One: "I went looking for stoners and all I got was this lousy
by Rev. Sean M. Breen
South Coloradan Online Editor
Part One, Scene
One: Where the Mild Things Are.
When I walked
in the front door of Alamosa Mercantile, the first thing that
struck me was the décor: for a self-professed "antique
shop" there were certainly a lot of rock posters strewn about.
Well, maybe the Dead fit the bill, but Jerry still lives in this
small town in the backwaters of Colorado. Even the buildings retain
a sense that, as the rest of the planet moves into the Information
Age, Alamosa has remained right at the beginning of the whole
"Tune In, Turn Off, Drop Out" movement.
Which brings me to the bongs. But
we don't call them bongs in Alamosa Mercantile. Nope, they're
"water pipes," used for and by tobacco smokers, I'm
"Well, they sure as hell look like
bongs," I say, looking back at the display cases.
The clerk jumps about a foot and
a half straight up when I say this. I suspect that he thinks I'm
a narc looking to make a possession with intent bust. He lectures
me for two straight minutes. No, the bongs aren't bongs, they're
for tobacco smoking, not marijuana at all, don't be silly, and
please don't say anything like that again inside the store, thankyouverymuch.
After the clerk finishes his short
yet impassioned speech, I just shrug and go back to my browsing
through the touristy knickknacks, muttering "I wonder who
they think they're fooling," under my breath.
all started a few days before. I had been relaxing in my slightly
rundown digs at Savage, doing a little work on the computer, when
that trustworthy digital lackey flashed an email on the screen.
The Big Boss Man himself wanted me to investigate marijuana use
on campus, as much time, money and effort to be invested as possible.
I have to admit the idea intrigued me; after all, everybody talks
about stoners on campus, but nobody had ever done anything about
This was going to be a very interesting
So, I went to work, attacking the
subject with the same sort of enthusiasm that I use for all the
important things in life. Digging through the place where old
newspapers go to die, I found that pot busts kept Public Safety
busy, at the very least; over the last year, our intrepid quasi-police
made busts for marijuana violations at least once every other
week. Obviously, to keep the cops that busy there just had to
be a thriving drug culture on campus, but where the hell were
Thus began the Quest for the Holy Stoners.
To find them, I did what I do best: listen to other people's conversations.
It truly is amazing what you can learn about a society just by
staying unobtrusive and having a notepad ready. I figure that
I've learned more about the social and sexual lives of the average
ASC students than any other person currently on this campus. However,
this knowledge came at a terrible price -- I just wanted to hear
stuff about pot, I never wanted to know the rest of this shit!
Too much information, indeed.
The rumors flew fast and furious.
The shit came from Crestone, the best shit came from Denver or
Albuquerque via Crestone, only an idiot buys grass from Mexico,
there was wild pot growing all over campus, and so on. But, no
matter where I went, the stoners themselves remained elusive.
I could hardly blame them -- after all, their favorite pastime
was considered illegal by the "civilized" world.
While I was listening to other people
talk about their problems in broad daylight, I checked my notes.
Something had been bothering me since I visited the news graveyard.
After a little review, I found it: For some reason, when the Junior
G-Men made busts, the penalties seemed a bit... variable. While
most of the poor schmucks that Public Safety caught (and reported)
were never mentioned again, once in a blue moon the top cop Jim
Lanier would call in the townies and the DA. It didn't seem to
make sense, and I don't like things that don't make sense.
To some degree, it would seem I
had found out where the hardcore users had gone -- Lanier had
them all arrested, probably on some selling charge, and now the
missing stoners were all doing hard time in Canon City.
And better yet, the rumor mill had
been spinning around some interesting tales about Financial Aid.
Rumors that involved people getting caught for drug violations,
and then losing their scholarships or loans even if they got off
Still, I had to find the Truth,
grab it by the throat to keep it if need be. I was resolved. While
I searched for the stoners, I would journey to the lairs of the
pot smoker's natural enemies, to see what I could see.
was going to have a chat with the Man.
Part One, Scene
Two: Sean in Richardson-Land
problem with having a chat with the Man is twofold. First of all,
the Man rarely likes to open up to journalist-types, especially
guys like me that look like they just got off the bus from Woodstock.
The second, and more pressing, problem is that the Man is a busy
Man, and often cannot make time for people like myself.
So it was to my utmost surprise
that Frank Sanchez, our brand-new head honcho, actually deigned
to speak with me. I suppose it was because he was new and didn't
know about me, or maybe the outgoing guy forgot to give him my
No matter. For whatever twisted
reason, he was going to talk with me, so I had to be ready. I
gathered up my notebook, a pencil, jotted down some questions,
and headed off to Richardson.
Ah, Richardson Hall, that
wonderful bastion of rigidity in a sea of chaos. Every time I
pass through the front doors on one damn errand or another, I
always wonder why the original builders didn't carve "abandon
all hope, ye who enter here" on the front. They probably
did, actually, but some long-ago President had it removed.
Anyway, back to the present.
Moving through the bureaucratic warrens, I actually bump into
Sanchez on the way to his office. He's moving busily through Richardson,
on some Important Errand or another. Sanchez fits the profile
of the classic upwardly mobile administrator: young, clean-shaven,
suit neat and tidy, hair combed neatly, earnest expression on
his face. Oddly enough, I'm taller than him. I wondered how he'd
react to talking with a long-haired, bearded freak like me.
The wait in his office wasn't
too long, just a few minutes. Sanchez finally reappears from his
Important Errand, and welcomes me into his office.
"Care for a Pepsi?" he
asks, acting the role of the polite host. I decline; I was already
running mostly on caffeine and nerves by that point, and I really
didn't want to go too far over the edge.
Acting a little twitchy, I jump
straight into the subject. I give him my pat spiel about the story,
not mentioning the little fact that it wasn't quite a "straight"
As a source of information, Sanchez
was downright disappointing. Part of the whole "new kid on
the street" thing, naturally. He didn't have any facts about
student lifestyles, and said that he "needed to gather more
data" before he could make any judgements.
Sanchez then takes some time out
to show me survey data. Lots and lots of survey data. The data
shows, and Sanchez takes pains to point it out, that the "millennial
student," as he calls it, is more interested in volunteer
work or other activities than drugs. He points out results of
surveys taken of middle-schoolers where they say that their parents
are their biggest role-models.
Now, this is all very interesting, but it had nothing to do with
the story at hand. Not that that ever stopped me in the first
place, of course, but sometimes you must draw a line.
Near the end of the interview, he
stops me and says "You know, maybe if I had some time to
look over your questions, I could answer them better. They seem
to be coming out of thin air, very random."
Busted! In any case, by that
point I had managed to get most of the information I needed (or
could get) from him, so I thanked him and proceeded to leave.
Before I got up, the rumors of Financial Aid cutting off aid to
pot smokers returned from my subconscious. So I asked Sanchez
about the situation.
It was pretty obvious that
Frank Sanchez has yet to learn everything about the administrative
maze here at good ol' Adams State. He admitted that he hadn't
heard anything about Financial Aid cutting off funding, and he
obviously wasn't too happy about the idea, either. He told me
that he "would love to know what you find out" about
the situation. I give him my solemn word as a journalist (not
that I'm ever all that solemn) that I'd share any data I got.
Sanchez reciprocated the offer by telling me I could borrow some
of the anti-drug literature from Student Affairs if I needed the
stuff for the story. Since the total collection of "Just
Say No" literature in Student Affairs probably weighs more
than my car, I declined the offer, and made tracks.
The next target on my list
was the Top Cop himself, Jim Lanier. Lanier has a reputation around
the South Coloradan for being somewhat unapproachable. To an extent,
the reputation is justified. I spent a few days playing phone
tag with Public Safety, trying to get in to see Lanier. The exchange
usually went something like this...
Me: "Hello, my name's
Sean Breen with the South Coloradan. I'd like to set up an appointment
to see Mr. Lanier."
Public Safety Secretary: "I'm sorry, but Mr. Lanier
isn't here right now, he's on rounds. If you call or come by
around 2:30, you should be able to talk with him."
(2:30 rolls around)
Me: "Hi, I called earlier about talking with Mr.
PSS: "I'm sorry, he's still on rounds. If you try
at around 3:30..."
so on. This is the sort of thing that drives the average journalist
nuts. Finally, I manage to get a hold of Lanier and hang on to
him (luckily I had my butterfly net handy) long enough to ask
him a few questions.
Lanier was fairly mellow about the
whole matter; I suspect that my telling him it was going to be
a quick interview had something to do with that. I gave him the
same spiel that I gave Sanchez, then asked him about drugs, busts,
and the town cops.
Lanier told me that he'd call in
the townies if he had to deal with a large bust, or only had inexperienced
officers handy. He said that he "didn't have a policy for
calling the local police in effect" when dealing with drugs.
Lanier also noted that the Alamosa sheriff's department had a
drug dog, and they'd be willing to call in the hounds if he felt
he needed to.
Interestingly enough, Lanier put
me onto something. When I mentioned going through the old papers
looking at the frequency of drug busts, he said that there had
been damn few drug busts going on over the last semester. I guessed
that the smokers were getting more careful about their habits.
When I was finished asking my questions,
Lanier reminded me that, yes, ASC was a zero tolerance zone for
drugs. "I will file charges on anybody caught with any amount
of drug," he said, "and I have no qualms about releasing
[arrestee's] names to the South Coloradan."
I carefully jotted down Lanier's
words, thanked him, then got the hell out of there before he started
wondering if I was some sort of user myself.
for Financial Aid... well, that part of the story has yet to be
completed. One of the charming things everybody on campus knows
Financial Aid for is their ability to put students on Habitrails,
keeping them busy until the checks clear. As of this writing,
I'm still on my Habitrail. Still, don't be discouraged, gentle
readers; I'll keep at this subject and find out the truth. I gave
my solemn word on the subject.
Besides, the water bottle
and the wood shavings are nice here.
Part One, Scene
Three: Victory and Failure
I was having these little misadventures with the Man and his little
Manlings, I continued the Quest for the Holy Stoners. It didn't
take as long as I thought it would to find people who smoked,
but to find ones who would be willing to let me hang with them
for a little bit was a bigger challenge.
Eventually, though, I managed
to convince a couple to let me go with them. We ended up in a
nondescript pad off-campus. The place was the usual college student's
lair; the prerequisite stereo system, the pizza boxes, the rudimentary
furniture. Nothing that I haven't seen or lived in before.
I talked for a while with
my newfound friends (whom I'll call 'Bob' and 'Bob #2' to protect
their identities). Both were college students, naturally, who
smoked marijuana less as a habitual thing and more as an occasional
"I light a joint or burn
some incense when I'm stressed, y'know?" 'Bob' told me. "It's
not like I toke every day or something."
"Yeah, usually if I'd
had a really shitty day, or I just got out of a test, I'll smoke.
Just one, though," chimed in 'Bob #2.'
The two of them usually bring
the grass with them when they come back from trips outside of
town. 'Bob' usually gets his grass in Denver, while 'Bob #2' didn't
really want to say where he got his from.
"I got it at a concert,
man, and that's all I'm saying," he told me. I couldn't really
blame him; my insistence about talking with them about pot smoking
must've made me look like a narc. I imagined I had a sign reading
"NARC!" painted in bright neon pink on the back of my
Since procurement was no longer
a safe topic, I turned my questioning to other subjects.
"So," I said, relaxing
a little on the secondhand smoke, "either of you guys been
The 'Bobs' just look kind of confused.
"I've never been there," says 'Bob.'
"Ditto," ditto-ed 'Bob
This threw me completely.
"You've never been to Crestone? Pot capital of the San Luis
Valley? The last great refuge of the hippie subculture in Colorado?"
Quoth 'Bob #2:' "Nope.
I never really wanted to go there. Too many New-Age freaks."
To tell the truth, gentle
readers, I was floored. I had finally found the Holy Stoners,
only to find out that they weren't the ones I was really looking
for. I had snagged a pair of casual smokers, true, and I had listened
to enough conversations to know that the 'Bobs' were the majority
of the smokers on campus.
But it wasn't enough. If some
people get addicted to pot, I had become addicted to the idea
of pot, and the people who make it into a lifestyle. The on-campus
potheads were nice enough, but I needed to find out where the
real "mild things" were.
I was going to have to go to Crestone,
to look up the one true devotee to the Church of Mary Jane I knew
lived there. It was time for a roadtrip.
I just hoped I didn't get arrested
before I got the story done.
To be continued...