It was years ago as a teenager, sitting at home listening to the radio that I remember John Denver singing, "Rocky Mountain High – Colorado". In Denver, Colorado, thanks to Initiative 100, residents can celebrate the 53%-47% victory by lighting up a doobie. Some folks on the other side of the issue are smoking as well but not a joint.
The argument began back in the 1930's when we went from legal cannabis to the movie "Refer Madness" in 1936 to the Marijuana Stamp Act of 1937. The legal became vilified and than illegalized. Of course the stories included in the arguments against the weed included exaggerations and racism. At the time the commissioner of Federal Bureau of Narcotics said the marijuana was as "dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake". Texas police said that usage would release a "lust for blood" and give users "superhuman strength". Why does a masked and caped female superhero named "Mary Jane" come to mind?
But on Election Day earlier this week, the 6 point victory is being spun in many different ways. Those against Initiative 100 said that their loss was based on a protest vote on the War on Drugs. Well, the War on Drugs has not produced the results desired, there is not much argument. Those who are celebrating the victory are fearful that state law will be made to supersede the wishes of the Denver voters.
Everyone is getting in the spirit of the vote. Papers around the world are saying that Denver is the new "Pot-Capitol of the US". I think that is a little exaggerated, but it makes good headlines and sells a few extra papers. Jay Leno used his monologue on the Tonight Show Wednesday to say that with President Bush's approval ratings slipping to 39% that he is "14% behind pot now."
It is interesting that this is happening in Denver. They are not the first big city that has decriminalized pot possession but it's funny that the first arrest for marijuana happened in Denver in 1937. An unemployed laborer named Samuel Caldwell, 58, was busted for selling two marijuana cigarettes to Moses Baca, age 26. The outrage of the event, possibly fueled by the movie the previous year, caused Caldwell and Baca to be arrested on Wednesday, indicted on Thursday and sentenced on Friday. No complaint about a right to a speedy trial back then. The judge used his 15 seconds of fame to say that "I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics, far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine. Under its influence, men become beast …" Caldwell spent the next 4 years at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas doing hard time along with a $1,000 fine. Baca was sentenced to 18 months in prison for purchasing the two joints. Remember that was 1937.
Well, whatever your position on the decriminalization/legalization of marijuana, it'll be interesting to keep an eye on Denver to see if this is "Much Ado About Nothing" or the beginning of a "Rocky Mountain High". While you ponder that, if you got ‘em, smoke ‘em.