As part of the application for this job, the Tucson Weekly asked me to lay out my vision for this column. With a few shifts and nudges here and there, this is what I came up with.
Good question, that. This is a cutting-edge area of media you are getting into. Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. I do it because I talk that way, and so do most folks. So I guess the first point I come to (quite inadvertently) is that I will make this column conversational. I have always wanted to write the way I talk, but the pigfuckers always prevented me.
Vernacular is where it's at, man. Keepin' it real.
So I plan to conversationally tell Southern Arizonans what they might want to know about marijuana. The science. The medicine. The history. The culture. The law. The law comes last, but not least. I figure in many ways and on most levels, this is a legal column.
This is all happening because state laws were created, and federal laws are being ignored, and because some laws seem less just than others, and our culture is intersecting with that in a way that leads to this column. There are lawsuits involved. So it will be a legal column, to some significant degree.
I have covered the law off and on throughout my career—a few murder trials, numerous local elections in various states, a big bankruptcy case and even the careers of Raúl Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.
The mention of politicians brings up politics—yes, it's a political column, which relates to the law.
And it's a culture column, tinged with counterculture. I am a stoner, of sorts, and by that, I mean that I am a regular pot-smoker. There. I said it: I smoke pot, which will negatively skew the opinions of some who hear it. But I am also successful, award-winning, a college graduate, a mentor. I am a good friend, if you let me in. If you don't let me in, fuck you. I have better things to do than involve myself with haters. C'mon, just let me in.
I am a loyal guy who gives and learns daily. I am an everyday, normal human being—just like you. But I smoke marijuana, because it makes my 24/7 neckache a little more manageable.
I've suffered from chronic pain for more than 20 years. It started at age 17 with a sports wipeout from about 10 feet in the air onto the back of my neck. A motorcycle crash three years later sealed the deal, leaving me with disk protrusion, stenosis caused by rampant spinal calcification and, eventually, degenerative disk disease before I turned 40. Occasional physical therapy ensued—and the intermittent prescriptions for codeine, Vicodin and ibuprofen. Marijuana is an effective alternative that doesn't leave me drained.
Which brings me to medical marijuana. Ultimately, this is a medical-marijuana column, before legalities and culture and politics and personal insights.
There is a new medical paradigm emerging in the United States (thank you, Andrew Weil), and we are at the epicenter of it. Southern Arizona seems to be emerging as a mecca of natural health, and I deeply appreciate the chance to explore that. No, you don't have to eat Vicodin or codeine or (insert name of destructive, addictive drug) to go to work every day. Yes, you can make it through chemotherapy without drastic weight loss. Yes, you can get relief from inflammatory bowel disease or migraines or maybe even premenstrual syndrome.
So, perhaps above all else, it's a medical column.
I don't see many filters here, journalistically. The Weekly has graciously offered to largely take those away via pseudonym. Brilliant. I have often wanted to delve into Gonzo journalism, to live life head-first, without a helmet, to immerse myself in it and tell people about it. Life lives at 1,000 mph, so to speak, so what good is a helmet?
So this is a chance to delve.
I started this process wondering what the Weekly was looking for with this medical-marijuana job. But it occurred to me, after tapping away at a job application for four hours and considering it in some depth, that the esteemed editors of the Weekly weren't looking for a "what" at all.
They were looking for a who. I guess that would be me.