Bud Out!

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The420Guy

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Organizers from the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws are still fuming over what they view as an effort
to intimidate advocates of medicinal pot.

The Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards banquet was held last Saturday at the
Lloyd Center DoubleTree Hotel, but the event also took place inside an odd
legal netherworld created by voters with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act
of 1994. The conundrum is this: Under state law, medical spleef is cool;
under federal law, all weed is bad.

This conflict was underlined on Nov. 13, when Ken Magee of the Oregon
office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration wrote a letter to the
DoubleTree Hotel. Delivered in person by two DEA agents, the letter noted
NORML's plans for a marijuana-judging event to be held at the banquet and
asked an ominous question: Did the hotel intend to "knowingly permit...the
illegal possession, conspiracy to possess or to aid and abet the possession
of marijuana"?

Facing the possibility of having their hotel seized by the feds, DoubleTree
officials promptly informed NORML it was canceling its contract to host the
banquet (see Murmurs, WW, Nov. 19, 2003).

"I think they expected a bunch of dumb stoners to say, 'Oh, OK, dude,'"
says NORML organizer Madeline Martinez.

Instead, NORML attorney Paul Loney contacted the Oregon ACLU. The group
recruited Portland lawyer Michael Harting, who, in conjunction with the
national ACLU's top-gun drug-policy lawyer, Graham Boyd, fired off letters
to the hotel and the DEA threatening legal action for breach of contract
and violation of the First Amendment.

In the end, NORML dropped its "Beautiful Bud Award," the DEA and hotel
mellowed out, and the affair came off without a hitch.

In some respects, the event looked almost like a typical industry trade
show. One room was ringed by tables bearing NORML T-shirts (55 percent
hemp), hemp granola and dog collars, as well as the latest in bud-sucking
technology: micro-screen bags for making the purest of resin, as well as
small-scale vaporizers to take the harsh sting out of smoke.

In the other room, standing in front of a white flag bearing a pot leaf
superimposed on a medical red cross, an audience ranging from 15 to 40
watched a series of speakers who sounded like resistance leaders telling
their troops to hang in there--victory is nigh.

After the event, Magee told WW that his agency wasn't attempting to halt
the banquet, just to block the presence of drugs there. "People are very
much allowed to engage in their First Amendment rights," he said.

But David Fidanque, head of the Oregon ACLU, was skeptical. If the feds'
only concern was with the presence of marijuana, and not with the event
itself, he asks, "why didn't they contact NORML" instead of threatening the
hotel?


BY NICK BUDNICK
nbudnik@wweek.com