NORML Conference 2002 

  NORML Conference 2002 

Posted by CN Staff on May 11, 2002 at 20:59:35 PT
By Daniel Forbes 
Source: High Times  

They ran out of beer early at the jammed, raucous, spit-and-baling-wire emergency party that closed this April’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws annual conference in San Francisco. Thirsty guests found thirstful ways to compensate for the suds, and if you ignored the computers and filing cabinets, it was easy to forget you were violating fire codes at an ad hoc shindig at a hotshot law office. The wife and I decamped around midnight, not content with the five cases of water trucked in to replenish the sweat the crowd had been shaking on each other jitterbugging to a 40-piece (stationary) marching band. We landed in a little North Beach boite. At one point, my New Yorker was aghast to see a purse all by its lonesome on the floor by the jukebox. Voicing her alarm, she was told don’t be silly, woman–this is San Francisco. 
NORML convened this year in America’s most tolerant city, its chief prosecutor an acknowledged inhaler, he told HIGH TIMES. During breaks in the demanding schedule (presentations started well before 9 AM. and ran ’til evening), at times 40 or more smokers spilled from the hotel’s side entrance out on to the busy, tourist-trap sidewalk. And not a one, patient or head a like, peered timorously over his shoulder. There were masses of billowing, very public smoke, with tourists and their kids–who as a class, are generally coddled by authorities–gaping from passing trolley cars. Still, police action, even short of arrest, was somehow unthinkable in San Francisco, and not just because the record 560 participants (up from 400 last year in DC) were spending aplenty. And yet, a specter gripped the gathering despite the easy-going gloss lent by geography and numbers. No wraith, it was a federal fist that has struck often to smash, grab and incarcerate. Candidate Bush’s empty promise in 1999 that medical use is a states’ issue (“I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose.”) and his administration’s avowed federalism have proved equally hollow. Launching proceedings, NORML Board chair Steve Dillon admitted, “I love America, but I fear my government I’m ashamed to say.” Former big-time police chief Joseph McNamara, now with the Hoover Institute, warned of the faux drug/terrorism nexus: “Don’t underestimate that. When they mix in patriotism with the war on drugs, almost anything can happen.” The specter grew on the second day as grim news filtered out from federal district court where Judge Charles R. Breyer pondered the fate of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative (OCBC). Wayne Justmann, director of the SF Patients Cooperative, told HT a negative ruling from Breyer is a “done deal,” with cease and desist injunctions served on the 50 clubs that operate openly in California the likely consequence. The frayed DEA leash soon to be further loosened, the local medical marijuana dispensary honchos grinned through their fears, their gallows’ humor growing thin. The numerous patients in attendance, including often the honchos themselves, were just plain frightened. The HIV-positive Justmann, who suffers from neuropathy’s nerve damage and pain, will be forced to turn to debilitating opiates without his normal medicine. Whatever the Feds do, his “pretty continual pain” isn’t going away. Said Debby Goldsberry, director of both Cannabis Action Network and the Berkeley Patients Group, “I don’t want to say we’re in crisis, but boy do we need help.” She added, “But we’re not so scared we can’t organize.” Patient or not, people who to some degree have been running scared all their lives are getting awfully sick of it. As Politically Incorrect’s Bill Maher complained, “We still have to crawl in the alleyway like criminals, and those are the lucky ones who aren’t in prison.” Fear falls on all combatants in this grim, decades-old culture war of attrition, no end in sight. Said Michael Aldrich of CHAMP, “Once marijuana is introduced into a culture, it’s never eradicated.” California state senator John Vasconcellos noted that the Feds are supporting research for administering medicine in pill or aerosol form–“so there’s no joint, which is symbolic of freedom in the 1960s.” He declared that free expression and emotional openness and sexuality all “threaten people with no sense of themselves. They challenge the hierarchy.” Knowing it well themselves, fear is a prime component of the zealots’ arsenal, be they bonafide true believers or motivated by money, jobs or the joy of sheer jack-boot power. You see it in their scared, rabbity eyes, clutching at composure on TV, certainly not least in the figurehead-in-chief struggling to recite his assigned shibboleths. Concern for medical marijuana’s short-term future was the gathering’s palpable undercurrent. That concern mixed with frustration over its often unworkable present. As John Sajo, head of Oregon’s Voter Power, said flat-out that medical marijuana had failed in his state. Then, of course, there’s still the majority of the country where medical cannabis enjoys no legal protection. But, to cite two of many examples, as Maher’s cutting speech and local attorney Tony Serra’s erudite theatrics indicated, defiance also cascaded round the hall–and laughter. Noel Coward said it well in Private Lives: “All the futile moralists who try to make life unbearable. Laugh at them…. Laugh at everything, all their sacred shibboleths.” The Washington, DC-based NORML crew flew west on the wings of their recent PR coup at New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s expense. Last summer, Bloomberg the candidate–striving to be a regular Joe despite his billions–had cracked to a reporter asking about using pot: “You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.” No temporizing, no blaming youthful “experimentation,” just a flat-out, past-tense embrace. The press had a field day, and big posters of the mayor graced the conference stage. But NORML maintained that Bloomberg outed himself, its Executive Director Keith Stroup, declaring, “We weren’t playing ‘gotcha’ with the Mayor.” As Drug Policy Alliance Director Ethan Nadelmann observed, “If we had a billion dollars to spend on advertising, we wouldn’t need to embarrass a potential ally.” Though it’s a mite tough to tell how much of substance is heard over the tittering at the mayor’s expense, NORML is hoping for its money’s worth of political debate on the 52,000 marijuana arrests a year in New York under the Giuliani administration. For his part, freighted now with the hypocritical weight of office, Bloomberg said after the NORML ad hit that such levels of enforcement will continue. Justifiably a bit gleeful at all the salutary attention, Stroup said the fact that Bloomberg “could concede the obvious, that he enjoyed it–it’s fun!–is new territory for a politician.” In fact, this as of now $500,000 ad campaign voiced one of the conference’s main themes. If it won’t cost you a job, or your kids, and you got the guts, then stand up on your hind feet and tell the world: Damn straight you inhale, and you know why? Because pot can make music and food and sex and maybe even sitting and picking at your toes just a bit better. Plus it helps you cope with being the only animal that knows it’s going to die. Confronting the naked power unleashed by all levels of government, attendees conjured ways to beckon the public under their tent. Noting that everything in America is about marketing and image, Maher applauded the Bloomberg ad as a “fantastic start” in winning the hearts and minds of the American people. A late November Zogby poll was much cited. It found that–post 9/11–only a third of voters nationwide support “arresting and jailing nonviolent marijuana smokers,” while three-fifths oppose doing so. And two-thirds of the public oppose “the use of federal law enforcement agencies to close patient cooperatives” that operate legally under state law; only one in four voters support it. Stroup called for the movement to, “Make it clear that never again will we vote for a candidate who wants to treat us like criminals. We have our asses on the line–no one else is doing the heavy lifting for us.” Echoing that theme, Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz charged his audience: “Make sure political candidates answer the question: Where in the Constitution do you find your power to tell adult Americans what to smoke.” What part of the Constitution, the “pursuit-of-happiness” Declaration of Independence, do you not understand, anyway? But Stroup noted the difficulty of winning over the American people, and that it’s a lot easier to stop a bill than actually pass legislation. He was exhausted (“crawling here to the finish line”) and exhilarated closing the conference down on Saturday, 4/20, as he predicted eventual victory. Still, he acknowledged, “It’s hard–we get beat down most of the time.” And he emphasized the point that author and NORML director Barbara Ehrenreich made about drug reform being part of a broader human rights movement; that activists in other struggles are realizing it’s more than just whether people can smoke or not. Taking a page from the civil rights struggle to emphasize the raw political power that applies, California’s Dr. Mollie Fry (a patient advocate who suffered a DEA raid last year), called for annual economic boycotts on the telling dates of both 2/15 and 4/20. “We have to declare days when we refuse to spend money,” she said. Coming out of the closet was seen as the surest route to widespread conversion among the public and their “leaders.” Speaker after speaker termed such declarations–whether publicly or, daunting enough in many cases, just to family, friends and peers–as the way to marshal political power and combat the negative stereotypes the government has been promulgating for the past 65 years. Attorney, publisher and NORML board member Norm Kent, who’s offered to smoke on camera for TV reporters, said that the “PR battle right now is being won by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. We must learn from the gay community and present ourselves as normal people leading normal lives.” A few speakers did so present themselves. In a private interview, San Francisco mayoral candidate and current DA Terence Hallinan told HIGH TIMES. “Sure, I’ve used.” This ex-paramour of Janis Joplin added, after all, “I was there during the Summer of Love.” Maher deserves credit for his torching-the-barricades of prohibition stance. That’s particularly true given that he risked his very rewarding job for daring to ponder on-air last September the relative cojones of the hijackers versus those of the US military–which was then proposing, as indeed turned out to be the case, to bomb from aloft and have others, mercenaries included, do the heavy fighting in Afghanistan. Maher thus sincerely praised–though he asked people to shower him with pot that evening and pot use was implicit in all he said–I didn’t hear a stark declaration from him. Perhaps I missed it as I scribbled. NORML board member Ehrenreich slyly stuck at least her foot out of the closet, saying we could refer to her book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, to learn how as a minimum wage worker, she beat drug tests. Computer millionaire John Gilmore, who has pledged $1 million annually over the next 10 years to end prohibition, did make a stark declaration. Along with pot, he said he’s taken “mushrooms and LSD and various other things, and they changed my world view and informed me how to be in the world.” He said that drugs allowed him to question the fixed reality he encountered, which led to the computer breakthroughs that made him a wealthy man. And, he added, “I’m a better person in the world because I took drugs.” Gilmore acknowledged that coming out entails “high risks.” But, “You can advocate breaking the law as long as there’s not an immediate connection to the law being broken.” Don’t then pull some weed out of your pocket, in other words. He noted also that many marijuana foes have never met a responsible, uncloseted smoker, someone in their life who they respect. Declaring that protecting patients’ rights is “our highest priority,” Stroup nonetheless said, “We have to move beyond medical use…. There are 19 million people just like me who are smoking for the fun of it.” There were frequent analogies to the gay rights movement, which became a powerful political constituency only when gays emerged from their closet. That power helped bar the once common media references to gays as perverts and such. Ethan Nadelmann pointed out that 40 years ago, before the gay closet door swung open, “Everyone knew homosexuals, they just didn’t know they did.” The only ones they heard of were in the news, busted for solicitation. These days, he said, the only high school kids smoking pot that people hear of are “the long-hairs getting in trouble, not the kids getting scholarships.” One speaker offered to help smash the closet door. Practical and publishing oriented, long-time activist and co-author Shattered Lives, Mikki Norris called for people to join her Cannabis Consumers Campaign. Asking people from all walks of life to be photographed and named, she intends to “put a human face on the people who are being scapegoated to let people see that it’s people just like them.” Saying that the media portrays users as losers, thus allowing the drug war to continue, Norris admitted the need for an “image upgrade.” To that end and as part of her larger project, she wants to publish the names and photos of 100 well-known individuals in an eventual newspaper ad she has funding commitments for. Anyone vulnerable to an involuntary “gotcha!”–sign on and shed those fears forever. She has a few commitments from celebrities, mostly television personalities, and is seeking more. Among the 46 questions on the survey she gave participants at NORML is, “Which high profile people have you smoked pot with?” Acknowledging the risks, primarily to one’s job and perhaps even custody of children, Norris’s survey releases her campaign from any liability associated with the “release, dissemination and publication of [these] statements….” Three dozen attendees posed for her Internet-ready digital camera. That she got a relative few from the over 500 delegates shows Norris has taken on a tough project. But, having documented prisoners’ plight, she said it’s a welcome change dealing with non-victims and their rightful place in society. Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, Norris said, “I’d love to see the time when we’re not judged on the content of our urine, but the content of our character.” Inevitably, perhaps, at a political confab, the wider world kept intruding, events demanding attention. Day one featured almost hourly updates on whether Steve Kubby, an adrenal cancer patient whose life is placed at imminent risk when in jail, had been sprung from his Canadian cell or not where he’d landed on a supposed immigration violation. Richard Cowan of, was one of several folks who surfaced periodically with a dramatic update, yeah or nay, on whether Kubby had made bail. After his eventual release, Kubby, a prominent activist and former Libertarian candidate for governor of California, told DRCNET, “I was having vomiting and diarrhea and lost 20 pounds in three days. If I had had to stay in jail another day, I might have been dead.” People got a lift from Americans for Safe Access’s (ASA) inaugural action. Two climbers draped a defiant banner high on a vacant billboard. CAN’s Debby Goldsberry, told HT they stayed up there for hours until arrested, and that they were charged with both trespassing and “mischivousness.” There was also delight at U. federal judge Robert Jones’ ruling that the Feds couldn’t mess with Oregon’s voter-approved assisted suicide law. Jones ruled that, “the Ashcroft directive is not entitled to deference under any standard and is invalid.” Roll that one around on your tongue. Such is the antipathy to Ashcroft, the announcement got the biggest single ovation of the conference. Forget that single, marble breast he’s ordered cloaked, perhaps Ashcroft should worry about the few independent judges out there. Patient advocate Dr. Tod Mikuriya (who estimated his legal fees have averaged $25,000 annually in recent years) calls it “toxic federalism.” One manifestation is the expected federal court ruling on medical marijuana’s Achilles’ heel: distribution. NORML board chairman Steve Dillon pointed out that DEA chief Asa Hutchinson, confidentially flying blind in the face of reams of evidence, recently declared that cannabis offers no medical benefit. On Day Two, 4/19, federal judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California, heard arguments in the Justice Department’s attack on the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative. The case sent back to Breyer by the Supreme Court for a ruling on OCBC’s distribution rights, many observers agreed that his questions seemed to pave the way for granting an injunction against OCBC and other California clubs. Though Breyer seemed uninterested, OCBC argues that the federal government can’t ban intrastate medical use in California, plus that three of the first 10 Amendments provide for patients’ due process rights and that “sovereignty in this matter is specifically accorded to individuals and the states,” according to California NORML.Jeff Jones, OCBC’s director and fellow defendant, told HT that whatever Breyer rules, appeals will probably tie up the case for the balance of the Bush Administration. A negative ruling, Jones figured, does afford the DEA “a blank check to roll out against the California clubs.” There’s little to stop them, Jones said, since “Ashcroft and Hutchinson are not afraid of the media.” But they are afraid of what Jones, a “young Republican,” indicates about the future. Injunctions, of course, invariably lead to law enforcement intervention to justify all that cool cop gear, all those neat health-care-and-pensions-jobs. And the public can rest easier with cancer patients prevented from keeping their food down. Dale Gieringer, Director of California NORML, told the conference that most patients either can’t grow their own medicine or are afraid to. And while 20–25,000 patients in California are supplied by the clubs, of the 51 identified patient groups in California, only half provide any marijuana. The clubs do provide a model of distribution that works–no selling to minors, no selling on the street. The public sees they’re like any other business, which authority figures like Hutchinson find so disturbing, he said. “The clubs are an important step in the socialization of drug use, and that’s what they’re afraid of,” Gieringer added. “We’re in a real showdown, the final battle in the war on drugs, an epic battle involving the courts, Congress and the presidential election.” Pointing to the nationwide fierce struggle over control of the House of Representatives, Wayne Justmann, director of the SF Patients Cooperative, told HT, “Do they want to roll the dice in an election year with the House up for grabs?” Despite a political cost he intends to help extract, as mentioned, he believes cease-and-desist injunctions will be served on the 50 clubs that operate openly in California. Should Breyer rule negatively, Justmann declared that any jurisdictions that have issued ID cards have also assumed the obligation to set up grows and dispensaries. “We’re going to have to challenge the City and County of San Francisco to respond. We appreciate the moral support from politicians on the steps of City Hall, but where will patients go to get cannabis? Prop. 215 says the state must set up programs. If you can get a card from the health department, you need a site to get your medicine.” Gieringer assumes that anywhere from a half-dozen to as many as 35 California clubs and their caregivers will be served with an injunction or even raided within a week to a month after Breyer’s ruling. To that end, he said the DEA has been focusing on tracing clones going in and out of the clubs. “It’s about the manufacturing,” he said. Law enforcement has also been tailing people home from the clubs, Gieringer charged. “There have been multiple, credible reports of people being tailed as far as fifty miles to their homes,” he said. He also knows of at least two unpublicized arrests of “smallish patient grows.” Prominent SF attorney Bill Panzer believes the Feds have obtained evidence against all the Bay Area clubs, in many cases infiltrating them with tales of migraine headaches. Panzer thinks the government will raid six–10 of the largest clubs and the others will close voluntarily. Another observer anticipates around ten raids. Robert Raich, who represents OCBC, knows of one raid where he believes agents followed a patient home from a club and hauled off the princely amount of one plant and one ounce of medicine. Jones, who at age 14 watched his cancer and chemo-stricken father waste away to 100 pounds before dying, assumes that a “cold-hearted” government will eventually drive patients to protest in the streets. Reform philanthropist John Gilmore told HT that thousands of patients will be forced to act, “So new clubs will occur, but not necessarily with the same people.” DEA actions occur without cooperation from one of the reform movement’s main bulwarks, radical former defense attorney and current mayoral candidate and San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan. From a long line of radicals, and arrested sixteen times for political protest as a law student during the 1960s, in a half-hour opening address, Hallinan said “my background is wrapped up in marijuana.” He traced that back to 1966, “an exciting, dangerous time” when possession of “one seed” was a felony that sent thousands to prison. He told war stories of what he termed the “greatest defense bar” in the country, one that wouldn’t tolerate repression or unfairness. Hallinan himself helped the ex-manager of the Kingston Trio escape a bust for 600 pounds of pot with the claim that it was essential to his religious beliefs. As the prosecutor said, “That’s a lot of religion.” But the defense brought in Tommy Smothers and Alan Watts, among others, to discuss mysticism. (Watts’ son, Richard Watts, executive director of the Sixth Street Harm Reduction Center, was one of four medicine providers arrested in February.) And the judge took it from the jury and administered “a slap on the wrist.” As Hallinan said, “I knew marijuana was not the simple drug its opponents depicted it as, that it was many things to many people.” He added, “There is no question in my mind that for some people marijuana is an essential part of their religious experience.” Hallinan spoke of his work, while still a city Supervisor, with Dennis Peron back in 1991 to craft a deal with the chief of police and Mayor Frank Jordan to ensure that “if it was clearly a medical situation, the police officer could turn his back and walk away.” He got a huge ovation telling of going to Sonoma County to testify for Ken Hayes, “a wonderful marijuana activist,” who was being prosecuted for 880 plants. Hallinan testified that Hayes was a “legitimate care giver in San Francisco, supplying those with AIDS and cancer and the dying.” It took a mere six hours for the jury to acquit. With Hallinan backing his opponent, the Sonoma County DA was defeated last November. Another keynote speaker was introduced by Keith Stroup as “our drug czar.” Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann was a bit more subdued than I’ve previously seen him. The ratiocination was present as usual, but he seemed miffed to now be confronting the “banality” of the troika of Ashcroft, Hutchinson and Drug Czar John Walters, who he termed “William Bennett’s Mini-Me”. Citing candidate Bush’s campaign promise on states’ rights, Nadelmann declared that Bush “doesn’t seem to know what he’s saying.” The reform movement seized on Bush’s promise, and we all know what’s happened since. “They throw a few million dollars at treatment, but then pile on the interdiction,” Nadelmann complained, declaring Walters most comfortable with treatment occurring within a prison or church setting. Noting that marijuana is the drug warriors’ “great bugbear,” Nadelmann cited the public’s wide approval for medical pot and pointed to the political hay to be made when “the Birchers of the drug war” go to “the stupidest place imaginable.” As to the government’s “insidious” linking of drugs and terrorism, Nadelmann quipped: “Bin Laden was into marijuana–I didn’t catch that.” He wondered about tee shirts reading: “Support the war on terrorism–Grow your own.” The nation’s 10 or 20 million convictions for petty drug offenses, Nadelmann said, are manifestation of the “totalitarian, dark side of America.” At the street level, a big part of enforcement is sheer bureaucratic gaming. He reported that a high-level New York cop told him, it’s all about meeting his quota, and “the easiest busts are marijuana arrests.” That’s one reason New York’s marijuana arrests leaped to 52,000 a year (up from 2,000) when Giuliani started massaging statistics at the precinct level. Showing high arrest figures, the police source told Nadelmann, serves to cover his butt when something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. Meanwhile, a recent Daily News poll indicated that New Yorkers are more concerned with car alarms and other noise; marijuana didn’t even make the Top 10 list of concerns. The Drug Policy Alliance will soon be opening an office in New Jersey, whose drug policy, Nadelmann said, is akin to civil rights-era Mississippi on race. With the nation’s highest proportion of new inmates incarcerated for drugs, plus its status as the only state without access to clean, legal syringes despite its third-highest pediatric AIDS rate, it’s ripe for attention. And while marijuana is a pivotal issue, he said it moves on a “parallel track” with sentencing reform and other attempts to ameliorate prohibition’s “New Jim Crowism.” Exhortations to come out of the closet aside, attendees, especially high school students, were warned they might be ripped from it involuntarily thanks in part to the Supreme Court. Kevin Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy said that drug testing is the next big battleground, especially for kids. The federal government’s repression of patients notwithstanding, he believes the drug reform movement, long back on its heels, is on the offensive for the first time in years. This momentum is grounded, said Zeeze, “in the integrity of our bodies and the right to control our consciousness.” Yet the recently signed federal education bill provides funds for school drug testing. Given the hostile nature of the Supreme Court’s questioning (including comments on “druggie schools”) of the ACLU’s Graham Boyd arguing a school drug-test case before it, Zeese expects the court to uphold testing for students participating in all extracurricular activities–even the nerds in the Chemistry Club who face no athletic danger and are role models for nobody. Zeese wasn’t the first speaker to note the absurdity here: after-school activities are a prime way of keeping kids from taking drugs. But it meshes with the clever trend since the late 1970s of going after the individuals with the least rights: prisoners, military personnel and now students. He noted that in the mid-’80s, the Supreme Court upheld the “special needs” test for federal workers in safety-sensitive positions, voiding the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause requirement. Zeese said private sector testing is plateauing and actually now declining, not least because new hires in sophisticated fields might take up to two years to add to the bottom line. Government–in part to prop up what Dr. John Morgan of the CUNY Medical School and NORML Foundation chairman terms a $2.5 billion a year industry–seems more than willing to pick up the slack. The Supreme Court is poised to buffalo the nation with a strategy of, in effect, declaring adolescence itself a “special needs” situation. Zeese figured that “kids coming up will have been trained to urinate on demand; some sheep will acquiesce ” But he also hoped that “other kids will do urine drops in the hallways.” There’s a move afoot in some states to test teenagers before they get their first driver’s license. The ground broken with this weak link prepares the way for testing anyone renewing his or her license.  Indicating that two-tiered testing is essential for accuracy, but that it’s not required in the private sector, Dr. Morgan cited some 30,000 tests performed daily for that $2.5 billion a year. Nadelmann admitted the movement has yet to conjure the “natural defense” against the slippery slope of drug testing, a slope the “Supreme Court is greasing up and down the line.” Noting that Bush’s deputy solicitor general has advocated testing every child in America, he admitted the lack of a “short-term, tangible, nuts and bolts response.” And Nadelmann bemoaned “the tens of thousands of jobs victimized–a huge number.” Tongue presumably in cheek, Norm Kent told HT that Office Depot, which proudly proclaims it tests its employees, should move to testing its customers instead and refusing to take money from anyone who fails. Others advocated that everyone everywhere turn in a dirty test all the time. Common Sense for a Drug Policy’s research director Doug McVay told HT it’s “humiliating and embarrassing, pissing on demand. It doesn’t stop anything, it’s symbolic.” The juggernaut of testing will produce a radical backlash he predicted, adding, “The drug warriors are helping us build the reform movement.” The bottom line is workers kept ever fearful for their jobs are less willing to risk calling a pee test down on their heads by asking for more money or messing with a union. Cultivation specialist Ed Rosenthal gave a brief, moving speech. Arrested in February, Rosenthal faces federal charges for cultivating more than 100 plants, which carry a sentence of five to 40 years. Though he “didn’t volunteer” for his role, the issues are clear, he maintained. Possessed of the technical expertise to help patients, he just couldn’t commit the “sin of omission–where you knew you could and should help, and yet you didn’t.” After decrying what he termed the deaths of scores of people killed by cops enforcing marijuana laws, Rosenthal advised his listeners to follow the money. “They felonize and terrorize marijuana users, and then they live off that.” He observed, “There’s no popular anti-marijuana movement–it’s all being paid for.” As to his upcoming trial, he said his co-defendants are being pressured to turn state’s evidence. About his case, he said, “There are no extenuating circumstances, no guns, no money laundering, indeed no money, no other drugs.” Rosenthal remains confident, given the 60-80 percent support locally for medical marijuana. He asserted, “I look forward to being with you this time next year to tell you how we won this case.” It’s a case he figures will cost well over $500,000. The conference’s highlight was a speech by Politically Incorrect’s Bill Maher on 4/20. Stroup introduced him as “a one-man life-line to Todd McCormick.” After an ovation, a droll and polished Maher said, “You’re very kind, and very stoned.” He, on the other hand, was very serious. He observed that “the problem with this drug is complacency. It’s not too hard to get, it’s too easy.” An ineffective government lulls smokers into complacency despite the hundreds of thousands of arrests. And then he launched into a small, controlled tirade about McCormick’s imprisonment. He celebrated, then rejected the pot community’s tolerance and understanding, calling for anger and intolerance. Sick and tired of hiding, he said, “How about zero tolerance for the ridiculous notion that sobriety is the time-tested route to mind expansion?” Maher then reminded us that fighting prohibition is not akin to fighting terrorism: “You can’t win just by putting a flag on your car.” He took hope from the fact that if George Bush during the campaign could convince voters he was a reformer and a Washington outsider, then the public can be convinced of anything. He called for the vast, silent majority of smokers to flee the closet and stand up in this battle, including “prominent people,” though he continued with a sly smile, “I’m not going to mention any names…Harrison Ford, Ted Turner.” Perhaps Maher’s diction left them that crucial whisker of deniability, perhaps not. He noted that the “two shameless beasts” of media and politicians care for nothing but ratings and votes. And he urged Americans to make politicians fear a sizable vote against them “if they try to do what Bush and Gore did: ignore the issue despite their own involvement back when drugs were fun and not the greatest evil in America.” He could forgive Bob Dole, “who was like my father: ‘Now don’t be shooting no pot, son.’ ” But given their “immense drug histories,” Maher declared Bush and Gore beyond forgiveness. He called for a smokeless Million Marijuana March on the Mall in Washington, not a joint in sight to show that potheads have the requisite discipline to change public policy. Finally, asserting that no one ever died from pot–“the worst thing that happens is it makes you eat cookie dough”–he called for “someone to try to kill me tonight.” A doctor begged–somewhat–to differ with Maher on this last point. Dr. Morgan has studied the controversy over Harvard’s Dr. Murray Middleman’s report regarding pot use leading to sudden heart attacks. Morgan noted that smoking anything clearly raises heart rates. “It increases the heart rate and carbon monoxide in the bloodstream,” he said. The bottom line, said Morgan, is that “in men with compromised atherosclerosis, it might precipitate a heart attack or angina.” (Atherosclerosis is fat deposits inside blood vessels.) As to Middleman’s findings, Morgan said, “If you torture the data long enough, it’ll confess.” Noting that Middleman found of 4,000 heart attack patients interviewed, 2.4 percent had smoked pot in the prior year; only 37 individuals (1 percent) had smoked the day before the attack, and nine (0.2 percent) had smoked an hour before. Declaring that these nine folks were male, overweight and sedentary, Morgan concluded, so perhaps “0.2 percent of smokers over age 50 may get a heart attack.” Morgan later told HT that, yes, his warnings, however qualified, about chest pain associated with smoking and any subsequent heart attacks did flirt with heresy. He said, “There’s a tendency in the pot movement to believe that it’s all good. My job as a scientist is to look at instances where that’s not true.” Houston attorney Clay Conrad got the crowd’s attention with his opening statement that “half the rapes in America occur against male inmates.” Conrad’s topic was jury nullification. He quoted Massachusetts’ first chief justice to the effect that “the people themselves have it in their power to resist usurpation without requiring recourse to legislation.” In short, the founders gave that power to juries, in part because one cause of the Revolution was England denying the right to trial by jury. To be done–“to judge the law itself and vote on the verdict according to conscience” (as Conrad’s handout put it)–it must be done covertly, he advised. After all, he said, sometimes a little subversion is necessary on the part of the people, the source of political power. To get on a jury without lying, Conrad recommended resigning from any organizations prior to being called; indicate your questioning neutrality about the drug laws, but that your decision can be made independent of that. Oh, and get a hair cut and look neat, “which may give you a chance to express yourself in the jury room where it counts.” Don’t give any political speech unless you’re sure you’re not being picked. Then it might be advisable to stand up and say: “I could not convict this young man for his harmless act. It could ruin his life, and it’s immoral.” In California and federal courts, watch out for the “snitch rule,” which allows fellow jury members to tell the judge, who can then remove from the jury anyone that “refuses to deliberate or follow the law.” Finally, if by voting your conscience you end up hanging the jury, then “hang with pride.” He directed listeners to the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) for guidance. Pillar of the San Francisco defense bar, Tony Serra orated mightily on the current desecration of the Bill of Rights that has yielded “the first smackings of fundamental, totalitarian, law enforcement-dominated political control.” Of patients’ battles with cops obstructing the law, Serra said they’re “the canaries down in the coal mine as to whether we’ll have a democratic society and constitutional government.” The foremost flower in our “bouquet of rights” that Serra said has been decimated is the Fourth Amendment. With the lack of judicially approved search warrants, electronic surveillance, overflights, “wiretaps increasing like a disease,” he said it’s “a shadow of what it was years ago.” Similarly, the presumption of innocence no longer applies. With defendants now increasingly declared a flight risk and/or a danger to the community or subject to preventive detention, bail doesn’t apply in the federal system and increasingly not in the states as a matter of right, Serra charged. The “psychological torture” of an abusive grand jury system with no discovery, no documents, defendants not present, one that turns family members against one another is also wildly out of control. In days past, informants were tested and needed a track record. They used to be “despised by the populace and the defense bar, scrutinized by judges and not welcomed by prosecutors.” But now, with informants threatened with 20-years-to-life and neither corroborated nor debriefed–plus the use of unsworn statements from alleged co-conspirators in this “Orwellian spy society”–we’re left “swimming in a sea of snitches.” Given the use of RICO and Continuing Criminal Enterprise statutes, “we’re all co-conspirators in the eyes of the government.” Perhaps even worse, Serra said, with the independent judiciary cowed before “the all-powerful executive branch, judges are powerless before the war on drugs.” And the requirement for a unanimous jury verdict is falling away. The misnamed dissident rule shreds the power of the dissident, creative mind. “If you hang a jury, you can renegotiate or retry with an enhanced view of the evidence,” he said. Facing this amalgamation of state power is the increasing respect for medical marijuana, “a symbol that equalizes the opposing forces. It tears down this ugly wall that law enforcement draws around us. So let this flower grow and fructify and prevail.” The crowd bathed in it all a bit and then leapt to its feet. Not on the formal program, but very much a presence at the conference, Bob Newland, the head of South Dakota NORML, was pushing the Common Sense Justice amendment to his state’s constitution. Already qualified for the ballot, it aims to allow defendants “to argue the merits, validity and applicability of the law, including sentencing laws.” Newland pointed out that enforcement of both the Fugitive Slave Act and alcohol prohibition crumpled when juries would no longer convict. His amendment will allow defendants, he said, to argue: Yeah, I did it, I didn’t hurt anyone, and it’s stupid that this is against the law. “People need to be allowed to tell the story of their offense and why it’s a bad law, and then let the jury decide if it is a bad law,” he said. Newland’s group has already raised $70,000 for the effort, in part, because “South Dakota is a cheap state to see if this kite will fly.” Since the conference, Newland said he’s been approached by five or six organizations, including the Cato Institute, to potentially fuel the campaign. Though he hasn’t done any polling, Newland believes if the election were held today, he’d “win in a squeaker.” (No one wants to back the wrong horse, so he naturally touts his chance of victory.) Neither Newland’s ballot effort nor Clay Conrad’s FIJA link their crusades to the War on Drugs. FIJA’s fascinating, dense pamphlet only hints at drugs when it declares that prisons “are filling up with people whose only ‘crime’ was to displease the government ‘master,’ not to victimize anyone.” Voter Power’s John Sajo was less than pleased with raising no money in San Francisco to help pass an amendment that would “expand and clarify” Oregon’s 1998 medical marijuana bill. Sajo told HT that the movement’s big funders and “hired gunslinger” political consultants have made it clear they’ve moved on from medical marijuana ballot measures. This despite the fact that implementation of Prop 215 in California, he told me, is little more than a “box of rough rocks.” In his speech to the conference, he said the law in Oregon plain doesn’t work. Sure it was great to win an election, but there’s been four years of suffering since. With doctors so unwilling to sign patients’ applications, most patients can’t meet Oregon’s qualifying requirements–only 2000 have done so. What’s more, sick and dying people are expected to grow their own medicine. Finally, even qualified patients are still getting arrested and convicted due to snafus in applying the law. So Oregonians are trying to qualify for the ballot and then pass a second initiative that will create state Department of Health dispensaries for registered patients, which is favored by four-fifths of Oregon’s voters. These will distribute free medicine to the indigent; boost the currently small amounts patients can grow and possess; allow caregivers to be compensated; and lower the patient’s application fee. Figuring the time to pass the hat is when people are fired up by the presentations and in a check-writing mood, Sajo decried the fact that fund-raising for his fix-it amendment wasn’t on NORML’s agenda. Believing he needs to raise between $50,000 and $150,000 more than he has to both qualify for and win the election, Sajo is currently limping along raising some $25,000 a month. In response, Stroup told HT that lots of attendees are already stretched thin by the hotel and travel costs of attending the conference. Feeling that overt fund-raising might lessen the level of discourse–and pointing out that NORML loses around $25 per attendee–Stroup said, “I wouldn’t want people to get the impression we’re here to make money off them.” Following the event, the site noted that its “requests for funding went unmet” at the pre-conference NORML board meeting. Citing its modest projected war chest, Voter Power complained that “much of the NORML board meeting involved mutual congratulations” for the Bloomberg ad. The site opined that the ad will serve to embarrass and antagonize Bloomberg, and that NORML hasn’t articulated how the ads will help it achieve its goals, its follow-up efforts or how activists can build on them. A panel examining Richard Nixon’s “marihuana” commission, the now 30-year-old Shafer report, afforded a sad historical perspective. Entitled, “Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding,” the report called for decriminalization of personal use amounts. And, said former NORML director Gordon Brownwell, that was back in the era when a single joint might lead to a life sentence in Texas and up to ten years in California. The commission was mandated by Congress in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, charged with advising lawmakers on how to schedule pot for enforcement. Formed a year later, it delivered its report in early 1972 much to Nixon’s disgust though he had appointed most of the members The commission’s decrim conclusion was particularly tough on Nixon given that its Executive Director, Michael R. Sonnenreich, had, as a senior attorney with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (the DEA’s predecessor), played a key role writing the 1970 Act. Still the law of the land, it ruled marijuana a Schedule I drug along with LSD and heroin. A source close to Sonnenreich told HT that, pending medical study and evaluation, Sonnenreich assumed pot would drop from Schedule I and probably even Schedule II upon proof of its medical utility. A catalyst for the damning Schedule I designation, he assumed his contingent handiwork would be rectified by Congress once the doctors weighed in. Though numerous medical authorities have endorsed pot’s medical utility, one of the Act’s fathers has not spoken out publicly to denounce a law built on a now eviscerated foundation. And we’re all shocked to learn that there’s gambling in Casablanca. Oddly enough, declassified Oval Office tapes of Nixon and former Pennsylvania governor Raymond Shafer’s conversation quote Nixon as saying, “To take somebody that’s smoked some of this stuff, put him into a jail with a bunch of hardened criminals … that’s absurd.” Shafer agreed and Nixon added, “There must be different ways than jail.” Truth from power aside, marijuana arrests rose from 292,000 in 1972 to 735,000 in 2000, according to the FBI. Nixon also told Shafer he wanted “a report that is totally oblivious to some obvious differences between marijuana and other drugs, other dangerous drugs, there are differences.” More Nixonian truth: “It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what we say about drugs, if people want them, they think it’s all proper, they’re going to use them, they’re going to find ways to get it.” A last Nixonian gem: “A person does not drink to get drunk…. A person drinks to have fun.” Whereas with pot, Nixon opined, “You want to get a charge, and float, and this and that and the other thing.” Personally, I wish staunch marijuana opponent Nixon had offered more insight on “the other thing,” but unfortunately the transcript indicates: “34-second portion withdrawn as personal.” A couple of historical footnotes: Raymond Shafer was denied a promised federal judgeship for helping to produce an honest report. And Michael Aldrich entertained listeners with the tale of Allen Ginsberg–cleaned up and unrecognizable in a pork pie hat–joining him in his testimony before the commission. Finally, why in the world did they hold the party at Tony Serra’s law firm? Studio Z, the nightclub NORML, Cannabis Action Network and HIGH TIMES had rented out for a multi-room party starting with several bands that afternoon was just too compromised. There’d been a shooting at the club the week before and an Ecstasy bust the night before. When Studio Z told CAN’s Debby Goldsberry that a raid by the state liquor license authorities was likely–leading to trouble since smoking of any sort is forbidden in California bars, she decided to pull the plug. She told HT that patients needed to medicate at a 12-hour event. She didn’t blame the club, saying they we’re victimized too since the authorities “just don’t want to see people dance.” Though CAN desperately needs the money, some 800 of its ticket buyers, at $22 a pop, were turned away. That afternoon, Stroup had told me no way in hell he was letting the government keep NORML from celebrating the conference. Afterwards, he said about impromptu party at Serra’s office, “Although it was far too crowded, it was a wonderfully weird San Francisco party.” He thanked Goldsberry for pulling it off on only a couple of hours notice “under extremely difficult circumstances.” Personally, I hate to think of the mayhem that would have ensued if it’d been hundreds of boozers crammed into that office for hours on end. Daniel Forbes -- ddanforbes -- writes on social policy from New York.Source: High Times (US)Author: Daniel ForbesPublished: May 8, 2002Copyright: 2002 Trans-High CorporationContact: letters hightimes.comWebsite: Article & Web Sites:NORML's Ad Campaign Pictures Advocates Cheer on Hallinan Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet Maher Urges Crowd at NORML Convention Guys Inhaled - San Francisco Examiner

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Comment #4 posted by overtoke on May 12, 2002 at 09:55:11 PT:

Conference Video
Speeches fromTerence Hallinan
San Francisco District AttorneyBill Maher
Host, Politically Incorrect (GOOD!)Gov. Jesse Ventura
Video appears in Windows media or Real AudioThere is also a transcript of Bill Mahers speech (which could do well has its own news article.)
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Comment #3 posted by Richard Lake on May 11, 2002 at 23:21:00 PT:

I bet you will like the high speed connection!

You have told me about the speeds you are getting sometimes with your modem, Martha. That you accomplish all that you do anyway is simply amazing to me!The link is the place I go most for speed tests. Some really good stuff there under tests.Richard
DSL - - the place for BROADBAND
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on May 11, 2002 at 23:14:04 PT

Thanks Richard
I wanted to add the links from the article but can't barely get around C News or the Net today. I appreciate the links and thank you. I'll be getting my satellite hooked up in the next week or two and can't wait til I can do something besides waiting on pages to load. PS: I know with my luck the day I get the satellite installed will be the only day there won't be any news. Just kidding. Thanks again.
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Comment #1 posted by Richard Lake on May 11, 2002 at 23:02:44 PT:

Some related links
Related: Conference Reports, Pictures, and Video files NORML Conference Report: Ready to Take It to a Higher Level NORML Conference Highlights NORML's photos of the conference Conference photos taken by MAPsters NORML's video files of the conference Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative Cannabis Action Network Voter Power Drug Policy Alliance Common Sense for Drug Policy ACLU 
NORML Conference 2002 
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