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Reefer sanity takes hold in Colorado

Seven years before legal marijuana went on sale this month in my home state of Colorado, the drug warriors in President George W. Bush’s administration released an advertisement that is now worth revisiting.

“I smoked weed and nobody died,” intoned the teenage narrator. “I didn’t get into a car accident. I didn’t O.D. on heroin the next day. Nothing happened.”

The television spot from the White House drug czar was intended to discourage marijuana use by depicting it as boring.

But in the process, the government suggested that smoking a little pot is literally, in the words of the narrator, “the safest thing in the world.”

Why is this spot worth revisiting? Because in light of what’s happening here in Colorado, the ad looks less like a scary warning than a reassuringly accurate prophecy. Indeed, to paraphrase the ad, for all the sky-will-fall rhetoric about legalization, there haven’t been piles of dead bodies and overdoses. Nothing like that has happened since we started regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.

Instead, as I saw during a trip to 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, it has been the opposite. There, I didn’t find the mayhem predicted by so many drug warriors. I found an understated retail facility, a technologically advanced horticultural operation, respectful customers and a staff with expert knowledge.

It was, in fact, similar to one of Colorado’s much-ballyhooed craft beer companies. The only major difference was that, according to decades of medical and social science research, the mind-altering product being sold at the cannabis center is far safer than alcohol.

Of course, this portrait of tranquility, normalcy and pragmatism is often downplayed by the sensationalist national media in faraway Washington, DC.

The rest of this article is available in the January 17, 2014 IJN print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at carol@ijn.com or subscribe to our new online e-Edition.




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