Oct 092011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

The war on drugs seems to have taken a bit of a ceasefire in Colorado –– at least as far as marijuana is concerned.

All one has to do is go to a doctor, complain of back pain or insomnia, pay a nominal fee and voila!

You now have instant access to dozens of dispensaries with hundreds of different strains and edibles to choose from.

At first, MMJ patients could only get marijuana from a licensed caregiver. After U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech in 2009 stating that the feds would no longer prosecute operations in states that have legalized MMJ, the dispensary model emerged. This shift in policy marked a rapid change in the industry, leading to dozens of dispensaries popping up in Northern Colorado virtually overnight.

The cities of Greeley, Loveland and Windsor all voted to ban dispensaries within their city limits. In the wake of those initiatives, the dispensaries all flocked to Fort Collins, making it a pot mecca of sorts. With more than 20 dispensaries here in Choice City, chances are there’s one within walking distance of your house or apartment.

Critics say access to marijuana has become so prevalent in recent years that drug-related suspensions in Poudre School District have gone up 300 percent since 2008, according to the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.

All of that pot has totally harshed the mellow of the Concerned Fort Collins Citizens, the group that organized a petition to ban dispensaries. The group easily collected the needed signatures, and the measure is on the ballot for the Nov. 1 special municipal elections.

The initiative, known as Question 300, would ban licensed medical marijuana businesses such as dispensaries, grow operations and makers of marijuana-infused products from operating within city limits.

“We all want the best thing for our city,” said Bob Powell of Concerned Fort Collins Citizens. “But now we have this reputation for having a lot of marijuana.”

Sorry to break this to you, Bob, but Fort Collins (and Colorado in general) has had a reputation for having a lot of marijuana long before the dispensaries started popping up.

“Rocky Mountain High” is one of our two official state songs, for God’s sake.

It’s not just the influx of high school kids getting busted for pot that bothers those people supporting the ban. They also fear the culture change that could result from continuing our leniency –– maybe they’re finally getting fed up with all those jam bands and reggae.

The Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, who has come out in support of the ban, say their concern is that, “Drug and alcohol use in the workplace have consequences for employers including safety, employee impairment and the resulting lost productivity, insurance, liability and employee relations.”

This is a weak argument. After all, our community culture is extremely permissive of drinking beer.

Just because we have so many outstanding beer choices and easy access doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to drink at the office. Dispensaries have nothing to do with the issue of drugs in the workplace. If you’re getting high or drunk at work, your boss should be showing you the door no matter what.

I do understand why parents would be concerned by the dramatic increase of marijuana-related suspensions, but the reality is that if teenagers want to get high, they’ll find a way.

When I was in high school, I saw kids buying and selling their parents’ and grandparents’ prescription painkillers, and even crushing up and snorting ADD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall off their lunch trays.

Kids had pretty easy access to marijuana, too. The only difference is that instead of having marijuana that was grown locally, highly regulated, taxed and tracked from seed to store, the kids ended up with cheap pot smuggled in from Mexico.

I’m not condoning high school kids doing drugs. It’s just my preference that if they’re going to smoke pot (and they certainly will), it might as well not come from Mexican drug cartels.

Proponents of the ban claim that there has been a sharp increase in crime since the dispensaries moved into town. There doesn’t seem to be any actual evidence to back this up, though.

In fact, according to an article in Sunday’s Coloradoan, “A recent study by Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, found that crime rates increase in neighborhoods when marijuana dispensaries are closed compared to areas where shops are open.”

I have a feeling that Question 300 is going to pass. Proponents are highly organized with a clear and consistent message. Conversely, I haven’t seen or heard much from the opposition. Then again, getting stoners to band together is kind of analogous to trying to herd kittens.

I don’t really care which way you vote on this issue. Just vote, damn it.

Joe Vajgrt is a senior journalism major who is high on life. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. He can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:16 pm

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