Push comes to shove

The conference’s most dramatic moments occurred during the final panel, a discussion on “the incremental versus all-at-once approach.”
The two main panelists were Bill Zimmerman and Jack Herer. Herer is pushing a ballot initiative in Alaska which would legalize marijuana, free all pot-prisoners, and set up a commission to look at possible compensation for prohibition’s victims.

Zimmerman is a key member of Americans for Medical Rights (AMR), which has been involved in every successful pro-pot state ballot initiative in recent years. He doesn’t think the Alaskan initiative will pass, and so the AMR is not backing Herer. Zimmerman argued that “the incremental approach” is the fastest way to achieve legalization.

As the moderator was trying to end the brief question and answer period, Ed Rosenthal grabbed the mike and strode up to the stage.

“We have to prove that Zimmerman is wrong! Let’s do this right now! Zimmerman says Jack can’t do it. It’s a bet! I’ve got a hundred dollars right here!” stormed Ed, slapping down $100 in front of a smiling Herer. “Who thinks Jack can do it? Who’s got some money for Jack? Bring the money up! Come on!”

The videotape of the event shows a stream of people coming forward, dropping wads of cash in front of Herer. Then NORML Director Keith Stroup grabs Rosenthal by the back of his jacket and pulls him off balance. Rosenthal twists from his grasp and, despite having lost the mike, continues calling for people to bring up money for Herer.

While the moderator tried to move along to the next panel of speakers, the conflict continued. “NORML’s photographer attacked me from behind, placing me in a headlock,” explained Rosenthal. “I pushed out of it and away from them. I did not try to attack my attackers.”

The tape shows over 30 people handing Herer money before he is ushered offstage by Stroup.

Stroup called the incident “no big deal.”