Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jul 2014
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2014 Aspen Times


Just what is the Aspen brand?

It's a question that often arises when city leaders, image-conscious 
because of the high stakes involved, wrestle with Aspen's latest 
dilemma of the day.

For sure, super wealth and world-class skiing are the hallmarks of 
today's Aspen brand. That '60s and '70s funky, creative Aspen brand? 
Those days are long gone, but Aspen leaders and observers sometimes 
cling to the notion that they still are reflected here in the 
longtime locals, older homes and lodges, and the long-standing 
business establishments that have managed to survive over the decades.

We bring this up because it appears as if the Aspen brand is once 
again on trial with the legalization of recreational marijuana and 
its potential impacts here.

Aspen's elected officials are in the unenviable position of trying to 
understand how recreational weed fits into the grand scheme of this 
town's identity, not to mention its social impact.

On Tuesday, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron and the Aspen Chamber Resort 
Association will mull over the idea of private pot clubs in town.

"I'm concerned about the Aspen brand being identified, at this point, 
as a haven, or a retreat, for marijuana consumption," Skadron told 
The Aspen Times this week.

Skadron's concern, while valid, is not unique. Many state leaders 
shared the same worries when recreational marijuana shops opened at 
the beginning of this year throughout Colorado. There also were 
concerns that crime would spike in Colorado and the state's 
reputation would be sullied by legalization.

"I think our entire state will pay the price," Gov. John Hickenlooper 
once said. "Colorado is known for many great things - marijuana 
should not be one of them."

That outbreak of crime hasn't happened yet, based on city of Denver 
data, which showed a 42 percent drop in the city's homicides for the 
first five months of 2014 compared with January through May in 2013 - 
or since recreational marijuana was legalized.

Granted, that's a small amount of time to make any conclusions, but 
it's encouraging nonetheless.

And it makes sense to carefully navigate the murky waters of 
marijuana legalization.

But we're confident that private pot clubs should not be a concern 
for Aspen leaders. If anything, they should embrace them. Colorado 
towns that allow recreational marijuana sales are certain to attract 
visitors looking for pot. The problem is, it's difficult to find 
places to legally smoke the plant. Would Aspen rather deal with 
people illegally firing up in public parks, on the streets or on the 
slopes? Or would it make better sense for them to legally get high in 
the confines of a pot club, where kids wouldn't be allowed and 
nonusers wouldn't be subjected to the smell?

Part of the Aspen brand is giving the tourists what they want. Pot 
clubs would fit perfectly with that ideal.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom