Can you imagine getting a death sentence for possession of weed? Well that is exactly what happened to a young man from Washington State named Michael Saffioti (22), who was arrested for possession of cannabis. He missed a court date, and like a good citizen, turned himself into the authorities. He died in police custody less than 24 hours later because the jailers refused to believe that he was having a severe reaction to the oatmeal he was served. This young man lost his life because of our draconian laws on weed and because of a prison industrial complex that is evil and overwhelmed. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided, and simply never should have happened.
But these tragedies happen all of the time. It is disgusting. People get arrested for weed everyday and get shoved into a prison system that is built for violent offenders and crimes of moral turpitude. Yet we allow our friends and neighbors to be railroaded into this dangerous system for something as benign and trivial as weed. Why?
Our society is collapsing from these policies and we have become numb to the issue. But this kid in Snohomish County, WA is not just another criminal who got what he deserved. He is a kid that smoked marijuana because it made him feel better. He did not deserve to be put in a cage for his use of marijuana. Here is what his mother said about the tragedy from a story on Toke of the Town:
“Ultimately, he found and thought he was better functioning using marijuana,” said his mother, Rose Saffioti, who is a nurse.
But Michael didn’t have a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis medicinally, which left him vulnerable to prosecution. His marijuana use led to several encounters with law enforcement. After the most recent incident, he and his mother went to the police station, carrying his medical history, after he had missed a court date.
“I wanted Michael held accountable for his legal issues and I insisted on it,” his mother said. “But I didn’t want him to die.”
Michael started having trouble breathing after eating the oatmeal that was served to him in jail. According to other inmates, he begged for help.
The guards accused him of faking it, and allowed him to die in horrible pain. The autopsy found his allergic reaction to milk products contributed to his death.
“I know there’s a period where he knew he was going to die,” his mother said. “And he trusted me. Everything was supposed to bet set up, that he’d be taken care of.”
“He was scared,” she said, reports The Associated Press. “I said, ‘You are doing the right thing. They are going to take care of you.’ He said, ‘I have a bad feeling that they are not going to take me seriously.’ ”
“You can’t get help. You can’t call 911,” said Anne Bremner, an attorney representing the Saffioti family. “You’re at their complete mercy. When the jail’s the one that gives you something that’s going to kill you — that they know is going to kill you — they, at a minimum, have to rescue you. And they didn’t.”
Nothing she can say will bring back her son. As a father of two kids I cannot even imagine the lost and angry feelings that must be overcoming this family. It is unacceptable and a clear sign that this war on our own citizens MUST STOP.
This is the challenge for all of the parents who oppose cannabis legalization based on the idea that they do not want their precious children smoking weed. The fact is that weed is more available to kids as an illegal substance. When they get it easily and are caught with it, your precious child becomes a criminal at the mercy of a corrupt and vile system that profits off putting them in a cage with other dangerous criminals. If you want to save your kids then vote yes to legalize weed and raise them to make better choices if you think weed is such a bad thing. But do not vote to continue the mass incarceration of our own people. Do not allow for the prison industrial complex swallow up your babies because they like weed.
We are better than this as a society. People need to be outraged. We can no longer afford, financially or morally, to put good people in cages for weed. it is not working. My heart goes out to these folks, and all of the folks who have lost their loved ones to this insane policy of imprisoning people for safe, enjoyable, and helpful plants.
I am amazed at the amount of people who think that their activism begins at the protest and ends at the end of the event. Activism is something that puts you to sleep at the end of a long day and wakes you up early driven to do more. Activism happens EVERYWHERE.
Often, the most effective activism you can do is in normal every day conversations with friends, neighbors, co-workers, or even the lady in line at the grocery store. There is always room to squeeze in a conversation about weed and why our current weed policies in this country are absolute failures. It is the little things in weed activism that make the wheels turn. The reason we see the most recent tracking polls above 50% in favor of legalizing cannabis for adults is because our society at large is having this conversation more often and more prominently. We are seeing a very healthy dialogue taking place in real time, where more people have begun to find their voice on this issue.
It is no longer just Snoop Dogg out there preaching weed love. There are crazy right wingers like Pat Robertson and Tom Tancredo jumping on board. You see Brad Pitt and Richard Branson making waves a lot on the failed drug policies of our country. Civil Rights groups, like the NAACP, are supporting ending the mass incarceration of mostly poor and minority folks for weed. There is a deep, and more honest, conversation happening out there than has ever been had in my life time. I could not be happier.
But it is up to us to continue to fuel that fire. It is up to us to take a well-publicized statement and turn it into many conversations with folks who need to be educated. We need to share that story on Facebook and Twitter for all of our friends to see. We must send letter, and emails, and make phone calls, and continue to use our time and energy to break down the barriers of misinformation that keeps our plant from its righteous place in our daily lives.
It is the little things that will end this thing. It is great that there are big picture things happening to be a part of. But the ground game happens every day in your normal life patterns. That is where we reach those who just need a little encouragement, or some knowledge, to get their support for the cause. Those folks will not be at the rally and may not see the protest on TV; but they know YOU and they respect your opinion. Use that influence to make a case for the cause.
They say weedheads are about 10-15% of the population. That means if all of us made a commitment to talk to ten of our neighbors, we could reach everyone in America with a message of cannabis freedom. Do those little things today. Track down a stranger and tell them why weed is awesome. Buy a cool weed shirt and start a conversation. Put an end the drug war sticker on your car. Write an email for weed. Make a phone call for weed. If we all do one little thing a day we can end this thing tomorrow. DO IT!
It is funny watching the weed game turn in to a connoisseur market, with people who will only smoke this kind of weed, or this type of hash. I remember the days when I was just glad to have any weed, and could give a shit if it was purple or not.
You know what my favorite kind of weed is? GOOD WEED.
I am not that picky. I like all kinds of weed as long as they are tasty, effective, and grown with care. I do not even mind bad weed sometimes. I just came up on some mexican brick not too long ago, and while I would not burn it everyday, a cool old-school brown weed joint was a nice break from the norm. It was a whole different effect, and took me back to my youth.
But as the industry grows and becomes more legitimized there will be a growing market for high-end, exotic, and rare strains of cannabis. It will be necessary to dive deeper into the gene pool and the race for exclusivity of strains will intensify. Could a legalized market bring patents on genetics, and legal battles over who did invent purple weed? Maybe. More likely, it will look a lot like the wine market, with different types of grapes being grown and bottled by many different vintners. But regardless, a lot more focus is, and will be, put on the varietals, their cultivation methods, and the quality of the finished products. There will come a time when you just cannot sell bad weed anywhere….at least I hope.
I still will be happy to smoke weed, regardless of what kind it is, who produced it, or whether it is my favorite kind or not. I just cannot imagine passing on a joint because it is not my flavor. My favorite kind of weed will always be the one that does not put me in jail, so whatever we got to do to get that kind of weed, let us do that….
For now, my favorite kind of weed will be the kind I have.
It has been a long and sobering couple of weeks for the medical cannabis community, Justice has again failed and we see our brothers and sisters being put in prison for decades for providing safe and effective cannabis medicines to people authorized to use it from their physicians.
Let that sit with you. We are putting people in prison for DECADES for providing weed to sick people. Should I say it again? We have taken a human being and put him in a small cage with other dangerous criminals for ten plus years because he provided sick people with plant material that made them feel better. I do not know about you, but it makes my stomach turn really. It makes me sad to be an American, really.
This week Aaron Sandusky was convicted on two conspiracy charges and remanded to custody for a 10-year to life sentence for his role in operating a group of medical cannabis dispensing collectives in Southern California. In Michigan this week we say Gerald Duval Jr. and his son Jeremy Duval sentenced to ten years in prison for two medical cannabis greenhouse facilities that were being cultivated for patient use in accordance with state law there. In Montana late last month, Chris Williams was convicted of 8 felony counts for his role in Montana Cannabis, a legal provider of medical cannabis there. He also faces decades in prison for his “crimes.” And this is just in the past two weeks.
We have been quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, been sending medical cannabis cultivators, providers, and patients to prison for DECADES and ruining people’s lives for not just weed, but doctor authorized weed. It is an incredible injustice and we should be outraged. Often our community tries to read the tea leaves and say, “Well, this person was busted for this reason, and it will never happen to me.” That is bullshit, and you should know better. We are all in the same boat and face the same risks.
If I made my living providing medical cannabis I would begin to seriously looking at donating my resources towards ending cannabis prohibition, and fast. You could be the next person to face the injustice of doing the right thing and facing a jury that is not even allowed to take into consideration the medical aspects of your defense. In Federal court you have no defense. Did you grow weed? Yes. Go to prison for a decade. WTF? But that is where we are at. This is happening all over. What are you going to do about it?
The list is long of good people who are sitting in prison on mandatory minimum sentences and decades of time for providing weed to sick people. We are allowing our government to run rampant and take the lives of good people for weed. Bryan Epis (10 years), Eddy Lepp (10 years), Luke Scarmazzo (22 years), Richard Montes (20 years), Dustin DC Costa (16 years), Timothy Dellas (10 years), Doctor Mollie Fry and her husband attorney Dale Schafer (5 year mandatory for very few plants over years), and there are dozens of others doing 3, 5, 6, 7 years sentences also. It is alarming.
These are not the “bad operators.” These are not bad guys who just got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. These are all people who believed, like many of us, that if we do the right thing then justice would protect us. We are all very vulnerable to Federal enforcement. None of us are better than the others in the eyes of the US Justice Department. We are all a bunch of criminal weedheads to them. It is a sad reality that we all must take a hard look at.
Times are changing and there is a louder and more robust call for cannabis freedom every day. This is great; but it is not very comforting for the folks waking up away from their loved ones with nothing but time staring them in the face.
We have got to make a better effort. We have got to make more clear and focused campaigns aimed directly at the evils of imprisoning people for a safe, enjoyable, and helpful plant. We have got to begin to move mountains and free our brothers and sisters from the clutches of tyranny. We must get our shit together and take this fight to the heart of the beast, which is combatting the mass incarceration of our neighbors and citizens for weed. It has got to end and it has got to end now. It is no longer okay to sit idly by while good people lose their freedom and standing in the community because of weed.
In a move to stop the Feds from shutting down Harborside Health Center, the City of Oakland filed a lawsuit against the Feds in an effort to get them to “restrain and declare unlawful” a forfeiture case put forth by the Feds against Harborside’s landlord.
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times piece that ran today:
“This lawsuit is about protecting the rights of legitimate medical patients,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement on Wednesday, when the suit was filed. “I am deeply dismayed that the federal government would seek to deny these rights and deprive thousands of seriously ill Californians of access to safe, affordable and effective medicine.”
The civil lawsuit, which the City Council approved, seeks to “restrain and declare unlawful” the forfeiture proceedings against the landlords of the dispensary, Harborside Health Center, stating that Oakland will “suffer irreparable harm if the dispensaries are shuttered.”
“It is heartening to see the city stand up and support us,” said Steve DeAngelo, Harborside’s executive director. At its Oakland location, the nonprofit dispensary employs 100 people and serves some 112,000 more, seeing 600 to 800 customers a day. Last year, the group paid $3.5 million in taxes, including $1.1 million to the city.
It is great to see the City stand up for the rights of the medical cannabis community. It is not clear where they believe their legal standing will overcome the usual “If a City makes embezzlement legal that does not mean the Feds cannot enforce embezzlement laws” argument that is normally put forth, but it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
One of the issues that may arise though is that the Feds decide to use their power in retaliation to the lawsuit. Recall, in Montana, on the same day the Senate Committee was to vote on repealing the state’s medical marijuana regulations the Feds raided a dozen facilities there in a show of force; so it is not unheard of for these folks to conveniently use their rights to enforce Federal law in an effort to make a statement.
Where does this agressive action by the City leave the other three dispensaries that operate in the City, as well as the four other applicants who are in the process of trying to open facilities there? Could this lawsuit pose risk to the existing folks and hamper the efforts of the folks coming on?
Here is a quote from City Attorney Barbara J. Parker from an LA Times piece:
If federal prosecutors succeed in shuttering Harborside, she said, “public safety could be worsened because those patients would be out in the black market purchasing this medicine from criminals.”
Now that is not an entirely true statement. As mentioned, there are other access points in the City; but she is right in asserting that a very large and professional organization that serves tens of thousands of patients a month would be lost, and those patients would be displaced. That would be terrible for the community. But what if this action resulted in a more sweeping action to flex their muscles to the City and all of the dispensaries in Oakland are shut down as a result? Then you will see patients even more so displaced.
I am not sure what the answer is, and only time will really tell. I have long called for cities and counties to step up and defend their medical cannabis business and patient communities. My ideas were more resolution and political alliance based efforts, but a lawsuit is a much bolder and striking move. It is also more risky.
Do not forget that El Camino Wellness in Sacramento, who sued the Feds was raided, and Marin Alliance who sued the Feds in the Northern District also remains closed, so the Feds do have a history of seemingly vindictive enforcement practices. Since this is an action taken by an entire City, could the City of Oakland then become the target of enforcement? It is possible.
But it is also possible that they make a great case and blow the doors off of this thing. I know Oakland’s legal department has had their fair share of issues, including Occupy protest issues and with their plans to license four industrial size cultivation facilities; but if their case holds water it could be the first step in backing the Feds up. It seems like a longshot on the surface, but I would hope that they have a better legal argument than those who have come and failed before them.
The reality is that cannabis prohibition is evil, so regardless of what happens I am still proud of Oakland for stepping up and putting their name on the line. I was reminded that this is somewhat similar to the WAMM lawsuit where the City and/or County joined on as co-plaintiffs. While that lawsuit ended in a sort of stalemate, there were no agressive actions brought against the City or County. I hope that bodes well for Oakland. that was a different time, with different folks, and a much less focused media blitz.
I am pulling for Oakland and Harborside. I am praying Uncle Sam keeps his wits about him and does not decide to do something stupid to show us all who is the boss. I hate it when they do that.
A powerful new documentary exposes the horrors of the war on drugs. Calling the war on drugs a “holocaust in slow motion,” this movie looks at the incredible damage that America’s longest war has taken on our society. This documentary could not come at a better time, as our nation is having a more robust dialogue than ever on the failure that is the drug war.
Here is a trailer for the movie:
Get out to the theater and support this movie. This movie has the power to break down barriers and educate people on this evil assault on our citizens. Never before has a movie so clearly spelled out the terrible dangers and the injustices of the drug war. Do not just see it yourself, but take a friend or family member to see it. It is POWERFUL and an excellent way to put forth the conversation that the war on drugs must end, and it must end now.
The House I live in is a MUST SEE for any weed activist, and any person who needs a very real and touching message as to why this policy of prohibition has failed our society. Go see it today….
- 10/4 – FREE SCREENINGApollo Theater253 W 125th StNew York, NY 10027More Info
- 10/5 – IN THEATERS – NYCAngelika Film Center18 West Houston StreetNew York, NY 10012More Info
- 10/5 – IN THEATERS – NYCLincoln Plaza Cinemas1886 BroadwayNew York, NY 10023More Info
- 10/12 – IN THEATERS – ChicagoGene Siskel Film Center164 N. State StreetChicago, IL 60601More Info
- 10/12 – IN THEATERS – LALaemmle’s Monica 41332 2nd StreetSanta Monica, CA 90401More Info
- 10/12 – IN THEATERS – PasadenaLaemmle’s Playhouse 7673 East Colorado BoulevardPasadena, CA 91101More Info
- 10/12 – IN THEATERS – EncinoLaemmle’s Town Center 517200 Ventura Blvd.Encino, CA 91316More Info
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- 10/12 – IN THEATERS – IrvineUniversity Town Center 64245 Campus Dr.Irvine, CA 92612More Info
- 10/12 – IN THEATERS – DCWest End Cinema2301 M Street NorthwestWashington DC, 20037More Info
- 10/19 – IN THEATERS – San FranSundance Kabuki Cinemas1881 Post StreetSan Francisco, 94115More Info
- 10/19 – IN THEATERS – DallasThe Magnolia – West Village3699 McKinney Ave., Ste 100Dallas, TX 75204More Info
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- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – DenverChez Artiste4150 East Amherst Ave.Denver, CO 8022More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – BostonKendall Square CinemaOne Kendall SquareCambridge, MA 02139More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – AtlantaMidtown Art Cinema931 Monroe DriveAtlanta, GA 30308More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – AustinRegal Arbor 8 at Great Hills9828 Great Hills TrailAustin, TX 78759More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – PortlandRegal Fox Tower846 Southwest Park AvenuePortland, OR 97205More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – CharlotteRegal Park Terrace Stadium 64289 Park RoadCharlotte, NC 28209More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – VTRoxy Cinemas222 College St.Burlington, 05401More Info
- 10/26 – IN THEATERS – VTSavoy Theater26 Main Street,Montpelier, 05062More Info
- 11/1 – IN THEATERS – NYJacob Burns Film Center364 Manorville Rd.Pleasantville, NY 10570More Info
- 11/2 – IN THEATERS – TucsonLoft Cinema3233 E. Speedway Blvd.Tucson, AZ 85716More Info
- 11/2 – IN THEATERS – KnoxvilleTheater Knoxville Downtown319 N. Gay StreetKnoxville, TN 37917More Info
- 11/4 – IN THEATERS – PittsburghHarris Theater809 Liberty Ave.Pittsburgh, PA 15222More Info
- 11/9 – IN THEATERS – ProvidenceCable Car Cinema and Cafe204 South Main StreetProvidence, RI 02903More Info
- 11/9 – IN THEATERS – AlbuquerqueGuild Cinema3405 Central Ave. NortheastAlbuquerque, NM 87106More Info
- 11/9 – IN THEATERS – AZHarkins Camelview 57001 E. Highland Ave.Scottsdale, AZ 85251More Info
- 11/9 – IN THEATERS – PhillyRitz at the Bourse400 Ranstead StreetPhiladelphia, PA 19016More Info
- 11/9 – IN THEATERS – Santa FeThe Screen1600 Saint Michaels Dr.Santa Fe, NM 87505More Info
- 11/16 – IN THEATERS – New OrleansCanal Place Theatres333 Canal St. , 3rd FloorNew Orleans, LA 70130More Info
- 11/16 – IN THEATERS – SeattleHarvard Exit807 East Roy at HarvardSeattle, WA 98102More Info
According to Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, “medical marijuana patients will finally get their day in court.” The group will present to the US Court of Appeal scientific evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that cannabis does indeed have medical value.
As with any court case and legal decision there is bound to be a winner and a loser. If the government wins (again) then the court will decide that cannabis has no medical value. That seems like a far stretch to make, but we have not made it through decades of disastrous prohibition without lies and misinformation, so I would not be a complete surprise. But the other option, the court deciding to reschedule cannabis as a medicine, could be a more interesting dilema for the weed community.
Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal on the court case:
Appeals Court to Consider Benefits of Medical Marijuana
By Sam Favate
For the first time in 20 years, a federal court will review scientific evidence on the therapeutic value of marijuana, as a legal challenge by a group of doctors, medical professionals and patients makes its way to the U.S. court of appeals in Washington, D.C., next week.
Americans for Safe Access is hoping the challenge will change the government’s classification of marijuana from a dangerous drug with no medical benefits, the Guardian reported. Other groups, such as the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the Federation of American Scientists and the American Academy of Family Physicians support either medical access to marijuana or its reclassification to one that has a medical benefit.
“Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court,” Joe Elford, chief counsel for ASA, told the Guardian. “This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy.”
Last year, the Drug Enforcement Agency rejected the ASA’s petition to reschedule marijuana, saying there wasn’t substantial evidence the drug should be removed from schedule 1. The DEA cited a five-year-old assessment from the Department of Health and Human Services that said there was no consensus in the medical community on the medical applications of marijuana.
In its reply brief, the ASA says the criteria used by the DEA and HHS to determine scheduling are flawed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments in the case on Oct. 16.
So the question I ask now is the same question I have been asking for many moons, “If we win, then what is next?”
Does anyone believe that if cannabis is rescheduled to the equivalent of Vicodin (Schedule 3), or Marinol aka Dronabinol (Schedule 3), or even schedule 4 or 5, that patients will be able to grow a garden of cannabis to use as a medicine? Does anyone believe that the current means of access that we have in limited states would continue with little to no changes in the system? Do we believe that after cannabis is turned over to the “bringing a new drug to market” folks that a.) raw cannabis will be an option; b.) that smoked cannabis will be an option; and/or c.) that anyone but a heavily licensed corporation with the money to jump through the hoops of government regulation will be able to produce and provide cannabis for medical use?
Those are all very fair questions. Of course it is necessary to reschedule cannabis as a medicine, and maybe, if cannabis is rescheduled, taken out of the hands of the people, and the current quasi-legal systems in limited states are shut down in favor of pharmaceutical weed, the cannabis community can begin to focus more on ending the mass incarceration of our neighbors for weed, and focus our fight on ending prohibition for adult use once and for all. Maybe if our hand is forced to quit pretending everyone is sick to grow weed because the only way to get medical weed might be from an approved government overseen resource, people will get back to the basis of this battle for cannabis freedom….freedom.
Medicalization is not real freedom. It is actually the second most strict form of prohibition. Think about it.
So while I see many in the community rejoicing this opportunity to bring cannabis to the scheduled drug table, I just do not see what all of the excitement is about. To me, I think watching the industry that has developed for patients and providers evolve into a shell of itself overrun by big business is very sad. I think rescheduling without adult use legalization leaves us MUCH more vulnerable than we are right now. While it will allow for patients in areas with no access to possibly have access to some form of non-smoked cannabis medicine, likely extracted in some form, it may also be a sea change for the hundreds of thousands of patients who now do have safe and convenient access to a variety of whole plant and smokeable medicines.
So what is the answer? The answer is adult use legalization. It always has been. We have focused a lot of time, energy and resources pushing for rescheduling to justify the medicalization of cannabis, and somewhere in that battle we have forgot that rescheduling does not really do much to solve the actual problem of taking people to jail for weed. In fact, it could increase substantially the people going to jail for weed, as the companies that invest an average of $1.3 billion to bring a new drug to market will likely demand stricter control on the ground to protect their market share. If any person or group is truly for patients having more access to less expensive cannabis, then legalization is a no brainer. If people who continually preach about the safety and efficacy of cannabis really believe that we need a whole new pharmaceutical system in pace to assure cannabis is safe, then I am not sure we are talking about the same plant.
But maybe I am wrong. Maybe cannabis will be rescheduled and the government will concede that people should be allowed to grow their own, purchase it from a locally run dispensary or collective, and that everyone should blast a fat dab. Who knows? What I do know is that I am no nearly as excited as some who are out taking the usual premature victory lap.
UPDATE: The REAL details put forth by NORML on the situation. many thanks to Norm Kent for clearing up Steve Bloom’s premature and inaccurate reporting.
Dear friends,Having seen the posts this morning concerning Allen St. Pierre, the Executive Director of NORML, I am writing in my capacity as the Vice Chair of NORML.Please post this for the sake of accuracy. Sometimes a lie can get half way around the world before the truth catches up with it.The purpose of this communication is to verify and affirm responses posted to each of you by Paul Armentano, our Deputy Director, and Keith Saunders, one of our Board members.Very simply, as of this date, Allen St. Pierre has not been terminated as the Executive Director of NORML. At this time, there is no guarantee that this will ever happen and the publication is premature and inaccurate.Since this matter has gone public, I believe the public is owed an explanation as to what is transpiring.First, in-between its board meetings, the Executive Committee of NORML has the full authority to act for the Board.Second, at the conclusion of this year’s successful NORML conference in LA, members of the Executive Committee met with Mr. St. Pierre and advised him that at our next Board meeting in Key West on November 28, 2012 the following motion will be presented to the Board:“Shall the Board of Directors approve appointing a search committee for a new executive director?”Third, the Chair, Paul Kuhn, asked Mr. St. Pierre if he was in accord with this motion, and Mr. St. Pierre summarily and demonstratively rejected the proposal, saying he had no intention of resigning from NORML, and that he had never published comments to Mr. Kuhn or others offering to do so.Fourth, in fact, Mr. St. Pierre, who himself is a member of the Board of Directors, suggested that Paul Kuhn should resign from his position as Chair, and he would ask the Board for such a vote.Therefore, as it stands now, to be as fair and honest as possible to everyone, there will be at least two countervailing motions on the table for the Board of Directors at its next meeting, one asking for a search committee to seek out a new ED, and one asking to remove the Chair, and maybe even members of the Executive Committee.It is not my goal to wash our dirty linens in public, but it is also not my desire to see false information disseminated with the damaging residual consequences that brings forth. So I publish these comments to bring people up to date on actually what has happened and what may happen.So there we have it.Thank you.Norm Kent,Vice Chair,NORML
After making the final speech of the 41st-annual NORML Conference in Los Angeles at the Omni Hotel on Saturday, during which he said, “I’ve hit a nadir with NORML,” executive director Allen St. Pierre was fired by the Board of Directors, CelebStoner has learned.
Though no announcement has been made, St. Pierre’s absence from the post-conference party at The Hemp Museum was conspicuous.
St. Pierre has been battling with a contentious board for several years. The recent takeover of the board by Paul Kuhn left St. Pierre more vulnerable.
I am not sure if anyone saw this as a big surprise. When you are the leader of an organization that is consistently criticized for lack of leadership and vision there is a pretty big problem. Allen St. Pierre has led NORML to the brink of collapse and has had very little real accomplishments to show for his 7 years of work as the Executive Director. Of course the entire reason for NORML’s ineffectiveness is not completely Allen St. Pierre’s fault, but his leadership also has brought little to nothing to the table for them.
The big question now is who will replace Allen, and even more, will they be capable of making NORML more dynamic, innovative, and effective? Is there a person out there who can lead the charge towards cannabis freedom without drama, hurt feelings, and dissension in the ranks?
As NORML looks to replace Allen my hope would be that they do not just grab the first guy standing around the water cooler to fill that role. Cannabis activists, and NORML supporters deserve a real change. Not just in person, but also in philosophy, direction, and the way they understand the social and political environment that we are leading this battle in.
The word on the street is that NORML is flat broke. Celebstoner states that they have “long run deficits,” as MPP and DPA have received most of the reform funding over the past years. So obviously just bringing on some high-priced empty suit to fill the role is not the answer. It seems that NORML will have to figure out how to run a more lean and powerful team if they want to compete. They will have to begin to put their resources into more strategic planning and implementation of reform campaigns, rather than over-payed leadership that is little more than a showpiece for the organization.
But maybe we have come to a fork in the road. Maybe the folks at NORML, and MPP, and DPA, and LEAP, and SSDP, and all of the other organizations fighting for the same reform dollars need to look deeply at their organizations and ask themselves if we can continue to afford to split up the resources to pull in so many directions when we are fighting for the same thing? I think the community is tired of having so many different groups sending fundraising emails, throwing fundraising events, asking for donations and using those resources for vastly different, and mostly lackluster, efforts to end the drug war and to promote cannabis freedom.
NORML could consider merging with another reform group to combine forces and create a more powerful organization; or better yet, could we merge all of the organizations into a cannabis super power, like the NRA or something? Maybe, but doubtful.
My guess is that the NORML Board will appoint one of its own and continue down the path of ineffectiveness. There is very little fire in the belly of the folks at NORML these days, so it would not surprise me to see them opt for the status quo. I would hope not, but 40 years of history tell us differently. Maybe they can hire Keith Stroup back! Oh wait…he never went anywhere did he?
My opinion, as a lowly weed activist, is that I would like to see a real change in direction and the way NORML does business. I would like to see less focus on patting themselves on the back, and more interest in attacking our enemies’ position with agressive tactics and messaging. Sitting back throwing a conference in a different weed city every year and “answering the phones” is not progress. It has become more of a pageant than a march for cannabis freedom.
I am not sure who would be the greatest person to fill the role of NORML Executive Director. Only time will tell. I just hope it is someone that I can find inspirational, and whose conviction and dedication may actually lead us to ending cannabis prohibition. I do not think that is too much to ask.
UPDATE from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano:
This report is not true. Allen St. Pierre remains NORML’s Executive Director. There have been no changes made regarding the NORML leadership. Only a vote by the Board could institute such changes and no such vote has taken place. It is unfortunate that Steve’s speculation is causing major confusion among those who follow this issue and NORML.
NORML Deputy Director
Apparently Steve Bloom from Celebstoner.com got his cart out in front of his horse on this one….again. But there has also been no denying that St. Pierre will be fired at the next Board Meeting. In two statements from NORML Board members there has been NO word that NORML does indeed intend to go forward with St. Pierre as ED.