Pot legalization day in Colorado more orderly than Black Friday

No reports of disturbances, no arrests, fist fights or tramplings


On Nov. 9, 1989, BW marijuana columnist Leland Rucker and I kicked back on his couch, cracked a couple of Buds, fired up a spliff, and waited for the Berlin Wall to come down.


Hey, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

And come down it did. After hours of contradictory reports and confused rumors, and a weird combination of accident and design, it just happened. Happy crowds gathered on both sides of the wall, the guards stood down, people climbed up on the wall, some started dancing on top of it, and before long folks were whacking away at it with picks, chisels and sledgehammers. Holes appeared and people stepped through, like miners who had finally met after tunneling through a mountain from both sides, to be greeted with flowers and champagne.

The coolest part was how laid-back and good-tempered people were about the whole thing. It wasn’t a torches and pitchforks affair. It was … mellow.

The next day the gates of the wall were officially flung open, and hundreds of thousands of East Berliners poured into West Berlin, not to defect, but to make history and have a look around. Toward evening most of them returned to East Berlin.

“They came, they saw, they did a little shopping, and they went home,” wrote one bemused commentator.

Looking back on it, the most striking thing about the fall of the wall was the ordinariness of it.

The beginning of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado last week had a similar feel of happy ordinariness. The first stores opened their doors at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day to the cheers of customers who had been lined up for hours to buy legal pot and make history. The early lines were not particularly long (dozens, not hundreds, by most accounts) and were laid-back, good-tempered and orderly — which is more than can be said for the crowds at a lot of New Year’s parties. There were no reports of disturbances, no arrests, fist fights or tramplings.

The stoners, in other words, were better behaved than the door-buster mobs at a lot of Black Friday sales.

“What I love about it,” Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks said, “is the peacefulness of the crowd … and the diversity.”

“Things have really been going well,” said Ashley Kilroy, described by the Denver Post as Denver’s marijuana czar. “We haven’t really seen a negative impact.”

She added that the biggest concern Denver officials had was that marijuana buyers would disregard municipal ordinances prohibiting public use of marijuana, and “we haven’t had any of that.”

There were police and private security present at some stores, but this was more for the protection of the customers than for keeping order; recreational marijuana is a cash-only business because the stores can’t take credit cards, so customers would have more cash on them than they might otherwise.

The actual buying and selling appears to have gone incredibly smoothly. One reason was that the state legislature gave the proprietors of medical marijuana operations a nine-month head start in applying for recreational licenses — so all of the 37 stores that opened for business on Jan. 1 were owned by people who had been in the medical marijuana business previously, some for years. That meant store employees were already experienced in handling pot transactions and following state regulations governing them.

In short, it was a rollout that must have left the poor wretches responsible for ObamaCare’s pratfall of a rollout green with envy, so to speak.

Reporters interviewed a number of customers waiting in line. Some of them were middle-aged or outright geezers. My favorites, though, were two 20-somethings — Brandon Harris and Tyler Williams, both 24, who drove 20 hours straight from Cincinnati to be at the inflection point when the inflecting took place. And now that they’re here, they’re not going back.

“We’re staying,” Harris said. “We’re going to become residents.”

Harris and Williams may have the distinction of being Colorado’s first marijuana refugees. If they’re serious, Messrs.

Harris and Williams are “voting with their feet,” an excellent and time-honored way of sticking a finger in the eye of tyranny.

Come to think of it, it was the massive flow of refugees from East Berlin to West Berlin that prompted the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

I hadn’t really thought of it this way until now, but on Jan. 1, Colorado became the drug war’s “West Berlin,” an enclave of freedom surrounded on all sides by oppression and tyranny.

Colorado won’t hold that distinction for long, of course. In a couple of months, Washington state will become a second enclave. And a lot of other states are poised to follow its lead in 2014 and 2016.

But for the moment, it’s the enclave of freedom surrounded by a virtual wall of the drug war’s deliberate ignorance, cynical lies, irrational fear and dysfunctional tyranny.

Reagan gave his tear-down-this-wall speech on June 12, 1987, a few weeks shy of the 26th anniversary of the wall going up, which was August 13, 1961.

Well, there’s no need to wait 26 years to say it: Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.