Our upright and sober City Council passed a "marijuana paraphernalia" law last week, creating yet another category of offenses for which you can be arrested. Aimed at controlling young peoples' exposure and access to marijuana products, it'll gratify prohibitionists — but at what cost?
It makes sense to keep little kids away from marijuana use and production, but what about teenagers? God forbid they smoke marijuana or gobble an edible! I'm sure these rules will serve to dissuade them, their parents, siblings and peers from making the acquaintance of the demon weed.
We know kids shouldn't use marijuana, especially the one-toke-and-you're-paralytically-stoned stuff that has replaced the mellow ditchweed baby boomers enjoyed in junior high school — but they do.
Kids shouldn't use alcohol either — but they do.
As one whose political beliefs range across a very wide spectrum, I've learned to be skeptical about new laws, new regulations, new government "initiatives" and new constitutional amendments. I'm just as skeptical about long-established laws such as national marijuana prohibition, the Gallagher Amendment to the state constitution and Doug Bruce's TABOR amendment.
But someone has to write these damn laws. So why not me? In properly turgid bureaucratese, here's a proposed "Alcohol Paraphernalia Ordinance" that I turned out in half an hour. It's comprehensive, focused, responsible and aimed at putting alcohol on an equal footing with marijuana to make our city safer, more law-abiding and family-friendly.
And like so many other ordinances on the books, it's utterly unnecessary.
Here's a city-supplied summary of its inspiration, the marijuana paraphernalia ordinance.
"Marijuana paraphernalia is considered equipment, products or materials of any kind which are used, intended for use or designed for use in propagating, manufacturing, compounding, converting, production, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, inhaling or otherwise introducing marijuana into the human body."
And here's the alcohol paraphernalia ordinance, written to give alcohol the respect and attention that Council devotes to marijuana:
"Alcohol paraphernalia is considered equipment, products or materials of any kind which are used, intended for use or designed for use in manufacturing, producing, distilling, brewing, preparing, consuming, sipping, swallowing, gulping, chugging or otherwise introducing alcohol into the human body. Such paraphernalia includes full, partially full or empty bottles, cans, flagons, flasks, kegs, casks, growlers, decanters, martini shakers, pitchers, highball glasses, shot glasses, wine glasses, yards of ale, beer steins, martini glasses, sippy helmets, box wine containers and any other primary or secondary alcohol service device. In addition, the possession of illuminated, hand-lettered or printed signs, banners, slogans, advertisements, posters, bumper stickers, articles of clothing or visible tattoos promoting, advertising, condoning or encouraging the consumption of alcohol by persons under the age of 21 is hereby classified as the crime of alcolography, punishable by forced attendance at no less than four meetings of the Colorado Springs City Council."
This may be a losing battle. Imagine the angry posts on Facebook by beer-swilling reprobates who never tire of pointing out that "beer is God's way of saying that he loves us." Imagine the nit-picking scholars quoting Edward FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: "And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,/ Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape/ Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and/ He bid me taste of it; and 'twas — the Grape!"
Sixty years ago, two of my pals took half a dozen cases of Tivoli beer from a delivery truck parked in the alley behind my parents' house and cached them in our garage. Before they could pick them up the next morning, I found them and transferred them to an "undisclosed location." They never knew I bagged the brews, but I spent many a cheerful afternoon with the girlfriend thanks to their (and my!) thievery.
Forty years later, my teenage kids swiped bottles from the liquor cabinet and lifted a few buds from their parents' stash. My then-spouse and I were too careless and dull-witted to notice their predations, but the kids turned out just fine. No harm, no foul.
Laws are laws, but teenagers don't care. Dope, alcohol, sex? If at 16 you weren't obsessed with all three, you're probably a prosecuting attorney, an elected official not named Bill Clinton or a Republican ... maybe all three!