Another outlet done gone for your correspondent. The Village Voice has folded as a print publication. Some of my friends wrote for them regularly —Paul Cowan, Bob Christgau, Sally Kempton, Alex Cockburn, Jack Newfield— and I did occasionally. In 1978 I helped break the Paraquat story in The Voice. In 1996 they ran a cut version of a piece about Prop 215, California’s medical marijuana initiative, that I’d been assigned by The New Yorker. “If it passes,” I wrote on the eve of the vote, “the drug war as we have known it will end. California will become a demilitarized zone in which the rules of acceptable behavior must be worked out case by case.”
The piece ended with a partial list of medical conditions that Dr. Tod Mikuriya expected cannabis would prove useful for, and an optimistic statement: “The clinical trials are about to begin.”
Scanning it in just now I was glad to see that the Voice found space to reprint one of the powerful Doonesbury cartoons published during the 215 campaign. Legalization for medical use passed with almost 56% of the vote statewide, over the opposition of law enforcement and virtually every elected official in the state. Garry Trudeau was and is an unsung hero of the medical marijuana movement.
I was also glad to see that I identified Dennis Peron’s San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club as ground zero of the movement. I was wrong to write that Dennis had to convince his co-authors that Prop 215 should cover “any… illness for which marijuana provides relief.” Dr. Tod Mikuriya, Dale Gieringer and Bill Panzer needed no convincing. In fact, that bit of wording was Mikuriya’s.
Here’s a link to the longer version of the Prop 215 story that New Yorker editor Tina Brown spiked at the last minute. The NYer’s kill fee of $3,000 was probably 10 times what the Voice paid for a feature in 1996. Fortunately, I had a regular job as an editor at UCSF and was freelancing by moonlight.
You might say that the Village Voice folding —and the Anderson Valley Advertiser cutting back on out-of-Mendocino material— marks the end of an era. But it’s not the end of an error —mine in thinking I could make a living as journalist.
I’m not complaining. I had the post position for many years on this major story of our time.