Drug War POW Larry Ronald Duke on Watching the Colorado Pot Rush from Prison

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During a televised CNBC special last week titled “The Colorado Pot Rush,” I told the man sitting beside me that it was a shame John Denver wasn’t still alive to witness the turn of events occurring in his home state of Colorado, which has voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for consenting adults over the age of 21.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. After being in prison for twenty-five years for marijuana, I never thought I would live to see the day when marijuana was made legal in the United States in any form or fashion. The actualities I saw taking place in Colorado are truly an amazing turn of events, especially when viewed for someone in a situation like me.

For me, seeing marijuana being consumed and sold in a controlled business environment was a modern day miracle like watching Jesus turn water into wine. Seeing and hearing the crux of the interviews being conducted by very reputable newscasters just astounded me. Their casual tones during discussions about the vast amounts of the capital expenses being required to finance these assorted marijuana related enterprises, the candid replies given about how their businesses spread sheets indicated even greater second and third quarter earnings than first expected, and the mention of how their cash flow charts predict even greater amounts of revenue in the future…All those normal business related terms and expressions being used in those conversations with all those young entrepreneurs about their future expectations for the financial returns on their investments in this new marijuana industry, was an earth shattering dialog for me to hear!

I could close my eyes and just as easily imagine their conversations I was hearing was being conducted between say an Erin Burnette interviewing a Sergei Brin or a Mark Zuckerburg.

Realizing the fact these young men and women were college graduates, most with MBAs in business and finance from some of our nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities, was very impressive in and of itself, but the fact they were all being interviewed live on national television was what blew me away!

I sat agape as they calmly and professionally explain to their respective interviewers “why” they had professionally made a decision to invest their time and money into the legal marijuana business prematurely, or into one of the many other phases associated with food or drink in this massive marijuana venture, as opposed to investing their time and money in municipal bonds, precious metals, or the New York Stock Exchange for example. Just hearing them express their innovative concepts and ideas about the future “growth” potential in pot they expect to see occur over the course of the next few years, and seeing the excitement in their eyes, just blew my mind. I am awestruck by it all!

Since last Wednesday’s special, I have replayed those scenes over and over in my mind as I continue to see those people legally growing pot in legally sanctioned warehouses with all the beautiful cannabis plants gently blowing in the breeze of a climate controlled environment. Seeing adults being allowed to shop for a wide assortment of different strains of hydroponically grown buds and purchasing up to an ounce if they wanted to – right in front of a live camera on national television – produces a vision from inside my prison cell that is even more phenomenal than any of you might imagine.

Recognizing this dynamic, despite my long tern of incarceration, I could breathe a long awaited sigh of relief. Thinking now that these changes have finally arrived, and are being accepted in both our cultural and legal landscapes, makes it difficult to keep my emotions of hope in check. To me, this is all wonderful and exciting news! This utopian world of marijuana legalization that used to only exist in the recesses of my mind’s eye, is now real. I have difficulty in describing my complete range of emotions.

To say I am experiencing mere jubilation would be an understatement. Somewhere inside me there is this kindred feel of victory, a Rubicon has been crossed. Sometimes at night I have to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream, or just wishful thinking, or hallucination on my part.

Then the reality of it all suddenly sets in and hits me over the head again and I am once again overwhelmed with the senses that these events unfolding in Colorado might eventually somehow some day bring back the audacity of hope that I may once again become free.

Perhaps these legal actions in Colorado will serve as an example of sensible reform for other state legislatures to consider, and one day, perhaps, even our federal Legislative Branch of government will pass new laws regarding this complete marijuana makeover seen in Colorado. Hopefully they will change current federal laws as well.

When that minor miracle occurs, perhaps I will be considered for release from prison, and that very thought alone strikes a very deep chord and is often overwhelming.

I am currently the longest serving prisoner in federal custody for a marijuana offense. Arrested in 1989, I have been in federal prison ever since. Of course, I was later found guilty by a jury trial and received a Life sentence Without the possibility of Parole, (LWOP), for my troubles, so you can only begin to imagine how elated I am to witness these series of on-going events unfolding before my very eyes in Colorado, and something similar soon coming in Washington State too, for the first time in our nation’s history.

The experience is surreal, and I couldn’t be happier.

While I applaud the courage of the voters of Colorado, and admire the professional political actions being taken by those elected officials in that State to ensure this unprecedented transitional procedure of transmigration is adhered to to the nth degree, they can’t help but feel the omnipresence of the federal government looking over their shoulders at every turn of this social and legal experience, as well they should. Yet in their painstaking methodologies to ensure total compliance with all federal mandates, whims, and safety requirements, those elected Colorado officials are well aware of the fact that the remainder of the world at large is watching and evaluating their every move as well.

Let’s hope all are silently praying for their unbridled success. Should Colorado ultimately succeed, other States will surely follow.

For far too long we have all seen the adversities and felt the ill effects of this seventy year domestic war on drugs. And we know all too well that it is never the drugs that go to jail. This civil war has been misclassified from the start.

Regardless of the nomenclature of this action, or the title, this conflict of national interest has been the longest running, and most costly war in American history. As a result, it has inflicted more human casualties than all other wars the United States has ever been involved in, combined. The cost in terms of lost productivity alone are insurmountable. Figuratively speaking, our $17 trillion dollar debt would be non-existent had the War On Drugs never occurred, but unfortunately for us all, it has.

The human toll taken is far greater. Spanning over three generations, fathers have been separated from sons, sons from their fathers, husbands from their wives, wives from their husbands, and Mothers and Fathers, brothers, and sisters, the pain and human suffering has been unmatched. And still, somehow, this domestic war continues to rage on today all across America, with no quarters given.

It is time for an end.