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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.

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes