Murder in West Denver: The Mysterious Case of Colorado’s Cannabis Renegade

Murder in West Denver: The Mysterious Case of Colorado’s Cannabis Renegade

Ken Gorman was leading Colorado's charge to legalize marijuana. Then, he was shot to death in his West Denver Home. The case was never solved.

CultureApril 06, 2023 By Will Brendza

Real revolutionaries are always gunned down — Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, MLK, RFK, Harvey Milk, John Lennon, Tupac. If you’ve got radical ideas about love, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and people are listening to you, well, you might as well start organizing your own wake. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, dear renegade, it tolls for thee. 
Why wouldn’t it? Dissidents who stand up to throw stones at the status quo present a threat to those it supports. The Powers That Be, the Shadow Government, the Illuminati, the Oligarchy—whatever you want to call them—can’t tolerate revolutionaries like that running around, spreading ideas like “world peace,” stirring people up with viral notions of personal freedom. Inevitably, bullets fly and radicals die. Sometimes it’s a staged suicide. Sometimes it's framed like an accident or a robbery. Denver has its own such story. 
Once upon a time, at the peak of the government’s War on Weed, a man was leading Denver’s charge to legalize marijuana. This Vietnam vet was a staunchly anti-government, anti-establishment pot libertarian; a constant thorn in the side of the Denver Police Department; a pro-cannabis bullhorn.
Ol’ Ken was a real rebel. He was also the founder of Denver’s previously annual 4/20 rally at the Capitol. It started with just Gorman and a few friends getting together to smoke in protest on those stately steps. But the gathering grew into one of the largest and most unwieldy cannabis legalization events in the world, with as many as 75,000 people attending at its height.  
Then, one cold night in February 2007 Gorman was shot to death in his West Denver home. It looked like a robbery gone wrong. Which could have made sense. At the time, Gorman was a medical provider growing large quantities of high-grade cannabis. He’d been robbed before. 
But this time, after the thieves put two expertly placed bullets into Gorman’s 60-year-old heart (before he could even lift his shotgun) they fled the scene; leaving behind stacks of cash and bags upon bags of cured, dried, and packaged cannabis. 
The case was never solved. But Denver lost a homegrown revolutionary that night. And simultaneously, the Powers That Be lost a thorn in their side. The oppressors sighed with relief.
And to this day, all we have are theories.

Theory #1: A robbery gone wrong
In 2007, cannabis was still illegal in Colorado and our black market still had a strong appetite for the Good Herb. Medicinal providers like Ken, who were growing the highest quality, dankest dank, were often targeted for robbery by gangs and hard criminals. Ken had a lot of green on hand the night he was murdered (bud and cash). He was a prime target. 
But then, had it really been a robbery, why would the thieves leave all that green lying there? Even if the goons were spooked by their own gunshots, why wouldn’t they take something before fleeing? 

Theory #2: DPD
If there was one group that Ken Gorman pissed off more than anyone, it was the Denver Police Department (DPD). The police knew Ken well. He’d been arrested many times and charged with tons of crimes—though he was only ever convicted of possession of pornography. He was fueling the fire of underground cannabis. He was advertising cannabis delivery in the local newspaper at a time when such an act was a blatant felony. And he was organizing public pot consumption rallies at the capitol. 
DPD was a sworn enemy, of sorts, for Ken Gorman. And if anyone had the motive to pull the trigger, and the ability to mismanage the investigation thereafter, it was DPD. And boy did they mismanage the investigation. Whether or not they killed him, DPD was undoubtedly responsible for fumbling Gorman’s murder case.

Theory #3: The CIA? The FBI?
Look, the CIA was undoubtedly responsible for the assassinations of MLK, RFK, and John Lennon. Maybe Tupac as well. By comparison, Ken Gorman was a small fish. They wouldn’t even have had to use one of their time-tested Manchurian Candidate hypno-assassins, or Zero-Dark 30 strike squads for a small-time activist like Gorman.
But then, you’d think the CIA or FBI would have been smart enough to take a couple of bags of weed and a few thousand dollars to at least make it look like a robbery. 

Theory #4: The Cartel
Gorman was a spearhead for the legalization movement. And his success could have put a serious gash in the cannabis income of the Drug Cartels. It’s been theorized that his death was a Cartel hit. However, usually, the cartel claims responsibility for hits that are meant to send a message.