Up in Smoke

I’m not a prude, really. I’ve done my share of inappropriate behavior, mostly during my youth, for which I will be forever embarrassed. Well, maybe not forever. That’s one of the great things about growing older. The reckless acts of youth (and middle age) recede in both memory and importance, so that you’re more accepting of yourself and others. It’s called wisdom, accompanied along the way by humility.

Still, I was caught off guard by the coverage of New Year’s Eve celebrations on CNN. Like millions of other people, I watched the ball drop in Times Square, thankful I wasn’t standing in a chain-linked pen in frigid temperatures. I have heard that other cities drop their own balls, which has great potential as a joke, so I will pass it along to that comic wit, Bobby Bronco, but will not stoop to attempt it here. CNN covered some of these places, including Denver, Colorado.

The shocking thing is that the reporter in Denver was smoking a joint and interviewing people who were passing a bong among themselves thick with marijuana smoke. This was followed by interviews of people painting with water colors, apparently so “relaxed” by the weed that they were able to express themselves “like, without any restrictions, like.” There were more tokes on the joint by the reporter before a final, “back to you, Anderson, in New York.”

Anderson Cooper, indeed, was in New York. He stood hamming it up with another celebrity announcer (I have no idea who) on a platform by the George M. Cohan statue at Father Duffy Square. Anderson and his partner did shots of Tequila to celebrate the New Year and laud the “awesome experience” of listening to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York on loudspeakers. Then more monkey business in front of the camera, which brought me back to my junior high school days.

In Colorado, “you have a constitutional right to possess and consume marijuana.” They’re serious: a constitutional right. You don’t even need to be a resident. You can simply pass through, pick up your ounce, and get back on the Greyhound bus. This has led to “cannabis tourism” and as many Rocky Mountain high jokes across the country as there are smug references to “Houston, we have a problem.” I’m sure Coloradans love it.

California, too, has legalized marijuana as of the New Year. While Colorado can point to its rebellious, frontier makeup as the reason for the season, California has a more practical explanation. I don’t think it has much to do with anti-Trump feelings, either. After all, California’s government is perfectly willing to follow Washington when it suits its needs.

It has more to do with the state’s “balanced” budget of 125 billion dollars. Of course, it’s only balanced if you don’t count the one trillion dollars of debt at the local, county, and state levels. Where did all that come from? Expenses related to pension funds, welfare programs, and collective bargaining agreements with unions. Can a ten percent cannabis tax, a fifteen percent sales tax, and other taxes make up the difference? Probably not. So, look for public service announcements promoting weed as well as an increase in the amount that can be purchased legally. There may even be a cookbook available for purchase at your local DMV.

This reminds me of the time the lottery was legalized in California. Revenue was supposed to improve the deteriorating public school system. Politicians swore up and down that none of it would go into the general fund to offset the deficit. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. Rest assured that if any revenue from marijuana sales is allotted to drug prevention and rehabilitation programs (not DARE, please), it won’t be much. Most of it will be earmarked to offset the deficit, which is another way of saying prolong it so that my grandchildren can pay it off.

This isn’t the end. What started with gambling and has now led to weed will eventually get to prostitution. Before too long, the state will make it legal, completing a trifecta of gambling, drugs, and prostitution worthy of Al Capone or Pablo Escobar. Meanwhile, Bedford Falls is becoming Pottersville, and no one seems willing to do anything about it, least of all the state’s ideologically driven attorney general, Xavier Becerra. It’s just one, big party.

Till the bill comes, that is.

You want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Background information can be found at The Orange County Register. Note to self: At the movies with my daughter, she told me I complain a lot. Who, me?

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