The War on Shoes

Brief by Don Olsen

Law – September 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

Last spring I bought a pair of Nikes down at the mall, thinking they would be my summer work shoes.

But in about two weeks, the Nikes fell apart, literally, right before my eyes. I vowed never to buy such rotten shoes again, and found a pair of canvas sneakers in a catalog that were advertised to last much longer than other shoes because they were made with hemp.

Well, I like the idea of hemp, so I ordered a pair. The shoes arrived in the mail the other day, and they are indeed handsome, rugged-looking shoes.

But prominently displayed on the side of the shoes is a “HEMP” label, and I got to wondering if the police drug warriors might go after me for my shoes if I wore them in public, since hemp is a distant cousin of marijuana.

Delta County Sheriff Bill Blair thought about it a moment and said they’re “probably okay. I don’t see any problem with them as long as they’re only a by-product.”

Feeling more assured, I decided to confirm that with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, a strange undercover group of drug warriors who operate on the Western Slope out of Montrose. I remember the CBI because they were the ones who used a snitch to persuade a young, single mother in Delta to buy a quarter ounce of pot for them. I spent a week reporting this trial, and the CBI eventually lost the case because the jury felt it had entrapped the girl. But I was always impressed with the sheer aggressiveness of this outfit.

Would the state arrest me for wearing hemp shoes?

“Being arrested is a possibility if you’re stopped,” said a CBI agent I talked to in Montrose.

What about all the ranchers up here who still might have some of that old hemp hay-baling twine laying around? I asked.

“We’d have to look at reasonable standards and how its being used,” she said. “But it’s actually illegal, I suppose.” Oh my gosh! Well, I decided to call the Western Slope office of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Their agent said I was probably okay.

“I would never arrest you for wearing those kind of shoes. There are a lot of legitimate products made with hemp,” she said. “But I suppose if you see a CBI agent on the street, you should walk the other way.”

“And don’t attempt to smoke your shoes,” she added.


Don Olsen edits the Valley Chronicle in Paonia, where this was first published.