Don’t look for phrases like “insouciant yet skunky.” At least, not yet.
Westword, an alternative weekly newspaper in Denver, has the standard lineup of film, food and music critics. But in what may be a first for American journalism, the paper is shopping around for a medical marijuana critic.
The idea is not to assess the green stuff itself, but to review the dispensaries that have sprouted like, um, weeds in Denver this year.
“We want to see what kind of place it is, how well they care for you and also how sketchy the place is,” said Patricia Calhoun, editor of Westword. “Do they actually look at your medical marijuana card? Do they let you slip some cash under the counter and bypass the rules?”
Last week, the paper published a call for a regular freelance reviewer with a real, doctor-certified medical need — asking each candidate to send a résumé and an essay on “What Marijuana Means to Me” — and received several dozen applications within a few days.
“Every time an application comes in, it’s like opening a little birthday present, because most of them are quite hilarious,” Ms. Calhoun said.
Coloradans voted in 2000 to legalize medical marijuana, but the dispensaries boomed this year, after the state decided against taking a restrictive view of the law and the Obama administration decided to end federal raids on state-sanctioned businesses.
“It is the wild west of medical marijuana out here,” Ms. Calhoun said. “There were a couple of dozen dispensaries this spring, and now it’s over 100. We just heard there’s going to be a drive-through dispensary.”
Dispensaries promote different strains with distinctive flavors — there are, after all, marijuana snobs just as there are wine snobs — and some mix their wares into foods like hummus, pesto and chocolate. So why not critique the cannabis, too?
“It could well be that we will be reviewing the product itself, eventually,” she said.
The job posting has drawn national attention, to which she said dryly, “This is our dream, to be known as the pothead paper.” In the alt-weekly world, competition for that title would be fierce.
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
October 4, 2009