For decades, residents of Nucla, Colorado mined the coal that fueled the nearby power plant. But a lawsuit brought on by environmentalists will close the nuclear plant in 2020, and the mine will shut down as well. One in eight people in the town will lose their jobs. Nucla had a moment of fame in 2013, not for its declining economy, but for an ordinance in the wake of Sandy Hook which ran against a national call for restricted gun access: Every household in Nucla would be required to own a gun.
But now Richard was with hundreds of other people like him: chronically homeless, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and taking part in a last-ditch attempt to reboot their lives. They had come from all corners of Colorado, of their own volition, to get clean at an abandoned Army fort in the middle of nowhere.
Residents at Fort Lyon are given a surprising amount of individual freedom. During the first 30 days, you are expected to attend drug- and alcohol-education classes and work with case managers to formulate a recovery plan. The only ongoing expectation is that you attend a community meeting three mornings a week. After that, your time is yours: play basketball, go for a walk along the reservoir, sleep for 20 hours, talk to your case manager, go to classes that are offered on campus by Otero Junior College. Some people swore by the 12-step meetings. Others avoided them entirely. Every resident I spoke with — all of whom had been in some kind of addiction program previously — marveled at this radical autonomy. The standard rhythms of rehab, hustling from meeting to chore to counselor to meeting to meal to chore, were absent at Fort Lyon. This is no accident. Ginsburg explained it as an attempt to break the addict mindset: always onto the next thing, the next stimulus, the next score.
In late 2008, Democratic Colorado Governor Bill Ritter received a political stick of dynamite when President-elect Obama announced his intention to appoint U.S. Senator Ken Salazar as his Secretary of the Interior. Ritter would have to replace Salazar, a respected Latino legislator and a popular figure throughout the state. Ritter was inundated with resumés from prominent Democrats, including Andrew Romanoff, outgoing speaker of the Colorado House; then Denver mayor John Hickenlooper; U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter; and others. Ritter ultimately interviewed about 15 candidates for the post.
[Michael] Bennet was considered a long shot. Then the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he was best-known for his attempts to reform the district. He had never run for office, and his political name recognition was nil. The field to replace Salazar was so rich and contentious that when Bennet met with the governor, he immediately mentioned his anonymity. “He started by saying, ‘I’m the one person that if you don’t appoint me, nobody will be mad at you,’ ” Ritter says.
—Patrick Doyle writing in 5280about Michael Bennet. Bennet was appointed to the Senate in 2009, won his seat in 2010, and is now rumored to be in consideration as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton.
A look at what led up to the passing of Amendment 64 in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state:
While the medical marijuana industry was evolving, activists continued to push for recreational use of marijuana. In 2005, Mason Tvert’s newly founded Safer Alternatives to Recreational Enjoyment pushed — and passed — resolutions at Colorado State University and CU demanding that cannabis penalties be no worse than penalties for alcohol offenses on campus. That same year, SAFER put a measure on the Denver ballot that would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by anyone over the age of twenty. When Denver voters approved the proposal, the Mile High City became the first major city in the country to make such a move — even though it was mostly symbolic and simply reinforced the state’s 1975 decriminalization laws.
Still, it was seen as a win for the cannabis community, and it inspired SAFER to push for a similar statewide measure in 2006 that only received 40 percent of the vote. In 2007, SAFER again focused on Denver, which this time approved making marijuana possession the city’s lowest police priority.
And soon a lot more people would be possessing marijuana — legally.