Frank McDonald is the self-proclaimed mayor of Stoner, Colorado, a town whose population numbers two -- with the other resident being, in his words, "an old lady named Mary Jane." But thanks to the community's name, and the passage of Amendment 64, he thinks the future for the tiny spot on the map is bright -- and smells pretty skunky.
Stoner, located in what McDonald describes as "a little valley in the middle of nowhere near Rico on your way to Telluride," consists of nine buildings, not counting Mary Jane's place ("She lives in a little hunter's shack up on Stoner Creek").
This mural of Frank can be found on the floor of Stoner's restaurant.
According to McDonald, the structures include an eatery, a general store, several cabins (well, three of them are trailers) that need to be remodeled or refurbished and 35 RV spots. But what the average observer may consider a ramshackle assemblage McDonald sees as a destination music venue: Mary Jane's at Stoner Grill, Bar and Events Center.
"The property is roughly six acres, and once a big stage is up, we could do events for about 4,000 people," he says. "Parking would be about a mile away, so we'd have to run a shuttle service, but we'd want to maximize capacity. And we could bring in all kinds of acts, like Shinedown -- I know some of the guys -- or L.A. Guns or, on the country side, Hank III. We'd get them at the beginning or end of tours -- get them for less money, because we'd be working with local not-for-profits. And who wouldn't want to play in Stoner, Colorado?"
McDonald isn't a Colorado native. Up until about two years ago, he lived in Liberty, Missouri, where he says he served as the CEO of a new product development company and took part in affiliated business ventures with his wife -- now his ex-wife.
McDonald shows off his garden.
Their personal and professional breakup was accompanied by a diagnosis of cancer, which he treated with cannabis oil; he's a medical marijuana patient and a passionate advocate of the plant's healing qualities who hopes Stoner can become a gathering place for those who feel likewise. Nonetheless, his kidney had to be removed -- but he never lost hope that he'd survive. Indeed, he says, "I was in the hospital when I agreed to purchase Stoner."
Four weeks after his organ's removal, McDonald had relocated to the town, which once served as a watering stop for trains transporting miners, he says. But his plans for getting the place up and running were delayed by another disaster.
McDonald's truck, after the accident.
"I rolled my truck coming from Durango to avoid a head-on collision," he says. "I dumped my truck over a cliff and hoped for the best -- and since nobody died, I guess that was the best. I was able to maintain the property and keep my life going."
Stoner and music come together.
In order to make Stoner all it can be, however, he needs some help. The father of five (two of his kids are in college) is looking for investors to put money into developing the property. He's already secured a liquor license, as well as a deal with a local supplier to provide booze once everything is operational. In addition, he says, "the infrastructure of the town has been rebuilt -- but I just don't have the capital for the extras yet. I'm budgeted to keep the place alive until I find the right people -- people who see this as a perfect platform to tell the world that the passage of Amendment 64 is a good thing, and where people can gather from everywhere to share the same views and enjoy some great music."
Since A64's approval, McDonald says "my phone has blown up" with offers to sell Stoner, but he's holding out for now, "because when you believe in something as strongly as I believe in this, I just know everything's going to work out and be very rewarding not just for me, but for the people of Colorado.
"We'll be able to create an environment that's cannabis friendly and shows people around the world that people who use cannabis aren't druggies. They're just normal people like you and me."
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Contact McDonald through his Facebook page.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64 approved: Mason Tvert celebrates, John Hickenlooper talks Cheetos."