The sky is blue everywhere, marijuana leaves are always green, but the pro and anti-cannabis people are living in two different worlds.
To pro-pot folks, legalization brought justice, money and freedom. It was almost the greatest move since Lincoln freed the slaves.
But this week, the Rocky Mountain area's biggest anti-cannabis law enforcement task force released a mammoth new report on the impact of legalization on the middle of the country.
It's not good:
– More drivers involved in fatal accidents testing positive for illegal levels of marijuana.
– More teens using.
– Weed trafficked to 24 states.
– Pot-related emergency room visits up by half.
– Violent crime up 18 percent.
– Illegal grows on public land up nearly 20 times.
– Still more weed stores than Starbucks in Colorado.
– Not much of an economic help or a tax boon.
In sum, cannabis is everywhere in Colorado, it's leaking out, wrecking shop and killing people. Their sympathizers write op-eds with titles like "Marijuana devastated Colorado."
Meanwhile, the pro-pot people appear to live in a sort of upside down. To them, often, cannabis doesn't contribute to traffic deaths, teens aren't smoking more, crime is down or flat, taxes are way up and weed is a boon to the economy.
Hearing from the pro and anti-cannabis folks is almost like when you're hearing about a breakup from both sides, and you feel like they're talking about two different people. "She's crazy!" "He was indifferent to my feelings!" "She never gave me time to myself!" "He was never around!"
Rather than try to figure out whether cannabis is more helpful or hurtful, whether we should lock down cannabis or hand it out in vending machines, I'd like to think for a moment about why there's such a canyon between the two sides, and whether there's something special about drugs that splits people like this. (Sex and religion are like this, too. There's no vehement pro and anti-tomato camps.)
Not to resolve the argument, but to figure out why it's heated.
If I had to guess, I'd say the root of it is this:
Cannabis, like all psychoactive drugs, puts the user on a different level from the sober person, or from people on other drugs. That creates a distance. Drunk people can talk to each other wonderfully; two dudes on acid see the same visual distortions … but for a dude who's wasted to talk to a dude who's tripping … it would be easier if one spoke English and the other spoke Chinese.
This is disquieting. As pack animals, humans are programed to be on the same page. When fellow tribe members acted or spoke differently, it was often because they were sick, crazy or demented. This is an uncomfortable situation. Shouldn't we all be on the same page?
Case in point: I was in New Orleans on April 20, the pot holiday. Most of the city was its usual drunk, raucous self, rollicking to jazz music and yelling and puking and fighting. But around the corner was a line for Reggae, and around another corner was a line for Shpongle, and everyone in those lines smelled baked and they stood quietly, calmly, peacefully, staring into the distance.
Partly because booze walloped me and my family, I felt a desire to mansplain to my companion why the high group was better, less rowdy, more civil. "See, more pot and less drink, the world is a more peaceful place!"
But this is bullshit. This is judgment. This is self-righteous dogmatic mouth sound.
Can't New Orleans be drunk on this corner and high on that one and sober on another and tripping on a fourth? Jazz here, Reggae there, psychedelic there?
Facts are facts and you shouldn't argue with them. Law enforcement makes good points: Colorado has way more pot now, and it's rolling out to other states, and that's going to affect the world in some kind of way.
But this is less about stats, on both sides, than it is about a desire for conformity.
For me at least, an instinct to play up my state of consciousness as right and good, and to demean the other, is about the vindication of being right, true and smart … but also about feeling less alone.