More Messages: Pot Shots

The murder of marijuana advocate Ken Gorman would have been shocking under any circumstances. He may have been controversial in some quarters, but he was actually a benign personality with an amusingly hippie-dippy sense of humor. In 2002, for instance, he released a CD entitled It's a Cannabis Christmas, featuring such dopey offerings as "Don't Use Eggnog in Your Bong," "Need Weed Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Angels We Have Heard Are High." As noted in a yuletide-disc roundup accessible here, the liner notes promised that any profits from sales of the album would be "'dedicated to the outright legalization of marijuana for any purpose you see fit.' Like, for instance, smoking it."

Unfortunately, the circumstances that led to Gorman's death weren't funny at all -- and they may have had a media connection.

On February 11, Channel 4 ran an investigative piece by correspondent Rick Sallinger that essentially accused Gorman of using a loophole in Colorado's medical-marijuana law to "legally" obtain weed for anyone who wanted it. By the standards of sweeps-month packages, Sallinger's effort was far from shocking. Sure, Gorman denied having made the sort of statements that he's seen offering to an undercover Channel 4 operative. But he also sat down with Sallinger and a handful of people who insisted they were truly using cheeba for medical reasons, and happily showed off an array of healthy ganja plants growing in his house.

Did the botanical display in the Channel 4 report spur Gorman's killers to target him? That's one way to read a comment by Mason Tvert, executive director of the pro-pot organization SAFER, that appeared in a Rocky Mountain News article: "The thing that Ken spent his entire life fighting ended up killing him, and that's marijuana prohibition, and not marijuana." Right now, though, there isn't nearly enough evidence to establish that the criminals chose their victim after watching TV -- and even if there were, Gorman wasn't responsibility-free. He willingly showed off his garden to Sallinger, and didn't keep his proclivities a secret from neighbors or the pro-marijuana crowd in general.

Whatever the case, Channel 4's tiny scoop was hardly worth dying for, and it's a shame Gorman isn't still around to laugh it off. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts