NORML Left Its Booth, Caused No Fuss

NORML Left Its Booth, Caused No Fuss
Posted by CN Staff on April 18, 2004 at 14:54:29 PT
By Otis R. Taylor Jr., Staff Writer
Source: The State
Henry Koch chilled out on a sunny, crisp Saturday afternoon. Koch said it was his “hollow” hemp shirt that kept him from sweating as he mingled with fans at Columbia’s 3 Rivers Music Festival.“I thought you weren’t supposed to be out of your booth,” Alex Dingnam, a 13-year-old Hand Middle School student, said as he walked by. “We get that sometimes,” said Koch, president of the Midlands Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Then he went back to handing out fliers and “freedom cards” because it was his right to do so.NORML had sued 3 Rivers Music Festival and Columbia city officials over a policy, which is new this year, that prohibits nonprofit groups from leaving their assigned booths to distribute materials.The festival told a federal judge Friday that it would not kick out activists who stroll around distributing fliers, despite the policy.The lawsuit put the spotlight on the role a big festival has as a free-speech forum.Koch, his materials-holding hand always outstretched, actively engaged people in conversation. He even handed a flier to Columbia City Councilman E.W. Cromartie, who rode by in a golf cart.Koch shrugged and smiled as the councilman drove off.“This is what should be normal,” he said. “They advertise as a festival of diversity. We feel this is a message that needs to be told.”With a lei made with fake marijuana leaves around his neck, NORML member Brian Hannon passed out fliers.He said people have been stopping by the group’s booth saying, “We’ve read about you in the newspapers” or “We’ve seen you on TV” since the festival gates opened.“I love it because everybody knows we’re here now,” Hannon said.And there were plenty of visitors to NORML’s Park Street booth Saturday afternoon.“I smoke too much for it to be illegal,” said one man who got a button for his $1 donation.One woman said, “I better not talk to you long. They’ll think we’re up to something.”NORML’s booth was flanked by the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Prevent Child Abuse South Carolina. The booth attendants for the organizations sat at tables and didn’t approach festivalgoers.Koch approached as many people as he could.Among other things, the NORML flier states that “the laws on the books make a plant that grows wild and unattended by humans illegal.”The “freedom card” offers advice for people when confronted by police.Sonya Shokoohi made her friend Chantelle Cormier stop at the NORML booth because she saw a voter-registration sign. Shokoohi didn’t know the recent history of NORML and the festival when she was handed a flier.“I’m not easily offended,” she said after reading a bit. “I think everybody needs to be heard.“Everybody has an opinion.”Connie Davis, who stopped by the booth with her husband, John, on their way to the Wachovia Stage, agreed.“It’s about freedom of speech,” she said. “People have a choice to take the (flier) or not.”Note: Pro-marijuana group allowed to distribute fliers around festival despite new policy.Source: State, The (SC)Author: Otis R. Taylor Jr., Staff WriterPublished: April 18, 2004Copyright: 2004 The StateContact: stateeditor thestate.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Midlands NORML Rivers Officials Won’t Bar Activists Group Sues 3 Rivers Festival Reform Group Wins Booth
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Comment #13 posted by breeze on April 19, 2004 at 17:59:22 PT
Offensive versus informative
Truth, please, feel free to send her anything I have ever said!Fom- never sweat the small stuff. I think what you mean is simply that people should be kinder to one another, and not be so quick to let loose of their tounges when they see an opportunity to harm another with a verbal assault. This type of thing is never considered "free speech," but instead, bad taste. The same can be said for rumours, speculation, and innuendo.This is exactly what many are fighting against- the lies, and the false representation against anything that is positive about the use of marijuana- sometimes termed propaganda- which is known to be an intentional lie designed to damage another person or thing's credibility, ability, or use.It is imperative that the American public be told the truth about a lot of issues, issues that they have been lied too about for far too long. Since the political people and those with singular power aren't willing to do this, and in fact, exploit "the truth about drugs" when it is actually the opposite is just one facet, one fraction of the many reasons why marijuana is viewed the way it is by the population who don't even know what it is.My uncle once told my cousin "...not to let anyone put any of that marijuana in your drink." A knee jerk reaction would be to assume that my uncle is stupid, and that might be debateable - :) -but the truth is that he just had no idea what marijuana is. He is not that much different from the rest of those who are for prohibition, but are only going by what they are TOLD to believe.George Carlin's seven dirty words COULD be updated now, by todays standards, this is only because of the way that the language is changing and how people view certain words and the images that they inflict in the minds eye. WAR should top the list, because of the destruction that it brings and leaves behind in its wake.
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Comment #12 posted by Truth on April 19, 2004 at 07:47:51 PT
Wow, well said. I'm sending a copy to my mom, maybe she'll understand.
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on April 19, 2004 at 07:43:46 PT
What I Mean Is This
In society some people abuse others with words. I don't think that is right but it shouldn't be against the law. Words that attack a person rather then an issue have always bothered me. George Carlin's 7 words you can't say on TV should be allowed so it isn't swear words but how words are used. Maybe I shouldn't even comment because I don't want to upset anyone but this might explain what I'm trying to say better. 
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Comment #10 posted by breeze on April 19, 2004 at 06:37:12 PT
Well- I am certainly afraid to say anything
 BUT I WILL!What disturbs me the most, is that free speech is not the actual issue at hand, but that the right TO HAVE free speech is. It is apparent that some forms of expression is simply not meant for adolescent minds. Unfortunately, many adolescent minds are in power in many areas of our nation- not just political,but social, and in the work place and they adjust their laws and means to command, master and "serve" the adult population as though they are adolescents.Once you get to the point of discussing what is appropiate behaviour, and what is not- you have again put some people in a box- as FOM stated.Not ALL information should be revealed to children, simply because it is intellectually stimulating. Where children deserve protection, they frequently don't recieve it. And thus the issue of free speech begins. I learned the most used and abhored curse word "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" when I was six years old. I had no clue what it meant, NO idea that is was even a curse word- but it just sounded ugly to me. Guess who I learned this word from. I learned the words from my cousin of equal age.Does this make me a bad person? No, I didn't learn to use the word in its proper form until I was ten, four years later.I had possesed knowledge that stole away a part of my innocence, it sounded ugly when spoken aloud. But it made a difference in me in that it felt good that I at least had a glimpse of the future, that I knew something that I could use to defend myself verbally, and it was something I wasn't supposed to know until I was old enough to understand its vulgarity.Well, free speech is the same thing. We use knowledge to inform others of things that they do not know, but indeed SHOULD know in order to prepare themselves for the future. It may contain information that is shocking and depressing, but not intended as empty information now days reffered to as "shock value"- "shock value" is some of the things people do to promote ideas, movies, music, lifestyles. It steals innocence,certainly, but it makes people aware of the real world around them. Truth reveals the ugliest things in the most sacred of places for some folks.Television wandered off into the territory of shock value, and it brought the censors out of their closets to shut most ADULT content programming down. The ratings system from years back was ineffective, and confussing at best. And so now, there will be no more shock radio, no more nudity during daytime or night time television, no more glamour magazine covers glaring at me seductively as I buy my loaf bread and my gallon of milk.The slim lines between offensive reality, and brutal truth are only disseminated by the viewer. When officials try to blur the obvious, and clarify thier own lies- you end up with a movement, a call for intellect, a strength in numbers that rivals their power of propaganda.This is free speech. Free speech gathers people into a direction, it forces them to think about things that they chose, conciously or unconciously to NOT think about. When free speech is being used in a postive manner, it is shut down and hidden away, made illegal and touted to be offensive when it demonstrates need for change of HOW things have been done in the past. Politicians hate change. They have power, and they seek even more power. Ignoring the truth will not make it go away, stopping free speech only makes the messanger more earnest in their efforts to be heard- and IF enough voices are raised, the whisper turns into a roar. Activists in many organizations have been calling for laws against marijuana to be recended for years. They have insited that talking to the law makers is the only way to make the changes. The law makers have made it apparent that they are deaf to these cries for logic. So, with free speech, the message is taken to the bosses of those politicians- the VOTERS. If the message of sensible regulation of cannabis is OVERSHADOWED by the elect, overcome by expensive television and radio advertisements, and billboards, school programs and a vast array of other tools that just prove themselves to be ineffective in protecting people from their own behaviour, then free speech is the last tool a person who knows different has to get the message across to the majority. To approach John Kerry with the issue is nothing more than a waste of time, as he sees the public as being FOR prohibition of drugs, and marijuana.Polls have their purpose, but only if they are used properly. Writing letters to congress and other leaders only works when tons, TONS of mail show up on the door step. To get the point across, free speech has to be used. It HAS to be used on a local level, and it has to be forward, direct, and on some degree- disturbing. A man is complacent and docile when he believes he is not being affected by forces above him, but that man becomes a different creature entirely when he KNOWS those forces are affecting him or someone he loves.That is what free speech does, and that is what free speech is/was designed to do. It would not have been the first thing on a list of freedoms guaranteed by our constitution, for the great thinkers of that time were in general agreement that if a man can NOT dissent, then there is no longer freedom and this country would no longer be free.Grasp, if you will- the need for passing along pamphlets with a few short words that force the reader to consider anothers position on a very social problem. The pamphlet will certainly be offensive to some, for it takes away that compforatable feeling one achieves when they are asleep. It destroys that "I don't have to do anything, someone else will do it for me" attitude because it shakes their beliefs in the lies to the core. For some people, the words "Vote for ME" are simply enough to pacify them to vote for the guy that says "vote for me" the longest and the loudest. But, by using the words- "think about how this will effect you later in life, as well as your childrens well being in the future" and you have used free speech to help that person understand the problems at hand, and the sad state of just voting for the guy with the most advertising.You have to get local- you have to reach out to those that you can, and you have to inform them. You have to do it, other wise, it will never be finished- and your years will pass you by until you are old and grey and in a vulgar voice of regret you will be saying to yourself, "IF I would have only TRIED to make a difference, If I would have only TRIED to change things for me and my family.If I would have just said something instead of nothing,IF..."I am fortunate enough to have made aquaintance with a small group of these people who seek to make a better world, for my world is the boundaries of my homeland, the clasp of my neighbors hand, the nation where I was born and where I will die. I have become one myself because of this need- this uncompromising desire for living in a land that is free from oppression of trivial laws that prove themselves to be harmful to the greater good. I have been very fortunate in this respect.Have you?
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Comment #9 posted by BigDawg on April 19, 2004 at 04:43:53 PT
Ahhh the "Free Speech" conundrum
The courts have ruled that certain speech is NOT protected... and that is "fighting words."The words spoken by the bully would not be protected. If the words are not intended to incite violence... then it is protected... or at least it used to be.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on April 18, 2004 at 23:08:47 PT
No I Don't Mean It That Way EJ
An example. Let's say there is a bad school bully and he verbally demeans some of the more timid students. Someone should help stop that don't you think? 
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Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on April 18, 2004 at 22:59:30 PT
So FoM who is the judge
FoM if freedom of speech doesn't mean the right to say whatever you want but is only defined in terms of this very narrow category of speech that aims to change society in some useful way -- then we might as well be the Soviet Union.Because they did harbor the illusion that the speech they allowed fit the category you described and the speech they prohibited did not.The people with the power will always decide that the speech that isn't useful for changing society is the speech that threatens their power.The slippery slope never slides up.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on April 18, 2004 at 22:31:25 PT
Some people believe freedom of speech gives a person the right to say whatever they want whenever they want but I don't. There is a difference to me. Freedom of speech should be a right to be able to correct what is wrong in society and not be censored or harasssed for trying to make a difference. That is important or a society will be put in a small box and when societies are put in small boxes they rebel or the culture falls apart and they are no more. 
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Comment #5 posted by breeze on April 18, 2004 at 22:20:00 PT
The event really brought me back to reality
Thanks FOM for your support. The event brought me to the realization that MOST people, and I mean MILLIONS of people don't understand the issue, the relevance of the issue, the importance of the issue - surrounding cannabis.People access the internet everyday- some for news, some for cooking recipes. But how often do these millions look at something that effects them in some way every single day of their lives? Well- for most, "never" is not short of the truth.This small band of people went against many odds, and flourished. They had to go to court to be able to voice their freedom. They had to go to court to make their opinion about another lack of freedom apparent.This is the society we live in. This is OUR world. Most people just "don't think about it" until someone hands them a note saying that something NEEDS to be changed.Would you like to know what the note said?
What would happen if I wasn't allowed to tell you because the government said no, that this information was too dangerous to be distributed to the public?
How would that make you feel?Would it make you get up and off the couch, and out into the crowds to make a difference? 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 18, 2004 at 20:38:46 PT
What an excellent comment. Very inspiring. I hope that this event inspires more organizations and that they will be able to speak out. We can't change any laws unless we can tell people that there is another way of looking at the laws surrounding cannabis. If we can't speak how can we possibly educate the public? 
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Comment #3 posted by tokenitallup4162 on April 18, 2004 at 20:31:30 PT:
 I was just curious if "WE THE PEOPLE" moved to canada. what would the good ole USA do without all of us!!! I was born and raised here in the USA, but it is getting crazy with the laws on medicinal marijuana. I am disable and I do take DR.S meds. and I do get sick and tired of our freedom being taken away!!! and I do believe there is a way. move over canada, I need a new home!!! 
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Comment #2 posted by breeze on April 18, 2004 at 20:22:05 PT
I went to the 3 Rivers festival, and spoke with Henry Koch, the Midlands NORML president, and others who were there to assist him on his crusade. They had to fight the organizers of the event in order to secure one of their first ammendment rights to free speech- but they WON. It is never easy an easy when one is trying to persue free speech in a land where free speech is no longer valued, appreciated, or even understood. Its even harder when the majority of people who are in power dictate what free speech is allowed and when it is not appropiate for the masses to hear. But Midlands NORML stood up for free speech, and won the matter of handing out leaflets.
The Midlands NORML organization deserves a very loud cheer from everyone who has ever confronted a free speech issue, and an even louder hoo-ray from those who seek to have marijuana laws changed. Henry Koch and Midlands NORML members MORE than deserve full support from every one who ever has thought that marijuana laws need to address the reality of the harm the laws implore, whether they are NORML affiliates or otherwise. The Midlands crew, as well as a few from the Clemson NORML chapter were on hand to aid in the events. Both chapters did an excellent job informing the public by handing out fliers, and cards that demonstrated the need for cannabis law reform, but also were also available to answer any questions that a patron attending the festival might have. Though the two chapters are more or less college rivals, they cooperate well- dismissing their sports differences in light of a greater cause. The courage and motivation to perform this type of activity is definitely a roll call for ALL supporters of the issue. The majority of the funds to print the documents that were distributed, as well as the manpower to do so, was done strictly on a volunteer basis. As a non-profit organization goes, these people DEFINITELY have their act together! I spoke with Henry Koch personally and he informed me that the other non-profit organizations had read the pamphlet from the directors of the festival that informed them that they were not allowed to distribute literature to the passing public (ie. -foot traffic), and were willing to comply, but if it had not been for Mr. Koch and the local ACLU, the matter of distributing literature would have been mute. The ACLU did an excellent job in demanding that the Midlands NORML chapter and OTHER organisations retain and use their constitutional rights.The Midlands NORML supporters also have a booth at a local flea market, which not only speaks volumes about their dedication to working for the reformation of laws, but it shows their persistence. I noticed only one flier on the ground as litter, which is a good sign. There were a few people who refused fliers, and a couple who seemed offended and took a flier with a huff- though, they obviously knew the message that was being spread was one they did not agree with. This is only one problem with fighting for the right to do what you wish with your body, there will always be someone who doesn't want you or your family and friends to have all of the freedoms you deserve and are guaranteed by the constitution to be allowed.I could not help but wonder where this may take the OTHER NORML chapters in this great nation next? It would be a truly wonderful thing if NORML chapters all across the nation were to be present at every function such as this one. I did not enquire into the basics, such as how much the group spent on reservation of the space, how much did it cost to have the fliers printed, how much it cost for their information wall (there were all types of literature neatly displayed for quick reference on just about any subject concerning hemp and cannabis related materials), but the matter is obviously one that demonstrates the need for others who are activists to get out and activate [no pun intended]. I know that there are dozens of festivals occuring each year, in every town across the USA- and this one was no exception. Approximately 50,000 people attended this one festival- and it was within a two hour drive. It should be our responsibility to aid the public in knowing what NORML, and other cannabis related organizations are all about. The money problem frequently becomes an issue, but there are ways of fundraising for materials as well as paying for fees and liscences that allow such people to demonstrate their beliefs. There are festivals during the spring, the summer and the fall. They range from small to in the thousands, and from town to town, city to city- it is possible to be present at each event. It does take effort, time, and volunteers. In this case, two chapters of NORML made the booth a major success, But it is an on going struggle. If one group needs help to get started, look to those who have been there. If it takes chapters from different states to organize the effort, and maintain the prescence- so be it, get involved. Midlands NORML chapter performed an example of what every chapter in this country is capable of- taking the matter of informing the public into their own hands, and passing the message along to others who deserve to know the truth. The point I am trying to make with this post is simple. If the people are coming to the web for information on the various topics that surround the need for (re)legalization of cannabis- then take the message to the people. I have read many informing articles that have demonstrated how chapters in the north east and western states have performed in getting the message out to the people, now the south east has made a definitive show. I think its time for all chapters in the middle to make their prescense known.Henry Koch, Midlands NORML and CLEMSON NORML- I applaud you for service beyound the call of duty to your fellow citizens, the constitution, and freedom. May others follow you, your message, and your dedication till the descision is made by the masses to wise up, stand up and allow choice, logic, and freedom prevail.Support your LOCAL NORML- get active, vote, and make your voice be heard.
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Comment #1 posted by Truth on April 18, 2004 at 17:24:08 PT
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