Todd: The dichotomy of marijuana
Feeling lonely? Write a column about about your views on whether or not to approve retail marijuana in the county. The phone calls, office visits and emails will make you feel like you're everyone's long lost rich uncle.
It's been over a week of "attaboy" and "you missed the point" and "it is people like you that are ruining this country."
There are three aspects to marijuana in Colorado. One is illegal trafficking. Another is the legal personal growing, possession, use and gifting. The third is medical use of marijuana.
We have not commented or levied an opinion on marijuana as medicine. To be clear, any drug that is regulated and beneficial to people with medical needs, including marijuana, should be made available to patients.
What does a Colorado medical marijuana patient look like?
In Colorado, as of June 30, 106,817 patients possessed valid Medical Marijuana Registry ID cards, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Of those, two out of three are male. The average patient's age is 42, with only 39 patients being minors (under the age of 18).
The Denver area has the highest concentration of patients, as six out of 10 patients reside in its seven surrounding counties.
Patients on the registry represent all debilitating conditions covered by law, some suffering from multiple conditions. Severe pain accounts for 94 percent of all reported conditions. Another 15 percent have muscle spasms.
Here at home, there are 136 registered patients in Ouray County. Certainly, we don't dispute the medical needs and value that this drug offers these 136. We're still perplexed, however, with the dual role this plant gets to play in Colorado.
As a drug, it takes a doctor's prescription and a $35 application fee to have marijuana administered to the patient. It is regulated, much like you would expect Valium or hydrocodone to be regulated.
On the other hand, you will be able to legally produce and consume your own soon. Many have told me it's just like beer. You can produce and consume your own beer in limited quantities. So, too, with marijuana.
Beer, however, is not also considered medicine. And you can drink beer at a concert in the park with a permit. You cannot smoke pot at a concert in the park, permit or no permit.
Conversely, you cannot produce and consume your own medicines such as Valium or hydrocodone.
In this respect, marijuana enjoys the best of both worlds.
And when it begins to be sold as a retail recreational product, why would one ever need a prescription or bother to pay the $35 application fee? Will the nearly $4 million the state has collected in application fees from current patients not be needed anymore? Will sales tax from retail sales eclipse that mark?
Time will tell. Someone in Ouray theorized that all of this will be grainy at first, but eventually it will just work its way into the fabric of our day-to-day lives, like alcohol after Prohibition.
Yet, to the gentleman who emailed me from parts unknown, telling me he plans to open the first retreat on the Western Slope that will offer free marijuana with your night's stay, we wonder if the retreat is for people with medical needs or those who just want to chill. In the end, it really doesn't matter with marijuana, does it? Just don't expect to find a Valium on your pillow.
Alan Todd is publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-325-2838.