High Country Q&A: Meet Lauren Maytin, Aspen’s resident cannabis crusader
While marijuana legalization has seen its most significant strides in the past five years, one longtime local has been fighting the good fight for far longer than most.
Aspen-based criminal defense attorney Lauren Maytin began her cannabis crusade 1997 as a then-intern for Warren Edson (who also happens to be her now-partner) as a student at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. He had just started working on the writing of Amendment 20, which upon passage in 2000, effectively legalized limited amounts of medical marijuana.
In 2001, Maytin received the John Flowers Mark NORML Scholarship for her work at DU and with Edson, commencing a lifelong commitment to the cause. Since then, she’s become a lifetime member of NORML — formally known as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit — and the longest serving member on the board of directors for Colorado NORML. Her firm, The Law Offices of Edson & Maytin, focuses primarily on criminal defense work and consulting on all facets of the marijuana industry in the state.
But her biggest achievement? Founding the Colorado NORML Hunter S. Thompson Scholarship, which celebrates its 10th anniversary at this year’s NORML Aspen Legal Seminar (May 30 to June 1). Her fundraising efforts over the years have morphed from hosting standalone soirees at the Mountain Chalet to receiving individual donations to producing the silent auction portion of the weekend, with proceeds designated to cover travel accommodations and registration fees.
Maytin spearheads sifting through more than 20 applications per year of potential law students, practicing attorneys and marijuana activists to ultimately send two or three recipients to Aspen every summer. Ahead of the annual conference, I sat down with Maytin at the late, legendary author’s former writing cabin, which Anita Thompson has recently opened up for overnight stays, to reflect on just how far she’s come in cannabis:
Aspen Times Weekly: Did you ever get the chance to meet Hunter?
Lauren Maytin: I want to say the first time we met was 1999. This is back when John Van Ness lived in Woody Creek and he hosted one of NORML’s events during the conference outside on his property. Hunter came charging up the driveway in the Red Shark, dust flying behind him and we were all like, “Oh my God, like who is this? Is this a movie? Like, where are we?” He had a gun. It felt very ‘Fear and Loathing (in Las Vegas)’ and I was like, “Wow, this couldn’t really be written any better.” It was just like his journalism … you know … in your face. I thought it was writing before, but his writing was really him.
ATW: You formed a friendship with him in the few short years that followed, right?
Lauren: I’ve been coming to Aspen since 1975, but I moved here in 2002 permanently. And so he and I came into the same circles on occasion and I’d see him at the Jerome. He kind of pegged me as “the marijuana one” in town.
ATW: What was the inspiration behind forming the Colorado NORML Hunter S. Thompson Scholarship?
LM: The inception was a few years after Hunter passed at the NORML (Aspen Legal) Seminar. I wanted to honor him and his legacy of activism for the movement that, really, has been rooted here since the ’70s. I thought, “I love weed. Everybody in this f—ing town loves weed … they always have and always will.” Back then, it was illegal, but I knew that our community would be willing to donate and come out for this cause.
ATW: Beyond this scholarship, what do you consider your biggest achievement within the movement?
LM: The foundation that we’ve laid. I’m not doing the trailblazing anymore, you know what I mean? It’s already the law and now we’re just going with wherever the big, industry players are taking it. I’m not an industry player, I’m an adviser to the industry. I’ve been named a cannabis regulatory expert in the District Court of Colorado and am very proud when I walk into places like Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Snowmass as they are trying to write regulations. I tell them what they’re not thinking about and what they don’t know. Look, I’d rather be paid to do this kind of pro-bono work I do, but my overall sense of what the movement needs to succeed has always been to help set the parameters. That’s been my lifelong goal … if we can do it responsibly, then why would somebody say no?
ATW: Speaking of saying no, is a cannabis retailer really coming Snowmass Village?
LM: Yes. I just attended the (TOSV’s) Local Licensing Authority meeting last week. The regulations they put forth … they just needed some modification. My purpose is to help guide new communities in the space toward accomplishing a solid regulatory framework. I mean … they were talking about addiction … about overdosing. The information is out there that disproves both of these issues. They (Markey Butler and Alyssa Shenk) don’t care. I care about doing it right. It will happen, it’s just going to be slow. My guess is that the former Hideaway space, which I think is a decent location, will open six months from now.
ATW: How does the plant play a role in your life and work?
LM: I’m really high strung and I have a ton of energy, so it’s definitely a nighttime stress reliever … a before bed type of thing to calm down at the end of the day. I know myself and have boundaries. I’m one of those people that still wears closed-toed shoes in court … I don’t wear anything above my knee … nothing off my shoulder. That’s court process and that’s how respect goes, right? When I do my job, I won’t do it high.
ATW: As a mom and vocal cannabis advocate, are you still up against the stigma or have you seen a significant shift?
LM: Yeah. I felt like I used to be like this amorphous “mom who does pot,” not a marijuana lawyer who happens to be a mom. My children are getting older, so I definitely think there’s more of an understanding of what’s happening, but I have to be frank … I don’t usually talk about in a recreational term ever. My husband and I, we rarely drink and never smoke in front of the kids. We always talk about it as a medical substance based on a need and making people feel better. There are very few states left where it’s completely illegal and I’m blown away by that progress.
Katie Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed.
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