The New York Times
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — High-altitude partying is a deeply carved tradition in ski country, where alcohol in the open and illicit drugs in the shadows have been intertwined for years.
Even before last week’s town vote here that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, one of the best-selling T-shirts at Shirt and Ernie’s on Main Street winked at what it means to live and play 9,600 feet up in the Rockies.
“Dude,” the shirt says, “I think this whole town is high.”
But what the town’s drug ordinance could mean for the local culture and economy, as well as its potential impact on the resort industry if more ski towns go Breckenridge’s way, has become part of the discussion as people scan the skies and wait for snow.
For business owners ever vigilant about the town’s image, safety-minded resort managers and footloose ski and snowboard vagabonds whose ranks have given towns like this a tinge of wildness since the first ski bum washed a dish or waited a table, marijuana is openly discussed as perhaps never before.
The leader of the group that organized the petition drive leading to the vote, Sensible Colorado, said that Breckenridge, where 71 percent of voters approved the marijuana measure on Election Day, was the opening salvo in a town-by-town strategy toward the goal of a vote on statewide legalization within a few years.
Local efforts, said the group’s founder and chairman, Sean T. McAllister, are now organizing or under way in two other Colorado resort towns, Durango and Aspen. After the election, Mr. McAllister said, people in Montana and Washington called seeking advice on starting voter initiatives.
Breckenridge’s part-time mayor, Dr. John Warner, a dentist who voted against the measure but remained publicly neutral before the election, said the three dozen or so e-mail messages he had received since the vote had been mixed.
About half of the messages were negative, Dr. Warner said, and included comments from people who said they had canceled reservations and would never come back. Other respondents said they were thrilled about the town’s vote and could hardly wait to visit and spend some money.
State and federal law still make marijuana possession a crime in Colorado, but residents here say that local enforcement has not been a high police priority.
A spokeswoman for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber of Commerce, Carly Grimes, said she thought that because of those other laws, little would change. But she said that some chamber members were concerned about perceptions — that the statute could send a message of broader drug tolerance that could turn off visiting families, who remain a cornerstone of the economic base.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The New York Times