The News That Didn’t Happen
On Wednesday, the first legal pot shops opened in Colorado. News cameras from around the world focused on their doors, but the real news is what didn’t happen.
The health news is what didn’t happen in emergency rooms around the state. Not a single overdose death was reported. No patients were treated for bad trips. Fewer trauma patients than normal were admitted, mainly because of a decrease in serious traffic accidents. (However, a few new minor injuries were reported when newbies burned their fingers or eyebrows while trying to light that first joint.)
Reporters covering the police beat also found mostly no stories. The cops worked very few impaired driving wrecks (that number had been going down dramatically ever since the legalization of medical marijuana). The bars were quiet with few fights to be broken up. They were only sporadically called for domestic abuse cases. Except for a few murders and robberies the state was quiet.
While the schools are closed for the holidays, they are expected to resume with no news. They will have no more absentees than normal. Stoned highschoolers will not be giggling and disrupting classes. No more teenagers will be nodding off in class than in this year. The band will still play Sousa marches, not Grateful Dead jams. Football and basketball teams will still concentrate on their practice drills. Even the teachers will pay attention to their lesson plans.
No news was the story on the street corners and in the alleys as well. That dejected looking man slinking around the corner was a dealer who had not made a sale all day. No alley was blocked by a truck unloading a ton from Mexico. No immigrant with calves like cantaloupes was arrested with a seventy-five pound backpack. The local news did not lead with a story about a gang shoot-out.
Everything was not quiet; some businesses generated news. The do-nut shops had waiting lines outside the front door and the convenience stores sold out of Doritos. Pizza delivery men worked overtime, and Netflix set a new record for movie downloads.
And the first “official” customer in Denver was a veteran suffering from PTSD, a condition not included in Colorado’s medical marijuana statute.
This “news story” is clearly a work of fiction, but it is based on decades of study and observation. As such, it is my best prediction of what the effect of legalizing marijuana will be, not only in Colorado and then Washington, but across the nation. To the average person the only visible effect will be a few signs bearing green leaves along some commercial streets. The more sophisticated will also notice significant relief in their tax burden, both from increased revenue and from decreased criminal justice expenses.
The biggest domestic news story of 2014 may well be that nothing happened – and that nothing happening is spreading across the nation.