Partygoers dance and smoke pot on the first of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver in 2014. (Associated Press file)

Opinion: The Colorado pot smoker stereotype is hard to avoid

We’ve legalized marijuana, and now we are all stereotyped as pot smokers.

We have awesome mountain views, trails and wildlife in Colorado that give us bragging rights and make us a coveted place. But the Rocky Mountains aren’t necessarily the first thing people outside of our state think of when they think of Colorado — now it’s marijuana. Our native beauty has been overshadowed by the consequences of our legislation acts.

I’ve lived in Colorado for several years, and I definitely have state pride. While I attend college in Pennsylvania, I like to brag about home: the mountains and our 300 days of sunshine.

But my out-of-state friends like to remind me that my state legalized marijuana — and they don’t view it as a good thing. They’ll sometimes say something condemning, though often in jest. I don’t mind the teasing, and I even like to joke that Colorado is now truly the mile high city.

Sometimes, after meeting someone new and explaining that I’m from Colorado, the topic regarding the legalization of weed immediately comes up. This new acquaintance often gives me a knowing look and says something like, “Oh, you’re from Colorado where they legalized marijuana.” Other times, strangers say things even more rude because I come from a place that legalized weed.

This happened to me when I drove from Colorado back to school in Pennsylvania. I was on Interstate 70 in eastern Kansas, and as a car with Illinois plates drove past me, the man sitting in the passenger seat made rude smoking gestures at me. I drive an old Toyota Camry that’s in decent shape, and I don’t look like a pot-smoker. So, I’m fairly certain he made the rude smoking gestures based solely upon my Colorado license plates.

I love seeing my Colorado plates. I love seeing the snow-covered mountains on the green background every time I walk by my car, and I love driving around Pennsylvania just because I can make a statement with my license plates and brag about Colorado. But now people who don’t even know me see the plates and make rude smoking gestures.

Do we really want our state to have the reputation of a marijuana-smoking population?

Like it or not, we have it.

Abagail DeBenedittis studies writing at Geneva College.

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