Tens of thousands of pot smokers wheezed a sigh of relief when recreational marijuana use was made legal January 1, 2014. Gone is the cottage industry of gray-area physicians rubber-stamping medical prescriptions for a well-informed gaggle of would-be stoners who memorized popular conditions sure to garner approval. Now, a driver’s license, or approved government ID attesting to an age equal to or greater than 21 gets you a fistful of ganja, or allows you to grow your own, (within reason, no voluminous spreads in back 40) so Coloradans now can blot out persistent worries such as the electric bill, dental appointments, picking the kids up at school, and other pernicious inconveniences that interrupt a good, healthy buzz.
Gone too is the relentless persecution at the hands of the jackbooted authorities who, in the annual 4/20 Denver Weed-a-Thon in a downtown park, whereby dedicated consumers openly smoked, police hung by on the fringes of the crowd in the event someone needed Haagen Daz.
I’ve toyed with augmenting my retirement portfolio with a series of carts, RandyCarts, that I can set up just outside the pot stores whereby I sell Zig-Zags, Snickers, buffalo jerky, Red Bull, or giant bags of Fritos.
But the prices for marijuana are not the $35 for an ounce of Columbian Red Bud of the 70s, nooooo-sirrrrr-eeeee, how about a pre-rolled spliff for $18, or 1/8 of an ounce for $50-$70? Do the math, that 28 gram Ziploc from the 70s would be $400-$560 today. Those stratospheric cocaine prices no longer seem out of reach. Ah, but that’s unfair. Despite the assertion of marijuana being a gateway drug, research indicates a great many pot smokers never move past weed, some don’t even drink — maybe because they can no longer operate an ATM, or find the liquor store through the blue haze of a righteous cloud of high-test THC vapor.
But the pot purveyors in Colorado, who are licensed to grow marijuana, provide endless variants of not only strains of grass, but also edibles such as gummies, cakes, pies, cookies, brownies and a hundred other consumables that will melt your face in less than an hour.
Today’s Colorado Green is not your father’s 1970s ditch weed. That $400-$560 for an ounce goes a long, long way. On local television the day the law went into effect, one bleary-eyed consumer took a huge hit off a bong and pronounced his purchase as being the strongest pot he’d ever smoked — and, judging by the professional dexterity he exhibited with that pipe, I’d have to say he could out-toke Bob Marley in his prime.
So, maybe those physicians who freely prescribed ganja for warts, PMS, anxiety (often manifested as worries precipitated by running out of pot) and a number of legit uses, such as chemotherapy side effects and glaucoma, well, maybe they’re buying tricked out vans and ferrying around people in the NEW cottage industry of Marijuana Tourism. Yes folks, complete packages are available to fly you in, load you in a van complete with bongs, one-hitters, joints, and gas-masks — and an ample amount of neo-paralyzing marijuana, and then they will deliver you to a local pot store, your hotel, and maybe an intervening stop at Papa Johns en route.
Steven Colbert remarked about the ski vans picking people up and getting them high on the way to the resorts a couple of hours west. He said “Here’s how to spot the people who have been on the marijuana ski bus: they’re the ones snowboarding.” Another Colbert gem: “If pot is so safe, why is everyone from the movie, Reefer Madness now dead?” (If you’ve been hitting the pipe yourself and didn’t get that one, Reefer Madness came out in 1936).
OK, the complications.
DWB (Driving While Bonging) – Indeed, what is too stoned? Well, in fact, a law passed to allay the fears of the non-stoned population in Colorado states that 5 nanograms/ml of THC is too wasted to drive. OK, no one wants blitzed drivers (or pilots for that matter), but I can’t wait to see the legal challenges to those stoners who ventured out, swerved their car after dropping a joint in their lap, and were pulled over. While anyone over the age of four knows when a pot smoker enters a room with a pungent cloud in tow, there ain’t no Cannabis breath test. Nope, if you drive a little slalom on the road and get busted, blow 0.0 on the Breathalyzer, and smell like you just rolled out of Snoop Dogg’s limo, you will be asked to come to the station for a blood test. You can refuse, of course, but the penalties are even harsher than passing on the alcohol breath test.
While you can bet some labs are working on a roadside test, THC is detected via gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and your average patrol officer isn’t packing one of those next to the 12 gauge (heck, the gas cylinders alone make such a prospect dicey). I can promise you that enterprising attorneys, who have seen most of the loopholes close for springing clients from DUI busts, well, they’re just now stockpiling those loopholes that look more like craters when it comes to pot.
Who can really say 5 nanograms is too stoned? Remember, those figures of 0.08 for booze are battle-tested. For a guy my weight, that’s like 5 beers, or 5 jiggers of whiskey in a very short time.
But, would Willie Nelson, who “Lit up a big fat Austin torpedo” on the roof of the Jimmy Carter White House be too glazed to drive than, say, an intrepid accountant who is smoking for the first time and sees Geckos crawling out of his khakis? After several blunts, Willie would look like Baryshnikov behind the wheel of his F-150 compared to a neophyte who might need psychotherapy for a few weeks after a shameful error in judgment.
Don’t get me wrong: stoned or drunk driving is no joke, reprehensible, and not to be tolerated, but I expect a fusillade of challenges to that very number. “Your honor, 5 nanograms? Really? Why Susan here wakes up each morning with 15 nanograms from the night before and she’s never missed a shift at the Quickie Mart.”
Less defensible will be those employers who still require a clean blood sample who then fire an employee for cause after they toured Breckenridge following a smoke-a-thon and listening to the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius/XM. That having been said, they too will find an ample supply of Legal help when the need arises.
So, yesterday, a study came out talking about the abnormalities of the brain observed in pot smokers. Ya think? But I guess I wonder how deleterious the effects of marijuana are as compared to a lifetime of drinking? Better? Worse? I don’t know, and neither do you.
In the final analysis, Washington State also has legalized pot, and, truth be told, I expect other states to follow in steady but progressive fashion. Let’s remember that the reason grass was legalized in Colorado had less to do with “How bad can it be” than “Hell, this stuff is coming across from Nogales in semis and we’re leaving that tax revenue on the table!” Yeah, a huge chunk of that $400/oz. pot is going to the taxperson ... and, in Colorado, some is earmarked for, wait for it: drug education.
Which begs another question: If the price of pot gets too high, will the Mexican cartels drop their price points to undercut the legal providers? No, really, think about this: once in a bag, pot from Colorado looks no different that pot from Oaxaca. I’m not sure the people lusting for that tax revenue thought that one out too far. (Was grass to blame? Just sayin’…)
Ah, well, back to my planning activities for my fleet of RandyCarts providing munchies to the newly-legal ganja patrons of Colorado.
Randy Hice is Director, Strategic Consulting at STARLIMS, and the author of the thriller novel Agbero. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.
Randy C. Hice | May 29, 2013 | Kindle Price: $4.99 | Available on Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and several other ebook outlets.