September 2015

Snuffing the bong-a-thon

We’ve criticized the Montezuma County commissioners a number of times in this space (and we will doubtless give them a little more kicking-around in the future), but right now we’d like to offer them some praise.

Earlier this summer the commissioners acted swiftly and decisively to prevent a potentially dangerous special event from taking place even after they had turned down permits for it. We’re talking, of course, about the “bong-a-thon,” a competitive cannabis- smoking event that had been scheduled for a meadow near Stoner, Colo., between Dolores and Rico.

The organizers had announced the location and dates on their web and Facebook pages before ever getting an OK from the county. When their permit application was rejected, they proclaimed the bong-a-thon would be held regardless.

Initially, the commissioners seemed reluctant to take further action, but in response to concerns from neighbors of the proposed site and other constituents, they directed their attorney to seek a temporary district court injunction forbidding the pot celebration from taking place. The injunction was granted, and Sheriff Steve Nowlin worked with the county to put up electronic signs near the locale warning that the bong-a-thon had been canceled. (The injunction provided Nowlin with enforcement powers to halt any gathering rather than only being able to cite offenders after the fact.)

The organizers then backed down and held their smoke-off on the Front Range.

The commissioners said they rejected the permit because the application came too late to go through the county permitting process. They have been accused of being biased against cannabis, and that may or may not be true, but in this case we think they acted very appropriately. The application was tardy and there was not time to ensure that there would be adequate preparations for the thousand plus people expected to attend.

Moreover, even if there had been more advance notice, there were serious questions about safety and access to the site, which lies just off the narrow, winding Highway 145. And there was something rather repugnant about the idea of participants smoking as much reefer as they could as fast as they could, until resin ran out their noses (as depicted in one video on the bong-a-thon’s pages). A mellow, “pot-sampling” event similar to wine and cheese fests would have been one thing – a bacchanalian celebration of excess was something else.

We appreciate the fact that the board acted to enforce its decision and to uphold the provisions of the land-use code, which requires events such as this to have permits. Sometimes it’s not enough to “just say no”; sometimes you have to get tough about public safety, and in this case, they did just that.