MMJ stash at Auraria could be country's biggest collection of marijuana magazines

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Talk about a stash! Auraria Library contains a small but growing number of Colorado MMJ periodicals in a collection that could be the first of its kind in the country. But archivist Rosemary Evetts didn't have a sudden epiphany that she ought to start storing such publications for posterity -- the first copy fell into her lap.

"The truth is that I have a really peculiar friend who is a dumpster diver. He walked in one Saturday with two big bags. I looked through it, and in among a lot of trash there was Volume One, Number One of Kush Colorado," she says. "My first thought was, 'Wow, there's real money that's going into this. You know, I grew up in the '60s and '70s, and Kush Colorado is so far from those underground publications of that time."

Impressed with the magazine from both a business and design standpoint, Evetts decided to study the field further, but realized she couldn't rely on her dumpster-diver buddy to keep expanding the collection. So one day she swerved into a dispensary on 44th Avenue herself. "I've got my purple hair and my business card, and I have to explain, 'I'm not a patient. I'm looking for the print materials.' And they were so dumbfounded that they had to get the manager," she recalls. "I went to different dispensaries for three days and I got a whole array of magazines, and I was amazed at how many of them there were."

While online catalogs, including WorldCat, indicate that a number of libraries have publications related to MMJ in their holdings, only a few archive them and none have the depth and local relevance of the stash at Auraria. Evetts has amassed an array of publications ranging from Westword's own MMJ supplement, the Chronic-le, to the Hemp Connoisseur, Ganja Gazette, Kush, Culture and others; in some cases, she has scored dozens of back-issues. All are available now to the public for research -- and could become historical artifacts as Colorado becomes a legalization battleground again this year.

Actively seeking out items for collections is unusual for an archivist, who typically receives items from the community, then catalogs them. While Evetts has been dropping by dispensaries regularly to track down these magazines, some have been easier to find than others -- and she wonders whether some are even still in print. "That Ganja Gazette -- that's the only issue of that one that I've ever seen. Sometimes when you have only one issue like that, it's like, 'Is this worth cataloging?'" she admits. But she catalogs everything, because "it's a record that they existed." If copies of some of these magazines have been elusive, information about their publishers has been even more so, according to Evetts -- and not for lack of trying. "Sometimes it's even hard to find out where the thing was published," she says. "We even e-mailed one and asked, you know, 'What is your place of publication?' And they e-mailed back, 'We're happy to answer any questions you have...' but they wouldn't tell us. There's usually an e-mail address, very rarely a snail mail address, and in some cases, a phone number. But they're all kind of secretive."

That could be the result of the controversy still swirling around medical marijuana and legalization. An unnamed professor came to see Evetts's collection for a book he' s researching related to the subject, and he told her that his house had been vandalized as a result of his work. And Evetts says her husband has warned her: "Stop doing this! When the police come and shut these places down, your business card is gonna be everywhere."

But the archivist remains unfazed: "Well, if they show up to ask me about it, it's there in the stacks. It's classified under 'medicine.'" Shaughnessy Speirs has been reporting on other items in the Auraria Archives on our Show and Tell blog. Read about Allen Ginsberg's postcards to Ed White here.

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