LEGAL MARIJUANA IS RUINING
A ONCE-CHARMING COMMUNITY
Kim Jung Un has started playing his predictable games over the Trump summit. America opened a new embassy in Jerusalem, with predictable backlash from Hamas and other Arab extremists. And Mother Nature showed how unpredictable she can be by launching her volcanic re-conquest of Hawaii (of the “Big Island,” at any rate).
All the while, Kathy and I were having a grand time visiting with our daughter and son-in-law; attending our cello-playing elder grandson’s spring concert and soccer-playing younger grandson’s season-ending game; and indulging our four-year-old granddaughter — she of the beguiling smile and limitless energy.
(Note to Kathy: Bodies are fragile at our age, Dear. Your hopscotch days are behind you.
It’s always an adventure to be in Colorado Springs, where we had lived for seven years during the 1980s.
The Springs is a colorful place (no pun intended, since the Spanish word colorado refers to the color red). And due to a high-level military presence — U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, NORAD, U.S. Space Command — along with a concentration of tech firms and non-profits, it has the cosmopolitan feel of a much larger city.
At the same time, there’s an Old West character, evident particularly in the section of town known as Old Colorado City or the Westside.
Nestled at the very base of the Rockies, the Westside is an artsy / touristy / mountain-mama kind of place that had its beginnings as a refining center for the ore hauled down on a narrow-gauge railroad from the nearby Cripple Creek gold fields during Colorado’s 19th-Century mining boom.
These days, the Westside has a further identity: Marijuana Capital of the Pikes Peak Region.
There had always been a hippie remnant on the Westside, a transient population camping out and smoking dope along the narrow and winding Fountain Creek. But Colorado’s marijuana legalization has transformed life in the funkily eclectic neighborhoods set among hills, bluffs and red rock spires.
The commercial impact is obvious. Retail outlets abound. There’s even a combination pot shop and gas station — a veritable icon for the drug-influenced traffic accidents that have increased throughout the state.
The human impact is even more evident. Along with an increase in local pot consumption (at least, out-in-the-open pot consumption), marijuana devotees have migrated from around the country, swelling the Springs “homeless” population, creating health / sanitation issues, and giving rise to a highly visible panhandling culture.
The situation has been exacerbated by legal protections prompted by “compassionate” ideological motives of dubious intent.
A letter to the editor of Westside Pioneer, a local community tabloid, describes conditions pungently….
“My family and I have lived on the Westside for about 24 years and counting, and what the city is allowing these bums to do to the once clean and beautiful Westside is sickening. I walk through Old Colorado City every morning with my father, and the amount of trash and filth from these bums / campers in and around OCC, especially along the Midland Trail, (which we no longer use because of the bums / campers) has grown rapidly worse since the ACLU interfered with our city’s laws ….
“As an example, there are piles of human feces and toilet paper in two places behind the Colorado Avenue Goodwill [store], despite the fact that there are portapotties less then a block away in Bancroft Park …. Also, look at the tent cities along the creek, which you know they use as a toilet ….
“No wonder [the City of] Pueblo and the EPA are suing [Colorado Springs] over water quality issues, and we, the lucky taxpayers, get to foot the bill for the city’s negligence and fear of the Big Bad ACLU.”
Certainly much happens in life that can seem more immediately urgent — exploding volcanoes, terrorist-inspired riots, and the ravings of lunatic despots among them. Just today there is word of another murderous school shooting.
But the destruction of a charming and livable community, even if it’s happening gradually, is no small matter. My daughter and grandchildren now avoid the Old Colorado City library because it has become a de facto public shelter.
The Colorado Springs City Council has conducted a study and issued a report on the problems of homelessness, vagrancy, beggary, and other concerns that are now creeping beyond the Westside into other parts of town.
Governments are very good at conducting studies and issuing reports.
What comes of the effort remains to be seen.
The movement for marijuana legalization is spreading across the country — encouraged by pro-pot activists, and gaining appeal among local and state governments eying the tax revenues it supposedly generates.
But there is a price to be paid. It’s a high price, in civic atmosphere, and public virtue.
In other words: Quality of Life.
When the marijuana legalization issue presents itself in your state, reflect upon my little Westside Story.
Washington State attorney Bruce Hanify attached a link to my Facebook notification about this post. It leads to an insightful essay on his own blog. In that piece Hanify reflects on changes that have taken place since the late 1960s when marijuana use became widespread. His observations are insightful and relevant to what I describe happening on the Westside of Colorado Springs. A tidbit…
“I’ve noticed that every time a certain kind of culture shows up, there is less of that old-fashioned determination to overcome poverty, and more of a kind of indolence, a surrender to class determinism and one’s astrological chart ….
“When it comes to drug use, there is something in the whole ‘lifestyle’ canard that doesn’t ring true. Skeptics like myself wonder if there isn’t something else at work there — something decidedly antisocial. If I were looking for a chemical cause of these delusions, THC would certainly have to be regarded as a suspect, because it elevates juvenile drama into fake science. It is not liberty its defenders protect. It is immaturity.”
Hanify’s view of social change is sweeping, based largely on his years in the justice system as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. This is a guy with something to say. Consider his words carefully…
Read the entire letter to the editor of Westside Pioneer…
…and then peruse the report issued by the Colorado Springs City Council…
Writing in USA Today, Jeff Hunt, vice president of public policy at Colorado Christian University, assessed the impact of marijuana legalization on Colorado in response to a national initiative being pushed by New Jersey Democratic Senator Corey Booker…
“In the years since, Colorado has seen an increase in marijuana related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room visits. The marijuana black market has increased in Colorado, not decreased. And, numerous Colorado marijuana regulators have been indicted for corruption….
“In 2012, we were promised funds from marijuana taxes would benefit our communities, particularly schools. Dr. Harry Bull, the Superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools, one of the largest school districts in the state, said, ‘So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.’”
Six months after passage of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana, Governor John Hickenlooper advised other states to wait to see the unintended consequences before repeating Colorado’s experience…
“If I could’ve waved a wand the day after the election, I would’ve reversed the election and said, ‘This was a bad idea.’”
And the bad news about pot just goes on and on. Some sample headlines…
“Rocky Mountain High Producing Some Undesirable Side Effects”…
“More Colorado drivers in fatal crashes positive for pot, study says”…
“Mysterious illness tied to marijuana use on the rise in states with legal weed”…