I had the chance to spend some time in the beautiful state of Colorado recently, and while the gorgeous landscape and mountain hiking were everything I’d imagined, I was a little surprised by what we found when we ventured out of the woods in search of a good meal.

Headed into town for sustenance, we passed quite a few retail shops offering marijuana for sale to the public. This came as no surprise since I knew Colorado recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana, with sales beginning this past January. What surprised me, however, was how normal everyone seemed.

Having seen the highly educational documentary “Reefer Madness” several times throughout my life, and also growing up during the height of Nancy Reagan’s terrifying “Just Say No” campaign, I was expecting something a little more … I don’t know… rapey and murdery.

Where were the flying bullets and cars careening out of control? Where were the people jumping out of windows or stumbling around, feverishly rambling in cannabis-induced insanity? Where were all the filthy and abandoned children left wandering the streets? Presumably, folks around us could effortlessly score devil weed just about anywhere in town and yet, somehow, civilization didn’t crash and burn to the ground.

Colorado is not only taking in tons of revenue from legal marijuana sales, which are anticipated to reach nearly a billion dollars next fiscal year, but they also seem to be handling themselves rather well, and certainly better than Mobilians have been handling our “Spice” lately. Despite the grim predictions of many who opposed the new legislation, thus far Colorado has seen no increase in crime or other major issues. Shockingly enough, so far, so good.

OK, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t particularly shocked, and the endless anti-marijuana propaganda I endured in childhood very quickly lost its credibility as soon as I was old enough to start encountering normal, respectable people who admitted to occasionally enjoying a bit of herbal refreshment.

Can it be abused? Absolutely, just like most things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the norm. Many compare it to an evening glass of wine, saying it helps them relax and unwind. Some say it heightens their creativity and enhances their enjoyment of art and music, and others say it helps them feel more at ease in social situations.

What does the “typical” modern American pot smoker look like? I’m not sure, but I seriously doubt it’s the stereotypical shiftless stoner, dedicated to a promising career as a stay-at-home son. At the other end of the spectrum are folks like Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has earned some of the highest honors in the field of engineering and has been working on figuring out a way to repair errors in human DNA.

I’d imagine most pot smokers are somewhere in between, just normal folks relaxing after a long day of teaching or nursing or banking or plumbing. Personally, I couldn’t care less if another adult wants to smoke pot as long as they don’t give it to my kids and they don’t steal our Oreos. I’m certainly not alone in that regard. According to Gallup 58 percent of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana, with many arguing the laws are outrageously unfair and immoral.

This issue has gone so far beyond the unfortunate stereotype of a bunch of goofy stoners fighting for their right to party. Among the many voices crying out for a more rational approach to marijuana legislation are frightened and frustrated parents of chronically ill children who suffer from diseases for which medicinal marijuana has proven to be a safe and highly effective treatment.

Not too long ago my husband and I had the misfortune of learning what it was like to have one of our precious children diagnosed with a rare and potentially life-threatening illness. All of the sudden nothing else in the world seemed to matter except keeping our son comfortable and knowing he was going to be OK.

Although we had a terrifying few months and our son endured a lot of pain, most of the gruesome symptoms associated with his illness never became an issue and we know it could have been so much worse. Benji is doing great and expected to have no long-term effects from the freak illness. We were so very lucky and our hearts ache for all those families who receive a far grimmer prognosis.

I will never forget what it was like in those first days after the diagnosis, frantically searching the Internet for information and any anecdotal reassurance I could find. It did not take me long to discover that cannabis is a recommended treatment for my son’s illness, providing substantial relief to children, with far less troubling side effects than conventional medications.

What if my son’s condition had progressed to point where we and/or his doctors thought that was truly his best option? Fortunately for us Ben recovered quickly enough that such considerations weren’t even necessary. But what if they were?

All across the country far too many parents are forced to choose between breaking the law and leaving their homes for one of the 21 states which have embraced the enormous medicinal value of marijuana. Charitable groups such as the Undergreen Railroad have formed to help families move to states where sick people can receive the treatment they need.

Alabama has recently made a step in the right direction when the state legislature unanimously passed Carly’s Law, signed by Governor Bentley just last month. The law, named after a young girl suffering from violent seizures, provides an affirmative defense to people who possess a certain prescribed cannabis extract for the purpose of treating epilepsy.

It’s progress, but it’s not nearly enough as it leaves out countless others who need other forms of the drug for a number of other conditions. I can only hope that soon enough, compassion and common sense prevails.