News has a way of following a reporter. I scheduled my trip to Colorado to coincide with my younger son's Christmas vacation, never realizing that a historic shift is taking place here — this Wednesday, Jan. 1, Colorado will become the first state in the nation (well, a neck-and-neck tie for first with Washington State, which also legalizes pot on New Year's Day) and one of the rare places in the world where adults can freely purchase marijuana, no strings attached. You don't have to be sick. You don't need a prescription. You only need to be older than 21 and not spark up in public.
We should have visited next week.
Kidding. I'm not running out to get pot, because either I'd like it too much or too little and either way would be bad. But it is an interesting cultural moment to witness, even second hand (insert your pun here) in the local press.
The newspapers, always champions of the status quo, are eagerly ballyhooing the aborning era of Colorado Rocky Mountain high. Saturday's Denver Post contained an extensive story on how to grow pot -- in the "Home" section, of course. Another showed up in the "Fit" section. Each adult can grow up to six plants, though the law requires that your stash be cultivated in an enclosed, locked space, which is just as well, as house pets carry parasites that can make your pot plants sick. Who knew?
Sunday's Boulder Daily Camera was headlined "Waiting on Weed" and included the 14 stores expected to open for business New Year's Day -- none in Boulder or the surrounding Boulder County, whose licensing hoops will keep legal pot from being sold until February.
I suppose there are all sorts of somber, valid, good-public-policy reasons to be concerned, but at this point it just seems funny, to see society open its arms to what is basically a low-level, self-indulgent method to disengage your brain from the world for a while. Compared to the huge swath of death and destruction, illness and heartbreak carved by alcohol, I just can't see getting worked up at this point about sweet old Mary Jane demurely slipping her legal chains. Like gay marriage, the surprising thing will someday be that it was ever illegal.
Another Post story on Saturday, by reporter John Ingold, was about the distribution of the first three dozen pot licenses Friday (about 100 stores are licensed in the state, so far) to vendors who already sell medical marijuana. When the first license was given out, "The handful of people in the licensing office -- some of whom had lined up as early as 7:15 a.m. to await the office's 8 a.m. opening -- applauded."
I haven't been smoking anything, but that "some of whom had lined up as early as 7:15 a.m." struck me as incredibly funny, again in a dry sort of way. Wow man, a whole 45 minutes early! Righteous vigor! I assumed the detail had to be intentional, but then wondered. It wasn't as if confirmation weren't possible. I wrote to the reporter, identifying myself and telling him what I struck me about the sentence:
When I read that, I smiled, considering it delightfully wry. As anyone knows who has ever covered stories involving people waiting in line — holiday shopping, or hot concert tickets, or those lining up to get the first picnic license — people show up hours, even days early for stuff they consider important. Showing up 45 minutes early is practically late, and struck me as a sly wink at the stoner culture to come, assuming it's not already here.I was wondering if he had written it intentionally. Ingold didn't answer* -- maybe because it's the weekend, maybe because most reporters don't leap to respond. Maybe he smelled a trap, and was worried about being accused of tucking double meanings into his staid news stories. He shouldn't worry; double meanings are inevitable. Another article — or his, they all blend together at this point — explained that distribution might be a problem, as the only legal chain of supply right now is for medical marijuana, and it'll take a while for them to ramp up the purely recreational supply chain. Shortages are possible.
"Nobody knows how great the demand will be," I told my mother, as we sat in the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, waiting for our breakfast.
"I'm sure it will be high," she said, her face placid with sincerity. I paused, looked at her for a lingering moment. I smiled. She smiled back. A beat. I couldn't say it.
"No doubt," I replied.
* The day after this was posted, I heard from John Ingold. He wrote:
Sorry to take so long to respond. Regrettably, I wasn't trying to be wry with that sentence. Considering that there was no need to line up -- since store owners could pick up their licenses anytime during business hours on Friday (or Monday or Tuesday) -- I thought it was a sign of the store owners' enthusiasm surrounding the start of recreational sales that they would line up just to achieve some type of first.
But if you found humor in it, all the better. I certainly don't take any offense to it. Whatever someone might think of our experiment with marijuana legalization, I think everyone can agree that it has been filled with plenty of little moments of absurdity.