Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A NORML Mom Connects w/ Cherokee County

Connections are NORML. Scroll down to read more.
In my mind's eye Larry Hill is always sitting beside my husband's grandfather Dan. At 85, Dan came to live with my family for several months last year prior to relocating to an assisted living facility this spring. Dan bonded with Larry on the 4th of July when they both showed up at a concert in north Georgia wearing the same hat. The hats marked them each as much decorated veterans of the US Army, and they became fast friends.

A few weeks ago, Larry and his son Danny were apprehended in Gilmer County, Georgia, for their work growing and distributing cannabis. They claim the venture was largely a labor of love, motivated less by profit than by a spiritual calling to help people in need. Their primary focus was the manufacture of cannabis oil formulated to treat or alleviate the symptoms of many illnesses for which the use of cannabis oil is actually deemed legal in Georgia. Of course, the problems with Georgia's existing medical marijuana laws are multi-fold:
  1. The process of being approved for a Georgia medical card is much more difficult than simply receiving a diagnosis, and many people are dissuaded from even attempting it.
  2. While card holders can legally consume cannabis oil in Georgia, it remains illegal to cultivate cannabis within the state or to transport it across state lines.
  3. The formula of cannabis oil approved for medical use in Georgia lacks the potency to effectively treat the approved conditions.
Immediately following the Hills' arrest, the Gilmer County Sheriff's Department made a post to Facebook showing grinning police officers hunkered around the plants they'd seized. While the intention behind posts like this seems to be instilling fear and garnering support for being “tough on drugs,” the result is often quite different than anticipated. In Georgia, this is largely thanks to Peachtree NORML, whose members flood these posts with comments condemning the drug war, educating the public about responsible use and declaring that unjust laws are far more criminal than the citizens who break them. Peachtree NORML's response to the Hills' arrest was so forceful that the sheriff's department removed the post. It is also thanks to our online response that Danny Hill realized NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) even exists.

The more I become involved in NORML's work, the more I realize how many potential allies remain in the dark about us. While that may initially seem disheartening, I actually find it to be a source of encouragement. All hands are far from on deck. I'm excited to see how much we can accomplish when all supporters step into the light. Last night Larry and Danny Hill, who are presently out on bond, visited a crowded room at Las Palmas in Holly Springs. They had come to deliver a speech to members of Peachtree NORML based in Cherokee County. Just being there, they played an important role in inspiring more people to act.

For those of you who may be wondering, NORML formed as a national organization in the 70s and has chapters within each state. Peachtree NORML, which meets in Atlanta near 5 Points, is Georgia's official chapter. Peachtree NORML has branches in different regions of the state, and the Holly Springs-based Cherokee County group is one of these. Peachtree NORML came to Holly Springs in fall 2016 thanks largely to the initiative of its leader Connie Malhiot. However, in addition to being devoted to the cause, Connie is also admirably devoted to her family, and they have needed an unanticipated amount of support in the past months.

While Connie's limited involvement has slowed momentum in Cherokee County to some degree, last night I encountered a group of devoted, passionate and self-directed members who have staying power of their own. I also witnessed them attract more members in real time. A mother and daughter duo (clad in t-shirts they custom design to protest the Trump administration) traveled from Lawrenceville to learn what they can do to forward NORML's work. Meanwhile, the Cherokee County Democrats were meeting in the room next to us. As we were leaving, their group approached us, and we began a conversation about the ways our causes intersect.

In my opinion, this is the way of the future. Individuals and identity groups alike need to come out of the closet and stand together on common ground. NORML provides an excellent platform for doing this, and there is no time like the present. Long regarded as a day of celebration for cannabis enthusiasts, 4/20 will be here tomorrow and is bringing with it tons of opportunities for Atlanta activists to connect, both Thursday and throughout the weekend. Links to recommended events are at the bottom of this post.

While you're exploring the links to this week's programs, please take a moment to check out our new allies' causes as well. You can find out more about Cherokee County Democrats here. Pictured second from the right, Rebekah Shelnutt is a defense attorney whom you can connect with by emailing Harlem Howard is pictured on the far right in one of her shirts. Please go here to view more of her designs and to read more about her history with medical marijuana.

Now, here's what's up in Atlanta this week:

You are also always invited to attend Peachtree NORML's monthly meetings. Information about the next one is here.

I will be coming out Saturday and look forward to seeing you there. As always, when we're talking, we're winning. If you like this post, let it be a seed. Share it and watch it grow.

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