Like Rolling Stoned: Cannabis Decriminalization in Boulder
Decriminalization of marijuana, once considered nearly unthinkable, is becoming a possibility in a surprising number of US states. Even the District of Columbia is considering the option of reducing penalties. The District's proposal would remove jail time and similar punishments from people who are arrested for possessing small amounts of the drug. Instead, violators would be charged a small fine, probably about $100. This bill would also legalize water pipes, vaporizers and a range of other paraphenalia, allowing police to focus on more serious issues.
Efforts to bring cannabis into the mainstream are increasing in Colorado, too. Denver's Justin Hartfield, owner of a website that reviews the state's dispensaries, is attempting to build organic farmer's markets in Boulder. These markets would function much like conventional farm markets, but instead of selling fresh asparagus and homemade food products, they would vend marijuana and other hemp products. According to Hartfield, since the plant is legal in Colorado, there's no reason for growers and buyers to avoid open trade. By keeping things quiet, people actually contribute to the idea that buying and selling are illegal or inappropriate activities.
Not everyone is certain that the road to legalization will be easy, however. Many law enforcement officials are reluctant to embrace pot's new status as an acceptable medicinal and recreational substance. In fact, some continue to enforce laws that are no longer on the books. Even in more welcoming communities, buyers and growers remain concerned that the situation might change suddenly. Hemp is still illegal according to federal standards, too. That could make open trading difficult.
Even supportive city and state officials note that existing regulations can produce problems. For instance, Boulder currently allows only products grown outdoors to be sold at farmer's markets. Hydroponic tomatoes and greenhouse lettuce aren't permitted. Since Colorado state law requires all cannabis to be grown indoors, it technically doesn't qualify for existing markets. If the citizens want this kind of market, however, legislators are willing to revise the regulations.
Even though the path may be rocky, the road is clear. Even now, city and county officials are working to figure out new regulations. The goal is to allow safe and responsible smoking without allowing misuse or running afoul of other laws. The tide is turning, and people all over the country are realizing that even a plant with unusual properties is still nothing more than a plant.