An exhibition opening this month focuses on the measurable impact of the problem of missing and murdered indigenous women.

By Scott Barker

If you walked into a boutique and saw a vivid red dress on a hanger, your first thought might be, “How would I look in that?”

Now imagine the same dress blowing in a breeze outside a public building … or suspended in the midst of a leafless forest … or floating in water.

And realize that the dress represents an indigenous woman or girl who is gone.

Vanished without a trace, or …

Found murdered, still as an empty, motionless garment.

That’s the concept behind The REDress Project, an installation created by Canadian indigenous (Métis) artist Jaime Black. Asked about how the exhibition, which will be featured at the Tucson Desert Art Museum beginning this month, came to be, she responds that it resulted from a vision. “It was an image that I got in my head while listening to an indigenous professor speaking at an international conference,” Black explains. “She mentioned the high rate of violence against indigenous women in Canada. Nobody at this conference even knew that was an issue there. As she said that, I imagined hundreds of red dresses in public spaces all across cities so that people can’t forget what’s going on.”

The project first took shape in 2009 in Black’s hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “I was working with a group of women at the University of Winnipeg. We put out a call for donations of red dresses, and we put up probably 100 all over campus.”

After that exhibition, others followed, and word spread throughout the indigenous community. In one case, a family drove nine hours to get to Winnipeg to donate a dress that belonged to their daughter who was murdered. There have been some 50 exhibitions so far in Canada and in the United States. Though the installation differs in every community, the basic concept is the same. “It consists of empty red dresses suspended. It’s really powerful because it feels like someone is there, but it’s just the dresses, so it has a huge impact on people,” Black reports.

Although sometimes it has been installed in a gallery, the dresses usually are displayed outdoors. Conveying this message in a very public way is important to Black. “I was travelling in Colombia and watched a group of women give an amazing performance out in the public square to draw attention to missing loved ones,” she says. “It was a really powerful performance. It inspired me to come home and look at what’s going on with our indigenous people here in Canada and beyond, and allowing them a space to have their voices heard through art.”

Since Black also is a performance artist, having musical or theatrical components are a natural fit. “When I was in Chicago recently, I attended a powwow and brought about 60 red dresses with me. Several groups of women had created their own red dresses, and we went into the powwow arena wearing or carrying red dresses. That was really a sort of community performance where we were drawing attention to this issue together. We also traveled outside of the powwow grounds into public spaces, guided by a drum song, walking around Chicago,” Black recalls.

The issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman (MMIW) in North America is one that hasn’t received much attention in the press. But if you look at the statistics alone, a frightening reality becomes clear: in certain areas of North America, Native women and girls are at much greater risk of being sexually assaulted, kidnapped, or murdered than non-Native women. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, some reservations have a murder rate for Native woman that is 10 times the national average; 84 percent of Native women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes, and in 86 percent of all reported sex crimes against Native women the perpetrators were non- Native. No one knows exactly how many indigenous women and girls in the U.S. and Canada have fallen prey to human traffickers, serial murderers and sexual predators, but estimates run in the thousands.

One person who is very familiar with the MMIW problem, and the efforts to improve the situation, is Rain Bear Stands Last, the executive director of the Global Indigenous Council (GIC). “The Global Indigenous Council is an international advocacy group for indigenous peoples,” he explains. “And not just those who are recognized by a government as an indigenous tribe, because there are many indigenous peoples across the globe whose rights and inherent sovereignty are not recognized by those governments. What GIC attempts, where it can, is to represent the interests of those people.”

The GIC is deeply involved in a number of crucial areas of world concern, including climate change; how borders separate peoples, destroy cultures and restrict trade; and projects (such as pipelines) that endanger the environment and the people who live in areas that they bisect. For MMIW awareness, the Council has launched a billboard campaign that’s now in eight states where the incidence of missing and murdered indigenous women is the highest. Their efforts are getting them noticed by crucial decision makers. “It has received the support of many members of Congress,” Rain observes. “In Arizona, Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congressman Ruben Gallego have both been very supportive, along with Congresswoman Deb Haaland in New Mexico, and all the way to the East Coast where Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez has supported the campaign. What’s really kind of remarkable about the people who have backed us is you’ve got, for example in the Senate, Elizabeth Warren who is on one side of the aisle, and then on the other you’ve got Steve Daines from Montana.”

The GIC is going way beyond trying to increase public awareness of the MMIW situation. They are actively pushing for legislation that could help to prevent rapes, human trafficking and murder, as well as make it easier to apprehend the perpetrators. “Everything to do with MMIW relates to three R’s: reduce, return and recover. You reduce the numbers of victims, you return those people that you can, and recover any victims,” Rain notes. “With Senator Jon Tester’s office we have proposed standalone legislation that would be called the Reduce, Return and Recover Act. We also recently proposed the introduction of a Bad Man Act. That is to deal with the influx of gang operatives into Indian Country. In Montana, for example, much of the spike in MMIW cases has coincided with the dramatic increase in methamphetamines onto reservations. That’s fairly consistent with other locations in Indian Country. When they think of meth, people have the notion that it’s two oddballs in the boondocks somewhere in an old trailer cooking it up. It’s actually not that. This methamphetamine is coming from super labs in Mexico, up the West Coast, and then being transported to Indian reservations. There are several well-known gangs who are involved in this. This is how they get a foothold in Indian Country. One of these gang members will show up in the community, establish a relationship with somebody there, and they’ll be influential to a lot of impressionable younger people in that community. The people they target will start to build up drug debts, with no ability to pay them, and they’ll have to pay them in some other manner. That leads us into the aspect of human trafficking of Native women and kids.”

The Bad Man Act would allow tribal courts to act and remove non-Native people where there’s probable cause of their criminal activity. It’s modeled after clauses that already exist in some treaties between Native Nations and the U.S. government. There are other major legislative efforts in play, such as amendments to Savanna’s Act, and anyone interested in learning more should visit the GIC website (

Visitors to the REDress Project will have the opportunity to meet Rain Bear Stands Last during a screening of the documentary that he directed, Somebody’s Daughter. “It features several high-profile and some lesser-known MMIW cases from the Rocky Mountain region,” he relates. “The narrator is Julian Black Antelope, one of the bestknown First Nations actors. We have a lot of tribal leaders, several lawmakers, some 2020 presidential candidates all featured in the documentary. We held a private screening for lawmakers and presidential candidates in Washington, D.C., in December. The showing at the Tucson Desert Art Museum will be the first public screening.”

The exhibition will feature an opening ceremony by Tohono O’odham poet and community leader Dr. Ofelia Zepeda, and an artist talk with Jaime Black. Additionally, visitors to the Tucson Desert Art Museum will be able to experience a specially curated exhibit that highlights contemporary Native American woman artists. “Jamie Black has been working with MMIW issues for 10 years, and what she’s noticed is that sometimes it can become very heavy,” comments curator Alyssa Travis. “It can seem like there’s no hope. From Jaime’s perspective, it’s good to acknowledge the resilience of Native women, the rich culture, the heritage. So a good counterbalance is honoring those traditions and that resilience, and the amazing, talented, contemporary Native artists who are doing really well today. We will have an exhibit called Art is the Seed — Contemporary Native American Female Art. We have a half dozen contemporary female artists whose works are very fresh, precise technically, excellent, and all of them are basically taking elements from their traditions and reinterpreting them to tell the story of what it means to be a contemporary Native woman today. For example, we have the photographer Cara Romero, who has done really well and won a lot of awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market. She’s Chemehuevi and living in Santa Fe, and in her work, she’s often depicting people that she’s in close relationship with.”

Travis explains that Romero’s photos reveal connections and anthropological information, and the exhibit will illustrate those throughout. “One of the reasons I think that some people don’t relate to Native American contemporary art is they don’t understand the symbolism behind it. The idea is to give them the background so they can see the connections.”

The interconnectedness of all peoples and the critical importance of each of us addressing the MMIW issue will certainly be at the heart of the REDress Project exhibition at Tucson Desert Art Museum.

“Every single person who organizes or participates in a march, has a social media profile and posts information about this issue, or lobbies for state and federal legislation is doing it to save lives,” sums up Rain Bear Stands Last. “It takes everybody. The late great [activist/poet/musician/actor] John Trudell used to remind people that every single person on this planet is descended from a tribe. They may not know the name of that tribe, or where that tribe originated, but that is a fact.”

Tucson Desert Art Museum

The REDress Project Exhibition

Jan. 10-May 30

7000 E. Tanque Verde

For more information call 202-3888 or visit

Last summer, a fire at a nearby business spread to Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet and pressed pause on a 30-year run of vegan/vegetarian lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch buffet service.

By Kimberly Schmitz

Just short of five months later, the soup was back on in time for Thanksgiving festivities. The fire ran along the back of the building, damaging the kitchen and storage areas. A lot of food and most of the infrastructure of the 1950s building housing the restaurant was damaged. What most would consider a tragedy, proprietor/ manager/cook/hostess Sandamini Devi (Mother Sandamini to some) regards as a blessing on many levels. “Thank goodness, the damage was pretty minimal. Nobody was hurt. In that sense, this was kind of a cleansing,” Sandamini explains and adds with a chuckle, “The insurance process was a bit slow, so that also was the first real vacation I’d had in 30 years!”

Govinda’s is now sporting updated gas and electric lines, a storage room that doesn’t leak, a new walk-in fridge, and renovated bathrooms. In the dining room, guests are now welcomed by refreshed walls, tables, décor, and even a few more seats. Sandamini says, “I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this. But because not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of God, from a spiritual aspect, this was all for the good.” Devi is most grateful for the support from the community. “I was pleased and so proud of our Tucson. People donated money, clothes, food – there were donations in many forms. People even came to help clean up. In times of difficulties, you see and really appreciate those who come to your rescue.”

As expected, buffet and spiritual services are still going strong. Wednesday through Saturday lunch buffet is open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday, Dinner is 5-9 p.m. with Sunday brunch buffet served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Vegan and vegetarian dishes from around the world are presented throughout the month with Tuesday evening exclusively featuring dishes from India. All cuisine served on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is Vegan. Long-time fans and the vegi-curious are all welcome to dive into scrumptious potato and cheese quesadillas, veggie and tofu manicotti, dreamy lentil soup, splendid samosas, curries and chutneys galore, and more at this blessedly renewed Tucson vegetarian/vegan favorite locale.

by: Scott Barker

In the past 100 years, marijuana has gone from being a recognized treatment for a variety of medical conditions, to a banned substance that’s used to get high, to the object of hope for many who struggle with physical or emotional disorders. But how much do we really know about marijuana as medicine?

George, the small town lawyer, needs some convincing.

Seated around a nighttime campfire with his two traveling companions — Wyatt and Billy — he eyes the marijuana cigarette that’s offered to him and says uneasily, “I couldn’t do that. I’ve got enough problems, with the booze and all. I mean, I can’t afford to get hooked.”

Nonchalantly, Wyatt reassures him, “You won’t get hooked.”

Almost stuttering, George responds, “Yeah, well I know, but it leads to harder stuff.”

Met with just an enigmatic smile from Wyatt, George responds, “You say it’s all right? Well all right, then … how do I do it?”

That scene from the 1969 cult classic Easy Rider perfectly captures the first cannabis experience of many people who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s. They were hanging out in the boonies with friends, or at a Grateful Dead concert, maybe crashed in their dorm room, possibly relaxing in the bed of a friend’s truck when they first lit up. Provided that the experience didn’t terminate with the police (or their parents) showing up, people who smoked pot 50 years ago probably have nostalgic memories of that first toke, as warm and comforting as a freshbaked brownie.

But here we are in 2020, clearly not in the 1960s anymore. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, two of the shining stars in that campfire scene, are sadly gone for good, and Jack Nicholson has retired from acting. The Age of Aquarius is such a distant memory that a 50th anniversary celebration of Woodstock fizzled like a wet doobie.

More surprisingly, cannabis, which once got people arrested on a regular basis, is legal for recreational use in 11 states, Guam and Washington, D.C., and there are medical programs in 33 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

If Nicholson’s character from Easy Rider had survived the beating (sorry, spoiler alert) he receives in the film and woken up now, like some sort of Trip Van Winkle, he would probably be saying, “Medical marijuana … what?”

He could certainly be excused for wondering if that was even a thing. It has been many years since cannabis has been regarded as anything but an enemy combatant in the federal government’s War on Drugs.

But if you pay attention to the headlines, you’ll notice that legislation regarding cannabis, and two of its key compounds, is wafting through the courts, steady as drifting smoke.

It’s impossible for any magazine article to tackle all the issues regarding cannabis as medicine. The best we can hope to do over the next few pages is lay out a few of the major questions and present the opinions of some experts.

Because, with all due respect to George and his biker buddies, the first thing to ask isn’t, “How do I do it?” but “What will happen if I do?”

The Cannabis Chronicles

Arthur C. Clarke penned a famous short story about “The Nine Billion Names of God.” There may not be quite as many epithets for cannabis, but if it were a horse race between names for the Almighty and those for marijuana, we’d need to review the videotape to pick the winner. Weed, pot, dope, reefer, Mary Jane … the list from just the 1960s would go on for pages.

But what is it, exactly?

Cannabis, from the family of flowering plants Cannabaceae, is generally thought to be two species — cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. Sativa — the taller-growing, narrow-leaf variety — is what we think of as the hemp plant, grown by such famous and revered individuals as George Washington for its many fiber uses.

Indica, on the other hand, is broader-leaf and has a heavier concentration of the compound that scientists first identified in 1964 to be psychoactive.

Michael Backes, author of the book Cannabis Pharmacy, sums up the difference between hemp and marijuana very succinctly: “Hemp is cannabis used principally for fiber, food and seed oil, typically with less than .5 percent THC in the female flowers. Hemp typically produces CBD at around 2 percent in its female flowers.

“Marijuana is used for drug content, whether THC, CBD or a combination of cannabinoids. In recent years, hemp varieties have been crossed with marijuana varieties to produce hemp varieties with high-CBD content that can exceed 20 percent, but typically are closer to 10 percent.”

Though there are more than 500 compounds in the cannabis plant, there are only two that are household names: delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). In a nutshell, THC is the stuff that produces a high for users, and CBD is the non-psychoactive substance that could have anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties (more on that later).

Though you might be tempted to think that all this is a new phenomenon, humans have had a relationship to cannabis that dates back thousands of years. There is evidence that the hemp variety was being used for oil and fiber around 4000 B.C. And a recent excavation of a 2,500-year-old tomb in western China uncovered burnt cannabis, suggesting that its implementation as a mind-altering component in rituals has been with us for a very long time.

Ritual isn’t really medicine, however, so the question remains — at what point did humans decide that cannabis could treat any ailments? Since cannabis is indigenous to Asia, it’s no surprise that we first read of it as a treatment for disease in writings that originate in China around 2800 B.C. Though the actual author of these works, such as Shennong Bencaojing, is heavily disputed, we know that Chinese physicians were using cannabis for a variety of things — including as an anesthetic — several thousand years ago. Murky, too, is the origin of the word “marijuana,” which some etymologists suggest could date back to ancient China as the term ma ren hua, which means hemp seed flower.

Cannabis, as hemp, landed in the New World in the 16th century, thanks to Spanish sailors, and as mentioned before, it went on to be well known as a fiber source for everything from rope making to clothing by our founding fathers. It may have been utilized in folk remedies for many years before there was any serious study of it by western doctors, but eventually it made its way into tinctures and other preparations sold in pharmacies.

The backlash to the use of cannabis built for years in the U.S., finally igniting a firestorm of legislation in the 1930s, when sensationalized newspaper headlines, and movies such as the notorious Reefer Madness convinced Congress to act … tax act, that is. The Marihuana [sic] Tax Act of 1937 banned hemp and cannabis in the then-48 states, and set up a conflict that continues in some form today. Though restrictions were lifted somewhat during WWII, cannabis and hemp were pretty much persona non grata in all parts of America until 1996 when California legalized it for medical use.

The Straight Dope on the Law

Mama says yes
Papa says no
Make up your mind
’Cause I gotta go

Though when Mick Jagger sang “Rip This Joint” he wasn’t railing against the tangled spider web of laws governing cannabis in the U.S., he certainly could have been. What’s permissible in one state is totally illegal next door, and possibly verboten but not criminal just across the next state line.

To complicate things further, the federal government has its say, too.

And here’s the bottom line: marijuana is classified under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it’s illegal to buy it, sell it, and use it.

“But wait,” you say, “what about states that allow recreational or medical use? How can that be?”

Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman explains with a hypothetical scenario, “In a very practical sense, an FBI agent can come in any time and arrest me in my home, if they have a search warrant, for smoking marijuana even though I have a medical marijuana card, because it’s a violation of federal law. They choose not to. But they could. So it’s not that Arizona law violates federal law, it’s that Arizona law is different than federal law and the federal government chooses not to go after the people who are benefiting from that difference.”

There are myriad problems that have cropped up because of the federal government’s insistence on keeping cannabis on the Schedule 1 list (along with LSD, heroin and ecstasy, to name a few of the other banned drugs). In many states that authorize recreational or medical marijuana, growers and dispensaries have to operate as a cash business because banks won’t touch proceeds from selling something that the Feds have banned. And there’s another financial problem that people outside the cannabis industry aren’t exposed to.

“Banking is so obvious that everybody knows about it,” comments Moe Asnani, co-founder of the Downtown Dispensary and D2. “But there’s also something called a 280E tax code that says if you’re selling a Schedule 1 substance, you can’t write off any of your expenses. So from the perspective of the IRS, we’re basically not even able to run our businesses. We have to fight for that every day. The 280E code is supposed to be applied to all Schedule 2 substances [i.e., cocaine, oxycodone, fentanyl, etc.] as well, but they’re selectively choosing only the marijuana businesses and not manufacturers of Schedule 2 substances.”

There is legislation in the works — the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) — that would facilitate companies working in the cannabis industry in writing checks, taking credit cards, paying taxes through conventional means, etc. At press time it had been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, but was waiting on Senate approval.

If you’re following rules and regulations covering cannabis across this land, you need to diagram the changes like you’re keeping the characters straight in a Tolstoy novel. With head-spinning frequency, news agencies trumpet the developments: the 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized hemp (but not anything with more than 0.3 percent THC); New York state recently decriminalized public possession and use of cannabis; Illinois, which just legalized recreational pot, will expunge the criminal records of some 770,000 people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses; the TSA created policies that allow for flying with hemp-derived CBD (but nothing with THC); and so on.

Despite efforts to legalize/ decriminalize it’s still a minefield out there. Until last summer, Arizona dispensaries couldn’t be sure that selling extracts of cannabis complied with state law. Kansas has arrested hemp farmers and charged them with selling marijuana, despite the fact that the Colorado Department of Agriculture had already certified that the shipment they were transporting had no more than 0.3 percent of THC.

Given that there are legal hoops to jump through to obtain and use cannabis products under Arizona’s program, the pertinent question is “Who would enroll in something like this, and why?”

A Need for Weed?

Arizona recognizes more than a dozen diseases and conditions for which a physician may prescribe medical marijuana, ranging from cancer to glaucoma to chronic pain. There also is the provision that the Department of Health Services can approve the use of medical marijuana on a case-by-case basis for other conditions.

Physicians who have been gathering information on the possible benefits of cannabis feel pretty confident that they can check off that time-worn advice to doctors, “First do no harm.”

“I think that marijuana is probably the safest of all medications out there because it’s toxicity is so low,” observes Andrew Weil, M.D., a long-time Tucsonan who is world renowned for his investigations into integrative medicine. “You can’t kill people with it. On a physical level it’s much safer than much of the medication that we use.”

Though researchers don’t know the exact mechanism that allows compounds in cannabis to be effective for various ailments, it was established about 30 years ago that humans (and many other animals) have an endocannabinoid system, that is, receptors throughout the body that react to compounds in cannabis and function in areas ranging from pain sensations to immune system to bone growth.

“I think there are many potential benefits,” Dr. Weil says of cannabis as a medical treatment. “The old uses have been around for a long time, such as being helpful for glaucoma, muscle spasicity, and for nausea, but the new research suggests there might be great potential both as a preventive and treatment for many kinds of cancer, as well as slowing down age-related dementia, reducing inflammation in the body, and controlling appetite. There are a lot of possibilities there. I think the evidence we have for them is not really strong, but it’s pointing in the right direction.”

Dr. Weil actually wrote the forward to Backes’ Cannabis Pharmacy, and he is quick to credit the author for being on top of past and current research on marijuana. Backes, a University of Arizona alumnus, is based in California, and he explains that his book was the result of a personal journey. “I was a patient, and I couldn’t get my questions answered when I went to dispensaries here in California. I saw this education gap, and I had a biology background, but I wasn’t a full-time scientist. I was actually working in Hollywood for Michael Crichton, the guy who wrote Jurassic Park. At the dispensaries, they were selling cannabis as a medical product, but a lot of people behind the counter had no idea what was in it, what those compounds did, or whether they were effective or not. So I really got into it. I got involved with a dispensary and after a couple of years I decided to write a book.”

Backes says that there are many avenues worthy of research regarding cannabis as medicine. “Today you have to point toward the compounds for which there is the most evidence. There’s the most for THC, that compound produced by cannabis that gets you high, but doesn’t get you high at really low doses. It actually may have some medical efficacy at low doses. It also can have medical value at moderate doses. You don’t necessarily get stoned so much as a light buzz along with pain relief. Or you get anti-inflammatory benefits. It also may help control your nausea if you’re undergoing chemotherapy. There’s a kind of nausea that chemo patients get called anticipatory nausea. What that means is they pull into the parking lot of the hospital and they want to throw up before they’ve even had the treatment. It’s definitely not ‘fake,’ and it’s terrible for somebody who is going through it. What’s fascinating is that cannabis is one of the few compounds that can control that anticipatory nausea.”

The FDA has already approved cannabis-derived, or cannabisrelated drugs such as Epidiolex, a treatment for seizure disorders that contains CBD, as well as Marinol and Syndros, both containing synthetic versions of THC, that are being used in patients with AIDS who are losing weight. Another drug, which, like the aforementioned, also is by prescription only, is Cesamet, an anti-nausea treatment for chemo patients that is chemically similar to THC.

Raun Melmed, M.D., co-founder of the Southwest Autism Resource and Research Center (SARRC) in Phoenix, is the medical director for a trial involving a drug containing synthetic CBD as a treatment for some of the symptoms associated with fragile X syndrome and related disorders.

“In all of these disorders there are core symptoms — cognitive issues and special challenges, and it certainly would be wonderful if the needle could be moved in that direction,” says Dr. Melmed, who also is a developmental pediatrician. “Often what changes are not necessarily those core symptoms but co-occurring problems, such as irritability. From my personal experience in the autism arena, the results have been very mixed and a wide variety of improvements have been reported, but that’s in a very anecdotal fashion.”

Dr. Melmed is hopeful, but realistic, about whether or not this cannabis-related medication might be helpful for children with a genetic condition such as fragile X.

“The fact that there was an indication [for CBD] in certain types of rare seizure disorders was a positive thing, but aside from that there are no clinical studies to suggest we’re going to see a positive signal.”

Some of those doing research on the healing benefits of cannabis are on the frontlines of treatment. Elaine Burns, NMD, founder and CEO of Phoenix-based Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center, comments, “I’m a physician and I’ve been in the clinical cannabis therapeutic part of the industry — seeing patients and recommending clinical cannabis for various medical conditions — since 2011. Because the cannabis industry, even though it’s a medical marijuana program in Arizona, still has a lot of influence from the recreational world, some of the medical products that we would be recommending as clinical physicians were not necessarily available at the dispensaries. A few years back I decided that I could create a very good product that would meet the medical qualifications and be in that lane specifically. And because I have a background in botanical medicine, I decided to create condition-specific formulas. In the cannabis industry that’s unheard of. They just have products that contain THC or CBD. But mine also contain other botanicals.” Her “Releaf” formulations include Migraine, GI Assist (for gastrointestinal problems such as GERD and IBS), Sleep, and Menopause Tonic.

There are many different ways to use cannabis products, including smoking the flower, vaping an extract, ingesting it in candy or a baked good, or applying topical preparations.

Here in Tucson, the Downtown Dispensary and its sister location D2 have been assisting medical marijuana patients since 2013, and though they’ve found that certain products seem to be the most requested, they nonetheless stock a very large array.

“We have about 350 products at any given time, including flower, edibles, topicals, and vape cartridges,” says Asnani. “When we first opened, we probably had about a couple of dozen items. Now we’re growing significantly in what we carry, and I think it’s a function of the market growing and newer technology, which lets us have more sophisticated products, too.”

As for what they sell the most, he doesn’t hesitate to say, “Vape cartridges. That’s our focus. That’s what we’re the best at, and we make them ourselves here in Tucson. It’s discrete, there are many options in terms of the different kinds of vape cartridges you can buy, and it’s not something that requires a lot of effort to use. With flower, you have to grind it up to smoke it using different devices. With the vape system, you just plug it into a battery and it’s good to go.”

If you look around the waiting room of D2, which resembles the antechamber for a dentist or optometrist, you notice a cross-section of the city’s population.

“When we opened, there were only about 38,000 medical marijuana patients in Arizona, and now there are more than 200,000,” says Asnani. “In Pima County alone there are about 27,000. When we look at that landscape, we want to be able to make sure that we’re able to get them in and out as quickly as possible. Online ordering is a big part of it, delivery is something we started doing more recently.”

From A High To A Low

At the conclusion of TV ads for pharmaceuticals, you see a list of possible side effects, detailing every frightening possibility from headaches to weight gain to a fatal stroke. If we based our medication-taking decisions solely on the potential side effects, whom among us would ever chance taking any pharmaceutical?

But we don’t just depend upon the fine print. We solicit the advice of health care professionals, our friends and family members, and we often rely on our previous experience with that drug or similar ones.

Therein lies a major hang-up for critics of medical marijuana programs. If you are basing your decision about using cannabis on the marketing from that industry, or someone at a dispensary, or your own nostalgia for getting high 30 or 40 years ago, you are missing a lot of pertinent information.

“There’s this notion that marijuana is a miracle drug for dozens and dozens of ailments, and that it’s been approved by the FDA or some scientific body,” says Kevin Sabat, Ph.D, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “There are components of marijuana that have medicinal properties and we’re very much in favor of expediting the research, making sure we know what’s in it, getting those to be FDA approved. But that’s very different from a voter-led initiative basically saying that almost all marijuana use is medical.”

Sabat was an advisor on drug policies to Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama, and left the political world in 2011 to join with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy to provide an alternative to the narrative they were hearing from the cannabis industry.

“We saw a massive new industry emerging with really zero opposition and no groups that were trying to get the science out, so we decided to do something about that. We assembled a top group of science advisors and researchers from around the country who follow this issue, and who were upset about seeing the commercialization of marijuana.”

The concerns of opponents to current medical marijuana programs include a lack of rigorous testing; few gold standard double-blind studies of its efficacy; and the potential for serious physical and psychological side effects.

If you speak with mental health professionals about the topic of cannabis use, you hear apprehensions based on firsthand experience with treating addiction.

First off, they point out that typically no real screening for addiction or mental health problems is conducted during an evaluation for a patient to get medical cannabis.

Donnie Sansom, DO, the director of the addiction program at Sierra Tucson, elaborates, “There are issues with it being a primary drug of addiction. We also have issues with that sort of lax attitude that people have about, ‘Oh, this is no big deal. It’s so casual, everybody smokes, it’s going to be legalized. It’s medical marijuana in this state.’ Maybe a lot of that is true politically, but from an addiction point of view, the cross-addiction potential is really high.

“Let’s say a person sees themselves primarily as an alcoholic. And they may insist, ‘But I’m not addicted to marijuana, so I can smoke a little bit.’ And the problem is that marijuana does a lot of things in the brain. THC not only works on the endocannabinoid receptors, it also stimulates their reward pathway, which becomes diseased with a person with addiction. It changes the way an addict thinks about their pursuit of that drug.”

Nancy Macklin, a part-time Tucsonan, also is the executive director for Treatment Services Northwest in Oregon. Her organization works with people who have a DUI conviction and have been mandated to addiction counseling. “My experience in treatment has been primarily in Oregon, and first we had medical marijuana, and now its legal for recreational use. That has pretty much put medical marijuana on the back shelf. People can get it easily so there’s no reason to do the medical part.

“The thing that I find interesting about the medical piece in Arizona is that when you look at a chart for sales you see what happens every Friday: sales peak. And this is what we saw in Oregon, too. And look at what happens on April 20th … 4/20… another big peak. All these people on medical marijuana have a whole lot of pain on 4/20?”

Physical problems resulting from marijuana use can run the gamut, but one of the chief ones to emerge in the last several years is cyclical vomiting, also referred to as marijuana hyperemesis syndrome. “There is a complaint where patients come in with prolonged vomiting, not responsive to anti-emetics, which we’ve found is related to marijuana use,” observes Jake Whatley, an emergency department nurse in Sacramento, California. “We’re learning more and more about it, but we’re finding that people who smoke chronically and smoke a lot, either every day, or multiple times a day, are coming in and they’re having this intractable vomiting, so we’ll try things like Zofran, Reglan, Benadryl. We find that with the marijuana use those drugs don’t really work. One thing we’ve found that will is Haldol, which is an antipsychotic medication.”

Within the last few months, vaping has come under increased scrutiny because several thousand vapers across the nation have been hospitalized with severe lung ailments, and dozens of them have died. Some 80 percent of those vapers had used their devices for cannabis products, and there is speculation that “gray market” vitamin E acetate added to THC may be a culprit. At press time, the exact mechanism for the disease was still being sought.

It doesn’t necessarily require chronic use for cannabis to create an unpleasant, and possibly even dangerous effect. Marijuana’s tendency to invoke paranoia, and even a psychotic episode, is well documented. In January 2019, former New York Times investigative reporter Alex Berenson published the book Tell Your Children, an exhaustive analysis of the evidence that marijuana use (especially for people under age 25, or folks with mental health issues), can result in extreme reactions ranging from social withdrawal, to homicidal violence.

Berenson isn’t trying to craft a literary Reefer Madness campaign for modern times. Rather, he’s making the point that pot isn’t just a benign weed that makes people get sleepy, hungry, and abnormally fond of certain rock bands. And he’s warning potential users that today’s pot is a far cry from Woodstock-era weed. “The THC in marijuana in the 1970s was probably .3 to one percent,” concurs Dr. Sansom. “Maybe realistically it could be five percent in the ‘good’ stuff. Now you’re looking at it ranging from 10 to 20 percent THC. That’s significantly stronger.”

Though to some, Berenson’s prose may come off as alarmist, no one can accuse the Arizona Poison Drug Information Center of being anything but cool-headed and unbiased. Their mandate — from the state’s Department of Health — is to advise, not to judge.

Aside from calls from frantic parents whose child has ingested THC, or patients who want to know if marijuana will interfere with their blood pressure medication, the Center provides education to those who are overseeing the sales of the products.

“All Arizona dispensaries are required to have a medical director,” explains Center Director Mazda Shirazi, M.D. “They can be a primary care doctor, a surgeon, or a naturopath. They can have a variety of backgrounds. We were tasked to provide continuous medical education to them. It is not binding to the dispensaries to attend, but many of them send their medical directors or their representatives to our presentations. We try to go over all the findings and concerns, for example about children having exposure to edibles. Many edibles are not clearly marked, and they aren’t in child-proof packaging. Many dispensaries do not even say to the adults who are using them, ‘You need to keep them out of the hands of children.’ Our hope is that the industry will take that up.”

More than that, a lack of FDA oversight has physicians like Shirazi worried. “Most people do not understand that just because there is an industry doesn’t mean there’s purity testing to make sure the products are not contaminated with anything else.”

That will change in Arizona in November 2020, when a mandatory testing program begins. Such laboratory oversight will certainly aid in ensuring that what is being sold at local dispensaries isn’t contaminated with pesticides, mold, or unwanted chemicals, and that the percentage of THC or CBD in a product is correctly stated. Realizing that this regulation is actually good for their customers and their bottom line, some dispensaries aren’t waiting for the law to take effect. “We’ve been testing since early 2016,” says Asnani. “As soon as there was a lab that opened in Tucson that could handle it, I decided we had to start testing everything.”

Can We Talk?

In this brave new weed world, we’ve gone way beyond sitting around the campfire and lighting up to get a buzz. In the past 100 years, marijuana has come full circle: starting as a remedy for various ailments; becoming a banned substance that some people used to get high; and finally morphing into a high-tech-engineered product that’s marketed to treat more than a dozen conditions. But there’s still so much that we don’t know about cannabis, and haven’t really considered as more states (and entire nations, such as Canada), legalize it.

“Our goal as a society should be to have an honest discussion and ongoing research,” comments Dr. Shirazi. “Probably in the next 10 years many other states will allow medical, or adult use, and I think part of those taxes should go toward looking at the medical impact and what to do about it. We do have an agent out there — alcohol — that’s legal and we tax it, even though it causes lots of problems for us.

“We have a chance of dealing with this new agent — cannabis — and deciding how it’s going to be treated in our society much more logically in terms of its true impact, its benefits or risks.”

Opinions differ on whether a full legalization and regulation of cannabis is inevitable. But even some medical professionals who are working with the industry aren’t keen to see marijuana become a legit recreational substance such as alcohol. “I’m conflicted,” admits Dr. Burns. “With the medical marijuana program, we’ve taken two steps forward and we’re getting better, to the point where physicians from very well-known entities like Barrow and Banner are referring patients to us. If a recreational program gets in place, we’ll be taking several steps back again because people will say, ‘Look, that medical marijuana program was just a ruse for recreation.’”

It’s easy to see why there are such extreme camps when you begin to examine marijuana as medicine. You have a profit incentive for some non-medical people in the industry to say that it’s a treatment for nearly everything. And you have folks who have had experience in sweeping up the damage when we’re wrong about a medicine – such as what has happened in the opioid crisis — who are telling us to put the brakes on.

Michael Backes offers a clear-eyed summation of marijuana as medicine that cuts through the hype and fears. “There’s nothing really special about cannabis except that its compounds work throughout the body at a lot of different sites. And the reason is the compounds in cannabis are mimicking those our own body produces on demand. That’s the endocannabinoid system.

“What cannabis medicine can do ideally, if used correctly, is just restore a little balance so that your body can take over and go the rest of the way. That’s how medicine should work.”

Getting Carded

The situation is fairly straightforward for a patient seeking medical marijuana in Arizona, but there are still 50 shades of gray areas. Arizona voters passed the Medical Marijuana Question in 2010, and in 2012, sales began. Basically the state’s medical marijuana program (listed in the Arizona Administrative Code as Title 9, Health Services, Chapter 17), has recently been modified by the passage of SB 1494. The current rules are that you must have a medical marijuana card in order to purchase cannabis products from a licensed dispensary, and to obtain the card you first have to be examined by a physician. The cost of obtaining a medical marijuana card (not including the fee paid to the physician) is $150.

Having a card entitles you to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis product every 14 days. You are restricted on where you can consume it, however. The key is that it must be consumed in a private space. You can’t walk down the street toking on a joint, or vaping an extract, even with a card. It’s also illegal to smoke cannabis in a vehicle, and regardless of where you have smoked/vaped/ ingested, you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence if you get behind the wheel with THC in your system.

To CBD … Or Not To CBD

One of the remarks that you hear again and again from opponents to medical marijuana is that the way its being promoted to the public is misleading. Marijuana marketing is all over Tucson. You see signs for clinics that will do evaluations so someone can get their card. You glimpse billboards for services such as WeedMaps that will direct patients to dispensaries. Print advertising has popped up in numerous publications. And one cannabis component in particular — CBD — is enjoying the sort of ubiquitous presence in the media that’s usually reserved for winning sports teams and pop stars.

“I can’t believe the attention to CBD,” muses Andrew Weil, M.D. “It’s available on every street corner now, and everybody wants to put it in drinks and use it in all sorts of ways. I’d say the only solid evidence we have for benefits is control of seizures in kids who don’t respond to standard anti-seizure medication. The other claimed benefits, I don’t think we have good evidence for. The products out there, some of them may have traces of THC in them, which can give people a psychoactive effect or show up in drug tests. You have to be careful about the product, and I don’t know how to advise people on that because there’s such a range.”

Who, What, Why

Given that there are more than a dozen conditions for which a physician can prescribe cannabis in Arizona, what sorts of patients do dispensaries tend to see? “I would say the biggest thing is people who have been using opioids and they realize that the side effects of those are significantly harmful, and they’re doing it obviously for pain,” says Downtown Dispensary’s Moe Asnani. “If you look at the statistics, 89 percent of patients use it for pain. The average patient that we see is in their mid-40s. We have a location that’s close to UA, and you might assume we’re going to be getting younger patients, but we actually have a pretty diverse mix and they tend to lean a little bit older.”

Costs depend on the product and the amount, and dispensaries do run specials so patients can save during those discount days. Observes Asnani about his company’s pricing, “Most flower is about $30-50 an eighth of an ounce, or 2.5 grams. For the vape cartridges we make we offer buy-one-get-one deals basically every day and those work out to about $25 a pop for 500 mg, and closer to $45 for the 1000 mg versions.”

Edibles start around $5 and go up depending upon strength and quantity, and a topical with THC and CBD like iLAVA Touch retails for $60 for 2.85 ounces.

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Previews of upcoming events

JAN 15-16


The St. Lawrence String Quartet, which has played for AFCM numerous times, returns for two nights of different concerts, each celebrating the music of Beethoven. Jan. 15 will include Beethoven’s String Quartets No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 18 No. 4, and No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135. The group also will play John Adams’ String Quartet No. 2, written specifically for them, and referencing two of Beethoven’s piano works — the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110 and the Diabelli Variations. On Jan. 16, the program will be comprised of Beethoven’s String Quartets No. 10 in E-flat Major, Op. 74, “Harp” (so called because of the string plucking in the first movement), and No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131. The group also will perform Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20 No. 5, an intense and dramatic work that prefigures the middle and later quartets of Beethoven. Leo Rich Theater. 577-3769.; .

JAN 19


The Bay Area-based group Agave Baroque, which specializes in string chamber music from the 17th and 18th centuries, has a long association with renowned countertenor Reginald Mobley.

The group has recorded several CDs with Mobley, including 2015’s Queen of Heaven, which features the music of Isabella Leonarda. Leonarda was a 17th century Italian nun who dedicated her compositions to the Virgin Mary. In 2018, Agave Baroque worked with Mobley again on the album Peace in Our Time — Music of Love and Loss in the Shadow of the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) took place in Central Europe and involved numerous countries, including Denmark, Sweden, England, and nations from the Holy Roman Empire. The casualties from battle, disease and famine that resulted from the conflict topped eight million.

For the Tucson concert (which is part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival), Agave Baroque will perform a concert entitled American Originals, centering on composers born in the Americas, and including works by African American composers Florence Price (1887-1953) and Josiah Holland (1819-1881). 3 pm. Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

JAN 24, 26


Windows into Song

Part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival, this eclectic program will feature everything from 150-year-old choral works to Respighi’s instrumental interpretations that relate to passages in the Bible, to the world premiere of a work for chorus and orchestra by local composer Robert Lopez-Hanshaw.

One of the highlights of the concert will certainly be the opportunity to hear rising operatic star Federica Lombardi perform pieces by Gioachino Rossini. The Italianborn Lombardi says that her love of classical music began at an early age. “I have been studying opera since I was 16 years old as a result of the love I always had growing up for classical music. This journey took me to great experiences, such as master classes, competitions and then performing opera roles. It has been a beautiful process of continuous development and learning,” she enthuses.

The soprano studied at the Liceo Musicale Angelo Massini, as well as the Conseratorio Bruno Maderna. She was part of the Accademia di Perfezionamento per Cantanti Lirici of the Teatro alla Scala, and participated in the young singers program at the Salzburg Festival. Her recognitions have included being a two-time winner of the AsLiCo competition in Como, Italy.

Along with performing Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, she has performed the roles of the Countess Rosina in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Elettra in Idomeneo. Asked about some of her favorite parts to sing, she says, “Every time I sing a new role or a new piece I fall in love with every single part of it. Right now I’m fascinated by two of the characters I sing the most: Donna Elvira, and the Countess, both by Mozart; they are strong women who are in love and they fight in different ways for a love that has been betrayed, singing the most beautiful music. Aside from Mozart, I feel very confident with the role of Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello. I recently recorded this opera for a CD, and I can’t wait to bring this character to life on stage!”

For the TSO, she will perform selections from Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, Messa di Gloria and Stabat Mater. “I’m extremely happy to perform something new in my repertoire,” she comments. “I believe this music creates a glorious atmosphere, and it’s able to move my soul in a very intimate way.”

Speaking of atmosphere, Lombardi observes that she has been to the Old Pueblo before and loves it here. “I have been in Tucson twice already, and I’m always impressed by the beautiful landscape. The first time, I visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The second time I spent more time in the lively downtown, which is developing so quickly, and offers great entertainment options. It has that unique feeling that makes Tucson a very special place to be.”

This year, Lombardi also is slated to perform as Desdemona for Deutsche Oper Berlin, and she also will return to La Scala for a new production of Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Rè. Fortunately, travel is one of the things she most enjoys doing. “Apart from using my free time to study and prepare for future engagements,” she says, “I like to visit and discover the places where I’m performing. I think it’s part of the good fortune of an opera singer!” Jan. 24, 7:30 pm; Jan. 26, 2 pm, TCC Music Hall. 882-8585.

JAN 24-26


America Sings!

When bass Morris Robinson returns to Tucson (he was previously here in 2013 to sing Verdi’s Requiem with the TSO)

Morris Robinson sings with True Concord, Jan.
24-26. Photo by Lawrence Brownlee

it will be to help bring to life music that is in our country’s DNA. The phenomenal singer, whose résumé includes roles such as Fasolt in Das Rheingold, Ferrando in Il Travatore, and concert performances of works such as Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, will take part in a program that’s part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival.

The mix will include spirituals, popular songs by Stephen Foster (the author of some 200 works, including “Beautiful Dreamer”), and Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs.

Written in two sets in 1950 and 1952, Old American Songs is a re-setting of a number of tunes from long ago, including the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” (also used in his Appalachian Spring Suite), the children’s song “I Bought Me a Cat,” and the hymn “At the River.” Jan. 24: 7 pm, St. Francis in the Valley Episcopal Church (Green Valley); Jan. 25: 7:30 pm, Catalina Foothills High School; Jan. 26: 3 pm, Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 401-2651.

JAN 31- FEB 2


Made in America
Jenna Johnson, Vasily Boldin & Taylor Johnson
in “Unsquare”. Photo by Ed Flores Photography

Part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival, Ballet Tucson presents this showcase featuring a revered work by iconic chorographer George Balanchine, along with two premieres. The reprised work is Serenade, the first ballet created in the U.S. by the Russia-born Balanchine. Set to Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48 by Tchaikovsky, the work is especially haunting and beautiful. The new work Unsquare, by BT choreographer Chieko Imada, uses the music of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. The third piece, Recollections, was choreographed by Mark Schneider, and features popular turn-of-the-century American songs and period costumes. Jan. 31: 7:30 pm; Feb. 1: 2 pm and 7 pm; Feb. 2: 1 pm. PCC Center for the Arts. 903-1445.



La Bohème

Premiering in 1896 at the Teatro Regio (with a young Arturo Toscanini conducting), La Bohème was reportedly met with a lukewarm response, but the opera soon became a success throughout Italy. Today, it’s one of the most popular operas in the repertoire.

It’s easy to see — and hear — why. Puccini’s music is both romantic and heartbreaking, and the compelling story of the young lovers and their tragic fate has resonated throughout generations.

Though set in the 1840s, the opera is often updated to a different era. Director Baz Luhrmann transported it to 1950s Paris for one production, and the Broadway musical Rent transferred the storyline to New York’s East Village in the 1980s. The fluidity of the opera is just one of its many appeals. Observes soprano Ellie Dehn, who will be singing Mimi on Feb. 1, “I’ve done Bohème only in traditional productions, but I think of all operas, there’s a case for being able to update it, and doing it in all kinds of different periods and locales.”

Dehn has the advantage of knowing the work from several different angles, having sung the role of Musetta, as well. “I’ve done Mimi three times, but I’ve sung Musetta at all the major houses,” she relates. “Definitely Musetta is written in a more fun way, but Mimi has all the blood and guts — literally — written into the part. I think they’re both really fun to play, and it also keeps it fresh every time you do it when you can look at the opera through different perspectives.”

It may be difficult to picture the sunny and charming Dehn in a tragic work such as Massenet’s Manon, or Dvorak’s Rusalka, but Dehn reveals that what first draws her to an opera is the underlining qualities of the music. “For me it’s always the music first and foremost,” she says. “Using Rusalka as an example, you hear the score and immediately get goosebumps, and you feel this pain underneath the music. That’s what I need to get a sense of sometimes. And the storytelling is what completes the whole picture.”

Tucson audiences may recall that Dehn was in town to perform in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in 2018. Though that magnificent work doesn’t call upon the talents of vocal soloists until the end, Dehn says she doesn’t mind. “Usually we’re off stage until about halfway through the piece, so we can kind of do whatever we want — warm up, primp and get ready. In the case of Beethoven, I love sitting through the third movement, and then the finale is the finale. I love being on stage for the Ninth. Audiences just go wild. It’s written that way. It’s a really exciting piece.”

She says that the last time she was in town she was pregnant with her daughter Arabella (named for the Strauss opera). Being exposed to classical music both in the womb, and now in her toddler stage, has had an impact. “I sang Manon at five and a half months pregnant with her,” Dehn reveals. “When she was a newborn, she would calm down if I would play Manon for her, or Messiah, because I did a bunch of Messiah concerts in my sixth and seventh months. She recognizes opera and music from the womb. She sings constantly, so she definitely learned to have the music bug. She literally sings in perfect pitch. It’s incredible.”

Dehn’s parents, who will be wintering in Scottsdale, will join her in the Old Pueblo while she is here, and the soprano says that although her favorite downtime activities used to be yoga and reading, they are now often child-related. She hopes to get in some hiking while she in Arizona, however, though probably on a flat trail so that Arabella can enjoy it, too.

And soon after, Dehn will be jetting off to St. Louis for a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. “Now that I have a little one, concert work is good to find because it’s a shorter term,” she says. “Instead of a month to six weeks for an opera performance, you’re only gone four to seven days max. Doing a full opera is definitely my first passion, but I’m doing about half and half now.”

That variety of concert work and a wide range of operas definitely ices the cakes for Dehn. “Not only am I exploring different languages, but in different time periods,” she concludes. “I can do a score that’s very tonal, and then a newer work that’s completely atonal with different harmonies and orchestrations. Mozart is a completely different animal from some of the modern pieces, which always keeps it fresh. The same goes for languages and styles, too. It definitely never gets boring.” TCC Music Hall. 293-4336.;

Live help

A quiet and chilly month for Tucson gardens.


Tip of the Month

To attract birds to your garden, be sure to provide for their basic needs: food, water and shelter. Add native plants that provide food for many bird species. Birds are attracted to water for drinking and bathing. Provide a small water container or fountain with a circulating waterfall. In addition to providing plants for protection, birds also need nesting sites. Small trees and shrubs work best.

There’s one more reason for attracting birds to your garden: pest control. Garden pests usually are at their peak in late spring and early summer, when birds are busy foraging for whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, beetles and grubs!

If you have bird feeders, don’t put them away once warm weather arrives. Even birds that spend most of their time eating insects enjoy an occasional snack. Fill your feeder with a quality seed blend that will appeal to finches, grosbeaks, cardinals and sparrows.


Sow seeds of beets, bok choy, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach and Swiss chard. Start seeds of peppers, eggplant and tomatoes indoors.


Cover frost-tender plants with burlap, sheets or frost cloth.


Prune roses by removing dead and crossing canes. Leave five or six canes, cutting them to 18 inches.

Dab ends with wood glue to discourage insects.

Trim non-native deciduous shade trees. Wait to prune native trees and shrubs after they bloom.

Prune citrus only to remove dead wood, crossed branches, suckers rising from below the graft point and vertical sprouts from the top of the tree.


If winter rains are sparse, water trees and shrubs every two or three weeks.

Do not water succulents if forecast calls for a freeze.

Water fall-planted wildflower seeds if there is little rainfall.


Set out transplants of sweet alyssum, candy tuft, baby’s breath, daisy, bacopa, bachelor’s button, pansy, calendula, snapdragon, wallflower, nasturtium, ornamental kale, Iceland poppy and stock.

Set out winter vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower.


Fertilize bearded iris toward the end of the month, then water thoroughly.

Fertilize citrus in January or February. Use one-third of the total nitrogen requirement.

Scatter granular fertilizer along the canopy and water deeply.

Do not feed dormant Bermuda grass.


Continue citrus harvest of grapefruits, mandarins, tangelos, lemons, kumquats, navels and blood oranges.

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Tucson Lifestyle

Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.


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