I never publish something I wouldn't be proud to have my byline on, but the stories below are the ones I'm most proud of. For a complete picture of my work, visit my author pages at The Stranger, Leafly News, Vice, Broadly, Crosscut, Real Change News, The Seattle Weekly, and GreenState. For my most recent work, follow me on Twitter.
For questions about whether a drug is safe for nursing mothers, few doctors are considered as authoritative as Thomas W. Hale. A clinical pharmacologist at Texas Tech who specializes in drug exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding, Hale is also the author of Medications and Mothers' Milk, the definitive text on drug safety during breastfeeding, and the founder of InfantRisk, a website dedicated to the subject.
Like the World Health Organization, which recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months after their infants are born, Hale is a staunch advocate of breastfeeding, and his work has a fundamental mission: to improve breastfeeding rates by demystifying the interaction between various commonly prescribed drugs and breast milk.
In the wake of January’s horrific shootings, The Jungle has become the subject of a lot of scrutiny. Mayor Ed Murray, a smattering of Seattle City Councilmembers and a mess of reporters have made pilgrimages there in the past month. In response to the shootings, Murray directed city staff to create a report on living conditions in The Jungle. It was released on Feb. 17.
The report describes the sprawling system of camps, located along the support pillars that lift Interstate 5 and along the greenbelt abutting the area, as “lawless,” “dangerous” and “unsanitary.”
Media reports prominently feature denizens of The Jungle who refuse to leave. The city’s assessment said the area is host to frequent drug dealing. However, some of The Jungle’s residents say they’re not there to smoke meth. They’re there because they have constraints that prevent them from accessing the shelter system.
Last year, in an effort to make coverage of our city's intractable homelessness crisis more urgent, pointed, and inspiring of action, Crosscut launched the Homeless in Seattle project, an "all-out blitz" of homelessness coverage. This year, it falls on June 28, and outlets around the city will be posting their stories on the ongoing homelessness crisis along with the hashtag #SeaHomeless. The timing of my column doesn't work out to join in on the day of, but I want to weigh in anyway.
Thus, this week's column is about a rather simple sandwich, rather than some esoteric indulgence. Specifically, a pork sandwich from Pioneer Square's Grand Central Bakery. Normally, I eat the food item in question, enjoy it, and recommend it to you. But I didn't eat this sandwich and, as it was a seasonal special, it's not even currently on the menu. I have precious little to say about food this week. We can get back to $12 tartines next week, but this is important.
A little over a month ago, two of Washington’s largest cannabis producers were quietly barred from all sales, pending a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) investigation into illegal use of prohibited pesticides. According to documents obtained by The Stranger, New Leaf Enterprises, makers of the popular Dama line of products, and BMF Washington LLC, whose cannabis is used by brands including Liberty Reach and JuJu Joints, received stop sale orders on December 29 and December 17 of last year, respectively.
According to those documents, which also included reports from investigators in both cases, the investigations were prompted by third-party complaints. The stop sales were not announced to the public, but murmurs abounded in the industry that something had gone awry with New Leaf. A public records request filed with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board regarding stop sale orders revealed that both New Leaf and BMF were the targets of WSLCB pesticide investigations.
One of the major campaign promises of cannabis legalization was to begin undoing some of the damage of the War on Drugs in minority communities. But while the new recreational market has reduced cannabis-related arrests, it hasn’t created wealth in those communities. White people are getting rich off the "Green Rush," while minorities are often shut out.
Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, believes the legal cannabis industry is hurtling toward racial stratification, noting that only about 1 percent of dispensaries nationwide are owned by people of color.
“One of the things I worry about is that there’s essentially two markets,” Piper wrote in a recent article. “One market is the legal market which is really, really, really hard to get into, and then there’s the illicit market which has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years, which is going to linger on for awhile.
“I’m very worried that we’re going to end up in a situation where there’s one market for white people and another market for people of color.”
Last summer, Nike SB and TransWorld SKATEboarding put on a contest encouraging skaters across the country to build DIY spots in their cities. They gave 14 skate shops $500 Home Depot gift cards toward the project and told them to get creative. When Seattle’s 35th North owner Tony Croghan agreed to participate in the contest, he was excited to help promote his local skate scene. Little did he know the video his shop submitted would lead to a six-figure lawsuit from the city that could ultimately put him out of business.
Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide in the United States. Why anyone commits suicide is something only they can know, ultimately, but it wouldn't be a stretch to surmise that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might have something to do with it.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system is quick to prescribe antianxiety drugs, antidepressants, sedatives, and other meds for PTSD, but that hasn't done much to stem the tide of veteran suicides. Cannabis, despite promising results for many vets who are dealing with PTSD, is off the table. Possession of weed is still a federal crime, and the VA is a federal agency. However, veterans across the country are speaking up in favor of pot, saying that it's succeeded where pharmaceutical meds have failed.
When I first met Steven, it was in the wee hours at a downtown hotel. The small afterparty he was hosting was in celebration of a successful deal—a very successful one: He’d just connected an out-of-state buyer with 25 pounds of pot—for $35,000 or so—meaning he’d be seeing a significant finder’s fee, perhaps 10 percent. The next day he’d be waking at the crack of noon (or, if we’re honest, 2 p.m.) to head to Oregon in search of more product for his mystery buyer, but for the time being he and his boys were cracking Stellas and cavorting in the hot tub, reveling in the moment.
Steven is what can best be described as a broker, someone who connects illicit growers with higher-level dealers looking to buy in quantity. “I’m like a concierge,” he told me. “I take [buyers] out to dinner, make sure they have a good time.” After food and some drinks, he hooks them up with local suppliers, lets them make their exchange, and waits for his fee.
In Washington, getting rid of people like Steven and his clients was one of the major promises of I-502, the ballot measure that made the state the second in the nation to legalize marijuana. But nearly four years after the initiative passed, street dealers and interstate traffickers are still at it, leaving lawmakers and legal-cannabis-industry players alike scratching their heads (and blowing smoke out their ears).
A recent complaint submitted to regulators at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) by a group of industry members accuses Peak Analytics, the state’s largest cannabis testing lab, of consistent and large-scale inaccuracies. The complaint alleges that Peak has been sweetening its THC content tests—reporting artificially high THC levels—and rejecting an abnormally low proportion of cannabis samples for microbial contamination.
If true, the alleged practices would give Peak Analytics a significant competitive advantage over rival labs by making a client’s cannabis batches appear cleaner and more potent than they actually are.
Until recently, skateboarding was the only major sport in which not a single professional was out of the closet. That's right, from basketball on down to bobsledding, there are out pros.
Last September, that changed. Legendary skate pro Brian Anderson came out of the closet in a splashy VICE Sports documentary, and the skateboard world responded by giving itself a big collective pat on the back. While Anderson's announcement is absolutely a milestone for skateboarding, as a die-hard skateboarder myself, it's been hard to join in the celebration. You see, I've been skateboarding for 16 years, and I've known I wasn't entirely straight for 15 of them.
In July of 2010, John Novak was weeding a flower bed in front of his house when everything went to pot. A joint task force consisting of, he says, police officers from two cities, the U.S. Border Patrol, county sherriffs, Drug Enforcement Agency personnel, and the National Guard rolled up with guns drawn and put him in cuffs.
Novak, a big, scruffy teddy bear of a man, is a medical marijuana patient who suffers from seizures. He’d been operating a collective garden in an outbuilding, but feds thought he was a garden variety dealer. The raid came courtesy of a tip from disgruntled former friend, accusing Novak of selling drugs, exposing his minor child to drugs and, just for good measure, polluting a stream.
After getting Novak to sign an arrest warrant, the authorities sat him down on his couch, put his wife in a chair next to him, and rousted his 12-year-old son out of bed at gunpoint. Having neutralized the sleeping preteen, they proceeded to search the house and interrogate Novak.
People are freaking out over weed lube. Rightly so, I guess, because it's apparently magical. But while weed lube is lubricating, it isn't lube, per se. As in, its main use is not to facilitate intercourse.
Lena Davidson, the marketing manager for botanicaSEATTLE—the company behind BOND Sensual Oil—told me that what most people would call weed lube is really more of a massage oil. Like other cannabis topicals and unlike a traditional lube, it takes 20 to 40 minutes to work and is a self-contained experience that can be enhanced by sex. Being oil-based, it is also not latex safe. People call it weed lube, she says, because we're basically all teenage boys and we can't talk about weed or sex without snickering.
As much fun as it is to giggle about getting one's "pussy stoned" (as Vice did), weed lube is serious business. Sensual cannabis oil, as it is more accurately called, has all sorts of awesome ramifications for sexual equity. Davidson pointed out that while there are more than 26 products approved by the FDA to treat sexual dysfunction in men, there is only one approved for women, and it is the subject of much controversy. Sensual cannabis oil is a long way off from FDA approval, but judging from testimonials thus far, it seems to be doing consistently what that one drug does inconsistently: increasing female sexual pleasure.