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Colorado and the Infamous Pot Conundrum

Marijuana. It’s been the topic of many a heated debate, been deemed the notorious “gateway drug,” and has now been legalized to the delight of many Coloradoans. Recreational marijuana is now being taxed and producing great revenue for the state; for all intents and purposes, it looks like the voting populace made a good decision.

I had the privilege of doing some traveling over break, both nationally and internationally. I am usually extremely proud to call this my home state, and have a small sense of pride when people fawn over the beauty of it and congratulate me on the Rocky Mountains, as if I had any hand in their creation or placement.

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But this time, when inquisitive fellow travelers found out that I was coming from the great CO, the first sentence out of their mouth had something to do with pot:

“Oh, that’s nice, how’s the marijuana legalization going for you guys?”

“Does the air smell yet?”

“Congrats bro (I have no idea why I was now a “bro”, I was in a bikini for crying out loud), you been partaking of some primo green yet?”

I’d given them a forced smile and tried to explain that while yes, I am a college student and yes, I am living in the great state of Colorado, those two qualifications do not a stoner make.

At first I thought it was kind of funny- I had no idea the level of infamy that one piece of legislature had given our great state. But it was funny, until it wasn’t. After the fourth or fifth time this happened, I was no longer amused, I was begrudged.

I did vote for the legalization of marijuana; from a fiscal standpoint, it seemed silly not to. No one wants a tax increase and if we can get some tax revenue over something that people are buying a lot of anyway, why not go for it? I had no idea that we would be one of only two states to do so.

And because of this, our gorgeous state is no longer known for having the lowest obesity rate in the country, or of the mountains, not even our beloved football team. Nope, now we’re known for nothing more than pot.

And I can’t say I’m overly pleased with the change.

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I can deal with dispensaries put up on every street corner, I can handle seeing the cannabis leaf used in more and more marketing campaigns, I can even handle the smell on 4-20.

But what I can’t handle is it being assumed that because I voted to legalize pot and because I originate from here, it must mean that all I do is sit around in grungy sweatpants, eat Cheetos and take periodic hits from a homemade bong the size of my leg.

I know that’s a stereotype, and I know that most users of marijuana are highly functioning members of society. But I can’t help but feel that for people that don’t know me, only my place of origin, that is the image that pops in their minds.

I don’t have any experience with the drug, and most of my earliest memories involving marijuana users come from Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Oh and Scooby-Do- it may have not clicked when I was four, but c’mon, the van is a dead giveaway. Like it or not, for many people this is the first image of a marijuana user, a term that has now become synonymous with Coloradan.

Within state lines, legalization is old news. We’re no longer all excited about it, and so we don’t talk about it all that often. But go outside of Colorful Colorado, and it’s being talked about all over the place.

I’m lying on the floor of Atlanta International Airport, waiting for my connecting flight, and hear pot legalization and Coloradoans being interviewed on their thoughts.

I’m sitting in my room in the Dominican Republic, flipping through the three English channels we received, and CNN is talking about a crime wave since the legalization.

I tell a native of the island of Hispanola that I’m from Colorado, and he mentions the drug use. Seriously, the Dominican Republic and Haiti comprises a fairly isolated island where half of the natives don’t have access to a television, and somehow they still know that Colorado equals pot? Now the level of infamy has reached uncomfortable proportions.

Maybe legalizing pot was the right decision, and maybe the correlation will no longer be made in a few years, but my fellow Coloradans: we have to do something else extraordinary, so that we are no longer known for nothing more than legalizing marijuana.

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