Letter From the Editor 

"The Denver Post this week announced that they're looking for a marijuana editor for their website. They have one. They're just looking for him."

That was Saturday Night Live's take on the news last week that The Denver Post had hired a marijuana editor. The announcement made the newspaper an instant target for comedic one-liners, but this is no Cheech & Chong movie. This is a serious move being made by one of the country's premier papers. The Post has won a Pulitzer Prize in each of the past four years.

The reason for the hire is that on January 1, 2014, Colorado will become one of two states to legalize recreational marijuana use. The repercussions will be enormous. These are uncharted legal waters for a U.S. state. The New York Times quoted Post editor Gregory L. Moore: "It's going to affect politics, culture, crime, food. ... The world is going to be watching us and we really want to do a great job on this story."

Moore is right. The world, or at least other states, will definitely be watching. Legislators around the country will be monitoring the problems that may arise — as they did with casino gaming — and analyzing legal pot's potential economic impact on cash-strapped state budgets.

Legal marijuana, like gay marriage — and legal gaming before that — is a societal sea change that is coming, probably sooner than we imagine. The first step — legalizing medical marijuana — has already happened in 20 states and in the District of Columbia. And to say the definition of "medical" has been stretched in those states is to put it mildly. Pot dispensaries are as ubiquitous as Walgreens in urban areas where medical pot is legal. "Prescriptions" are available for almost any ailment you can come up with. Feeling a little stressed? Go get yourself a jar of Sweet Vanilla Kush.

Legal medical pot is taxed and is creating significant revenue streams — and jobs. Newspapers are making big bucks on page after page of ads for dispensaries. And pot is everywhere. When I was last in San Francisco, I saw people medicating themselves while walking around Fisherman's Wharf, much like tourists wandering Beale Street suck down Big-Ass Beers.

Think it won't happen around here? Wrong. Two separate medical marijuana initiative campaigns are now under way in Arkansas, aimed at the November 2014 ballot. In 2012, a similar campaign was barely defeated, with 48.5 percent of the voters favoring legal medical pot. The Natural State, indeed.

Here's hoping the good ol' boys in Nashville are taking notice. If Arkansas legalizes medical pot, you can bet a Tennessee ballot initiative won't be long in coming. In which case, the Flyer may also be in the market for a marijuana editor, dude.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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