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A funny thing has happened traveling on the road to Albuquerque

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At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day an amazing testament of how democracy should work in the United States manifested itself throughout the state of Colorado .

Imagine this setting, …its 8:00 a.m. on January 1, 2014 in frosty Denver, Colorado. Amidst a cold and pungent morning mist, scores of adult Coloradans who are exhilarated by the prospect of no longer being branded as “petty criminals” by local and state laws, stand patiently in long lines awaiting the opening of Colorado’s newest specialty shops.

In the background as reflected from the shop’s windows are majestic snowcapped mountains silhouetted by a morning mist whose miniscule droplets of water appear to magically “dance” in the air. Emanating from the mist is a distinct fragrance that causes both old and young “hippy” to smile broadly; somewhat in the same manner as Alice’s immortal Cheshire Cat.

For the first time in over 80 years people of a wide variety of ethnicities, beliefs and occupational qualifications who peacefully braved frigid temperatures in order to “promote capitalism” are legally permitted to exercise their right to responsibly purchase marijuana for recreational purposes.

In the unforgettable words of author L. Frank Baum, [The Wizard of Oz] “Ding dong the wicked witch is dead”.

What was once considered a “Christmas gift wish” in Colorado becomes a legal reality. Draconian state laws that once negatively stigmatized adults who purchased marijuana for personal use, “evaporated” into some very thin and very aromatic mountain air.

Finally… grandpa and grandma can legally enjoy the decorative wine bong you bought them for Christmas this past year.

Enthralled by the countless entrepreneurial “possibilities”, tens of millions of Americans throughout the United States tuned-in to their favorite cable news program on New Year’s morning to watch democracy in action.

In response to the “moral” concerns of “bible thumping” 21st Century American Puritans, it’s safe to say that the sky did not fall yesterday and massive car accidents did not occur, although it has been reported that the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover did pee on himself more than once.

Not since days prior to the federal implementation of the 1932 Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act that literally twisted the “arm” of state legislators to classify marijuana as an illegal drug, have connoisseurs of cannabis in Colorado felt totally free to light up a “joint” at home and smoke it without fear of legal prosecution .

Starting on January 1st, all legal sales of recreational cannabis will have a 25 percent tax attached to every purchase. Included in the tax is a 15 percent excise tax that will be used for public school construction projects and 10 percent being a special sales tax to fund enforcement of regulations on the retail marijuana industry.

The hefty tax, which comes on top of Colorado's 2.9 percent retail sales tax, is expected to generate nearly $34 million its first year and nearly $67 million its second year in state tax revenue.

So… going, going, gone in Colorado are senseless arrests that creates criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Gone is the over-crowding of jails that were once full of people busted for having a couple of doobies in their pocket. Forever gone is the lost state and federal revenue in taxes once paid by newly imprisoned inmates who once-upon-a-time were consistent contributors to America’s economy.

In 2013 Colorado’s unemployment rate hovered at 6.8 percent, however with the countless entrepreneurial opportunities that hemp and its buds provide, expect that number to drop dramatically in 2014 and thereafter.

According to Brian Vicente, a marijuana reform lawyer in Denver, the average Colorado pot retail store is expected to sell an ounce of marijuana for approximately $250.

In response to concerns of smuggling pot out of Colorado, Denver International Airport has erected signs warning travelers that they cannot take marijuana home with them.

Keeping cannabis within Colorado's tightly regulated system and within the state's borders are among the major requirements of the U.S. Department of Justice. If Colorado is able to “play the game”, then it appears that major clampdowns under federal law, which by-the-way still outlaws pot will be avoided.

In closing people will not be allowed to smoke marijuana in public nor in the specialty shops they purchase the weed from as mandated by Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act. Smoking pot will be limited to private residences and only if the owner of the residence agrees. And yes, an individual will be able to grow up to six plants in their home.

Communities and counties still reserve the right to not allow recreational marijuana stores in their local jurisdictions, and a good many towns have, such as Greeley and Colorado Springs.

It is illegal to possess and use marijuana if you're under 21, but this past December, Denver decided to decriminalized pot for people between the ages of 18 and 21. Denver will keep the fines but has removed any jail time for being caught with an ounce or less.

Now that the Grinch has returned the holiday cheer to Colorado and indulging yourself at home with an occasional spliff along with your favorite bottle of Chardonnay is perfectly legal, expect more weary out of state travelers on interstate 70 and 25 to make a pit stop in Denver and other “enlightened” communities within the borders of Colorado to visit long lost friends and relatives.

Isn’t it just too weird / funny how my car’s GPS keeps directing me towards Denver when I’m trying to get to Albuquerque? It must be the aromatic thin air Denver has to offer a weary traveler.

As always the New Orleans Examiner is interested in what you think. Will other states soon follow Colorado’s lead and decriminalize marijuana for recreational use? Is the chance to make hundreds of millions in new taxes too tempting for states NOT to follow suit? Inquiring minds wanna know.

Until the next time, Good day, God bless and Good fishing.

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