“For the years I’d been highly visible on Fox News, it gets kind of boring when everybody assumes that everything is black and white,” she said. “And these alliances are the most interesting. It’s what I treasured most about my days in newspapers, at the LA Daily News and in Seattle. There’s no room for these kinds of nuances when you’re in a shout-fest for three minutes when everything is a cartoon, but here the alliances in Colorado that lead to the passage of Amendment 64 are the same way — Tom Tancredo is all for it, right, and you had many law enforcement people who are, too.”
It’s an expansive story, one that is far from over — even with the U.S.’s most prominent doctors changing their minds about marijuana and the American population pulling for cannabis legalization for the first time in decades. Malkin had much to share over our breakfast, so let’s throw in a Q&A lightening round:
On her falling out with Bill O’Reilly and Fox News: “In 2007 a series of things happened, including a public falling out with O’Reilly. I told Fox that I was going to quit doing the show. They had wanted me to do more and more of it, so there was an implicit expectation that we’d be moving up to New York City so I wouldn’t have to do all of the commuting. That was a real fork in the road, and I decided I did not want to do that with my life … If they were going to fire me for quitting the show, I could do well without it. That was very radical thing to do. I wasn’t sure if I’d be blacklisted or what the hell.”
On the Republicans who talk about appealing Amendment 64: “This is the stupidest thing I could think of. It seems to me that the gubernatorial election is the Republican party’s to lose. There are so many factors that are working against (Colorado Governor John) Hickenlooper right now. His poll numbers are tanking. And so what’s the last thing you want to do? Alienate Independents who might think about voting for a Republican gubernatorial candidate who supports marijuana legalization. I support Tom Tancredo for precisely that reason. He was a huge factor in persuading a lot of people who might have been on the fence. (Legalization is) here to stay.”
On her feelings about Colorado’s pro-marijuana movement: “There are some missteps on the pro-legalization side where they go overboard, and it doesn’t help optics and PR when you have those things in Denver like the 420 Rally. That’s not good. They should just stay home. I’m not a strategist, but there still needs to be cultural stations and guardrails in place that prevent us from turning into Amsterdam or whatever other heathen place out there. The more you can tell the stories like ours and make the focus a tight focus on the ability of adults to determine how to live their lives, particular to live the end of their lives, the better.”
On protecting the Second Amendment and decriminalizing drugs: “There has been such an infantilization of citizens by the nanny state that it becomes easier and easier to swallow rationalizing increasing the power of government as a way to protect people from both social harm and self harm. And for people who think about liberty and how the power of the state should be limited, it bothers me greatly that we’ve redefined what social harm is and that there’s been this encroachment on people’s ability to do whatever they want and in their own homes as long as it doesn’t impose social harm outside of your home. As long as I’ve been thinking about these issues, dating back to my days in Seattle, it’s always seemed to me that there are similar arguments for fiercely protecting Second Amendment rights as there are for decriminalizing drugs, not just for medical marijuana but for recreational as well. And I have to say that my reservations are greater with regard to recreational marijuana, but the very simple point of my column was how grateful we were that the people of Colorado passed Amendment 64 because it provided an opportunity for us to circumvent the bureaucracy because we could just drop by and walk in. I’m absolutely against repealing it.”
On finding capitalism alive and well in the legal pot industry: “We were so sheepish at the pot shop. I’m sure we looked so goofy saying, ‘Are there brownies?’ And she whipped out the cheddar crackers. And for me, as someone who believes in capitalism, I was just amazed at how many different companies are involved in producing these different products. From the bakery to those (vape) pen things, some of it was a bit cliché — they had the Tommy Chong banner up top, the big ’70s heavy metal pounding when you went into the recreational side, but it also struck me how we felt safe. There were multiple ID checks and serious guards at the door — and contrast that with god knows what we would have had to do if we tried obtaining it on the streets.”
On the virtues of the written word: “People who are only familiar with me as a TV persona and don’t have the longview of how I have made my bread and butter don’t fully appreciate that. In the 24/7 cable age, how do you become known? It’s not for 20 years of slogging in newspaper opinion writing; It’s for whatever three minutes you were on the TV for some inflammatory issue. I’ve never knocked that, because the leverage that the TV exposure has provided to me has been invaluable because I could steer people to my writing, which has — and this gets around to why we’re here — not always been what people expect. The column I did on pot would only be a surprise to someone who hasn’t known for the last 15 years that I’ve supported medical marijuana and have written extensively about it.”
On Ralph Seeley’s trial in Washington state: “(Seeley’s) appeal to liberty was really what won me over. It was consistent with my own set of values about individual and economic liberty. The seedy injustice, even in the jurisprudence, of Seeley’s legal court case — how they could argue that there are no compelling privacy interests for a terminally ill man to be able to obtain a medical prescription for marijuana? There’s no privacy interest in that, and yet they define state constitutional privacy interest so broadly that it covers a woman’s right to birth control, a woman’s right to abortion and at the time the (Washington) state supreme court was considering a euthanasia case. So they were in favor of a privacy right to kill yourself but not to ease your pain? This makes no sense to me.”
On being pro-marijuana, cautiously: “While some people on the pro side who don’t ever want you to acknowledge that there are costs and consequences and abuses, I don’t have any problem with saying, ‘Of course we should be worried about what else can happen here.’ Of course I tell my kids, ‘Don’t you mess with this,’ as I would with any illicit, addictive substance. It’s not a weakness that there are always those concerns, and that’s why I stress the need for the cultural guardrails. It bothers me to see Snoop Doggy Dogg and this big haze around all these kids — just how irresponsible that is. And to the extent that the movement has grown up, it’s a tribute to people like Ralph Seeley, for whom it was a matter of individual liberty and principal all along. There will always be people on either side who exploit the extremes.
Malkin didn’t vote on Amendment 64, she said, but she does prefer some aspects of it to Washington state’s Initiative 502, which says “local jurisdictions may not ban pot shops outright.”
“I’m a believer of federalism at a national level and local control,” Malkin said, “and there will be some communities for whom this is the right thing to do and feel equipped to handle it like Pueblo, and there will be cities like ours that don’t want it. Amendment 64 was the will of the people, and how it’s implemented and handled locally is the next step of that. I can accept that. It only took 40 minutes to drive down to Pueblo. And of course Manitou Springs has approved (recreational marijuana), limiting it to two shops, and they don’t want them to be downtown on the strip, so one of them will be up here,” she said, motioning to Uncle Sam’s parking lot with her hand.
“But that’s politics, working it out and balancing interests. And I hope that the pro side wont gripe about the choices that some of these communities will make, because being able to have that kind of diversity within the state is part of having a democracy.”
Marijuana is becoming one of the ultimate experiments in this laboratory of democracy, and it’s a conversation that is playing out on a smaller, familial level as well throughout Colorado, Washington and nearly 20 other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
“For my family now, especially since the kids are a little bit older, more information is better,” Malkin said about telling her children about the legal marijuana around them. “This seems paradoxical, but I think with our personal experience it’s helped demystify and destigmatize and demagnetize (marijuana). There’s no allure to the illicit objects out there they might be tempted to try because mom and dad say, ‘Stay away.’
“It’s just a fact of life in the family, and it’s occasionally an object of mirth. Our kids’ friends will say, ‘Look, your right-wing nut-job parents went to the pot shop.’ This is probably true of a lot of families in our situations. Life is so precious, and this goes back to that ethos of why we chose to live in Colorado. There are so many factors that have come into play that to me are providential. We’ve learned to never waste a second in our lives, and when something like what happened to my mother in law comes along the way it’s just a reminder.”
Again, Malkin felt the emotional weight of the subject and took a deep breath.
“It’s not a cliché for us to cherish life and to cherish the freedoms we have,” Malkin said, “and thank god this is one of them.”
As for mother in law Carole Malkin, she’s out of the hospital and back with her family.
“She’s reading again,” Michelle said. “She’s writing again. We don’t know how long she has. It could be months, it could be a couple years. But like I said, the ability to choose how to live each and every one of those last days for us is priceless, and we don’t know when she’ll need to be more aggressive about using the other forms of marijuana we bought for her in her stash, but it’s there – ‘grandma’s stash,’ we call it – and we’re happy to have the choices.”