Is this the most attention you've ever gotten?" asked the national reporter.
Westword got bomb threats when we broke the news about University of Colorado coach Bill McCartney's daughter being pregnant by dying quarterback Sal Aunese, a story that's gotten a second life on ESPN now that their son is a college quarterback. We won national awards for our investigation of the Rocky Flats grand jury. USA Today cited Westword's "The Rumor About Romer" when former governor Roy Romer, then the chair of the Democratic National Committee, got caught in a lengthy lip lock with an aide he'd denied having an affair with years before. Our coverage of the sex scandal at the Air Force Academy inspired several federal investigations.
And yet...all those journalistic scoops are just so much smoke compared to the attention attracted by an ad we posted on the web last week — for a medical marijuana dispensary reviewer. Denver is the wild, wild West of the medical marijuana business, with new dispensaries opening daily — but the staffer who'd been posting "Mile High and Low" reviews every week for the past month under the name Mae Coleman (an homage to Reefer Madness) was ready to get back to his day job. Still, since the number of people seeking medical marijuana cards is growing even faster than the number of dispensaries in this state, we knew that not only was there a need for critical information, but that we'd have no shortage of qualified applicants. Not in the Mile High City. So we published a post asking would-be dispensary critics to write a brief essay on "What Marijuana Means to Me."
Our first applicant replied within five minutes — fast work for a stoner. Our first media response came a few minutes later — really fast work for a journalist.
A week later, our quest has been captured by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, and the essays continue to pour in — some silly, some actually spelled correctly (many potheads don't seem to care for punctuation), some very sincere. A sampling:
From an engineer who started with the great line "Hey, Joe, whatcha doin with that doob in your hand...What Mary Jane means to me: As a 'burner' of more than 14 years, I have spent many an hour pondering the importance of herb in my life... among other things. Recently, however, I have realized a new herbal importance to my overall quality of life. I am an outdoor sporting enthusiast and have experienced my share of injuries throughout the years, as many of us do. As I have aged (elegantly, damnit!), I have developed a couple of recurring conditions that have allowed me to legally indulge myself as an alternative to prescribed narcotics and the dangerous longterm effects. Long story short... (TOO LATE!) I have been frequenting many of our local dispensaries with mixed experiences. Most places are kind and professional. Others, though, are simply drug dealers that check your ID. I think that you have a great idea — a service, rather, that will help your readers make educated decisions and enjoy their 'medication' experience to the fullest..."
"marijuana. what it means to me has changed over the years. smoking scwagg when i was 14 just because it was 'cool'. finding kind bud when i was 17. and then. graduating high school, getting a job, and also graduating to narcotics. i was a heroin addict in pennsylvania when i was 19. i left marijuana behind. when i got clean, 6 years ago, i started smoking again. marijuana is my alternative to taking pills for anxiety and depression. it has never let me down. never made me want to rob a bank. never put me in a situation where i felt compelled to prostitute myself. i received my license in march. since then i have been to 7 dispensaries. i have sampled over 100 strains, edibles, and hash and. i have had issues with each dispensary...i am a good writer. the one thing i know that i excel at. i am also a daily weed smoker who visits dispensaries 2 -3 times weekly. i'm glad you guys are doing this. mm in colorado is exploding. i am a stay at home dad. i don't need money. i don't need a job. but. i have wanted to write for westword for so long. and this would be the perfect union. i will get a marijuana leaf/westword tattoo on my forehead to get this gig. and i have no tattoos at all...please. don't make me beg."
"What marijuana means to me: Sure, it was just a way to piss off my parents when I was in high school and my mom would get mad that I ate all the Oreos. Then I turned 18 and wasn't their responsibility anymore, and now we all get along on such a high-er level. Throughout college and my career, I have depended on marijuana for countless reasons. Sometimes I use it to help brainstorm ideas, or deal with mundane tasks, or to ease back pain while sitting at a computer all day. There's also the social enjoyment aspect, and the enlightening conversations I've had with friends, where great ideas are generated and discussed after partaking. Or the laughter! Whether it's laughing at my own stupid stoner moments or those of others, it's high grade amusement all the way! I've been enjoying marijuana for many years, and to now do it legally and buy it from a local wellness center — I just can't get enough! The business is booming in Colorado and I'm looking to get more active in the industry and make a career change to get more involved. As Steve Jobs said it best, 'You've got to find what you love.'"
"Why is medical marijuana important to me? It has not only saved my life, but it has given me back the person I was before my life-changing accident. Cannabis allows me to work through my pain, and not be consumed by it. It gives me life, and it gave me my life back. To say marijuana is important to me is an understatement; marijuana has given me my life back. Marijuana isn't just important to me, it is my life."
"Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Okay, so you would have had to been really high in 1978 at a drive-in to really appreciate this movie. I am a high functioning stoner — for the last thirty years. I do have a rare medical condition that can cause a lot of pain. I have a medical marijuana card. I am your pot smoking connoisseur with impeccable credentials for this Westword feature. I am a published writer. My alma mater is Metropolitan State and I was lucky enough to be an adjunct professor there....(I think — just kidding — what was I talking about? Professor Ashley Roachclip? Cheech and Chong....google that sketch.) Stoner humor..."
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"With the blessing of the People of the State of Colorado, I may now be a (legal) stoner. I was not the first, nor the last. There will be many tens of thousands who will take the same path. At some point in the near future it will simply be untenable to ignore the status quo. When dispensaries become as common as dry cleaners, people will then see that the sky isn't falling or the wheels are not coming off. They will start asking questions and challenging assumptions. Maybe you can smoke pot and hold a professional job. Maybe it really doesn't make you lazy. Maybe someday we might even be able to have an honest public discussion on it. I feel the winds of change blowing in, and when the dust settles I like what I see. P.S. If I have wasted your time, or you feel dumber for having ready my essay, my apologies in advance. I was medicated."
And finally, this from a poet who's smoked pot in Amsterdam — but unfortunately, for our purposes, lives in California: "Have you ever asked yourself what you mean to marijuana? In the trenches of our uphill battle against freeing this botanical miracle, marijuana herself knows that in the greenest of her hearts, that she and the fight to free her is an act of humanity. It's the people that drive the fight. They spread the wisdom. They discredit the old myths such as 'Reefer Madness' and trumpet our triumphs like our holy statistic of zero deaths. I say our, because it belongs to you and it belongs to me. And in this war of will, intellect and stoner resolve, we all need allies. The chosen allies now are the noble and licensed dispensary runners who bring us our medicine, our high, our privilege in a legal template. Setting the course for our ultimate goal of decrim and legalese. We are all in this together. Our Plant. Our Love. Our Fight."
Our job. We'll publish other essays on the Latest Word blog over the next week — and then reveal the result of our very special joint-operating agreement (perhaps the only new job in journalism created over the past year, which helps explain all the attention) sometime mid-month.