Marijuana, guns, William Breathes in the New York Times and our place in the cultural divide

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Is Colorado at the center of the U.S. cultural divide? Or does it just seem that way because the national media would rather capture America's pulse in Denver than Dayton. Would a little beauty queen's murder have gotten as much coverage if it had happened in Biloxi, not Boulder? But then came Columbine, and the Aurora shootings, and the legalization of recreational pot, which led to William Breathes's latest New York Times appearance.

Colorado crimes aside, the media comes here because it's an interesting place...and it's an interesting place because while Coloradans like to consider themselves independent, and often moved here (or stayed here) so they could be independent, they're also willing to work together for a common good -- if they can agree on the definition of "good."

And when it comes to both guns and pot, those definitions can be tricky.

The New York Times has been covering Colorado like a blanket lately. On Sunday, in a story headlined "U.S. Debate on Gun Laws Is Put to a Test in Colorado," the Times depicted Colorado as "a reluctant crucible for the battle over guns."

"This state, one of hunters and sport shooters, has endured two of the most horrific mass shootings in American history, and this year for the first time in more than a decade it could pass major gun-control legislation," report Jack Healy and Dan Frosch, in a piece that quotes both Governor John Hickenlooper and lawmaker Greg Brophy, from both sides of the cultural divide.

And yesterday, columnist Frank Bruni outlined "Colorado's Marijuana Muddle" in a piece that name-checks Hickenlooper (while shadowing him, Bruni discovered that dealing with Amendment 64 tops many municipalities' lists of challenges), William Breathes and, yes, me. And after spending a few days here, he concludes:

Presidential candidates have felt free to allude or own up to past marijuana use. So why all the hand wringing over pot's legalization, when its illegality isn't always taken seriously? If we have a problem with pot, we sure haven't behaved that way.

Colorado and Washington aren't being experimental so much as honest. They're acknowledging reality, and giving people the same chance with pot as with alcohol: to use it responsibly -- or not. They'll also pick up some tax revenue in the process.

That doesn't explain Columbine, or Aurora, or even JonBenet Ramsey. But after his visit to Colorado, Bruni comes out on the smart side of the cultural divide.

From our archives: "William Breathes looks back on three years as the country's first pot critic."

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