PHOTO: Lindsay Fox, Flickr CC-BY

Today the Minnesota Reformer published my latest essay about about the new $68 million cannabis facility proposed for a shuttered Grand Rapids factory. The short version is that I’m skeptical. The long version gets to the root of that issue.

The title of this post refers to the notion of commercial weed on the Iron Range, but goes deeper than that. William Kennedy’s 1983 novel “Ironweed” has nothing to do with marijuana. It’s about a Depression-era ex-ballplayer from Albany, New York who becomes a bum after accidentally dropping his baby son. Jack Nicholson starred in the movie adaptation.

The story spans three days including Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day — a time when the weather gets colder and memories hang thick on bare branches. Francis Phelan, the main character, returns home to Albany after years on the road. As he reconnects with his estranged wife and adult children, he is accompanied by silent ghosts of all the people whose deaths he feels responsible for causing. There are many. These ghosts, collectively, are the antagonist of the story. They prevent him from changing.

So it goes on the Iron Range, today and ever since I can remember. Generations haunted by ghosts of economic trauma.

Read the full essay (which does not include any further literary criticism) at the Minnesota Reformer.


  1. Dawnette Davis says

    Hi Aaron,
    I really appreciate this essay. I know the manufacturing plant in question started out as Blandex. The making of Blandex required the gluing together of wood fragments to create a sheet of building material. I can’t imagine growing a product inside a facility that is permeated with that glue/adhesive that is meant to be consumed. Tell me it is going to be safe to ingest the products of this plant in any form on any level.

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