The closest retail cluster to our house (a mile and a half down the hill) has a fair number of vacant storefronts, but the last time Carol and I went down for lunch at China Wok, we noticed that the storefront right next to the restaurant was no longer vacant. Who had moved in was unclear: There was no big sign, and the small sign under the portico was painted over and blank. It looked like a doctor's office: a couple of couches and chairs and some flower arrangements in a waiting room with a receptionist's window. If I were hipper (and I am about as hipless as they come) the neon sign in the window would have given it away immediately: a green neon cross with orange letters in the middle, reading "OPEN."
Fast forward a week or so. Carol was reading the free paper, and in the back were something like fifteen or twenty ads for medical marijuana dispensaries, including one in the Safeway Plaza. Yup. That's it.
You're probably expecting a tirade here, but alas, you lose. I'd paid little attention to the whole issue (let's just say that I am not a potential customer) but a little research left me fascinated by the speed with which this all got going after a referendum here made Colorado one of the most grass-friendly states in the union. Suddenly it's an industry, to the extent that somebody is manufacturing green cross neon "OPEN" signs that I doubt you'll see in the window of a dry cleaners.
The green cross has become the informal symbol of the organized medical marijuana industry. I think this goes back to a primordial cannabis delivery service in San Francisco, which publishes an online menu and will bring the goods right out to you.
Is this a good thing? On the balance, probably. I am fiercely against depriving the ill of medications just because they're psychoactive. Furthermore, I've read a lot of history, and prohibition just doesn't work. All it does is enrich and embolden the bad guys. And although the one time I (successfully) smoked the stuff back in 1971 I felt depressed and creepy for days, I may not be typical, and feeling a little creepy is probably better than dying in agony or going blind. Certainly I was grateful for post-surgery painkillers when I had a hernia fixed, even though they made me feel stupid enough to enjoy "The Dukes of Hazzard" on TV.
The bottom line is this: The violence of our reaction to marijuana seems out of scale to its hazards. I know that it sounds like a cliche, but I'd rather see it regulated (and yes, taxed) and ideally merged in with the rest of our prescription drug distribution mechanism and treated no differently than chemicals like codeine.
Anyway. That's just me; I'm easy. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the place next to China Wok when some of the neighbors figure out what they're doing down there at the Sign of the Green Cross.