DENVER — Dozens of visitors to Colorado have claimed they were forced to smoke pot, just weeks after statewide legalization went into effect.
Police in Denver say 23 reports of forced marijuana smoking have been filed since January 1, and at least a hundred other cases are being investigated across the state.
According to reports, the victims are often surrounded by what are described as “skinny but rough-looking” young men with poor complexions, menacing voices, and “vacant, bloodshot” eyes. The aggressors often produce a single joint, ordering the victims to smoke it.
If the victims just say no, the aggressors usually deliver the same line, according to reports. “Come on,” they say. “Everyone’s doing it.” If the victims continue to resist, the aggressors insult them, saying they are socially inferior and afraid of trying new things.
Because it’s now legal, the marijuana being produced is very strong, say experts. One puff is sufficient to get extremely intoxicated — what those in the Colorado marijuana culture call “going a mile high,” “getting a Boulder buzz” or “becoming freaked to the max.”
“The victims report of initially being afraid, but after marijuana intoxication begins, they say they felt relaxed, as if there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place,” said Vicky Espinosa of the Colorado Springs Center for Drug Addiction. “That’s the real danger. The victims start thinking they’d like some more and before long, they’ve forgotten why they’re in Colorado or where they’re from.”
“One gentleman who was referred to our center was from Alabama,” Espinoza said. “He had flown to Colorado Springs for a one-day business trip. A week later, he was found naked in a Pizza Hut restroom, still high from marijuana he’d been forced to smoke days before.”
A spokesman for the Sheriff’s office in Summit County, which includes the popular ski resort Breckenridge, said a Japanese couple in a hotel parking lot was cornered by a gang described as “dreadlocked snowboarders” who ordered the visitors to smoke out of a four-foot bong while the couple’s three horrified children watched.
A week after the incident, both are still hospitalized, unable to come down off their pot high, laughing non-stop. A spokesman for Child Protection Services in Breckenridge said the couple’s children are not likely to recover from seeing their parents get “utterly stoned out of their gourds,” and that they will probably end up as drug addicts themselves.
Kelly Roth, assistant director of the Colorado Tourism Office, emphasizes that Colorado is still a very safe travel destination. The majority of the state’s population has no interest in making outsiders smoke pot, she said.
Roth did advise, however, that visitors should remain vigilant, especially in places like parking garages, dark alleys and sewers — all places where pot addicts congregate. She also said it’s important to be on guard when participating in activities popular with addicts, such as snowboarding and frisbee golf.
“It’s regrettable that a segment of Colorado’s population is using the legalization of marijuana to force it on innocent people,” Roth said. “It’s important to stress that these attacks are actually very rare, and probably occur as frequently as in other states where marijuana is illegal.”
Martin Oliver, one of the original proponents of the bill to legalize marijuana, said he thinks the stories of forced smoking are being exaggerated — or even entirely fabricated — by anti-drug groups who fear similar pushes for legalization in other states. Other stories, he said, are hoaxes, such as a recent article that claimed more than two dozen people in Colorado had died from marijuana overdose. These hoax stories, he said, rely on caricatures, and are used to poke fun at people who are unfamiliar with marijuana or its effects.
“The squares need to chill out,” Oliver said slowly. “Pot’s the thing, man. All the cool kids in Colorado are doing it.”