Pubdate: Thu, 04 Jun 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


Among the most surprising things I've witnessed in writing Weed 
Between the Lines for two years now is how quickly the cannabis 
debate is evolving in Congress. Back then, a small group of 
representatives, including Colorado's Jared Polis, were trying, with 
little success, to get their colleagues to wake up to the fact that 
states were finding marijuana laws distasteful and changing them on their own.

Today that debate has moved across the aisle. On May 20, the Senate 
Appropriations Committee, on a bipartisan vote of 18 to 12, passed an 
amendment that will allow Veterans Administration doctors to 
recommend medical marijuana to vets in states where it is legal. This 
will only allow VA doctors to do what other physicians can do for 
anyone else in those states, but it's the first time any marijuana 
legislation has gotten out of committee in the "world's greatest 
deliberative body."

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, sponsored by Montana Republican 
Steve Daines and Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, was added to a $77.6 
billion funding bill for military construction and veterans benefits 
which is expected to pass the full Senate. A similar VA 
cannabis-access amendment was narrowly defeated (213-210) in the 
House version of the veterans' bill. If this passes the Senate, and 
most people expect it will, the chambers would have to reconcile the 

Statewise, in 2015, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia have passed 
medical marijuana legislation, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas still have 
bills pending, and Georgia, Idaho and Kansas have all turned down 
medical marijuana bills already this year.

Next year is shaping up to be an important year for marijuana 
legislation. Several states have already gotten enough signatures to 
place measures on the ballot, and more are expected as time goes on. 
Presidential candidates now regularly admit to cannabis use when they 
were young, and with polls showing almost 80 percent support for 
medical marijuana of some kind or other, it's going to be more 
difficult to win votes if you're still among those, like New Jersey 
Gov. Chris Christie, who want cannabis to remain illegal and its 
users to be criminals.

At home, two years ago at this time, legislation was being written by 
state lawmakers who had mostly opposed Amendment 64, and there was 
great anxiety on both sides of the issue. Today Colorado is the 
cannabis capital of the world, and the state seems none the worse for 
the changeover. People and governments around the world are watching 
us carefully, and our legislators are sought after for opinions about 
the pros and cons of legalization.

Another surprise is that it's already no big deal. Marijuana, which 
has existed outside the law since at least the 1930s, now exists 
within it. It has permeated the culture and brought more visitors and 
tourism dollars to the state. Colorado is the weed state, and, like 
it or not, late-night jokes and social media ridicule come with the territory.

There has been no major increase or decrease in crime around the 
state. No big rise in the number of traffic accidents. No major 
influx of people into the emergency rooms. No increase in the number 
of underage users. Is the system perfect? No. Many businesses still 
face serious banking issues. State and local taxes are high enough 
that some are still buying through the black market. Though it is 
legal for tourists to buy cannabis, there are few options for places 
to use it. Regulations will continue to need tweaking. But in a state 
where only two legislators came out in favor of Amendment 64 before 
its passage, the signs are encouraging that the brave thing Colorado 
voters did in 2012 was the right thing to do at the right time.

I am reminded of the subtleties of the change every time I walk down 
the Pearl Street Mall. Legalization has become part of everyday 
Colorado tourism. Entire areas are now devoted to cannabis trinkets. 
There are tables and sections devoted to "Gifts for Your Buds!" 
Green, cannabis-themed "pot" holders and coffee mugs sit next to 
flasks, ganja cookbooks (Baking With My Homies and The Marijuana 
Chef) and baked Blundt Cakes. "This is my potsmoking T-shirt" is on 
the wall right next to a Led Zeppelin model. Pick up a pair of socks 
with cannabis leaves on them along with your Go Buffs hosiery.

My favorite is something Billie spied at McGuckin Hardware. Our 
bumbershoot had selfdestructed during all the recent rain, and she 
found a nice, deep-green model that, when it opens, has marijuana 
buds beating back the raindrops from your face. We be styling now.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom