Some sort of “reefer madness” paranoia is surrounding Durango City Council’s discussions about marijuana stores. I don’t understand why a downtown ban would even be considered. At a recent meeting, councilors said that they were hearing from “some” business owners who objected. Well, those owners operate businesses, but they don’t own downtown. The streets, the sidewalks, the lights, the police, the sewer lines and the tax revenue, which helps to support downtown, belong to Durango residents; the same ones who voted overwhelmingly to support legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Another specious argument is that downtown is “family-oriented.” On a recent Sunday at 11 a.m., I was driving past a bar at 10th Street and Main Avenue. There were about 30 Harleys in front of the place, and a crowd of bikers in black-leather outfits was standing on the sidewalk smoking cigarettes. A typical weekend gathering in Durango that didn’t appear to be “family-oriented,” at least by some people’s definition. Should the bar be banned? A lot of people believe the sale of any alcohol is not “family-oriented.” Perhaps we should ban all alcohol sales downtown, too.
The other argument: Pot shops will drive away tourists. In fact, it will do just the opposite. Tourists are clamoring to buy marijuana. Visitors frequent downtown to browse and buy. In fact, we depend on them leaving their money here. Why would the city of Durango deny tourists visiting downtown the ability to purchase a legal product for which there is high demand and being sold by shops that are heavily taxed and heavily regulated? Marijuana shops will never dominate downtown.
A few of them will succeed, and the free market will take care of the rest. Relegating shops to just Bodo Industrial Park or North Main Avenue is a dumb idea. Marijuana bears absolutely no resemblance to heroin or cocaine. Alcohol is far more destructive to society, and that drug is widely available and celebrated. Tobacco products that are much more dangerous than marijuana are sold downtown. Attend the upcoming City Council hearing. Let’s put an end to this “reefer madness.”