Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Category — Living in Boulder Co

About Pot, the Feds Have a Scheduling Problem

4-20-11, CU campus Smoke-Out. CU spent $278,000 to try and end it in 2012.

Much of the problem with marijuana is its current designation as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. The government’s persecution of marijuana goes back at least to 1935, when the newly created Bureau of Narcotics, needing some narcotic to fight, created a campaign of disinformation intended to make people believe that pot was directly related to crime, violent behavior, insanity and sexual deviance. Which led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which considerably restricted the usage, distribution and production of cannabis products. (For much more on the government vs. marijuana back in the 1930s, here’s John Lupien’s master’s thesis on that subject.)

But it was the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that codified the War on Drugs, President Richard Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell’s misguided plan to stamp out psychotropic drugs in the United States.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy says that the government will spend about $15 billion this year trying to keep people from smoking marijuana. 15 billion dollars. Multiply that by 40 years, take into account that marijuana is easily available to anyone in America who wants it, and you have a policy of utter failure. (I get these numbers from the Drug War Clock, which uses government figures.)

According to the act, Schedule I substances must include the following characteristics:

1) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

2) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

3) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

I won’t argue point one today except to say that any drug has a potential for abuse. Marijuana’s is less than most. How about another cup of coffee? And “high potential” is completely subjective. No one has ever overdosed on pot.

But with a host of studies suggesting marijuana’s medical benefits and 19 states (including the District of Columbia, which proves that Congress and the Justice Department can’t even control it in their own district) allowing medical patients to purchase and consume cannabis for pain or symptom relief, marijuana’s current status seems ready, if nothing else, for a second look.

This story has been told before, but let’s not forget the circumstances of marijuana’s Schedule 1 status. The Controlled Substances Act was aimed at the marijuana/LSD menaces Nixon and Mitchell perceived, much as the Bureau of Narcotics had 35 years earlier. Remember, the hippies were running wild and naked and fornicating all across America with blunts of the dreaded reefer sticking out of their mouths.

Anyway, Nixon dispatched a former Pennsylvania governor, Raymond Shafer, to study pot abuse in America and come up with some “wink, wink” proposals. Shafer’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse took the charge seriously and recommended the decriminalization of marijuana for adults in small amounts. It’s a document worth perusing. Here’s one paragraph that, given all the surveillance over citizens these days, all Americans should ponder. “The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate,” the report states. “The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.”

Nixon and Mitchell roundly rejected the findings and put pot in Schedule 1, right up there with heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, mescaline, Quaaludes, peyote and psilocybin. Cocaine, because of its limited medical use, got a Schedule 2 classification, considered by the federal government to be safer than marijuana. Even before the commission’s report was released, Nixon told Shafer he would only embarrass himself and that they would pay it no heed. Read about this and other hallucinatory Nixon conspiracy theories involving marijuana, homosexuality, communism and Jews in this Gene Weingarten Washington Post column.

Now, 42 years later, two states, for starters, in November called the Justice Department on its bullshit hypocrisy. Given the mood of the electorate and, happily, the lack of concern today’s younger generation has for legalization, we won’t be the last.

So instead of Gov. Hickenlooper seeking “clarity” on marijuana from Justice – a truly laughable notion in itself — he should be asking why marijuana continues to be listed as a Schedule 1 drug when cannabis is grown and sold for medical uses in almost forty percent of states, including his own and the District of Columbia.

December 14, 2012   No Comments

On the Day Pot Becomes Legal, It’s Reefer Madness Again in Boulder

Bike rack, Table Mesa and 40th Bus Stop, Boulder, Colorado. (Leland Rucker)

Bruce Springsteen put it aptly at his Denver concert last month. “I understand that Colorado just underlined its Rocky Mountain High.” The word’s getting around about our state, the budding Amsterdam of the American West.

On Nov. 6. about 55 percent of Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which allows anyone over 21 years of age the right to have an ounce or six plants of marijuana for personal use.   Even glowing-red El Paso County came out for decriminalization, though just barely. Voters in Denver and Boulder overwhelmingly supported the amendment and were mostly responsible for its passage. Today, December 10, 2012, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the amendment into law.

Colorado voters in 2000 approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana for patients with approved cards in Colorado. But it wasn’t until the spring of 2009, following a Justice Department edict that said that the federal government wouldn’t interfere with state marijuana laws, that Colorado erupted in a crescendo of craziness and reefer madness.

Under a volcano of optimism, entrepreneurs – old pot dealers, mom-and-pop businesspeople, everybody, it seemed  – got into the legal medical business. Legislators, caught off guard, for whatever reasons, didn’t deal with state regulations for months, leaving it to local jurisdictions to deal with an onslaught of dispensaries, grow operations and card-carrying patients. Cities reacted in various ways. Some banned dispensaries outright; others, like Breckenridge, completely decriminalized pot within its boundaries.

That crazy period is well documented in Pot, Inc.: Inside Medical Marijuana, America’s Most Outlaw Industry, a great book by Greg Campbell, a Ft. Collins journalist who writes of getting a medical marijuana card and growing six plants in hopes of selling to dispensaries amidst the craziness.

Now Colorado has legalized pot, which brings up more than a few grams of questions and even more reefer madness. First, it puts the federal government on notice that more and more of its citizens, even those who don’t smoke pot, are sick and tired of the hypocritical Drug War rat hole down which billions of our tax dollars plunge each year criminalizing the act of smoking a plant anyone can grow and Grandma now uses to ease her chronic pain. Unless President Obama’s Justice Department decides to revisit marijuana’s current Schedule 1 status, the passage of Amendment 64 might ignite a hell of a states’ right battle.

The Obama administration has followed its predecessors, waffling on its pledge not to interfere in states that have approved medical marijuana. Locally it has issued cease-and-desist orders to dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, even if they were in local compliance. It recently reminded Washington state, which also legalized pot in November, of its Schedule 1 status.

Attorney General Eric Holder has not replied to requests from Colorado congresspeople or Gov. John Hickenlooper, for clarity, perhaps because, when it comes to the Feds and marijuana, there is no clarity, no common sense and no science involved in its decision-making process. For seventy-five years marijuana has been demonized by its Schedule One classification, and for forty of those years the federal government has waged a so-called drug war, with our tax dollars, incarcerating mostly poor and minority pot smokers while allowing the marijuana market in the United States to grow into perhaps the nation’s largest agricultural product. Make no mistake; pot is far more ubiquitous and easy-to-find today than it was in when the government began waging war on it.

Locally, Stan Garnett and Mitch Morrissey, district attorneys for Boulder and Denver counties, announced they would drop all pending marijuana possession cases, while Weld County D.A. (and fierce opponent of Amendment 64) Ken Buck said he would prosecute people up until, well, today.

Boulder’s city attorney, Tom Carr, who was voted out of the same office in Seattle at least in part because of his anti-marijuana policies, recommended the city not allow dispensaries because the window for the state to write its regulations and the city to start issuing business licenses is only a few months away and asked a two-year moratorium before revisiting the situation. No less than Nobel laureate Eric Cornell denounced Carr’s actions, quickly seconded by former City Council member and County Commissioner Paul Danish. Wisely, current council members reminded Carr that 2/3 of the voters in Boulder approved Amendment 64 and that perhaps he should revisit his current thinking.

And then, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, in a bizarre email sent to alumni late Friday night, wrote that he personally had worked to oppose the passage of Amendment 64 and suggested that the university might lose a billion dollars a year in funding because of its passage, an astounding claim. “The glaring practical problem is that we stand to lose significant federal funding,” Benson wrote. “CU must comply with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which compels us to ban illicit drugs from campus.”

Benson generally keeps his opinions to himself, but he is the guy who authorized CU to spend more than $278,000 to try to stop the 4-20 Smokeout at CU in April. Congressman Jared Polis, in effect calling Benson a liar, pointed out that the university already has banned illicit drugs from the campus and that the amendment’s passage has nothing to do with CU funding. Local entrepreneur and CU donor Brad Feld called for Benson to retract his comments and leave his personal agenda out of CU-alumni communications.

There is more of this kind of lunacy ahead. Even Hickenlooper opposed Amendment 64 before its passage. Who knows what mischief our Republican friends in the state House of Representatives might already be cooking up to subvert Amendment 64 in the legislature’s next session?

All of this is just a reminder that, even here in our broad-minded enclave next to the Flatirons, a significant minority of people with significant power, for whatever reasons, don’t want to see marijuana regulated like alcohol in Colorado. Look for more insanity as reefer madness gives way to the fear of a stoned planet.

December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012   No Comments

A (Yawn) 4/20 Event at CU

This year we were joined by Lenny Bruce, Mick Jagger, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon and Dennis Hopper.

I took the bus over to 4/20, the Smokeout that has taken place at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 at least back into the 1980s on the Quad of the University of Colorado. Waiting at the bus stop on Table Mesa, I watched groups of kids mostly, with surfboards and phones, walking toward the campus, talking and texting. At every stop, more people piled on, more than I’ve ever seen on a Dash, almost all of whom got off at Euclid south of the Quad. Four other people on the bus were writing; I was the only one with paper, which at least I found amusing.

A group of people made their way through the crowd with signs that suggested burning weed instead of oil.

I met Gil at the Pleasant Street stop a little after four, and we joined the throngs walking into the Quad, which was already jammed with smokers, hangers-on and the curious by the time we got there, just like the other time I attended two years ago. Airplanes dove in close, one with advertising trailing behind it, others, no doubt, filming. Police stood around looking bored, although there were, according to the paper, 11 people arrested for possession, a minor offense in Boulder.

A string band played quietly near the south steps of Old Main, where a photographer was stationed on the roof. Since cell-phone times are a bit off, there was a solid cheer and the smoke became thicker at 4:19, at 4:20 and 4:21. This one has become more of a media event than anything else. I found myself taking pictures of other people taking pictures of what was going on.

This magic moment: Balloons bounced and flags flew through the thickening smoke as the time grew closer to 4:20.

The papers said there were 10,000 people there, but the number could just as easily have been 15,000, many no doubt lured by the publicity generated by local media and a chance to get a buzz with strangers.

That was about it, and we were back in Gil’s office by 4:35.

A string band played quietly over by Old Main.

For all the media attention given it — Playboy magazine (it still exists?) declared CU the top party school in the country mostly because of this three-minute event, TV stations hype it because they have video from last year, and the local paper, the Camera, has been hyping this for days  — this is a real snoozer of a happening.

April 21, 2011   1 Comment

Sweet Lunacy Comes to YouTube

It was ten years ago, on March 24, 2001, that Sweet Lunacy: A Brief History of Boulder Rock, was first screened at the Boulder Theatre, the opening act for the 25th reunion concert of Dusty Drapes and the Dusters.

Don Chapman and I had worked on and off for more than two years on the documentary, commissioned and funded by a grant from the Boulder Arts Commission for Boulder Municipal Channel Eight. We filmed a host of people who had been part of the music scene in Boulder from the 1950s, when Ray Imel Sr. and Rex Barker opened Tulagi, through the Astronauts, Flash Cadillac, the Dusters, Michael Woody and the Too High Band, Judy Roderick, Zephyr, Firefall, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and many others  into the 1980s, when the Fox Theatre began hosting live shows, and boiled down more than 30 hours of interviews into a one-hour documentary.

Don put the finishing touches on it that morning, and standing there watching it amongst my friends and more than a thousand people for whom it was made was one of the great hours of my life. It has been showing regularly since its release on Channel Eight.

But for ten years, that’s the only way people could see it. Because of budget and staff cuts, Channel Eight no longer makes copies of the film available. At present, it is only available if you have access to Channel 8, and it is not on a regular schedule, so it is truly accessible to only a scant few people.

Meanwhile, requests for it have remained pretty steady over the years. It was originally made for VHS (remember that?), and in a digital world many people who only have it in that format might no longer be able to access it. Others who were interviewed or played a part in the film have never seen it. I get emails inquiring about it, but beyond burning and sending a physical copy, there is no legitimate way for people outside of Boulder to see it.

The arts commission’s only charge to Don and me was to get it in front of as many people as possible, and the way to do that today is to make it available on YouTube. It needs at least the chance to go viral.

It’s now at sweetlunacyboulder, chopped into four easily digestible 15-minute segments, thanks to the lovely and talented Lauren Winton. I have added some notes so you know what’s in each segment, and I’m sure I’ll be playing with annotation and other stuff to make it more easily understood. More about Sweet Lunacy and its making here.

If you are interested in screening the film, please contact me at leland.rucker@gmail.com. But most of all, please, enjoy.

April 1, 2011   1 Comment

The Hills are On Fire

The fire earlier this afternoon west of Boulder.

The fire earlier this afternoon.

Another dangerous fire, as always whipped by shifting, gusty winds, has closed all the roads into the foothills west of Boulder.

I got a few photos from south Boulder this afternoon, this one from the trail around the CU property off Table Mesa. Although the TV stations have been following the story all day, we really don’t know much. It’s burning up there west of Lee Hill Road and east of Four Mile Canyon Road, which is where it apparently started about 10 a.m. this morning. There are hundreds of homes up there, and reports are now saying that dozens of structures have burned. Thankfully there are, so far, no casualties or injuries. But firefighters have no control at this point.

I first saw the cloud about 11:45 a.m. I had been having coffee with a friend, and there was no sign of anything at 11:30. Fifteen minutes later, the huge cloud looked almost apocalyptic to the west and north.

The winds have calmed, and it’s cooling off now, and I’ve been listening to the police radio on a website. Evacuations are taking place on Lee Hill and Olde Stage Road, although many people on both of those roads refusing to leave. The Olde Stage Fire wasn’t that long ago.

It’s dark now, and the slurry bombers have stopped running. We drove out to the reservoir on Cherryvale Road just a few minutes ago. The western hills looked a scene from Mordor in the Ring Trilogy. Several fires could be see from near the mouth of Boulder Canyon all the way north to Lee Hill Road, and flames occasionally flared. The photos of burning houses are already filling the news websites. The smell of smoke permeates the air.

September 6, 2010   5 Comments

The Garmin Boys Are in Town

The familiar Garmin logo. (click to enlarge)

I was biking to my Sunday morning radio shift. Heading through a parking lot near KGNU, I noticed a familiar logo on a truck. It was the colors of the Garmin Transitions cycling team on a convoy of vehicles. including this one, a couple of team cars and vans. A quick Google search finds that they are parked outside the team’s Boulder offices.

I have been impressed with the Garmin team since its inception. Team Director Jonathan Vaughters has taken a serious stand against doping. And though the team suffered through a nightmare Tour de France, losing Robbie Hunter and Tyler Farrar to broken bones, the performance of Ryder Hesjedal, who rode well and wound up in seventh place, bodes well for the future.

As a huge fan of cycling, it’s nice to have one of the sport’s premier teams in town. The recent announcement that there will be a tour of Colorado next year, possibly including a ride through Boulder, is icing on the cake.

Here's the fleet. (click to enlarge)

August 9, 2010   No Comments

Return of the Datura

This datura flower lasted only one night.

The datura have returned to the yard this year, more a scouting party than a full brigade. They are volunteers, and they show up in only in a small area along a stone path just at the edge of the canopy of our spruce tree, so they exist in a place where they are shaded except in the afternoons. The plant has a way of wilting when the sun is intense and then rebounding after dark.

Datura bring forth mysteriously beautiful, often short-lasting flowers that bloom at night. Besides their natural magnificence, datura, when ingested, are both hallucinogenic and toxic, with a long cultural history. I have not ingested one of the enticing flowers, and after reading several accounts of people who did, I won’t be finding out for myself. But it makes the plant even more mysterious to me.

Last summer no volunteers showed for duty, after a banner year in 2008, when we had many blooms on several plants.

But this flower lasted only one night. The afternoon sun “melted” it, and it didn’t come back.

Click here to see a shot of our 2008 bumper crop.

August 5, 2010   No Comments

Hailstorm in the Parking Lot

Click to enlarge

The clouds were low and heavy, and it was threatening to storm Saturday night just before six when I jumped in the car to pick up some scripts at the King Sooper pharmacy. When I got to the left-turn lane from Table Mesa onto Broadway, the hail started.

I tried to pull into the Conoco station, but all areas with cover were already taken. The noise was deafening – I felt like I was inside a tin can. So I made it to the parking lot and stopped beneath a couple of small trees that offered a hint of shelter. But it hadn’t been a minute since it began, and the parking lot had turned into a foaming river moving downhill toward Table Mesa Drive.

So I just sat there, got out the iPhone and took some shots.

Two minutes later, the storm lifted, and I pulled into a parking place. I had to walk over piles of hailstones to get in.

I stopped at the counter to buy a couple of Lotto tickets. The guy there grinned and said the storm had blown out the lottery machine – instantly ending any gambling urges I might have had.

I looked back at the pharmacy. It had closed while I was sitting in the car in the parking lot river.

Three strikes, and I was out of there.

June 20, 2010   No Comments

Bird Ballet Above Martin Acres

A crow (top) gets ready for another pass at the turkey vulture below.

A crow (top) gets ready for another pass at the turkey vulture below.

I was driving down Moorhead, waiting for the heat to come on in the Subaru, the sky flint gray with bursts of clouds running north to south, when I first saw the three black shapes.

Three birds. All pretty large. And it only took a couple of glances away from the wheel to notice that it was two crows dive-bombing a turkey vulture. I pulled over as soon as I could and jumped out of the car with my camera. They were high enough that I couldn’t hear any sounds. I’m not that great a photographer, but I managed a couple of shots, including his one, which shows the larger vulture at the bottom with its white underwing markings. The crow at the top is about half the size of the vulture, with a black undercarriage.

The birds must have found some wind thermal up there in the cold air, and the vulture was soaring in the way vultures do, flapping its wings only when necessary and sweeping across the sky on the rising current. The two crows were flying recklessly around it, coming in from different directions, their wings fluttering as they tried to swoop in close without actually hitting the much larger vulture. (Well. That’s the way it looked. There is documentation of crows attacking turkey vultures, but I’ve never been inside a bird’s brain, so perhaps they were all just enjoying themselves up in the rising air current.)

Their ever-widening circles took them away from me until they were almost out of sight in less than a minute. Jumping back into the car, just thinking about how much fun that (at least) the crows seemed to be having, and marking up my first turkey vulture sighting this early in the year made an otherwise cold, miserable day lighten up considerably.

January 9, 2010   No Comments

Turkey Vultures and Buzzard Hank

sunvultures

I was on my way to meet friends for breakfast Saturday morning, riding the path that bisects CU’s east campus approaching the location called the Confluence, when something caught my eye across the lake to the west.

It was this group of turkey vultures perched high in the trees letting the morning sun warm their wings. I count 13-14 of these wonderful, huge birds. When I first saw them, at least four were opening their wings to the sun’s warmth.

I was reminded that a large group of vultures used to roost in an old cottonwood on the other side of the bike path until it fell in a storm several years ago and is now a pile of old wood.

I am always watching for turkey vultures , and I have seen a lot of them high in the air, especially on the trails near the East Boulder Rec Center, but this is my first good group sighting this year. I was late and didn’t get to spend enough time with this bunch, but what a sight. Vulture wingspans range from four to six feet, and even from this distance, you can see how enormous “buzzards” really are.

Vultures are common migratory visitors in the spring and fall along the Front Range, and provide a valuable recycling function by cleaning up carrion and carcasses otherwise left to the elements. The bald head which many consider “ugly,” is actually an adaptation to its diet, since it has to put its head inside rotting meat and feathers are bacteria-prone.

When I was a student at St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Mo. I was skinny (!), and somehow I got the nickname Henry Hawk, after a comic-book character at the time, and then Buzzard, and finally Buzzard Hank. I found this photo, circa 1966, of Buzzard Hank trying his best to look like one. Do you notice the resemblance?

buzzard hank 2 copy

October 2, 2009   1 Comment