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The life and tragic death of cannabis advocate Jenny Kush

The life and tragic death of cannabis advocate Jenny Kush

Labor Day weekend is regarded as one of the biggest drunk-driving holidays on the calendar, right up there with Memorial Day, New Year's Eve and Thanksgiving. Statistics support it: According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 1,342 people were arrested over a nineteen-day stretch between August 16 and September 3 of this year for suspected driving under the influence.

One of them was Rebecca Maez.

Shortly before 1 a.m. on September 1, the 27-year-old Maez left a bar in north Denver and got behind the wheel. She made a sharp left turn off of 70th Avenue onto the off-ramp for northbound I-25. No barriers were in her way, no signs to warn her that she was careening in the wrong direction — south toward downtown Denver.

See also: Ten memorable art pieces by fallen cannabis activist Jenny Kush

Four miles away, 37-year-old Jeremy DePinto and 34-year-old Jennifer Monson — better known as cannabis activist Jenny Kush — had just left the (hed) p.e. concert at Summit Music Hall. Wary of drunk drivers on Labor Day weekend, they'd skipped drinking themselves that night, and were cautious as they drove through LoDo and headed to the freeway to get back home to Westminster. "Take the HOV lane — it will be safer," Kush told Pinto. Those were the last words he remembers from the woman he loved because she cared so much about other people — and expected them to do the same.

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Jenny Kush had moved with her four children to Denver in 2010, driving an old Chevy Suburban through one of Colorado's March blizzards to get away from what friends say was a toxic relationship in Montana. It didn't take long before she was a fixture on the local cannabis scene, blowing glass pipes at the former Street Glass and hanging around a group of people loosely related to iCannabisRadio, an Internet station based out of attorney Warren Edson's office.

Friends have a hard time pinpointing the first time they met Kush. She was just always there, a gregarious, ornery pistol of a woman with a heart of gold. A maternal type, albeit one with a foul mouth, occasionally dirty sense of humor and rainbow-colored hair.

Paul Garrett, owner of the Mad Hatter's Smoke Shop, is one of the rare few who remember their first encounter with Kush. When she walked up, he stuck out his hand and introduced himself. She looked at his hand, gave him a sideways glance — and then hugged him.

"I don't shake hands," she told him. "I hug."

"That set the tone for being her friend," Garrett says. "She loved, completely and deeply, everyone in her life."

Lori Monson remembers her daughter always caring about others and wanting not only to do right by them, but to directly involve herself where she could make a difference. "She was always there to help anybody," she adds. "She worked [in Montana] at a nursing home as a nursing aide. To this day, they are always asking about her and [saying] how much they missed her because she was always so smiling and happy to see them. She was always there for everyone. If someone had a problem, sbe was the one helping them to work on it."

"I feel like Jenny has just always been a part of my world, and so I don't have this great 'the first time I laid eyes on her I knew she was a special person' story," says Georgia Edson, Warren's wife and co-owner of the studio. "It's just that Jenny was always there and always around. The reason why that is, is because Jenny would volunteer for everything and organize and coordinate everything. If there was an event to be done, to be figured out, Jenny was at the heart of it. That is who she was — she was great at coordinating things."

And among Colorado's cannabis activists, she quickly became known as the girl who got shit done. This wasn't a hostile takeover, though; it was a labor of love. Kush was all over: sitting in front of cop cars on Broadway during Occupy Denver; helping found Moms for Marijuana in Colorado; working as an organizer for Mile High NORML and numerous other groups. Kush and DePinto were also frequent fixtures at the cannabis rallies on the final Saturday of every month at the State Capitol.

But where Kush really made her mark was on the radio. Soon after she showed up on the scene, she was frequently co-hosting the John Doe Radio Show. Those appearances gave her the idea of starting her own show, a no-holds-barred session that blended two of her favorite topics: SexPot Radio. Through that show, she connected with hundreds, if not thousands, of people — and in a very real way.

When Kush first approached Georgia Edson in late 2011 with the idea of a show that would discuss both pot and sex, "I thought she meant would the station be open to doing a show about sex," Georgia remembers. "So I said, 'Yeah, tell me more about what you're thinking.' For all intents and purposes, Jenny and I are pretty different. Jenny is very open and honest, and I'm far more conservative. The fact that Jenny wanted to [do the radio program] with me was fantastic. But part of the reason she wanted to do it with me is because she thought it would be really, really funny to see me squirm."

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9 comments
patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

we'd like to publish some of the comments about this story in our print edition -- ideally with your full name/town. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

If you read the article, the problem besides the drunk driver. is the way the on/off ramp is set up and despite other deaths CDOT (co. dept of transp.) has done NOTHING. You see here in Colorado, one death is a blip.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

The govt doesn't care except to get its grubby hands and any and all money

opusthepoet
opusthepoet

I never met Jenny, but I know others who were victims of drunk drivers and have been a victim of a presumed drunk driver myself. So can I say I have a passionate doubleplus unlove for drunk drivers? Seriously I think that drunk drivers should get one chance to get their $&*% together and drive responsibly, second offense is mandatory loss of the motor vehicle, with the vehicle recycled in front of the driver if someone was injured, or recycled with the driver behind the wheel if someone was killed.


And that is how doubleplus unlove I am for drunk drivers.

COmidnightrider
COmidnightrider

RIP JENNY KUSH

Good Article(a rarity in Westword) William Breathes

As I rode the HOV Lane with Thoughts of the accident in mind, it was easily apparent that the Culprit, Besides "The unamed Drunk", turned from 70th. If CDOT refuses to make changes to their existing offering, They SHOULD AT VERY LEAST put up a 'Flip Sign' that would alert drivers as they are entering the WRONG WAY. I DO NOT Think this is too much to ask CDOT to do in light of Three serious accidents. Jeremy is an Amazing Spirit, and I wish him Much ONE LOVE healing energy.

Bret Egan
Bret Egan

Besides being a victim of a drunk driver, government also failed Jenny Kush,

rockiesfever
rockiesfever

I just want to say thank you to the Westword for making this a cover story. I didnt know this girl, but the story has haunted me since i first read it. (see my comment on that first Westword coverage story) I can tell by her pictures, and what friends have said about her that she was a life loving person who deserved to live. I dont smoke weed. nor do I drink,  But I do agree it is unbelievable alcohol is legal and weed is not. And when I read yet another story of some selfish, stupid fucking  drunk stealing time in this earth from another innocent person cause they decided to selfishly drive after glutinously stuffing themselves of booze, It makes me want to go to a bar just to beat some drunk fucks ass.  I hope this chick responsible gets life. But she probably wont. She will probably be out of jail inside of the next ten years. Meanwhile, theres a drug dealer somewhere in the us being sentenced to 25 years. This bitch will be taking shots again decades before the drug dealer gets out......

RIP Young Lady. Jenny. Your cause is served as well by your death as your life and hopefully, maybe that will make it make some sense

ThinkFastTalkSlow
ThinkFastTalkSlow

Billy Breathes....this is beautifully written, and an amazing tribute. You captured her achievements as both an activist AND a person. That's what everyone loved about Jenny: she was the most genuine person you ever met.

In a community where we are always fighting for something: a cause, a law, a business, an ego.....Jenny was a beacon of positivity and she shared that light with everyone.

My favorite quote from the piece was from Jeremy, "She always said that if everyone would care about everybody else, you wouldn't have to worry about yourself, because someone would automatically be caring for you."

That's Jenny. And somewhere out there she is smiling. 

 Thank you. 

 
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