POT IS BACK! (Not that for many it ever exactly went away). Indeed, the call for reforming the country's antiquated marijuana laws is quickly becoming the fastest-growing grass roots social movement in America today. We say "RElegalize It!" because once upon a time this friendly herb (flower) was legal as the breeze, before alcohol guzzling hysteria-mongering nicotine-chorting packs of racist politicians made it illegal in the backward 1920's and 30's.
Today's call for realism regarding pot laws comes from divergent voices ranging from conservatives like William F. Buckley (doing an ostensibly "libertarian" take on the issue) to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which has been stumping for a more realistic approach to America's pot laws for over 20 years now. As Cincinnati NORML's Cooly Hemphill reminds us, the estimated 25 million regular marijuana smokers in the U.S. altogether represents the combined population of about 10 states, predicting "we will see (big changes over the next 10 years) on this planet (including) a strong liberalization of marijuana attitudes and laws. Believe it."
Today finds pro-legalization groups in an overdrive mode throughout the U.S. Some of the active ones we know about are covered below, as well as an interview with a prolific grass-roots organizer and as a look at some of the roots of the current Movement.
In 1989, as the idea of Rock Out Censorship and THE ROC was germinating in the heads of a pack of die-hard fans as a militant free expression group which could hopefully pump fresh energy into the civil libertarianism in the U.S. (such as it was), HIGH TIMES was poised to rejuvenate the pot legalization movement through new HT editor-in-chief Steve Hagar's founding of the Freedom Fighters, pro-pot, direct action group.
To be fair, the very continuing EXISTENCE of the pro-hemp movement (or HIGH TIMES), even making it OUT of the Weighty 80's with a semblance of good cheer and their libertarian selves intact was/is an amazing accomplishment in ITSELF!)
With the Freedom Fighters and HIGH TIMES kicking off a spate of legalization rallies which continues gathering momentum to this day (building toward a final giant "smoke-in" before legalization?), together with the subsequent re-issue of THE EMPORER WEARS NO CLOTHES, THE essential activists' handbook on the whole pot issue, and a new breed of young '90s activists in groups like C.A.N., the new pro-herb movement is ON THE MOVE.
Item: HIGH TIMES and the Cannabis Action Network is currently on a swing through cities and campuses throughout the U.S., presenting a series of free outdoor music events ("cuz the best things in life grow free") featuring recording artists 'el Magnifico, Total Devastation, and I Love You.
Item: The Michigan Hemp Coalition is hitting the road to cities and campuses large and small throughout the state with petitions to legalize marijuana in Michigan with a "Cannabis Crusade." The tour includes some of the hottest bands in the state, speakers, symposiums and even a theatrical event ("A NORMAL JURY: A three-page Play About Legalization"). Folks in Michigan interested in circulating the Michigan Hemp Coalition Petition (an 8,500 signatures already collected) can call (810) 542-8090...
Item: NORML chapters are particularly active in R.O.C.'s own home state of Ohio, with a statewide campaign to stop a dangerous House Bill (628). passage of which would, according to NORML, "be the stepping stone in the pathway to Ohio becoming a police state." Consistent chapter work can be found in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Sandusky, Toledo and Akron-Canton. Most immediately upcoming, Northcoast NORML will be hosting it's third annual FREEDOM FESTIVAL to raise funds for legalization efforts June 24, 25, 26 in the hills of Southeastern Ohio (Call, for info at (216) 521-WEED)...
FLASH! High Times Magazine in solidarity with Rock Out Censorship will be co-sponsoring a benefit (with proceeds going to the national anti-censorship programs of R.O.C.) on June 7, 1994 at The Rock Ridge Saloon, Bleeker St., N.Y.C. For further information call: (212) 496-3059
INTERVIEW WITH A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST
by: Wink with Randy
Transcribed by Denise
The strength of any real social movement lies with it's grass-roots. Nowhere is this more true than with current Pro-Hemp activism. Still largely denied access to the same media in which professional Drug War demagogues like William Bennett and his phony D.A.R.E. chronies, can apparently swagger with unending, unquestioned access, information on the "cause" is primarily gotten out to the citizenry through the committed efforts of community and state groups. Few exemplify this grass-roots resolve better or with with more esprit de corps than Northcoast Ohio NORML. ROC has shared many a table space with these fine, friendly and dedicated folks over the months at concerts and festivals. In a big way, our struggles are indeed one. We recently spoke with Northcoast NORML founder John Hartman for his insights on the current scene.
ROC: What is your perspective on the possibilities of across-the-board drug decrim or at least liberalizing laws on herb?
John: On the federal level there is a change in direction on the war on drugs. Clinton's policy, steering away from zero tolerance is moving in the right direction, but they're of course not going far enough. They are saying education for the user and interdiction for large traffickers, which is great. They're no longer beating their chests (as under Bush and Reagan). But with media focusing on a supposed rise in crime (when statistically crime isn't really rising at all) this is not realistically the best of times for people pushing these (decrim) issues. At state levels, there are moves toward legalization that would decriminalize the cultivation of very small amounts. This would actually be a major change in the law because as it is if you are arrested for growing even a single marijuana plant you are considered a trafficker and are subject to forfeiture of all your assets. We're working to get these laws eliminated and that's where (at the local and state levels) things look better. Through the efforts of groups like ours, people are getting educated as to the benefits of cannabis and the futility of the Drug Wars... The trick is to put the politicians on notice that there is a movement out here that could well determine the outcome of elections should they begin addressing these issues.
ROC: Would you consider Amsterdam as a model of a how a society like the U.S. can come to grips with more rational policies toward cannabis in particular and drugs in general?
John: Well, we're two different societies. I think the best example Amsterdam can show us is that more liberal policies in regard to these laws do not mean it'd destroy our society. They've proven that by liberalizing their laws they have cut the drug usage rates in teen-agers AND adults ALOT (under our OWN national average, in fact). For instance, even the crack cocaine epidemic of the 80's did not destroy their impoverished communities. Frankly, I don't know if Americans are ready yet for a policy of some prohibition but no criminal penalties. However, here in Ohio we have to some degree decriminalized simple possession. Nine other states have it too where simple possession of marijuana means no jail time, just fines and other sanctions. (These states report no apparent rise in usage of pot, by the way.) Through the use of education you control the actual abuse of drugs as opposed to the uselessness of police action.
ROC: How's the young concert and festival crowd's response to NORML tables these days?
John: There's enthusiastic interest. It's ironic but because so many head shops and other paraphernalia outlets have been pressured out of business, it's given groups like NORML a virtual monopoly of cannabis-related artifacts, t-shirts, buttons and whatnot -anything with a pot leaf on it!- which in turn funds the movement for legalization. People don't see these things everyday, they relate to it and so they flock to our tables. Whether we get through to (our constituency) I don't know. Many people in America are frustrated with the system. They feel writing or call their representatives doesn't make a difference. I share their frustration. I write many letters and make phone calls to representatives my and experience the runarounds and generalities given by officials and spokespeople. Sometimes, they might even commit themselves to say prohibition doesn't work but then they don't back it up with any proposals. Changing this situation will depend upon mobilizing out here as citizens and voters to motivate these representatives into political action.
ROC: What do you think has spurred on the movement for an end to "pothibition" to gain steam and acceleration in the last few years or so?
John: When Reagan, Meese and Co. first started talking about a "war on drugs," a lot of us, even those of us who were earlier involved in decrim effort like NORML in the 70's, thought it was just rhetoric leftover from the Nixon days when the term was coined. (Actually, the concept goes way back to the 30's.) It took many of us a while to see just how they were targeting the workplace through drug testing, and that I personally was vulnerable. They were in effect declaring war on ME, and could cause me great harm.
ROC: Was this the genesis of Northcoast NORML?
John: Around 1989 I saw Reagan-Bush "drug czar" William Bennett on TV declaring pot users are the "worst examples" of drug users because why? Because they're, productive individuals, their use of cannabis hasn't destroyed them...
ROC: Right! I almost forgot about that particular example of insanity...
John: ...Whereas cocaine users will devastate themselves, so for Reagan and Bennett these are 'poor' examples of drug use. See, we fit right into society. There's no way to detect us. Our noses don't turn green when we smoke marijuana, so they can't ID us from anyone else in the workforce. So they initiate policies of drug testing in workplaces. However, there's no studies indicating that drug testing actually cuts down drug usage. People can get around these tests (write Wink c/o THE ROC -ed.) of course but their real danger is that they undermine our 4th Amendment rights.
Anyway, that's what motivated us to get Northcoast NORML going back in 1989. Then there were people like Jack Herer who had been involved in pot decrim for a long time. Then there were people who may have been involved in the early 70's but since then kind of went on with our lives, but by 1989 we had a wake up call.
ROC: What's the scoop on D.A.R.E. where cops go into the schools to supposedly "educate" students on drugs but have instead often leave in their wake parents who get busted because of stray comments by students, breaking up families....
John: Well, most recently the Triangle Institute did a study that indicated that children who went through the D.A.R.E. program were as likely to abuse drugs as children who haven't done D.A.R.E. In fact, the founder of D.A.R.E. (psychologist Carl Rogers, who has since passed away) said D.A.R.E. was a failed program and schools should find other ways to educate about drugs. Putting an officer of the state in classrooms to teach is invasion. People in the school districts support D.A.R.E. because it takes the burden of drug education off their backs. When an officer of the state is put into the classroom, he is obligated to act on information turned over to them by students with possibly the best intentions...but with disastrous results, like parents arrested for simple possession and families broken up, for example.
To find out more about Northcoast NORML call (216) 521-WEED.
Legalize It! U.S.A.: The following groups can be contacted regarding YOUR participation in the Movement, subscriptions or more information.
Business Alliance For Commerce In Hemp (BACH), PO Box 71093, Los Angeles, CA 90071 (310) 288-4152.
Cannabis Action Network (CAN), 447 South Carrollton, New Orleans, LA 70119, (504) 482-4094.
Drug Policy Foundation (DPF), 4801 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Suite 400, Washington., DC 20016, (202) 537-5005.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums, 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, #2000 South, Washington, DC 20004, (202) 457-5790
HIGH TIMES, Trans-High Corporation, 235 Park Ave. South, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10003. (Subs: $14.95 for 6 issues).
NORML Convention, Labor Day Weekend
SMOKE-IN, July 4, call (202) 483-5500 for more info.
--Environmentally benign, renewable fuel source! Anything you can make out of oil, you can make out of hemp--without drilling, spilling or killing--including paint, varnish, fertilizer, lubricants, etc.!
--Champion of photosynthesis! Best source for bio-mass! Tree-less paper - save our forests! Strongest natural fiber! Soil builder, erosion fighter!
--Best source of protein! Best source of ilnoleic and ilnoleic acids - essential fatty acids necessary to life and good nutrition.