NORML goes to Washington

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) held its annual convention during the first weekend of February. Activists from around the country gathered in a Washington, DC hotel to share stories, compare weed and listen to a wide assortment of seminars.
NORML has been the smokers’ lobby in Washington DC for over 30 years. They joke that they believed they would have marijuana legal in the US by 1976, and that they still do. Things started going downhill for NORML during the paraquat scares in 1977 and got worse under Reagan and Bush. The organization fell into disarray and debt. But in recent years NORML has experienced a rebirth of interest that was quite apparent during the three-day convention.

Speaker after speaker educated the crowd about a wide variety of topics. Panels covered the objectivity of drug war journalism; potential problems of using genetically modified fungus to attack pot plantations; parents and teen drug use; and race and prohibition. Most of the second day was devoted to the science, policy and legality of drug testing.

David Frankel and I were scheduled to speak about “Federal Roadblocks to Legal Hemp Cultivation.” It was intended as litigation training for the activists and disclosure of our plan of action to take the federal handcuffs off American farmers.

But camera crews from C-Span Cable showed up to broadcast our forum to a nationwide audience. This caused us to scramble together a much more basic presentation ? we decided to start from the beginning and explain hemp to the naive television audience, and how it had nothing to do with drugs. We had an hour and a half before the cameras, the first time industrial hemp has had such coverage.

The final day covered medical marijuana issues. My favorite panel was patients describing how lacking a legal supply of medicine impacts their lives. Kathleen Tucker, a Maryland lawyer, was turned into authorities by her teenage daughter for the small grow-op she was using to supply her medicine. The impact on her family was enormous, her daughter was removed and her husband lost his high-level federal job.

Much of the action took place in the individual rooms and suites of the hotel. Pungent smoke filled the hallways, but there were no complaints and the weekend went without a police incident.

The event was capped off by a fundraiser at the Madam’s Organ club. A visitor to this party would have believed that NORML had accomplished its purpose, and pot was legal in DC. The club was transformed into a wild smoke-easy, and a good time was had by all!

We are planning the next convention for March 2001, don’t miss it!

? Don Wirtshafter serves on the NORML board of directors. He is also founder of the Ohio Hempery (1-800-BUY-HEMP).
? NORML: [email protected]; www.norml.org
? For conference video and audio tapes: Jim Turney, Box 467, Lorton VA 22199; tel (703) 339-3971; [email protected].

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