'Anyone Here a Cop?'

'Anyone Here a Cop?'
Posted by CN Staff on June 08, 2003 at 14:52:54 PT
By Sarah Sabalos, Staff Writer
Source: The State
Members of Columbia's first-ever chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) meet weekly in a roomful of smoke, but not the kind you think.Every Thursday at 7 p.m., 15 to 20 people gather at the back of Delaney's in Five Points with a large supply of cigarettes, spinach dip and a dream: The repeal of anti-marijuana laws that punish adult users.
"Responsible use is really the key," says Hank Koch, the chapter president, over the background din of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. "For example, you don't drive under the influence, you don't give it to kids‘... . Stop arresting for responsible use."Someone asks if he's afraid there might be a police officer in the room."Is anyone here a cop?" he bellows, and it's like someone pressed a MUTE button in the ceiling. The room is as silent as a funeral home for a full three seconds."We all know we're going to be infiltrated," Koch continues as the chatter tentatively resumes, "so we're very careful. The rule in NORML is, never do anything that reflects badly on the organization - don't bring drugs to a meeting; don't hold meetings where illegal activity is taking place."He's not being paranoid. According to national NORML, anywhere from 50,000 to 65,000 people are in jail today for marijuana-related offenses. One goal of the more than 100 chapters in the United States - including three in South Carolina - is to turn that around.Whoever says pot kills all motivation might want to check out Delaney's on a Thursday night.The room is full of talk about starting a legal defense fund, as well as one for scholarships. The group is proud of having raised the most money of all the groups that participated in a local PALS AIDS Walk, and of its rallies in front of the State House. They animatedly discuss the drug's medical and industrial uses, privacy rights in post-9/11 America, the impact of decriminalization in other nations and how way awesome Amsterdam is in the summertime.In fact, the group is raffling off an opportunity to see Europe's premier playground firsthand - some lucky person will win a trip to Amsterdam for the 16th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup."How many tickets did we sell this week?" Koch asks., shaking out a bag of buttons that read "No Victim, No Crime" and "Fight Terrorism, Buy Domestic.""Aren't raffles against the law?" someone shoots back.Everyone cracks up.The meeting turns serious when it's time to discuss renting a booth at the State Fair in October. It'd cost $50 to submit an application (which may be denied); $350 to rent a booth; and volunteers to staff it for 10 14-hour days."Everyone has to be able to discuss medical, industrial, and decriminalization - intelligently - with anyone who comes up," says Koch.Between bites of chips and dip, the members weigh that job against the opportunity to glean new members - members who add to the group's local political clout.A few people here are new members themselves, including husband and wife Jason Collinsand Roxanne Spray. A software engineer and a student who describe themselves as civil libertarians, they're concerned about government intrusion into private lives."Let's face it, smoking anything is bad for you," Collins said. "But the point is, it's an adult decision. What you do in the privacy of your own home is your own business.""Every age, race and social demographic has smoked marijuana," says a woman sitting across from him. "It's so - no pun intended - normal." Note: Marijuana group grows from the grass roots.Source: State, The (SC)Author: Sarah Sabalos, Staff WriterPublished: June 07, 2003Copyright: 2003 The StateContact: stateeditor thestate.comWebsite: -- NORML Archives
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