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NORML Heads Work To Ignite The Troops


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The 2007 National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference started Friday with pep talks from some of NORML's top marijuana legalization advocates.

NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre thanked the crowd that filtered into a conference room at the Universal City Sheraton Hotel before trying to spark the activist inside everyone in the room.

He said marijuana advocates need to stop hiding.

"I'm work 70 hours a week at NORML because I'm an adult, I smoke cannabis and I don't want to be a criminal," St. Pierre said.

He said that .1 percent of marijuana smokers get involved with decriminalization efforts and challenged the crowd to imagine what would happen if a whole percent of marijuana smokers got involved.

"We need to come off that mountain top ignited for change," St. Pierre said. "Not united, ignited for change."

Rick Steves, PBS travel show personality and the author numerous travel books, was the featured speaker for the conference's first morning.

"I think it (travel) is like marijuana," Steves said. "It's different, it's refreshing. When you travel and get high it's like travel squared."

He said his travels have given him the opportunity to see the views on marijuana from a global perspective, including the first time he smoked marijuana, in Afghanistan.

"Everyone gets off the bus, sits around watching a goat get slaughtered and passing around a bong," Steves said.

Steves said that it's hard to understand how some of public in this country perceives marijuana, and that they can take a lesson from other cultures around the world.

"It's no big deal, it's just there," Steves said.

Steves has been able to use his travel guru status to take advantage of discussions with politicians from his home state of Washington.

"They want to talk travel, I want to talk to talk pot," Steves said.

A room to the side of the conference hall was full of vendors.

"I'm probably the only one here that doesn't smoke," said a woman going by "Philleen," with nojailforpot.com. "But I believe in the decriminalization of all drugs."

Jacob Roland, outreach director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said his organization is working for change in the policy on students losing financial aid due to a drug conviction.

"We're working on getting (a chapter at) Humboldt State," Roland said.

The afternoon panel was called "The Straight Dope: You've got questions, we've got answers."

"It's not so much our questions that, frankly, worry me, it's the questions of those out there that are misinformed about marijuana," said Marsha Rosenbaum, director of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Rosenbaum then talked about one of the more popular question topics she receives at the DPA: Potency.

She said reports that marijuana today is more potent or dangerous than marijuana in the past are exaggerated, citing a 20-year-long University of Mississippi study that showed modern marijuana has an average THC level of 8 percent.

"There's nothing remotely or uniquely dangerous to health by consuming weed that's 8 percent THC," Rosenbaum said.

Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, spoke about the relationship between marijuana smoking and mental health.

"In all honesty, without marijuana I wouldn't have mental health," Earleywine said.

He said that some questionnaires looking into the link between schizophrenia and marijuana smoking are misleading, like linking "sometimes using strange expressions" to schizophrenia.

"What a surprise, pot smokers said yes to that one," Earleywine said. "One of my critics said, 'They were probably high when they took the questionnaire.' Good."

He also talked about the link between depression and marijuana smoking.

"The depression data is depressing,'' Earleywine said.

Earleywine cited data that showed people who smoke pot weekly or daily are less depressed than people who never use marijuana.

The conference continues today, with a critical analysis of the drug war from Matthew Robinson of Appalachian State University and a look at what marijuana-friendly initiatives are upcoming on ballots around the country.

News Moderator: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Author: Chris Durant
Contact: cdurant@times-standard.com
Copyright: 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Website: Times-Standard Online
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