Beyond NORML 

Beyond NORML 
Posted by CN Staff on May 21, 2002 at 14:49:07 PT
By Brian E. Albrecht
Source: Plain Dealer
It's a weird sort of success story - how a Cleveland Heights teen's first puff of a joint at age 17 failed to get him high, and yet 32 years later he's "Mr. Marijuana" in Northeast Ohio. Persistence pays off? John Hartman certainly hopes so, as it applies to his more than decade-long campaign for legalization and regulation of the nation's third most popular recreational drug of choice (behind tobacco and alcohol), smoked by an estimated 70 million Americans at some point in their lives. 
Until February, Hartman was president of the Northeast Ohio chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Hartman says he and NORML parted ways over his means of funding the cause through for-profit shops offering a variety of cannabis-themed products including clothing, posters, jewelry and smoking accessories (such as pipes marked "for tobacco use"). NORML Director Keith Stroup describes the parting as amicable, saying the organization is "just more comfortable being totally nonprofit and staying out of the market altogether. "John is still a good friend of ours, and just as much an ally." Hartman plans to continue operating his Cannabis Connections shop in Lakewood, and a similar shop in Warren, while forming a new nonprofit group, the Ohio Cannabis Society, dedicated to reforming state marijuana drug laws. The new direction is the latest of many in a life that few, including the 49-year-old Hartman, ever envisioned. After all, this is a guy who grew up wanting to be a soldier, just like his father who fought in World War II. A guy who spent a large part of his working career as a blue-collar steel-mill employee. An amateur astronomer, musician and gardener. The Sixties - rolled in a wrapping of counterculture and cannabis - intervened. When NORML was founded in 1970, Hartman did his part by slapping the group's "Liberate Marijuana" sticker on his car. As marijuana penalties eased in states around the nation, he figured legalization was just around the corner. Then came the Reagan years, with a get-tough-on-drugs attitude that included the specter of mandatory workplace drug-testing, and one particular evening news report in 1989 that would change Hartman's life. His wife, Molly, recalls, "We were having dinner, watching TV, when William Bennett, the drug czar, came on and said, We're going after the casual marijuana user. That's what this drug war is all about.' "I remember John jumping up from the table, almost in a rage, saying, That's it! I've had it! I'm getting involved, and we're going to change these laws.'" Her husband also remembers that turning point. "I'd worked since I was 11; doing for myself, paying the bills. For them [the government] to say they were going to start drug-testing people and threaten my livelihood, it was just the kick in the butt I needed to get involved. "At that point, it was either get active or grab a gun, and I knew [armed] revolutions don't work." To Hartman, the issue primarily involves individual rights. "If one is to assume that we live in a free society that already allows consumption of such things as alcohol and tobacco - proven to be direct health threats - then to prohibit a substance less harmful than alcohol or tobacco just doesn't make sense," he says. "If you examine the effects of marijuana on society, you won't find anything that says the federal or state government has a vested interest in violating the privacy of responsible users of marijuana," he adds. "The courts have always based their right to outlaw marijuana on a compelling state interest.' I say they're not examining the science, they're relying on reefer madness to make the assumption that a compelling state interest exists." Hartman founded the Northeast Ohio NORML chapter in 1993, organizing informational rallies, marches, concerts and other activities advocating the regulated legalization and medicinal use of marijuana. Today, Hartman still visually fits the role, with long hair, beard, beaded necklace and an attitude that could be appropriately described as mellow. Mellow gets the job done, according to Hartman. "I've never been what I would consider a radical," he says. "I live a pretty conservative lifestyle." No pot parties, no public dope-smoking displays and especially no dealing - activities that could lead to his arrest. Granted, Hartman has a personal stake in the legalization campaign. He smokes marijuana, and uses it to ease the discomfort of dialysis treatment for a hereditary kidney disease. But there's also something he describes as "an underlying drive to try to right a wrong. Somewhere in my life, my mother and father instilled in me that I've got to undo the wrongs and make them right. That's what really drives me." Gordon Friedman, a Cleveland criminal defense attorney and adjunct professor at Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, has worked with Hartman for many years on cases involving arrests for marijuana. "He really believes in what he's doing," Friedman says. "There's no pretext or any phoniness about him. "The issue for him, in large part, is one of freedom of choice," he adds. "John, deep down, is kind of a Jeffersonian conservative who sees marijuana laws as being intrusive, in terms of an individual's private life - that what people do behind closed doors is their business." Hartman discovered early on that closed doors are no shield when it comes to marijuana. While in high school, police raided his house, seeking pot plants. Hartman had been cultivating an indoor marijuana garden without success. "My brother kept sabotaging my science experiment' by poking the stalks with a straight pin," he recalls. "I'd doctor them up, but the damn things kept falling over. This happened four or five times, and then his cat decided to use the whole thing as a litter box." So the police found no plants, but Hartman says, "I've always thought of that as a learning experience in terms of keeping your private life private. Apparently some friends' had snitched on me, so I learned right away that people will do bad things in the drug world." Today, Hartman walks a fine line - essentially advocating for those who use marijuana, without promoting it to those who don't. Not everyone agrees with his efforts, including the Reverend Richard McCain, executive director of the Substance Abuse Initiative of Greater Cleveland, a group formed in 1989 to combat drug abuse among youth. Though McCain defends Hartman's right to speak for the legalization of marijuana, that's about all the slack this pastor of the Southeast Church of Christ is willing to cut anyone on the issue. "It's important for people to understand that it's not an easy answer just to say OK, let's legalize it and put some regulations around it and go from there,'" McCain says. "What we're saying to teens is that, Well, it's not that bad, it's legal' - which is already the attitude in many ways concerning alcohol and tobacco." Plus, "we look at marijuana as both a gateway as well as a dead-end drug," McCain says. "Teens usually start their introduction to drugs with alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, and that often leads to a progression of other drugs." Hartman says his father also has been less than enthusiastic about the marijuana campaign. "I'm sure he's not happy about it," he says. "But I think he's come to accept it, that I'm not a bad person." Hartman says his mother came to accept his views on marijuana before she died in 1987, only advising, "Don't get in any trouble I can't get you out of." His sister, Anna Estep, of Norwalk, recalls, "Mom thought he'd grow out of it. She thought it was just a temporary thing." But the 48-year-old Estep isn't surprised at the dedication of her brother (known among family members by his middle name, Michael). "Mike always stood up for what he believed, and if he believed in something, he was really gung-ho for it," she says. His younger brother, 46-year-old Walker Hartman, of Sullivan, also says John Hartman's activist roots may extend back to the old school days when "he'd always help out people. If one of the kids was overweight or not the most perfect kid, Mike would be right there for him." He adds that times may have changed for many folks raised in the free-spirited social activism of the Sixties and Seventies, but not his brother. "Some of us changed, and gave up the party scene and raised families," he says. "But Mike has seen a lot of people get hurt by what he feels are unjust laws, and he's kind of fighting for them." John Hartman says he did catch flak from some relatives, though, when his late grandmother - a no-nonsense, farm-raised woman who liked to smoke, drink (her nickname was "Six-Pack Annie") and play cards - once asked to sample some marijuana-laced banana bread Hartman had baked, then promptly took a nap. Hartman recalls she said it was the most restful sleep she'd had in 20 years. In attempts to reach a broader audience, Hartman unsuccessfully ran for Lakewood City Council last year, and the Ohio District 17 House seat in 2000. Hartman, who describes himself as a "liberal Libertarian," shrugged off the setbacks. "I got to participate in the debates, and one of the most important things was, win or lose, getting our views out there," he says. But the campaigning and activism stops at the doorstep of the 83-year-old Lakewood house he shares with his wife of 25 years, Molly, 48. She was his high school sweetheart, and says, "He's basically the same gentle, kind-hearted, always-looking-out-for-the-underdog, compassionate man I fell in love with." She notes that it did take some patience and understanding during the early years of activism, when her husband ran his office out of their home, taking over the dining room and a bedroom. But nowadays, the house is a no-marijuana refuge, a place just to enjoy life, in a deliberate separation of interests, John Hartman says. There, he can gaze at Jupiter through his 10-inch telescope; strum along to his favorite Bob Dylan and George Harrison songs while remembering bygone days as a roadie for assorted high school rock bands; raise a few herbs (no, not that one); and plant crocuses to form a front-yard peace symbol. Molly Hartman, who recently lost her job in the purchasing department at LTV Steel, will be handling the shops, allowing her husband to concentrate on the nonprofit Ohio Cannabis Society's activism, membership and organizing. He expects both their household and business budgets will operate on a "bare-necessity-plus-a-little" basis for a while. "But that's OK. We're at a point in our lives where we really don't need a lot," he adds. Hartman also is dealing with a heightened sense of his own mortality that arose when a genetic kidney disease (which also struck his mother and sister) forced him from work and hooked him to a dialysis machine eight years ago. Hartman says a recent near-fatal blood infection hit hard, prompting the realization that, "I could be here 20 years, 10 years, or maybe two. I just don't know." That awareness lends an urgency to the direction Hartman is taking the Ohio Cannabis Society, in terms of creating an active board and possibly a paid director who could assist Hartman in what has been, until now, a largely one-man local campaign. "I want to do certain things before I die," he adds. "I want to take a trip out West. It's something I've always wanted to do." He'd also like to see marijuana legalized in his lifetime. But even if it happened tomorrow, Hartman says that after a short break - maybe that trip out West - he'd be back in the fray. "I might focus on making sure that whatever safeguards are established [barring adolescent use] are maintained so it doesn't end up like alcohol," he says. The persistence comes as no surprise to his wife. "He lives and breathes that issue. He'll take it with him to the grave," she says. It's a marijuana commitment of a different sort; a dedication to advocacy and activism perhaps equally reflective of an observation Hartman once made regarding his personal marijuana consumption. "I've always said that I'll stop doing it when it's no longer fun, and it's still fun." Plain Dealer reporter Brian E. Albrecht's favorite drug of choice is caffeine. Source: Plain Dealer, The (OH)Author: Brian E. AlbrechtPublished: May 19, 2002Copyright: 2002 cleveland.comContact: letters plaind.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:NorthCoast NORML Patient Links Lives - Cleveland Free Times is Hardly Normal for Lodi Group Writes Bill Proposal on Marijuana Use 
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Comment #9 posted by qqqq on May 22, 2002 at 04:03:37 PT
..That was an excellent binge...I enjoyed "excuse" needed.......
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Comment #8 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2002 at 19:45:11 PT
Excuse the binge- but a cow fell victim to the...
Ironically, the state where the cow fell victim to the War on Drugs was once the number one producer of hemp.4 And nobody smoked it.There is a lesion in our national memory banks regarding the role of this plant in our history.5 How do we reconcile the heinous character of this plant with the fact that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were dedicated hemp farmers? (The former said, "Sow it everywhere" and the latter invented a hemp brake.) How is it that hemp was safe enough to be used as legal tender in colonial times, yet the curators of the Smithsonian Institute found it necessary to remove all reference to hemp from their displays?Hemp is the common name for the fiber-yielding plant botanists call Cannabis sativa. "Cannabis" and "canvas" have the same etymological root. A sense of the significance of Cannabis to human culture and its geographic distribution can be gleaned from the linguistic record (Table 1).anascha-Russia kendir-Tartar 
bangi-Congo khanchha-Cambodia 
bhang-India kif-North Africa 
bhanga-Sanskrit konop-Bulgaria 
canaib-Ireland konope-Poland 
canarno-Portugal Spain konoplja-Russia 
canape-Italy liamba-Brazil 
canna-Persia maconha-Brazil 
cannapis-Rumania majum-North Africa, India 
chanvre-France marihuana-Mexico, America 
charas-India intsangu-South Africa 
dagga-South Africa kanapes-Lithuania 
dawamesk-Algeria kanas-Brittany 
diamba-Brazil kanbun-Chaldean 
djamba-South Africa kanebosm-Hebrew 
esrar-Turkey, Persia kanebusma-Aramaic 
ganja-India kanep-Albania 
ganga-Malaya karmab- Arabia 
ganjika-Sanskrit kannabis-Greek 
grifa-Spain, Mexico kanopia-Czechoslovakia 
haenep-Old English matakwane-Sotho (South Africa) 
hamp-Denmark mbangi-Tanzania 
hampa-Sweden momea-Tibet 
hampr-Finland nsangu-Zulu ( Africa) 
hanf-Germany qunubu-Assyrian 
hanpr-Norway so-la-ra-dsa-Tibet 
haschisch-France suruma-Ronga ( Africa) 
hashish-Africa, Asia takrouri-Tunisia 
hemp-Great Britain umya-Xhosa (Africa) 
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Comment #7 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2002 at 19:34:16 PT
Oh, link.
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Comment #6 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2002 at 19:32:52 PT
Boyond NORML & Boyond NORML & Boyond NORML 
Fiber Wars: The Extinction of Kentucky HempChapter 1: Once Upon a Timeby David P. West, Ph.DThe scene is a dairy farm in east-central Wisconsin, August 21, 1993. On its fifth pass over the farm, the helicopter comes in low and hovers. The farmer's terrified, triple-A, artificially-inseminated cow tries to leap the fence, breaks her leg and in three days is dead, calf lost. The newspaper report explains that "Local authorities have been using the National Guard helicopters in the area to search for wild marijuana patches." According to their press release, the Wisconsin Department of Narcotic Enforcement's Project CEASE removed 9.3 million hemp plants in 1993 in Wisconsin. "Hemp," they explain, "is the plant from which marijuana is extracted."1
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Comment #5 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2002 at 19:23:38 PT
Prohibition promotes increase.
But by 1393 the use of this substance in the Arabian territory had increased. We have so many examples of attempted cannabis prohibition, that failed. We've seen primative prohibition. We have seen 1st nation, techno prohibition. The lesson comes cheep, but for those who wish to go and spend it all... the lesson is the same.Prohibition doesn't work. And History says the lesson doesn't work either. 
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Comment #4 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2002 at 19:14:28 PT
LINK who were convicted of eating the plant should have their teeth pulled out... IS BEYOND NORMAL. But now the SWATSTIKA will kill you either way. Of course, they will actually be helping you.Be sure to get the best help the evil offers.
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2002 at 19:09:46 PT
It is recorded that in the year 1378 the Emir Soudoun Sheikouni tried to end the abuse of Indian hemp consumption among the poorer classes by having all plants of this description in Joneima destroyed and imprisoning all the hemp-eaters. He ordered, moreover, that all those who were convicted of eating the plant should have their teeth pulled out, and many were subjected to this punishment. The habit of smoking hashish is very popular among the poorer classes. Among the greater part of them, especially among the camel and donkey driver, More, interesting... PHANTASTICA - From the 1931 translation by P.H.A. Wirth--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Hallucinating Substances
Indian Hemp: Cannabis Indica
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Comment #2 posted by freedom fighter on May 21, 2002 at 18:14:27 PT
Any Question?
"I've always said that I'll stop doing it when it's no longer fun, and it's still fun." Oh gee, I got an illegal smile on my face..ff
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on May 21, 2002 at 15:25:29 PT
But which end is he talking out of?
Plus, "we look at marijuana as both a gateway as well as a dead-end drug," McCain says.Huh?Do these people listen to themselves ever?A gateway that is a dead end -- maybe he's a pastor in the Southeast Church of Surrealism.
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