Sunday, October 30, 2016

A NORML Mom Joins the Coffee Party & Starts a Project, Safety First: A Story of Cannabis & Change

Want some liberty with your coffee? How normal is that?
I returned to Peachtree NORML's Atlanta meetings when Peachtree NORML returned to the heart of Atlanta, AKA Manuel's Tavern. The past several months have passed with somewhat lower-than-usual attendance while I tended to my son's recovery and Manuel's underwent a major renovation. Peachtree NORML's return found us, no longer sequestered in our designated room off to the side of the bar, but rather in back of the main dining area behind a thick red curtain.

The symbolism of our new curtained position runs deep if you choose to ponder it. Yet, what stands out most to me about the return to Manuel's is the atmosphere of friendship which permeates the meetings, as well as the fleeting quality of the conversations seeded there. Within Peachtree NORML, we have attorneys, activists, parents, patients, politicians and people doing time on pot-provoked probation. We are all quick to listen to one another and to treat each other with kindness. Yet, we don't quite seek each other out of the crowd either. It is necessary first to speak up and, from that, to allow the unique connections to form. For some of us, that comes easily. However, for others, it strikes me that subdued silence is still a very natural response to supporting something which, for decades, has carried a necessary sense of secrecy coupled with a strong stigma.

During my return to Peachtree NORML, I thought of the importance of speaking up first when our guest, Georgia State Senate candidate Tamara Johnson Shealey, took the floor. She has a powerful, pro-cannabis, pro-human rights message, but had to be reminded by our other guest, attorney Walker L.Chandler, to speak so that all could hear. Later in the evening the need to speak up resurfaced when I rose to purchase a new NORML shirt. This inspired me to say something about NORML Mom to handful of people near me, which in turn motivated me to take a picture. I decided, on a whim, the shot would be better if I weren't in it alone, so I enlisted my newest acquaintance, Bobby Rodrigo.

While Bobby had spent most of the evening sitting attentively with Peachtree NORML veteran member Ted Metz at the table next to mine, he opened his mouth to reveal a boisterous, “larger than life,” personality built on his dynamic career as a journalist, activist, business owner, board member of Coffee Party USA and producer/host of the related radio show  I Take Liberty with My Coffee.

I had never heard of the Coffee Party prior to meeting Bobby, so I checked them out online. According to the official website:

Coffee Party USA is a grassroots,transpartisan movement that aims to restore the principles of our republic and spirit of a representative democracy in America. It started on Facebook as a popular fan page in January 2010 and has since blossomed into a national 501c4 non-profit organization with a network of nearly a million people.

One of the hallmarks of membership is the agreement to sign a Civility Pledge, which sets ground rules for speaking up respectfully. The Coffee Party serves as a very timely reminder of the good which comes when a wide variety of people simply decide to speak up and listen.

I have joined The Coffee Party now and signed the pledge myself. However, my voice speaks loudest through my personal writing, and the last NORML meeting I attended left me inspired to go ahead and launch my own campaign, the Safety First Book Writing Project. Like NORML Mom, Safety First: A Story of Cannabis and Change will focus on removing the stigma surrounding cannabis in a way which is informative, entertaining and familiar while also broad in its scope.

As always, if anything here resonates, please spread the word and help it grow!

Also, please take note that select NORML Mom installments and similar work will be re-posted on Peachtree NORML's blog from now moving forward. I'm honored to connect with you here and there!


  1. You are an amazing mother, showing strength through your work. Teaching the truth to you children and standing on the right side of history.

    1. Thanks, Sharon. I must say the same of you as well. I would also like to interview you for Safety First at some point in the near future. I'm hoping to attend the meeting tonight but am uncertain right now about childcare. If not tonight, then I will be at the NWGA meeting 11/15.