Potheads in Paradise

“And everybody’s high–ighhh–ighhhhh!!!” — John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High.”

When state legislators decided a few years ago that Colorado needed a state song, they chose “Rocky Mountain High.” When they later decided Colorado needed a state weed, they chose weed.

Yes, pot is now legal in Colorado. Even here in Aspen we’re infested with nearly a dozen seedy pot stores. I’ve wondered, is getting high on pot better than getting high on mountains?

To answer that question, I recently slipped into a Colorado pot shop. I imagined I was cool.

All hell broke loose. I thought maybe I’d walked in on a robbery. But no, it was just reefer madness.

Everyone was shouting. Toothless customers with long beards and smelly T-shirts scurried about the apocalyptic scene. Many wore baseball caps backward in that manner that somehow reduces the wearer’s IQ. Hell had apparently been loosed for some time.

Amid the din and stench, I realized that a woman with tattoos and nose piercings was yelling at me.

“ID, please!”

I handed her my Colorado driver’s license. She took it and looked at it. Then she shouted, “Do you have a driver’s license!”

“That’s what I just handed you,” I replied.

“Oh! Right!”

She handed it back to me. She pointed to an inner door as she handed me a slip of paper with a number. Then she shouted again.

“Here’s your number! When they call the number, go into that room through the door!”

I wondered to myself, why does she think it’s necessary to tell me to use the door when I enter a room?

As I pondered that question, someone shouted my number. I went into the inner room. As instructed, I used the door.

In the inner room was more shouting. Glass display cases were filled with pot candy, pot cookies, pot brownies, pot gummy bears and pot paraphernalia.

On the other side of a glass case was another brown-toothed shouter, also wearing a dirty T-shirt, beard and IQ-reducer. I realized that this get-up was their uniform of nonconformity.

“What can I get ya?”

“Pot. On which to smoke.” The mere anticipation had already impaired my synapses, it seemed, or at least my syntax.

“Well, do ya want something to relax ya, so ya just, like, tune out? Or do ya want something to give ya a buzz, so ya can, like, work?” His hands made air quotes when he shouted “work.”

I’ve always preferred relaxing over working, so I choose the first type. The dealer suggested something he called “Ogre Kush.”

He shouted, “How much ya want?”

I shouted back so that I wouldn’t look like an amateur, “One gram!”

For an instant, the place fell silent as several customers glanced and smirked. A nanosecond later, the cacophony resumed.

It came to $32. I paid cash. They don’t take credit cards, because pot sales are against federal law. The card companies worry, I suppose, that they could get shaken down for donations to the Clinton Foundation, or something, if the feds caught them in this government-sanctioned drug deal.

A little shaken, I went home and looked at the ingredients label on my tiny plastic canister of pot:

“Calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, citric acid, potassium sulfate, magnesium nitrate, monoammonium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, tri potassium citrate, magnesium sulfate, dimethyl sulfone, sodium molybdate.”

Then I did some research on the look-alike, beard-faced, pot-headed shouters with the backward baseball caps who burn and inhale these chemicals while paying extra for “organic” strawberries.

They are numerous. As expected, pot consumption is up since it was legalized in Colorado, along with pot-related automobile accidents and emergency room treatment for toddlers who’ve ingested pot. (Toddlers usually won’t drink alcohol because it tastes bad to them, but pot candy, pot cookies and pot brownies taste normal.)

Much of the consumption is by heavy users who get very high several times a week. One in three pot users gets high daily.

Stoners tend to be uneducated and poor. Maybe it’s their habit that impoverishes them. At $32 a gram, the 454 grams in a pound would cost $14,498. It’s almost the price of gold.

Pot legalizers have evidently decided to help the poor by taking away what little money they have and then sedating them.

And lobotomizing them. A recent study by Northwestern University and Harvard Medical School found that even moderate use of pot is correlated with brain abnormalities.

Of course, correlation doesn’t equal causation. In the categories of stupidity, pot use, inhaling combustible chemicals, brain abnormalities, shouting and backward baseball caps, it’s hard to say which causes which. But to be on the safe side, I think I’ll avoid them all.con

You ask, did the pot have any effect on me? Yes, the effect on me was the same as the effect on our society. It gave me a headache and made me poorer.

(Published Sept. 16 in the Glenwood Post-Independent and Sept 18, 2017 in the Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/23944178-113/beaton-potheads-in-paradise)

We need a weak president, and we’ll get one

The conventional wisdom is we have two weak presidential candidates, and that’s bad for America.

The conventional wisdom is wrong.

Yes, the candidates are weak. The one who wrote a book called “The Art of the Deal” is anything but artful and doesn’t know how to deal. The other is a money-grubbing, coattail-riding, establishment-kowtowing liar.

But that’s not necessarily bad for America. One of these weak candidates will become a weak president. It sounds odd, but that’s exactly what the country needs.

Bear with me. Continue reading

Public Radio’s Incomplete Story on Aspen’sTaxpayer-Subsidized Housing

Taxpayer-subsidized Colorado Public Radio likes taxpayer subsidies. I know from personal experience that they even like Aspen’s taxpayer-subsidized housing program, where residents making as much as $186,000 receive million-dollar houses for dimes on the dollar.

Here’s the background. One of Colorado Public Radio’s reporters contacted me a few weeks ago, saying he’d seen my columns on the problem-plagued program. He wanted to talk more and asked to have a telephone conversation. I agreed, and we did.

In our short conversation, I mentioned some of the problems. He said he planned to visit Aspen to investigate a story and would like to meet with me to talk more. Again I agreed, and we left it that he would call me when he arrived. He never did.

His story was broadcast on Colorado Public Radio last week, is reproduced on its website and was circulated on social media. The gist of his story is that the taxpayer-subsidized housing program is a success but needs more taxpayer money for more houses for more young people because the existing residents are aging and never move out. (Why would they?) The article concluded that the program will become a taxpayer-subsidized retirement home unless the taxpayers cough up even more money.

That’s all true. But the CPR piece failed to mention many other problems that I touched on in my conversation with the reporter and would have detailed in our follow-up conversation. Continue reading

Panhandling in Paradise


I tried a new job here in Aspen.  I was a panhandler.

I made a cardboard sign saying “SURVIVED CANCER BUT LOST MY JOB,” which happens to be true (albeit a little misleading) and put on an old pair of jeans and a work shirt.

Then I moseyed over to the police station.  The police had no money for me, but did have advice.  They advised me Continue reading

Why Can’t We Be More Like Switzerland?

I came across a big runaway lawnmower as I recently walked along a country road in Switzerland. Or so I thought.

On further inspection, I saw a distant worker with a joystick controlling it remotely. Safely away from passing traffic, he used this remote-controlled lawnmower to neatly mow down weeds on the shoulder of the road. As I gazed slack-jawed at this contrivance, he must have thought, “Oh, another backward American.”

Switzerland is famous for its banking and pharmaceutical industries, but it’s also a technology center. It’s especially well-regarded for its machinery. The machine-tool industry of the northeastern United States Continue reading

Reform the Supreme Court

What do you call an exclusive eight-person club whose secret debates control the country and whose members are ages 68, 83, 62, 61, 56, 66, 77 and 79?

In America, you call it the Supreme Court.

The justices are old because they have lifetime tenure. Most never retire. Instead they die in office, as one did last winter at age 79, often after extended illness.

I’m not exactly young myself. In fact, I’m older than Continue reading

Trump is Destroying the GOP, and that’s Good for Conservatism

A former Republican candidate for president and current political pontiff, Mitt Romney, recently took to the pulpit here in Aspen to pontificate at one of those sacred Aspen shows where stale old people recite stale old ideas, as pontiffs do, while the congregation obediently genuflects.

Romney’s particular idea was that as an upstart unapproved by anyone except the people, Donald Trump might destroy the Grand Old Party that is run by the Romney-approved regulars of the Republican establishment.

Other Republican establishmentarians are also tsk-tsking. George Will says Trump has driven him out of the party. Bill Kristol is recruiting someone to run on a third-party ticket. The Bush dynasty has withheld its endorsement.

To them I say: Spare me your sermonizing.

It is you, Republican establishmentarians, who have destroyed the Republican Party. Continue reading