Thursday, October 22, 2015

A NORML Mom Attends a NORML Meeting

Peachtree NORML meets the first Tuesday of every month at Manuel's Tavern on Highland Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. The appropriateness of the street name strikes me as a happy coincidence. So does the quote on the menus at Manuel's. Attributed to the tavern's namesake Manuel Maloof, it reads: Anybody don't like this life is crazy. I think it's an appropriate quote for our NORML chapter. So far, I've observed that we . . .
  • are comfortable with change and bold enough to enact it.
  • can find something valuable in a mess.
  • are simultaneously rebellious and responsible.
Most notably though, we just appreciate life and each other. I think these are admirable traits in anyone. I also happen to think they describe some of the therapeutic effects marijuana has on the mind.

Before attending my first meeting, my best friends warned me to be careful. They feared police infiltration and nefarious activities at the meeting, but all I've experienced is networking, planning, learning and having a good, law abiding time.

We are activists, motivated by the desire to bring people important medicine, by the desire to hold the government accountable for acknowledging its own research and, most definitely, by the desire to end an industrial prison system which gains its fuel from the fire of marijuana-related arrests, often obscured by intense and undeniable racism.

We are also entrepreneurs and opportunists harnessing marijuana reform as an opportunity to become pioneers of a new marketplace—hopefully while embracing authenticity, responsibility and creativity in a manner that, Big Tobacco for example, has not.

Finally, we are citizens whose lives have been personally touched by marijuana in some way and who want to lift the stigma and change the law for reasons as close, personal and varied as our individual hearts.

I recently read Time Magazine's special edition Marijuana Goes Main Street by journalist Bruce Barcott. Taken as a whole, it's an excellent read which identifies and objectively analyzes specific legislation shaping marijuana-related policy throughout the history of the United States. Through profiles and research-driven personal narrative, it also serves as an open-minded and inquisitive social commentary on marijuana's place in America. Reading the special edition inspires me to place Bruce's book Weed the People on my wish list. However, if you read no more of his work, then perhaps the following paragraphs are enough. Bruce writes:

Marijuana is not a safe drug. No drug is safe. Not caffeine, not alcohol, not morphine. Each contains possibility and risk. The idea that marijuana is less akin to heroin and more like alcohol is not a new idea. It was documented by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission in 1893. It was confirmed by the U.S. Panama Canal Zone investigation in 1925. The La Guardia report discovered the same truth in 1944. The Shafer Commission came to the same conclusion in 1972. Ten years later, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed the Shafer Commission's findings. The White House drug czar asked the Institute of Medicine to reopen the question in 1999. The institute's researchers came back with the same answer. In every instance, those in power were forced to adjust their belief about marijuana or reject the evidence. In every instance, they rejected the evidence. . . . The belief was too great to overcome. It was as entrenched and politically powerful as racial prejudice, because the demonization of marijuana was itself a form of racial prejudice. . . .

Knowing what I now know about pot, I still haven't become a connoisseur or aficionado. But I no longer disdain it. When I catch a whiff of pot in public these days, I'm not annoyed. I have a different association with the scent now. It reminds me that the community in which I live took a brave step toward progress and justice. It makes me smile and enjoy the fact that I can talk honestly with my kids about pot and alcohol and sometimes even sex. It makes me think about the fact that we who make the rules are the adults. We can handle this. And by doing so, we will create a better and more just world.

In my book, Bruce Barcott rocks. So does everyone who is working within their own communities to make life better and more just. My community is rooted in Athens, Atlanta and Northwest Georgia. To join Peachtree NORML in its work in this area and throughout the state, please complete the form linked here. And, to bring legalization directly to the attention of Georgia's government, please support SR 6—an initiative to allow Georgia voters in the 2016 presidential election to indicate their support of legalization in our state.

Me with NORML secretary Kim Smith. We're women who believe in our ability to change the world. How normal is that?

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