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The New NORML: Looking Back at 40-Year Crusade to End Marijuana Prohibition

As long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are legal and which aren't, then anyone behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense is a political prisoner.

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“While I hadn’t exactly snitched on Bourne,” Stroup admits, “my failure to protect him was a violation of the basic principle that most marijuana smokers live by, and that NORML had adopted as policy years earlier. It is never acceptable to rat on someone else, even to avoid a conviction or a jail term. The NORML Legal Committee had even adopted a policy not to represent anyone who wanted to get off by snitching – by testifying against another person.”

The story became a national scandal, and Stroup realized that the time had come for him to resign from NORML. He could never have predicted that in 1994 he would be invited to serve another decade as executive director.

Flash forward to February 2013. At NORML’s annual meeting, the board of directors elected Norm Kent as their new chairperson. He joined NORML as a college senior in 1971, and is now a criminal defense attorney based in Ft. Lauderdale, handling First Amendment, constitutional rights and media law cases. A pioneer in medical-necessity defenses for marijuana users, he has represented patients, growers and buyer's clubs throughout Florida for over 30 years. Author of The Pot Warriors Manifesto, he is a cancer survivor who credits marijuana with ameliorating the harsh nature of chemotherapy treatments.

In 1982, he sued the state of Florida to stop the deadly herbicide paraquat from being sprayed on marijuana fields. We were living in a society where children were being taught that it was wrong to put cyanide in Extra-Strength Tylenol, yet acceptable to spray paraquat on marijuana crops.

My position is that as long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are legal and which are illegal, then anyone behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense is a political prisoner.  Personally, I owe my longevity to never taking any legal drugs. (Although, I did take an aspirin last month. I didn’t have a headache or anything; I was just at a party, and the host was passing around a plate full of aspirins. It was a kind of social ingestion. You know, peer pressure.)

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America was originally founded and funded by the pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol industries. They produced classic “public service” TV commercials such as the one with a young woman frying a pair of eggs, sunny-side up, with the message, “This is your brain on drugs.” Of course, I perceived that imagery as merely a fine example of having the good old post-tokey munchies.

That hypocritical anti-marijuana campaign originally inspired my anthology, Pot Stories For the Soul: An Updated Edition for a Stoned America (available at paulkrassner.com), to counteract the negative propaganda with a variety of true tales. When it was first published in 1995, lawyers for the Chicken Soup For the Soul franchise demanded that my publisher “cease and desist” the use of my title. Apparently, although theologians and scientists agree that the soul cannot be located, it can be copyrighted.

Read more of Paul Krassner at PaulKrassner.com

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