Michelle Malkin is a pro-marijuana conservative. Surprised? (Photo by michellemalkin.com)

Michelle Malkin: Conservative hero and marijuana advocate (interview)

Malkin-penned books followed in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2009 — including her most recent tome “Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies.” She would guest host for Fox headliners Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity regularly, building her brand, spreading her opinion and making her name by raising her voice and using her striking vocabulary as a weapon.

But after a very public falling out with O’Reilly and a life realization that she and her family needed to move away from the east coast, Malkin embraced her blogger community, pushed forward with her syndicated columns and moved to Colorado Springs five years ago.

“We wanted to focus on the family, as it were,” she said, smiling an acknowledgement to the Springs-based religious right group Focus on the Family.

“I didn’t want to raise my kids in DC or New York, and yet we still wanted to be connected to the world. Colorado has been the perfect home for us. It’s funny, because in the cable TV news cartoon version of Colorado we’re all potheads, we’re all licentious, we’re all losers, all this kind of stuff. You hear it from O’Reilly all the time.

“This has been the most wonderful place for us to be connected with people who share our same values. People work hard here and play hard here. We want our kids to be able to enjoy life and have a greater perspective outside of that DC/New York corridor about what the pursuit of happiness is really about.”

There’s a philosophical and literary hook in Colorado’s mountainous landscape for Malkin, too.

“For Libertarians, of course, Colorado is a special place because it’s Galt’s Gulch, in the Ayn Rand novels,” said Malkin. “The appeal is it’s the last, best sanctuary of the bulwark against the meddling state. And it’s real — it’s not just a fictional sanctuary. It’s real for many people, and those stories of those families moving here from New Jersey underscores that, and it resonates with me because that’s how we feel about Colorado.”

The move west also brought the Malkins closer to Jesse’s parents, the Jesse Jackson-voting Berkeley liberals who were now Michelle’s in-laws. By this point, Michelle was part of the family. The in-laws had moved from Berkeley to Colorado Springs to be closer to their grandchildren, and sometimes Michelle would woo friends over the dinner table with the trivia that she and her mother-in-law were both published writers.

Sure enough Carole Malkin’s lone novel, “The Journeys of David Toback,” had received a glowing review in The New York Times upon its release in August 1981. In a Ted Solotoroff-penned book review, The Times wrote: “What eventually touched me most was a certain rightness about this collaboration between an Orthodox Jew from Shumsk who was writing about a vanished world and his presumably assimilated American granddaughter revising it in Berkeley.”

“Her only published novel was reviewed on the front page of The New York Times Book Review,” Michelle Malkin said, referencing Carole. “My mom — err, mother-in-law, though she’s practically like my mom — is such an integral part of our personal story about medical marijuana.”

Carole Malkin has battled recurring breast cancer and melanoma on the skull. Carole’s other son, Daniel, died of melanoma at age 33. When Carole’s melanoma came back in December 2013, “it was so sudden,” said Michelle. And this was where the family’s trip to the pot shop began. In Michelle’s words:

“We were at the Denver Botanic Gardens for the Christmas lights and all that, and (Carole) was walking faster than any of us. Both of my in-laws are incredibly fit. And then after New Year’s she was so tired. She had a fatigue that — she’d never gotten a lot of sleep, never more than 4-5 hours a night, she was that kind of person. But then she was sleeping 10-12 hours a night. There was definitely something wrong.

“It took several weeks before one of the doctors took some blood tests and realized that there was something weird going on in her liver. It took a while to isolate it to figure out which kind of cancer it was, and they were absolutely shocked to find that it was a recurrence of melanoma.

“She was admitted into the hospital two weeks before the column came out, and she was as close to death as we’d seen her. They put her on Oxycontin, Percocet, the heaviest narcotics that zapped the soul and life out of her. She was nauseous because of the radiation. She had taken chemotherapy before, and she knew it didn’t make you anything but miserable — it’s just awful.”

And then Michelle Malkin, telling the story of her mother-in-law Carole, sullenly looked down at her half-eaten breakfast. Fighting back tears, she continued.

“And then we got a great oncologist who heard about a combination of two new drugs, Mekinist and Taflinar, that were just approved by the FDA in January. They started her on those oral cancer medications, since she has a specific mutation of melanoma and this combination of drugs happens to pinpoint that mutation and stop the spread of the cancer. So it’s a miracle.”

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One of the cocktail’s side effects is increased nausea — not good news for Carole, who already hadn’t eaten regularly for two or three months and did not want a feeding tube.

“She was able to get out of the hospital, though she was still in an immense amount of pain, and we thought, ‘You know what? We’re going to take our doctor’s advice.’ How many mainstream doctors are advising their terminally ill or chronically ill cancer patients to do exactly what we did? They’re the ones who recommended, ‘You know what? Go ahead and try medical marijuana. It might help stimulate her appetite. It might help her nausea.’ We thought, ‘If you’re looking to provide relief or a boost in quality of life, why the hell not? It’s legal. It’s here.’ And so that’s how we got to the pot shop.”

Marisol Therapeutics is a recreational pot shop in Pueblo West, just 47 miles from Uncle Sam’s Pancake House — and Malkin’s nearby home. (Colorado Springs doesn’t allow recreational marijuana shops.) The shopping experience, from the initial decision to head south to the storm of comments that followed in the wake of the article, was a historic one for the Malkin family.

But what will Michelle remember the most from her first time buying legal weed?

“What an incredible experience it was to walk into the shop and have the understanding and compassion of somebody in the business of providing healing,” Michelle said. “A lot of people from out of state, New York or DC, would parachute into our state and sneer at the so-called ‘medical veneer’ that a lot of these shops have. But there’s no denying the reality that these places provide the services that people want and need, and that was the upshot of the column.”

The column created a whirlwind of activity on Malkin’s website, both positive and negative. But the takeaways steeled her resolve and gave her a new found perspective.

“When I was at the shop, I told my husband that the clerk seemed like a Libertarian to me,” Malkin said. “What were they doing? They were complaining about the regulations, the bureaucracy, the taxes. Here’s your natural outreach into a nontraditional constituency, right?”

Malkin splits from party-line mob mentality in that she doesn’t believe that marijuana is a gateway drug — “but speaking of gateway drugs, I think this is a gateway policy issue. It’s a gateway for getting people to start moving beyond traditional right and left politics. And I think that’s a good thing.”

The change in conversation brings her back to the late Ralph Seeley — and how her conversations with him brought on an unforeseen personal change that sticks with her today.

“Being around Ralph Seeley had a lasting effect on me,” Malkin said. “The other things I’d became familiar with was the strange bedfellow alliances involved here. There were a few sheriffs in Washington state who were on our side, who had seen all the failures and seen their jails fill up with nonviolent criminals while they had to let go far more nefarious people and how hopeless it was.

“At the same time you had progressives on the left, people who had a wider agenda beyond medical marijuana obviously, the wider decriminalization forces, although those were mostly leftists. Even at that time Bill Buckley had long been the editor of the National Review, and he’s been a longtime crusader for wider decriminalizing. It’s not down the line. And that’s what I love about it.”

Malkin asked our sweet waitress for “a warmer,” and with more coffee she was ready to keep going. Marijuana, like most anything else being debated on Fox or CNN, is a deeply complex, intensely cavernous issue that is often muscled into soundbites on television. Simply sitting down to talk about marijuana and its impacts on her family and friends for an uninterrupted 90 minutes felt good, Malkin said.

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