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VOL. 129 | NO. 40 | Thursday, February 27, 2014

Vic Fleming

High Colorado

By Vic Fleming

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“Friends around the campfire, and everybody’s high.” I cannot but think that John Denver was a prophet after all.

In January, Colorado’s long-running “grass”-roots campaign took another step, as retail marijuana shops started opening. This surely has solidified the movement begun by a 2012 statewide initiative. Fifty-five percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment that reads, in pertinent part,

“(T)he people of the State of Colorado find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.”

In the Feb. 10 New Yorker, Steve Coll reports that the airport in Colorado Springs now has “bins to help departing travelers remember to drop their pot before flying off to less liberated areas.” Coll calls the 2012 initiative “one of the most surprising left-libertarian successes in recent years.” He credits President Obama’s revival of the Democratic Party in states such as Colorado. J.D. would have loved that!

But are Coloradans having second thoughts?

In the Feb. 10 Denver Post, citing a recent Quinnipac University Poll, John Ingold writes that 51 percent of those surveyed believe that legalizing weed has been bad for the state’s image. The poll didn’t ask, though, “How do you wear your hair?” or “Where do you buy your clothes?” Bear that in mind when assessing the respondents’ opinion of their state’s image.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed reported that they had used marijuana at some point in their lives. Seventeen percent said they’d be “somewhat or very likely to try marijuana brownies if a friend brought them to a party.” Now, there’s useful information. Next party I host, whether in Colorado or here at the house, I’ll be checking people’s brownies at the door.

Almost 75 percent of those responding to the survey said they wouldn’t mind if their neighbors grew a little pot in their living rooms, but they do object to “big-time grow houses” filtering into their hoods.

Quinnipac surveyed 1,139 registered Colorado voters via landlines and cell phones. The margin of error was 2.9 percentage points. That means people surveyed could’ve been a little higher than the surveyors thought, right?

Coll’s New Yorker piece posits that “Colorado has a free-range-inspired history” and that the legalization of pot may be viewed as “the latest reimagining of frontier freedom.” He points out also that Colorado’s voters “are almost equally split among Democrats, Republicans, and independents.”

As is the case in many states, Colorado’s “rising Latino population has enlivened the immigration debate. And an oil and natural-gas drilling boom has exacerbated long-running arguments about land rights and environmentalism.” This year’s midterm elections are likely to be closely contested. And, thanks to Citizens United, bankrolled heavily by outside interests.

Sounds like the political animals should just have a party. Invite everyone to bring brownies. Sit by the campfire, play a little John Denver music, and hash things out!

RIP, J.D. (But you’d really be enjoying this if you were here.)

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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