Columns

For two years, I authored “Mountain Folk Tales,” a weekly column in Nederland’s The Mountain Ear about randomly selected locals living along the Peak-to-Peak. In 2019 I won the Colorado Press Association’s Rising Star Award, in large part because of this work. My first column, Boulder’s Weekly’s Weed Between the Lines, was my first project in journalism and a wonderful opportunity to get my feet wet. The column ran from November 2015 to May 2018. Below is a selection of my favorites from both.

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I’m in a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, this is the April Fool’s day edition of the Mountain Ear and I’m tempted to concoct a story so fantastically bizarre it sneaks into your brain and has you questioning the very nature of truth itself. But on the other hand, this Mountain Folk Tale column is actually and truly—like, really really—the very last Mountain Folk Tales as I am moving South to sunny New Mexico. So, I guess the joke’s on me because I thought I’d live in these hills forever, I thought a life in Gilpin County spent writing about a column about mountain life was my destiny—the Continental Divide rising up as if an extension of the landscape of my soul. Read my last column, “A Fantastically Bizare Goodbye,” on The Mountain Ear.

 

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I walked into Barbara Lawlor’s house for the first time on July 12, 2018, the day after she’d been diagnosed with terminal leukemia. There were eight people inside, all laughing: two of her four children, two of someone else’s, two friends, her, and I. The house seemed used to being this full and happy.

But I entered solemnly, after all I’d come with the morbid agenda of interviewing Barbara before she passed away so I could write about her when she did. It was a bit awkward but it seemed important, to all of us, that she played some part in writing her own memorial.

Since 1983, Barbara has been the eyes, ears, and voice of Nederland and its surrounding mountain towns. As the Mountain-Ear’s lead journalist and columnist she’s written thousands of stories, performed over 9,000 interviews and written over 1,000 first-person columns. It’s hard to imagine any story about the area without her being a part of its telling. And so it was my hope, however drab, to captivate the significance of her contributions while they still lived within her, a woman I was coming to adore.

Read the rest of the memorial column, here.

 

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Before Kenny Collins moved to Estes Park in 2010, there was no talk of monsters. Instead, in the summer, when 4 million tourists came to town, people would talk about the bugle of the elk and the view from the top of Rocky Mountain National Park. More or less, people were satisfied with the mysticism inherent in the landscape and let nature inspire their awe and their belief in whatever divine force is capable of creating such beauty. But when Kenny Collins arrived, he looked at the same land as everyone else and said something different, even if only to himself.

“There is more to this place than meets the eye. Bigfoot lives in these hills.”

Read more about Kenny, and Bigfoot, here.

 

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The B&F Mountain Market may not be the flashiest grocery store there ever was, but up here, it’s beloved. As the only full-service grocer along the Peak-to-Peak, it’s not just a place to buy food but a place we all come together as neighbors. In this, the age of big box stores and internet retailers, such down-home aspects are best not taken for granted. It’s one thing to have a place to pick up an emergency carton of milk, quite another to know the person in line behind you is likely to pay the tab when you realize you forgot your wallet. From the shopper’s point-of-view, the B&F is a home away from home.

The check-out crew there has an entirely different perspective into the mountain way of life. They see us, locals and tourists alike, come in and out, bags empty and then full. They see us all dolled up, getting ready for a date just like they do on Sunday night, when we’re in our PJs staring at the ice cream cooler for an inexcusably long amount of time. Not to say that’s our best and our worst, but the cashiers do see us at both extremes; and if you’re Summer Nicole Knight, you’re looking us in the eye and giving us a big ‘ol smile either way.

Read more about Summer here.

 

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Living just off the shores of Lake Michigan, she spent most of her days frolicking through the thick cedar forests characteristic of the Midwest. She’d wander all day, stopping to play in nature’s nooks and crannies, collecting posses of forest friends along the way. It wasn’t uncommon to see her with a raccoon or two in tow.

She remembers that her play was contingent on a tacit understanding between Wisconsinites of that time and place, one that the land, although it might be privately owned and ultimately destined for some utility or other, was always, first and foremost, for the leisure and benefit of all.

To this day, 50 some odd years later, Linda explores Colorado forests with a similar understanding of boundaries, transgressing them with a pert and rebellious, but respectful flippancy. Read more about Linda HERE.

 

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If it’s 7 o’clock in the morning, Kodiak Cannon-Pattridge, or Cody as his friends call him, is probably up. He loves to sleep, but says, “it’s too good to be true,” with the summer sun shining through his windows, the time for dreaming has passed. Lying awake in bed, surrounded by sun-drenched posters of musical legends like Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead, lays blonde-haired, blue-eyed Cody, probably snuggling with the uninvited, but always welcome, neighbor dog, Scout.

Cody doesn’t have a dog himself, but he loves them, and his Facebook feed is full of portraits of him plus one. Scrolling through one after another, the thought occurs that dogs have been speaking to us all along and Cody’s been the only one wise enough to listen.

Read more about this awesome ward resident HERE.

 

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Summer has a way of turning mountain life inside out. Having spent the past nine months hibernating by the fireplace, our solitude is now cooked to perfection and it’s time to share the feast. At last, the smoke has moved from the hearth to the barbeque and life is happening outdoors rather than in.

It’s a fitting time to introduce The Mountain Ear’s new weekly column, “Mountain Folk Tales,” that likewise aims to turn mountain living inside out. Every week of the year we will feature a different story about a different local. Not the big, flashy stories, but the hidden ones we might not otherwise know. Our mission is two-fold, first and simply to get to know you all, and, in sharing your stories to preserve the story of our community at large.

Read the rest of my introductory column HERE.

 

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My favorite column to date. Read “Pot’s Got Gme,” HERE.  It began in late October when former NBA Commissioner David Stern said in an interview that he is “convinced that cannabis does have medicinal qualities and should be taken off the league’s list of banned substances…”

 

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Gary is a storyteller and he never starts at the beginning. He contacted me at the beginning of the summer hoping I could help him do some research about his marijuana arrest in May of 1967. He’d been a casualty of a police sting, caught with a couple of cannabis seeds in a film canister stashed in his car, although he doubts he would have been so careless.

“Of course I had marijuana,” he says. “I had a stash up on Sugarloaf. I had a stash down on Boulder Canyon, Sunshine Canyon. You know I had places everywhere, but I knew better than to keep it with me. But then again, I had just gotten back from San Francisco… ” Read more of this, my favorite sort of personal narrative column, HERE.

 

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Since the implementation of a Sept. 18th Department of Homeland Security policy, Eddie Soto of the Latino advocacy nonprofit Servicios de la Raza says he is aware of 12 deportation actions stemming from social media that suggested marijuana use, possession or distribution by immigrants.

In some cases he says the pictures indicate only peripheral involvement with marijuana, offering evidence as loose as a selfie taken outside a dispensary, which may be strong enough to be used for “probable cause” to challenge one’s immigration status. Is DHS leveraging state legalizations to target immigrants? Check out my column “Immigrants: Your social media can and will be used against you,” HERE.

 

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The word on the tip of filmmaker Wedny Borman’s tongue is censorship and as a filmmaker, she’s deeply concerned about what Facebook’s action to block her ad says about the right of educators to educate, artists to express, advocates to advocate and, more generally, people to think and speak freely.

“This is really making me second guess whether Facebook is a company that I as a filmmaker want to be associated with,” Borman says. Find out how Facebook responds HERE.

 

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Dr. Rav believes the conventional medical model is about to shift. The way he sees it, the energetic aspects of our lives can no longer be kept separate from our ideation of health and well-being — a change being forced upon us by the failure of opioids and the successes of marijuana. Read more HERE.

 

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Dr. Andrew Gallimore was a very strange child, and in lots of ways too. For now let’s keep to his fascination with ghosts. Well, ghosts and vampires and werewolves to be precise, the “holy trinity” as he calls it. He didn’t exactly have an encounter, but he did frequently have an experience of a bizarre sensation, the feeling that something else was there, hovering in his left field of vision but just out of sight. He was curious, but appeased his curiosity by reading stories about all of the scary creatures that lurked in the dark.

…Now he studies DMT as an ancient alien technology and it’s totally legit. Read all about it in what is one of my favorite interviews to date in DMT: living in an alien world and we don’t even know it

 

Not only was this the most fun to write, but I it’s one of my best columns to date:

“Weddings have a way of bringing me to a point of excruciatingly thorough reflection — thinking about the choices I’ve made and what they add up to, the ways I am a part of a family and how I’ll never quite fit in. They make me wonder about how it is that one generation yields to the next, forging on in the spirit of its progenitors amid an entirely new set of circumstances…” and at this one, I thought a lot about how pot fit into it all. Read it all in Wedding Bells. 

 

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There is no just description of uterine pain, no words that can adequately express its fury, although something like a star collapsing into a black hole in the center of your lower abdomen (and taking your emotional stability along with it) might come close. Even so, I have and will always love cramps. They are a part of the bond of sisterhood, a part of the pain of being a woman that we wear with maternal pride.

And if you live in New York, now there’s another reason to love your cramps it can score you an Rx for medical marijuana. Read all about the crimson wave sweeping New York HERE.

 

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Lately, I’ve been loving digging into the mundane little details about life in a state with legalized cannabis. Things like how it changes a dinner conversation, or how it changes the way we raise our kids, or how the bizarre industry attracts people who never seemed to quite fit in anywhere else… and they end up thriving.

Here’s a little story about a nice fellow I met, Barrett Rogers, an artist with a penchant for the path less travelled. Read it all in A Day in the Life of Barrett Rogers.

 

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Public consumption of marijuana has long been a sort of “screw you” to the proverbial “man,” proof you’re not a suit, a nod toward the freedom to consume whatever you damn well please. It is the right to assemble mixed with a dose of civil disobedience — it’s about as American as it gets. Read all of Finding Perspective on the High Holy Day, HERE. 

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You remember him, John Mayer from the 2000s, the understated pop hunk with the hollowed eyes who somehow managed to woo us even though we swore we wouldn’t succumb to his poppy seductions. We hoped that behind his sly smile was something deeper, a vulnerability maybe, something that would justify being able to sing along to his litany of songs inspired by his at times excessively boyish sexuality.

Well, he’s back and in a big way, too. And I think it’s got a whole lot to do with his soiree with the Grateful Dead and his newfound cannabis lifestyle. Read my column The Moral of the Story is not the John Mayer Did Drugs, Found God and Started Doing Drugs, HERE. 

 

After a year of duplicitous behavior by InSys Therapeutics, their fake version of marijuana has earned a Schedule II classification and rights to a potentially profitable and patent-protected new market. But the real marijuana is still a Schedule I drug currently being threatened by a federal crackdown. Welcome to Bizarro World.

Come with me as I explore why the fake is suddenly more palatable than the real with a little help from Jerry Seinfeld, Guy Debord and Susan Sontag. Read Bizarro World HERE. 

“I’ve enjoyed my life,” Cliff McLean says. “I have roamed around the country and seen a lot of stuff, but as I was telling my friend here, on March 30 I’ll be 60 and it’s time for me to get off the streets now. I’ve seen two people down at the river this year froze to death, and I just don’t want to go out like that.”

It’s been a fine way to live so far, but he says that with the 15 or so years he’s got left, the cold and the violence that comes with homelessness seems especially brutal. 

“You wanna know where marijuana comes in? Here,” he says. “Since marijuana has gone legal, the alcohol use has gone down and the violence, too, and that’s a good thing. Alcohol has killed more people than I like to recount, believe me, because I have seen it. People now choose to smoke marijuana and not sit there with the bottle all day and when you sit there with the bottle all day… problems.” Read People Are Just People HERE. 

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at the New Hampshire Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness regaling middle and high school audiences with tales about a fabled time when “drug users were not cool.” Sorry, but when was that again? This week I wonder what we’re all so afraid of when it comes to drugs in Fear Not

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“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people,” he said at a press briefing.

In one way he is right — the opioid epidemic is a severe medical and public health crisis. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. With 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015, it is now responsible for more deaths than car accidents per year.

But Spicer’s statement made many addiction experts cringe, since there is no evidence that marijuana use leads to opiate abuse. Read the column Setting Spicer Straight HERE.

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While many might have expected federal marijuana legalization the next revolution in turn, it is just as likely to be a broadening of legalization to other illegal drugs and substances. The Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS) is launching an initiative to bring “magic” mushrooms into the folds of state-level legalization. Read all about it in my latest column for Boulder Weekly, Get Ready for the Next Episode.

Daniel McQueen makes a bold statement: Cannabis sativa can produce an experience as deep and profound as those induced by psychedelics. He offered to prove it and I took him up on the invitation through a guided, group trip. Find out what happened on my cannabis fueled journey through consciousness in my article Sacrament.

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If history is any lesson, Jeff Sessions’ moral opposition to cannabis is but one of his dangerous positions when it comes to marijuana reform. He also displays racist tendencies and anti-immigrant positions. Put them all together and you have the perfect storm for another full-fledged drug war. Read my full forecast of what Jeff Sessions as Attorney General could mean for federal drug policy in my column, The Perfect Storm

A cannabis activist in Boulder since 1992, Kriho didn’t just fight for legalization, but for “marijuana freedom” beyond regulation, taxes and industry. Whether working to legalize industrial hemp at the federal level in the mid-’90s, ushering in Amendment 20 to bring medical marijuana programs to Colorado in the aughts or for patient’s rights and adult-use cannabis in more recent years, Kriho was a staple of the front lines, fighting to liberate cannabis from prohibitionist laws and attitudes. Read my column In Memory of Laura Kriho HERE.

Denver’s measure establishing cannabis social clubs was amended to exclude pot from places with liquor licenses, a decision arrived at with heavy lobbying from the liquor industry, an industry increasingly positioned as a competitor to marijuana. Let’s take a look at the ulterior motives hidden behind claims of “public safety” in For Safety of Profit?

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By now, you’ve probably seen the photos comparing market marijuana to government marijuana, the first fluffy and deeply green, the later stringy and brown. Here’s my column on the study from the University of Colorado that started the conversation and proves the government’s stash just doesn’t measure up. Read more HERE.

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Prohibition agents destroying contraband barrels of alcohol in 1928. Wikimedia Commons

An oped from my weekly column in Boulder Weekly, Weed Between the Lines, about marijuana legislation’s place in an unwieldy election cycle.

Read the oped, A big day for cannabis and democracy, written for Boulder Weekly as the November election unfolded.

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The crowd awaiting Dead and Company to take the stage for the first concert at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado in 20 years.

Dead and Company’s July show at Folsom Field provided a touchstone moment for Boulder and for me, a lifelong Boulderite. The concert brought live, outdoor concerts back to the city for the first time in 20 years and brought free love, drugs and rock and roll back with it.

Discover Boulder’s hippie roots starting with the present day songs of Dead and Co. and tracing them back to the good old days of the Grateful Dead in Back from the Dead.

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UNGASS on drugs, held in New York City from April 19-21, is reforming international drug policy as governments around the world voice displeasure with the long-standing war on drugs. Credit Sarah Haas

Setting the stage before UNGASS in New York my article, Entering a new era of international drug policy, looks at how the global war on drugs came to be, who is challenging it and why.

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David Schmader: speaker, essayist and author of the new book, “Weed: the User’s Guide.” Courtesy of the author

“I was taught that the two things that I love the most, homosexuality and weed, were completely evil,” says David Schmader, speaker, essayist and author of the new book, Weed: the User’s Guide. “I want to protect other people from being fed that bullshit because once I reckoned with them, I found those are great pleasures of life. But I was taught nothing but wrong about them, which got me wondering, what if everything that I’ve been taught was bad was actually good?”

Read Deconstructing stereotypes with David Schmader and gain some insight into how stereotypes affect our opinions and ideas about drug policy.

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Even after the passage of Amendment 64, people of color are still arrested more often than whites for pot-related charges.

Two independent studies confirm racial bias in policing in Boulder, finding that while black people account for only 1 percent of Boulder’s population, they are cited at more than twice that rate every year since 2011. In 2015, the disproportion hit a five-year peak.

This is a problem that belongs to everyone, but holds a special place in the marijuana community because this industry was created by campaigns using talking points about the systematic destruction of communities of color to encourage voters to pass legalization. 

Get the whole scoop in my March column, We need to talk about it, for Boulder Weekly.

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Mile High Comics listed its headquarters, a warehouse in north Denver, for $1.6 million. The building is valued at just under $200,000 — a discrepancy that is raising a few eyebrows in commercial real estate. Courtesy Mile High Comics

As marijuana business booms in Denver and its thriving economy continues to grow, a stagnant supply of industrial real estate stock is meeting with unprecedented demand, sending prices skyrocketing. The inflated prices create speculation about how the legalization of marijuana and the green rush factor into the low vacancy rates and record high prices in the warehouse market.

Read my very first column, Weed warehouse.