was so worried. All concerned about taking the drink. Seriously? What’s the big deal?” the same girl continued. “He says it’s stealing, but it only costs four dollars, you know. It bothered him. Then I told him. ‘Look I’m falsifying my ID to get alcohol. And I’m smoking weed tonight.’” (Link to full article, Greenwich Teens: Are They Going to Pot?)
So, heading west for some good snow, I found myself at the forward edge of a movement taking hold in our nation. Medicinal establishments existed in Aspen since 2009 and more opened for recreational business last year. Aspen has six establishments, or “more pot shops than there are liquor stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and gas stations, not to mention churches, ski mountains, hardware stores and dry cleaners.” (Aspen Times,”Six in the City: Who’s Who in Aspen’s Booming Recreational Marijuana Business.”)
Shopping one evening, we walked into a T-Shirt store with a shirt on the door which read, “High… How are you. Aspen, CO.” Gathered outside were groups of people waiting to enter a club. We navigated through the pot fumes, a distinct and unmistakable smell and an illegal use of the substance, not just that time but in other areas where what appeared to be teens huddled around open fire pits. It’s against the law to smoke in public.
I’m concerned about the decriminalization of cannabis and the influence of the industry and business.
Patients have long made a case for the need for weed, it’s prescribed by medical professionals, and now four states have adopted its recreational use. Should we lump it with other controlled substances?
The libertarian in me says to let it be. Each individual to himself. But then my children had to navigate through the second hand fumes.
We know it can have long term negative effects.
The habit of smoking pot during teen years causes long-term brain damage, according to a Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine study. (Marijuana Damages Brain for Life, Study link)
If I were looking for answers to the problems posed by this booming new business, perhaps I found it on the front page the next day.
The Aspen Daily News reported front page and top of the fold: “Student who was arrested gets attorney.” Suspected of rolling a joint, the 16 year old was taken to the ground and cuffed outside Aspen High School. Students posted videos on YouTube and there’s an outcry of police abuse with an attorney taking the student’s case pro bono, saying it was an unlawful arrest. Two days later, the same paper reported that charges were filed against the youth for resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer as well as possession of marijuana. The teen had cannabis and a pipe in his backpack, though no rolling papers. (Link for video of student arrest to decide for yourself)
This teen’s experience provides a good lesson.
Choices adults make, legal or otherwise, affect our youth. And when it comes to controlled substances, it’s not good.
** Here are local rules on cannabis provided by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. (Source: Winter in Aspen 2014-15)
Smoking in public is illegal.
Smoking under age 21 is illegal.
It is illegal to smoke pot while driving, just as it is illegal to be high while steering a motor vehicle.
Marijuana products can’t be taken out of state.
Non-residents of Colorado can only posses up to 1/4 once; residents may possess up to 1 ounce
If driving, you must keep cannabis inside of its original container.
Only purchase from licensed retailers and buyer must be 21 or older.
Keep all products away from minors.