Rob Douglas: Steamboat’s widget shops |

Rob Douglas: Steamboat’s widget shops

Rob Douglas

— Don't be surprised early next year if you're approached by a local resident or tourist seeking assistance in locating Steamboat Springs' widget shops. Remarkably, they might ask you even though they're standing right under a sign for widgets attached to a widget shop. If so, please don't conclude the inquiry is from an illiterate. After all, Colorado and Steamboat laws about the sale of widgets are intended to deceive.

You didn't know Steamboat has widget shops? That's hard to believe given the widget market is set to expand next year from the current medical use of widgets to include the recreational use of widgets.

Still confused? No worries. It wasn't until I attended law school that I learned about widgets.

In law school, the word widget is employed as a substitute term for products found in the marketplace. Instead of discussing how a legal doctrine applies to soda, cars, light bulbs or other commercially available products, we'd discuss how the legal doctrine might impact "widgets."

For example, my constitutional law professor might say, "Douglas, identify the legal and constitutional issues raised if a legislative body passes a law making it illegal for a shop owner to use the scientific or common terms for the widgets she sells on the advertising signs attached to her store."

Of course, that's exactly what happened in Steamboat this week.

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Given the majority vote this week by Steamboat Springs City Council members Bart Kounovsky, Scott Myller, Walter Magill and Kenny Reisman to ban the use of the words cannabis (scientific), marijuana (common) or any synonym or depiction for marijuana on advertising signs attached to recreational marijuana shops in Steamboat, marijuana proprietors will have to use a widget-like term to describe all marijuana products.

Evidently, based on the comments of several council members, Tuesday's flip-flop vote came after they were approached by the marijuana faction of Steamboat's Flat Earth Society following a previous vote that authorized the use of the word marijuana on advertising attached to recreational marijuana shops. Coincidentally, it also came just 24 hours before Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a flip-flop of his own.

While most Americans know Gupta as CNN's chief medical correspondent, Gupta is an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine and associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. In short, Gupta is an accomplished physician who turned down an offer from President Barack Obama to be U.S. surgeon general.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, CNN will air "Weed: A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special." Segments of the special were filmed in Colorado.

During a preview of the special Wednesday, Gupta spoke about medical and recreational marijuana and, in so doing, made the following statements:

• "I've apologized for some of (my) earlier reporting (castigating marijuana) because I think we've been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time, and I did part of that misleading."

• "I didn't listen to the chorus of patients who said, 'Not only does marijuana work for me, it's the only thing that works for me.'"

• "I took the DEA at their word when they said it's a Schedule 1 substance and has no medical application. There was no scientific basis for them to say that."

• "The science (supporting the medicinal use of marijuana) is there. This isn't anecdotal. This isn't in the realm of conjecture. … This was a drug that was used for thousands of years. … It works, and it can work very quickly."

• "Every 19 minutes in this country, someone dies of an accidental prescription drug overdose. This is no joke. Every 19 minutes. I couldn't find one documented case of someone dying of a marijuana overdose."

• "Addiction is possibly real, about 9 percent. Put it in context, cocaine is about 20 percent. … alcohol has a higher rate of addiction. Smoking, 30 percent and that leads to far more deaths than marijuana."

Anyone with an interest in the ongoing battle over the legalization of marijuana should tune in Sunday — with an open mind — to watch the CNN special or read Gupta's editorial, "Why I Changed My Mind on Weed."

If they do so, educated lawmakers might stop playing word games.

To reach Rob Douglas, email

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