Radio station reporter Tom Morton has no chill.
The K2 News writer went to a Snoop Dogg concert over the weekend at Wyoming’s Casper Events Center and decided to go full Woodward/Bernstein when Snoop sparked up on stage.
His article “A Lot of Pot Smoking, No Arrests at Casper Events Center At Snoop Dogg Concert” reads like it was plucked out of Reefer Madness. Morton is not merely content to write a review of the concert. He sees smoke and knows there’s fire. What followed was a painstakingly thorough piece that reminded readers — a half-dozen times — that smoking pot at a concert is illegal and would normally result in an arrest.
We reached out to Morton to ask him why he spent so much time talking about pot.
“We at K2 Radio were interested in this for several reasons,” he told Amplify. “Starting with what I wrote in the seventh paragraph: ‘So while lighting up a joint in public or having it in your home could land you in jail, nothing could happen to you doing the same thing at a concert in the Events Center arena.'”
Morton insisted that he’s not an undercover narc and believes that the war on drugs is “beyond hopeless especially when it comes to marijuana.” He said the marijuana hyper-focus was more about private management of the facility, which “had to do with the City of Casper’s recent contract with Spectra to manage the Events Center. The Snoop Dogg concert was the biggest event so far under the new management, which raised the question about who is responsible for what.”
Anyone who has worked in city government has encountered a reporter like Tom Morton — someone who just won’t give up until they get to the bottom of the story. For his expose on pot-smoking at the Snoop Dogg concert, Morton gets a comment from the Chief of Police, the City Attorney and Brad Murphy, executive director of the Spectra-managed facility. What’s a person got to do to get arrested in this town, he repeatedly asks, often to no avail.
“This was a pain in the neck to report,” he told Amplify, saying that at one point, two other journalists were helping him work his big scoop. After all, there was some potentially serious criminal activity afoot at the show.
“One thing we did not get into was the alleged tossing of plastic bags of weed into the crowd,” he told us. “While smoking a joint would be a misdemeanor, tossing out bags of weed falls into the category of distribution, which is a felony.”
Small town news, isn’t it great? Like Tom Morton, I got my start at a community newspaper up in Watsonville, Calif., near Santa Cruz (where I attended college and met my wife). It was my first job out of school and I was a real go-getter. I didn’t just cover the local school board; I held them under siege. I covered the Pajaro Valley Unified School District like it was Iran-Contra, constantly pulling documents, investigating principals and making a name for myself as the only journalist who held the Superintendent’s feet to the fire.
I had some great stories when I was in Watsonville — I even got the mayor kicked out of office. But like other local reporters looking to pursue bigger things, I would get obsessed with stories that in hindsight weren’t that big of a deal. I’d push and push, and sometimes people would oblige me, but not without attempting to rein me in or telling me to stay in my lane.
Morton told me that as a result of his reporting, “the K2 Radio Facebook page is nearing 54,000 views and 376 Facebook shares, which is really huge for us.” And he’s still looking into a clause in the building’s contract with Spectra, that stated Spectra “must comply with all laws” as part of its management contract. City Attorney Bill Luben told Morton that the clause only applied to how the building was run, and not who’s playing on stage.
Why wasn’t Snoop arrested by Casper Police? My guess is that it has something to do with Spectra not wanting its first A-list visitor being led away in cuffs. This isn’t NWA playing Detroit in the 1980s — if the cops were to arrest Snoop for doing the one thing Snoop is known for doing, that would not be received well by other touring artists. That could be very bad for business.
Also, perhaps, we should let Tom in on a little secret. Smoking pot at a concert is one of those “wink wink, look the other way” things that happens all…the…time. It’s how some people blow off steam. People rarely get arrested for it, if they do it discretely.
I know, I know — it’s against the law, but you see, no one really cares. So just chill out a bit Tom and don’t spend so much time chasing the pot smoking stories. Besides, sometimes to get the bigger scoops and expose the really illegal things that happen in a small town, you’ve got to ignore the small stuff. Priorities Tom. Priorities.