As an expert on Drug Policy I have long been skeptical about NORML's
sincerity when it comes to Re-Legalizing the Personal Cultivation of
Marijuana by adult Americans. This article discusses the first 16
years of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
(NORML). As you will discover it only took a few years
before their mission seems to take a turn away from the counter cultural
objectives of the late 1960's. =======================================
My unofficial initiation into the
Drug Reform Movement happened at the age of 14 (1968) when I smoked my
first "joint" of Marijuana during the peak of the "Hippie" movement.
My official initiation took place in 1989 which is the year I first met
Jack Herer and the year began publishing my magazine, New Age Citizen
(1989 - 1997). And though the magazine touched on other
social issues, Drug Policy was certainly the main focus.
So it would be accurate to say that
I've been "officially" involved in the Drug Reform Movement now
for over 20 years (1989 - 2009). I suppose that makes me somewhat
of an elder in the movement at this point. Over that time my
foremost goal has always been to see to it that adult Americans would
eventually have the right to "self cultivate" all the Marijuana they
wish, without any form of taxation or regulation. In the last few
years I have promoted what I call the "MERP Model" to achieve that goal.
You can read more about it here:
Even from my first encounters with
NORML, beginning in 1989, I had always felt that the organization was,
as best, "half hearted" about Re-Legalizing the "self cultivation" of
Marijuana. They patently refused to help promote "International
Drug Policy Day" when I began this international event in 1990.
And today NORML patently refuses to help promote the MERP Model which is
primarily focused on the immediate Re-Legalization of Marijuana "self
cultivation" as a matter of National Security.
In point of fact none of the major
drug reform organizations -- NORML, MPP or DPA -- seem committed
to securing the right to "self cultivation" for adult Americans.
And in previous articles I have exposed this lack of commitment by the
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
In order to understand NORML I
thought it best to begin looking at their early history which began
around 1970. As I began researching the early years I came across
a remarkable article by Amy Cunningham, "NORML's Bad Trip; In
this case, pot led to harder drugs." It was written
way back in 1986 and begins by describing a NORML Conference (December
1985) at which 200 defense lawyers gathered to discuss the best
strategies to defend cocaine smugglers and distributors. And the
reputation of NORML, as a advocate for personal cultivation just goes
downward as the article proceeds. I felt this article to be of
such importance, to understanding NORML, that I posted the entire
article at the end of this first part, just in case it were to disappear
from the Internet.
NORML was establish in 1970 as true
"hippie" culture slowly began to fade from memory and the "me
generation" began to emerge. And even at it's inception NORML was
composed of a dichotomy of "hippies" and defense attorneys.
Cunningham captures this dichotomy well in the following excerpt:
Around this time (1976), the
group did what political organizations do best--it split into factions.
It was, as Stroup biographer Patrick Anderson wrote in "High in
America," the "classic conflict between middle-class reformers and the
people who thought they were fighting the revolution,' that is, the
professional pre-yuppie lawyers against the tie-dyed peace'n love hippie
activists. The hippies were mostly interested in legalized grass and
wanted NORML to back initiatives permitting backyard pot cultivation.
They were far less impressed with the entrepreneurial schemes of the
professionals who wanted to sell marijuana-related paraphernalia, like
match boxes and T-shirts and to distribute marijuana through liquor
stores. These hippies didn't like the idea of NORML accepting Playboy's
corporate money, either.
In the early years they actually
achieved a number of commendable victories:
* In the early 1970's they attracted
supporters like Julian Bond , former attorney general Ramsey Clark,
Senator Jacob Javits, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Bishop Walter Dennis of the
Diocese of New York. They are also the group that scoffed when
government authorities warned youngsters that marijuana would lead to
* In 1975, NORML lawyers got a model
ruling from the Supreme Court of Alaska which gave adults the right to
possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use in the privacy of their
But things came crashing down for
NORML in December 1977. As Cunningham summarizes:
Soon, though, a minor Carter
administration scandal jolted NORML. At the fateful NORML Christmas
party of 1977, Dr. Peter Bourne, President Carter's adviser on drug
policy, made the politically questionable decision to snort cocaine in
the presence of several witnesses. Bourne left his White House post in
disgrace and Stroup was discredited because he indirectly confirmed the
story for one of Jack Anderson's reporters. "From the point of
liberalizing drug law, it all went down the tubes at that party,' says
Mark Kleiman, a former official in the Carter Justice Department and now
with Harvard's Program in Criminal Justice.
This was a mega-disaster not just for
NORML, but for the entire Drug Reform Movement. Because just prior
to this disaster President Carter was seriously considering measures to
decimalize or legalize Marijuana. But after NORML founder, Stroup,
ratted on Carter's drug policy adviser our closest opportunity for real
Marijuana Re-Legalization went up in smoke.
Stroup was forced to leave NORML in
1978 whereupon he saw his fortunes in defending Marijuana and Cocaine
smugglers. By 1980 the "hippies," that just wanted to "grow their
own," were essentially pushed to the margins. As Cunningham
By 1980, the only people with
any energy left were the drug defense lawyers who showed up at the
conferences in ever nicer suits and bigger cars. Indeed, the legal
committee was becoming an impenetrable old-boys network. Mega-drug
lawyers like "Diamond' Joel Hirshhorn, who earned about $750,000 in 1984
and refused to take cases involving less than two tons of marijuana or
four kilograms of cocaine, came up from Miami to speak at the seminars,
bringing with them a whole new kind of big-time cocaine defense
And as the article continues NORML --
as a force to push Marijuana "Self Cultivation" -- becomes a mere relic
from the past. By 1986 (the time that the article was written)
NORML is dominated by defense attorneys who are now more addicted to the
continuance of drug prohibition than a addict is addicted to their
tobacco or heroin.
Another great article on NORML was
published nearly 19 years later, (02/23/2005), by a real "ancient"
within the movement: Joe Pietri. Peitri deserves the title
"ancient" as he was smuggling hashish out of Nepal way back in the
1960's. In this excerpt he recounts how NORML transitioned
from supporting true legalization to a lesser goal of meaningless
decriminalization. And this misdirection from NORML began
occurring in earnest after the 1972 The Shafer Commission recommended
this ill considered "middle ground between true legalization and the
current and continuing state of Marijuana Prohibition.
Decriminalization was rejected by Nixon and had become the new "normal"
Is it strange that we are still
haunted by Richard Nixon's drug war when his own Shaffer commission
recommended legalizing under an ounce of Cannabis? This report
infuriated Nixon who sent it back, and when it came back around the word
legalize was changed to decriminalize and by 2005 millions of Americans
have been sent to prison for marijuana possession some working at slave
labor as we speak!
Stranger yet instead of attacking the Shaffer Commission NORML jumped on
the decriminalization bandwagon, and in 1980 came out with their own
report on the harmful affects of marijuana and I guess jumped on Nancy
Reagan's Just say no bandwagon! Hey I thought they were for
legalization? The Redistribution of Marijuana Wealth Cannabis: the
Goose that Lays Golden Eggs!
By JOE PIETRI
So even as early as the mid-70's it
was becoming clear to most of the intellectual "hippies" that we had
already been sold out by NORML. With NORML at the helm we could no
longer hope for that day when we could legally and cheaply "grow our
own." Those wonderful idealistic dreams of the 60's had been
trashed by the very organization we had trusted to implement our right
to "grow our own." Instead we would slowly be forced to
accept "decriminalization" so NORML's attorneys could continue to afford
$500 shoes as millions of otherwise upstanding citizens were forced to
pay for their services as defense attorneys.
So, nearly 40 years after NORML
began, 850,000 Americans get busted each year for Marijuana possession.
That is 3 times as many getting busting 20 years ago. I find
it laughable that NORML can call this progress. No Pietri is
absolutely correct: we need to slaughter this "golden goose" for the
greater social good it will bring. Marijuana does not need to be
decriminalized so Attorneys can walk around in $500 shoes. It
needs to be legalized so that every adult American can grow all the
Marijuana they need without any taxation, regulation or other form of
And when you think about it that is
the way it was back in the times of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin.
They all grew it. They all liked it. And instead of being
taxed to grow it they were able to use it to pay their taxes.
I highly recommend reading both,
Cunningham's and Pietri's, complete articles to gain a fuller
understanding of NORML's fall from grace. When do we learn that
when you lie down with dogs, you end up waking up with fleas?
Please help move the MERP agenda
forward by signing our petition for the United States. We are
hoping for similar petitions to be distributed in the UK and Canada
shortly. It should only take a minute to sign and 4 letters
will automatically be sent upon completion: one to Obama; 1 to your
Federal House Representative and 2 to your Federal Senate
Click here to sign.
The second part of this series will
look at my experiences with NORML during my tenure as Editor of the
magazine "New Age Citizen" (1989 - 1987). And in the third part of
the series I will discuss NORML's refusal to support the MERP Model
which essentially embraces the the old "hippie" goal of being able to
simply "grow our own" Marijuana without the encumbrances of taxation,
regulation or other forms of government interference.
Bruce W. Cain
Editor, New Age Citizen
Author of the MERP Model for Marijuana Re-Legalization
Last December some 200 defense lawyers gathered at the Holiday Inn in
Key West, Florida “Key West” to learn how to help the other side in the
War on Drugs. They discussed the best legal strategies to defend cocaine
smugglers and distributors: how to spot a juror with a soft spot for
drug smugglers, how to combat the government's use of informants to
crack dealer networks, and how to make narcotics agents look silly on
the witness stand.
For $475, lawyers enrolled in workshops and hobnobbed with the
conference's guest speakers, including several of the biggest drug
lawyers in the country. There was Albert Kreiger, the Miami-based
defense attorney for reputed mobster Joe Bonnano and Carlos Madrid
Palacios, alleged security man for Jorge Ochoa, who once was the world's
fourth largest cocaine dealer. (A state's witness in the Ochoa case was
murdered last February). There was Howard Weitzman, who has since
received a mansion as payment for his successful defense of John Z.
DeLorean. Michael Stepanian, lawyer to many coke dealers and celebrity
drug offenders including the Grateful Dead, also spoke, this time more
subdued than he was the year before when he called U.S. Attorneys "young
scumheads' and judges "disgusting pieces of shit.'
This conference on "The Cutting Edge of Criminal Defense' was sponsored
by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws The
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is a
nonprofit organization dedicated to the legalization of marijuana.
Founded in 1970, NORML remains the leading national advocate for
legalization. (NORML NORML National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws ). Remember them? They gained attention in the early
1970s by nobly defending high school kids about to spend ten years in
the penitentiary penitentiary: see prison. for lighting up a joint. They
were the respectable pro-drug group, with supporters like Julian Bond ,
former attorney general Ramsey Clark, Senator Jacob Javits, Dr. Benjamin
Spock and Bishop Walter Dennis of the Diocese of New York. They are also
the group that scoffed when government authorities warned youngsters
that marijuana would lead to "harder stuff.'
In their own case, it did lead to harder stuff. One-third of NORML's
budget now comes from these conferences that are geared toward helping
lawyers defend mid-level mobsters. Drug defense is a high-stakes
subspecialty subspecialty, of the law these days, and drug lawyers
profit hugely from the illegality of cocaine. The lawyers attending
NORML conferences discuss defenses for users of small amounts of
marijuana, too, but the big money and interest is not in the ex-hippie
who grows pot in his backyard, but the automatic-weapon-carrying
hoodlums of Bolivia and Colombia who dust our urban ghettos and
discotheques with cocaine.
Why do NORML lawyers go to bat for large-scale drug traffickers? "Oh,
the excitement of being in the big leagues is the interest,' says Peter
Meyers, who ran NORML's legal program in the 1970s. "And the money. And
the power of being able to fuck with the government. If you're an
achiever, those are the things you're after.'
Back in the early 1970s, when teenagers were getting several-year
sentences for possessing a marijuana cigarette, a young lawyer from
southern Illinois named Keith Stroup Keith Stroup is an attorney and
founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1965, he enrolled in
Georgetown Law School and worked in the office of Illinois Senator
Everett Dirksen. decided to act upon his belief that grass wasn't so
bad. Stroup founded NORML, and started telling people how dumb it was to
send young pot smokers to jail. One of the people he told was Hugh
Hefner Hugh Marston Hefner (born April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois),
also referred to colloquially as Hef, is the founder,
editor-in-chief, and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.
He is the majority owner of Playboy Enterprise Inc. at Playboy, who
believed that marijuana had put him in touch with "the realm of the
senses.' Hef had discovered a whole new dimension to sex through pot. So
he helped launch the group with a $5,000 donation in 1971 and continued
giving from $40,000 to $100,000 annually for nearly ten years. Stroup
hired a small staff, leased a Washington office, set up a legal
committee with the help of former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and
three other prominent attorneys and started getting publicity for
right-to-privacy cases. NORML was also paving new ground by promoting
studies that said marijuana didn't cause all the problems of the 1960s.
In 1975, NORML lawyers got a model ruling from the Supreme Court of
Alaska which gave adults the right to possess and cultivate marijuana
for personal use in the privacy of their homes. In 1977 they helped
defend, unsuccessfully, Brian Kincaid, 21, a decorated Vietnam veteran
who was arrested for possession at the University of Idaho and spent
several months in jail. NORML's most publicized case came up in 1976,
when 19-year-old Jerry Mitchell, was sentenced to 12 years for selling
an agent one-third of an ounce of marijuana for five dollars, and
assisting in the sale of a pound of pot. Keith Stroup and Michael
Stepanian got the sentence reduced to seven years, not much of a victory
for Mitchell, but a great publicity boon for NORML. "In the early days,
our suits were successful even when we lost because by using the media,
we were able to bring in expert witnesses, and educate judges on how
marijuana was really not that dangerous,' says Peter Meyers.
NORML's income grew from $87,000 in 1972 to $450,000 in 1978. Members
paid $70,000 in dues annually. Ads in High Times magazine also brought
in money. A few liberal philanthropists came into the fold; Stewart Mott
donated $12,000 or so over the decade, for example. Stroup knocked
himself out to collect a respectable board of advisors--all believers in
decriminalization, and all still listed on the letterhead. Nevertheless,
NORML was habitually broke, for Stroup was in the habit of spending 10
percent more than he collected. When desperate, he accepted donations
from drug dealers. In 1976, for example, he took $10,000 from "The
Confederation,' an alliance of marijuana growers and distributors.
Diamond Joel's $500 shoes
Around this time, the group did what political organizations do best--it
split into factions. It was, as Stroup biographer Patrick Anderson wrote
in High in America, the "classic conflict between middle-class reformers
and the people who thought they were fighting the revolution,' that is,
the professional pre-yuppie lawyers against the tie-dyed peace'n love
hippie activists. The hippies were mostly interested in legalized grass
and wanted NORML to back initiatives permitting backyard pot
cultivation. They were far less impressed with the entrepreneurial
schemes of the professionals who wanted to sell marijuana-related
paraphernalia, like match boxes and T-shirts and to distribute marijuana
through liquor stores. These hippies didn't like the idea of NORML
accepting Playboy's corporate money, either.
In the meantime NORML's maverick lawyers were developing expertise in
drug defense procedures that promised to pay off in a way the activists
preferred not to acknowledge. Those who'd cut their teeth on simple
pot-possession cases were building lucrative practices based on
increasingly complicated drug-smuggling cases. When the two groups came
together for the national conventions in the mid-1970s they split into
separate sessions, the activists rapping about grass-roots movements and
pot legalization and the lawyers trading legal stratagems.
Although some of the activists may have been bummed out by the lawyers'
direction, they knew that their legal fees were paying for them to hold
their conferences in posh Hyatt hotels, building credibility for both
groups. So as long as the organization was doing well and they had
similar goals, the two factions could stay together. "The drug defense
seminars have been a source of frustration, and they've caused some
problems within our own ranks,' says longtime NORML activist Arlene
Dusel, "but it all boils down to economics: where else do you go for
Soon, though, a minor Carter administration scandal jolted NORML. At the
fateful NORML Christmas party of 1977, Dr. Peter Bourne, President
Carter's adviser on drug policy, made the politically questionable
decision to snort cocaine in the presence of several witnesses. Bourne
left his White House post in disgrace and Stroup was discredited because
he indirectly confirmed the story for one of Jack Anderson's reporters.
"From the point of liberalizing drug law, it all went down the tubes at
that party,' says Mark Kleiman, a former official in the Carter Justice
Department and now with Harvard's Program in Criminal Justice.
Under pressure from NORML activists who felt he had squealed on Bourne,
Stroup left in 1978 to develop his own drug defense practice. In
parting, he declared he wouldn't negotiate with PCP or heroin dealers,
nor would he represent the drug informants who were turning in their
fellow dealers to win leniency. He then launched into defending
marijuana and cocaine dealers with all the enthusiasm he'd invested
previously in keeping pot smokers out of the pokey.
"Convicted drug dealers,' he said, "are actually political prisoners.'
He counted drug dealers "among his friends,' writes Patrick Anderson,
"and he felt that in defending them he was in effect defending himself
and everyone else in the drug culture. As he saw it, everyone who used
drugs was indebted to the people who took risks to supply them.'
Without Stroup's leadership, NORML activists weren't getting many
personal-use and pot-cultivation initiatives on local ballots. "Our
opponents said no one was interested in the issue anymore,' said NORML's
Deputy Director Jon Gattman. It seemed most of the changes NORML
originally sought had been made; few middle-class smokers were getting
arrested for possessing small amounts of pot. Eleven states, accounting
for one third of the U.S. population, had totally decriminalized the use
of marijuana, making an infraction Violation or infringement; breach of
a statute, contract, or obligation.
As the marijuana laws changed, large donations to NORML slowed down.
Hippies weren't leaving quite as many dimes and quarters at the head
shops either. And in 1982, Playboy pulled out. "NORML was going through
some leadership changes and they didn't have their act together enough
to be real concerned about putting more money into it at a time that was
tight for us too,' says Playboy Foundation director Cleo Wilson.
NORML's advisory board--a hodge-podge of statesmen, lawyers, activists,
a clergyman and one fellow listed as a sheriff who hadn't been a sheriff
in five years--went dormant. Julian Bond, Ramsey Clark and Benjamin
Spock limited their involvement to consenting to be on the stationery.
The only philanthropist still sending checks is Max Palevsky, who still
thinks kids commonly get thrown in jail for holding a joint of
marijuana. "They call and ask for help on specific projects, and I send
some money,' he says. "I guess I'm the last, old tired soul doing that.
But there's big difference between cocaine and marijuana and I let them
know how I feel about that.' Nevertheless, he has sent $10,000 to NORML
so far in 1986.
By 1980, the only people with any energy left were the drug defense
lawyers who showed up at the conferences in ever nicer suits and bigger
cars. Indeed, the legal committee was becoming an impenetrable old-boys
network. Mega-drug lawyers like "Diamond' Joel Hirshhorn, who earned
about $750,000 in 1984 and refused to take cases involving less than two
tons of marijuana or four kilograms of cocaine, came up from Miami to
speak at the seminars, bringing with them a whole new kind of big-time
cocaine defense contingent.
Activists heard less and less talk about reforming the drug laws. "There
was never any talk about how the attorney could continue to be a
reformer,' says former activist Jeanne Lange. "Nobody ever said to the
drug lawyers, "Hey, we know you're wearing $500 shoes now, and we know
you're busy, but could you take the time to meet with the activists in
your state? Maybe just for an hour? Maybe it would inspire you.''
The tension grew until 1983, when both contingents spoke of disbanding
the organization. Some of the angriest activists believe that NORML's
lawyers were no longer in a position to change the drug laws since their
livelihood depended upon them. Kevin Zeese, then the legal committee's
chair and now national director, supported the motion to split up.
Advisory board members prevailed and both factions were encouraged to
forgive and forget.
NORML's pro Bonnano work
Today, NORML's debt has dropped from $125,000 with a budget of $190,000
in 1981, to $20,000 with a budget approaching $300,000 this year. "If I
were to name one thing that really pulled NORML out of debt, it would be
these drug defense seminars,' says Zeese. Going to the drug lawyers for
money made sense "because their pockets ran deepest.' NORML also makes
about $10,000 a year with its newsletter "Drug Law Report' that has
1,500 subscribers, and they have just recently gained 501(c)(3) tax
status making contributions to them tax deductible, a cause of
considerable inner-office excitement. Zeese is working on a book
entitled The Drug Defense Manual for Practitioners which is designed
"for the attorney defending all ranges of drug cases.'
The new NORML is not made up of Jerry Garcias or Abby Hoffmans. It is
made up of the likes of Gerry Goldstein of San Antonio, currently
defending Danny Vilarchao of Miami who is charged with selling agents
four kilos of cocaine with the promise of 160 more. And Jeffrey Weiner,
a Miami lawyer who is a member of the illustrious "boat bar,' which
means he shows up the morning after a dozen or more shoeless, penniless
Colombians are busted on a boat load of cocaine or marijuana, and elects
to represent them all. "Generally, he'll be on retainer for whoever's
load it was,' says U.S. Attorney Richard Gregory. And it is made up of
men like John Zwerling, one of three big NORML lawyers in Virginia who
regularly defend coke smugglers. One distributor he recently defended,
Gardner Crisp, is appealing his conviction for participating in a
two-year drug ring which allegedly smuggled one kilo of cocaine a week
into Newport News, Virginia.
With the $90,000 NORML annually earns teaching legal tricks to Weiner
and company, the organization does try to address some legitimate
issues. It publishes material on marijuana and health, convinces the
Drug Enforcement Administration to file environmental impact statements
on the spraying of paraquat and pushes home-grown pot initiatives. Most
recently, it has been pressing the Justice Department not to allow
employee urinalysis testing. Moreover, they have raised important
constitutional questions about the government's efforts to get some drug
lawyers to testify against their own clients. But it is questionable
whether an organization surviving on the profits of the drug trade can
be a credible voice in these debates.
Yet NORML is not about to give up its druglawyer education project.
Sitting in NORML's Washington office, Zeese reflects on this new formula
for success. "The only was to stop drug traffickers is to legalize
drugs,' Zeese says. "NORML wants to put the traffickers out of
business.' NORML's principal way of putting traffickers out of business,
however, is not lobbying against cocaine laws but teaching dealers'
lawyers now to beat drug raps.
The rationale becomes more curious as Zeese tries to explain it. He
makes a distinction between NORML's drug lawyers and "sleazy' drug
lawyers. "There are drug lawyers out there making big profits off
defending big dealers, and they don't really care what the issues are.
But our lawyers are ethical guys who believe that the laws should be
changed even though they are profiting from the law.' A lawyer is
"sleazy,' then, when he defends wicked mobsters for the money but
"ethical' when he does the same thing not just for money, but the
At this point NORML lawyers usually turn pragmatic and claim that they
need the cocaine dealers' money to subsidize their good work. "The
people that need NORML and use NORML are the lawyers who are interested
in law reform issues,' says NORML lawyer Jim Jenkins of Savannah,
Georgia. "Sure, they take some high-profile drug cases, and they charge
big fees on occasion. But every one of those guys is also doing some pro
bono work for some kid who's getting gobbled up for selling an ounce of
marijuana in a rural area.'
He therefore can defend Emanuel Lewis Fleming, son of a major cocaine
kingpin (both of whom pleaded guilty in a cocaine conspiracy case and
are now doing time in the penitentiary) because it enables him to take
on the much more palatable case of a "man [who] owns a restaurant in St.
Augustine, has a three-year-old child, and has never been convicted of a
felony before.' The defendant in the more noble case was recently
sentenced to 25 years for smuggling 17,000 tons of marijuana.
Some NORML lawyers take the argument a step further, suggesting that
lawyers make a killing defending the drug dealers as a backhanded way of
sticking it to the bad guys and helping the cause of pot legalization at
the same time. "We gouge the drug dealer in order to do good pro bono,'
asserts NORML lawyer Larry Turner, "because our roots are really in pro
bono, and in the anti-war movement, and in civil rights issues.'
coun•ter•cul•ture : A culture, especially of young people, with values
or lifestyles in opposition to those of the established culture.
NORML's past is indeed rooted in the 60s counterculture; even the inside
of its Washington office reflects this. The decor is Early College:
there's catnip in a grow-light booth by the window, a complete set of
back issues of High Times on a shelf, hashish ads from India on the
walls near a few cartoons mocking Attorney General Edwin Meese's trips
to California to confiscate domestically grown marijuana (which NORML
claims is this country's largest cash crop). But peel back the hippie
decor and the NORML lawyers' rationalizations seem quite at home in 80s
Washington. They're hardly different from the claims of "liberal' law
partners in Washington that say the pro bono work they do for charities
in their spare time somehow justifies their collecting huge fees for
such things as helping corporations avoid paying taxes. But abandoning
your professed ideals for sleazy work 90 percent of the time so you can
afford to champion them 10 percent of the time, only makes you about 10
percent less sleazy than your competitor who possesses no ideals at all.
Some NORML defenders say that their support for the drug dealers arises
out of a principled opposition to drug laws that has always been part of
the group's creed. One wonders why, if this overarching belief was such
an important part of their tradition, they rarely mentioned it in the
early 70s when they were gaining respectability. Would Jacob Javits and
Benjamin Spock really have given their names to a group they knew wanted
to help Jorge Ochoa or Joe Bonnano?
When all else fails, NORML lawyers reach for the
even-bad-guys-deserve-good-lawyers argument. "My stand on coke dealers,'
says Larry Turner, "is okay, convict 'em, send 'em to jail, but let's be
sure they have their day in court, and let's make sure that wiretap was
legal.' There's merit, of course, to this argument. We're right to
admire the public defender public defender, governmental official who
represents indigent persons accused of crime. U.S. Supreme Court
decisions expanding the right to counsel to pretrial proceedings and
holding that a person cannot be sentenced to even one day in jail unless
a lawyer was who makes sure the poor get legal representation and the
American Civil Liberties Union when it's making sure constitutional
rights are not violated. The same should hold true when NORML lawyers
take cases when they, too, fear someone's civil rights have been
But there is a difference between saying every thug should have a lawyer
and saying that one should be the lawyer for every thug. Just because
the accused in this country are entitled to legal representation doesn't
mean lawyers can't make judgments about whom they should defend.
Ultimately, one can't help feeling that a belief in the "adversarial
system' isn't really the reason the NORML lawyers got into this
profitable practice. "My life would be easier without these damn cases,'
explains Larry Turner, "but it's definitely easier to be liberal when
you're rich, you know.'
COPYRIGHT 1986 Washington Monthly Company
Please send the link to
activists throughout the planet. The translation bar should allow
this to be read in any language. The 5-Point Strategy for
Marijuana Re-Legalization should be easy to implement in any country
throughout the planet. I encourage all groups celebrating the
Global Marijuana March to make the immediate implementation of the MERP
Model a primary focus of the event.
Call President Obama and your Representatives and demand:
(1) Immediate clemency for Marc Emery and
(2) Immediate implementation of the MERP Model through an Emergency
Session of Congress, similar to what was used to pass the TARP Bailout
on October 3rd, 2008
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