Travel back with me to a time long ago when disco was king, bell bottoms were bottoming out and Jimmy Carter, lustful heart and all, was president. I was a freshman at Washington State University in Pullman. Big change from the little berg I was raised in. They had more than one traffic light.
Upon registering, I came across a row of tables manned by students hawking their clubs and organizations. There were farm clubs, science clubs, chess and sports clubs, political organizations of all stripes and colors. Along the far wall, a table had caught my eye. You see, at that time, I was a recreational user of marijuana and was completely out of herb. Being in a strange new town, I was resigned to the fact that I was going to remain without until I was able to return to the hometown for a reload.
On that far wall were two gents gathering memberships for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I thought, what better way to get connected than to join that group. I walked over and signed right up.
I didn't get any weed, instead I got schooled.
The Good Guys
Their mission statement -NORML's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty."There are chapters in almost every state (what's up with Virginia?) and they provide a state-by-state guide to the current marijuana laws. Check out what your state has in store for you should Johnny Law find you partaking of the ghanj. If this issue is important to you and it should be, join up and bring needed change to this gawd-awful clusterfuck. I've been a member since those early days so their standards are suspect but their cause is righteous.
MPP - The Marijuana Policy Project tracks the political side of the issue. Like NORML, they advocate a responsible, reality based policy on marijuana use and production. I see them as the suit and tie version of NORML but their purpose is more wonky, more palatable to the stuffed shirts that hold the reins of power in DC. They came about in 1995 and have been working tirelessly to advance favorable legislation in Congress. Since their charter, they have advanced medical marijuana legislation in the US Congress and have seen the statute approved in 13 states.
Their vision/mission statement -
MPP and MPP Foundation envision a nation where marijuana is legally regulated similarly to alcohol, marijuana education is honest and realistic, and treatment for problem marijuana users is non-coercive and geared toward reducing harm.
1. Increase public support for non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
2. Identify and activate supporters of non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
3. Change state laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for the medical and non-medical use of marijuana.
4. Gain influence in Congress.
They've been instrumental in getting the word out about our draconian marijuana laws. In WA, medical marijuana was passed by initiative by 59% of Washington's voters. It's coded as RCW 69.51A. They were also instrumental in passing a 2003 law (Initiative 75) that made marijuana possession the lowest priority in law enforcement.
Personally, I think that type of law is a bit ludicrous but it does send a message. In reality though, a cop will bust you for whatever he/she thinks of at the time. In my dealings with Johnny Law, you are at the mercy of a merciless thug. If you walk away from a pot bust, it's not because of this law but because you weren't a big enough catch or the paperwork wasn't worth hauling your stoner ass to jail.
Drug Czar? WTF? - This one doesn't really fall in the category of the good guys but I reserve judgment to place him here versus the bad guys. Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske has been tapped by President Obama to head up the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). He be the new Drug Czar! While advocates wanted a progressive health industry official, not a law enforcement officer; this one is easier to take. While Chief Kerlikowske is not as bad as his predecessors like John Walters and General Nuisance Barry McCaffery, he's still a cop and will do his job along that line. However, as the chief in Seattle, he oversaw the implementation of medical marijuana clinics and Initiative 75 without incident. Also it begs mentioning that during Hempfest, the Chief lowered the footprint of law enforcement, allowing folks to relax and be 'real'. The cops present were very tolerant of those who chose to imbibe a little Bhab during the festivities (provided they weren't blatant about it!)
Hempfest - Bask in the glowing embers and inhale the magic. If it's the middle of August and you find yourself in the Emerald City you'll find no place closer to OZ than Hempfest. Staged at Myrtle Edwards Park and the surrounding area, this free (donations gladly accepted) 'protestival' is the largest organized protest and gathering promoting cannabis decriminalization and activism. Now as much as we lurves ourselves the herb for personal enjoyment, Hempfest also focuses on the industrial uses of hemp. In 2009, the theme is industrial hemp. Hempfest features many stages, lots of music and speakers, goods and services - all with the message of ending prohibition. Incidentally, one of my favorite spots, is a stage and area called the Hemposium that exhibits all things hemp. The Hemposium educates through demonstrations, speakers, panel discussions, and displays that center on the many uses of industrial hemp. But any discussion of hemp always comes back to the failed war on marijuana, so Hempfest incorporates industrial hemp, access to medical marijuana, and the responsible recreational use by adults into a single weekend festival of fun, frivolity and information.
Their mission statement - To educate the public on the myriad of potential benefits offered by the Cannabis plant, including the medicinal, industrial, agricultural, economic, environmental, and other benefits and applications, including domestic industrial hemp production and commerce. In particular, Seattle Hempfest seeks to advance the cause of Cannabis policy reform through education, while advancing the public image of the Cannabis advocate or enthusiast through example.
OK, full disclosure here. I've been a volunteer at Hempfest for awhile and needless to say, it's near and dear to my heart. The gang of organizers and other volunteers are second to none and despite the 'stoner' reputation, they get shit done. To organize and administer this size of an event is insanity at its best. The list of names that get this lovely chaos to work is beyond my capacity to put here but let me say they are the BEST! That means you, Katie!
I missed last year due to an illness so this year I'll be on course to volunteer the whole weekend. For those of you who may be looking for a good, inexpensive outing in the Great Northwest around Aug 15 and 16, 2009 you couldn't do better than to cogitate, communicate, mediate and vegetate at Hempfest!
Poster from last year, 2008
I could list a lot more folks here. Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Chong and countless others who may not be household names. In the future I will be adding to this list with other posts about fighting the good fight and winning the war on marijuana. These folks are to Harry Anslinger like water is to fire.
Next part: The Legal Eagles
So Mote It Be,