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Benzie County - Chamber Nixes NORML

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BEULAH, MI - A Benzie County organization working to legalize marijuana
says they were weeded out of the Chamber of Commerce.

And they're not just blowing smoke.

The Rev. Steven Thompson, president of the Benzie National Organization
for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said the group thought it was
welcome this spring when they paid their dues and received a member
plaque.

"We were trying to dispel the stereotype that we're all a bunch of Cheech
and Chong people and also dispel the myth we're all a bunch of criminals
or terrorists," he said.

But a letter sent this fall by chamber president Brenda Sue Webber says
the board decided to reject the group.

Webber declined comment on the decision, saying it would be inappropriate.

Carol Davidson, executive director of the chamber, said the 18 board
members were unanimous.

"Our board feels a responsibility to make the best decisions on behalf of
the business community," she said.

The letter sent to Thompson said area businesses support drug-free work
environments and employee drug testing.

"We are in agreement with these priorities," the letter continued. "We
find that your goals are not consistent with our philosophy and
responsibility."

Thompson said he and 63 other Benzie NORML members see the refusal as a
slap in the face.

"Most of us have been doing business with our local businesses all our
lives," he said. "We're real adamant about supporting our local
businesses."

Board members Bob Yeager and Doug Rodriguez would not comment on their
decision but both said they have not changed their mind.

Thompson said the group would continue to rally for membership.

"Instead of choosing a high ball or a beer after work, we might just
choose to roll up a doobie or hit a bong and do it naturally," he said.
"We're supposed to have the right to do what we want to do in our own
homes and we're not hurting anybody."


Author: Marla Mcmackin
Source: Traverse City Record-Eagle
Contact: letters@record-eagle.com
Website: record-eagle.com
Pubdate: Thursday, November 13, 2003