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Praised be marijuana legalization activists

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In 1990, I took out a subscription to High Times  magazine in protest over a federal prosecutor’s subpoenaing the magazine’s advertiser records — as reported by Index on Censorship — in an apparent effort to clamp down on hydroponic sellers and customers, and various other suspected marijuana-related vendors.

That set an unstoppable ball in motion for me. In those pre-Internet times, High Times introduced me to Don Fiedler, who was then the national director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and who later gave me tips for plotting my successful strategy to switch to criminal defense from corporate litigation and regulatory work; such optimistic crusaders for cannabis justice as the colorful Jack Herer and Lone Reefer; and Ed Rosenthal, who was persecuted recently for cultivating medical marijuana for sick people.

Around late 1990, I attended part of the annual NORML conference, in Washington, D.C., which was a much smaller event than today. I was mesmerized by Paul Krassner’s talking about Abbie Hoffman, and got belly laughs from his jokes; learned that Hunter Thompson’s no-show was Hunter Thompson being Hunter Thompson; and felt less isolated when, unknowingly, I was a few months away from leaving the life of corporate law to defending indigent clients with the Maryland Public Defender’s Office.

Not long thereafter, I attended a pro-pot rally in Lafayette Park, not too long before Gulf War I started. There, I was captivated by Jack Herer of The Emperor Wears No Clothes fame. Whether or not some of Jack’s claims were unsubstantiated about marijuana being the planet-saving plant, his optimism was infectious, and I caught on to his discussion about marijuana enabling medical users to regulate dosage by stopping at the point where they feel relief. When I bought Jack’s Emperor Wears No Clothes, he autographed it below a message saying: “Jon- Start from page one, and teach it to the world. Nobody can beat a fact. Love, Jack.”

On my way back from the rally, by subway, I bumped into a law school classmate who asked where I was coming from. When I told him about the pro-pot rally, he said: “Do you know I prosecute such cases.” I replied: “I know. It breaks my heart.” I rummaged through the items I had gotten from the rally, and gave him a “No Narcs” sticker; his wife laughed. A few years ago, he left the darkside to do criminal defense.

Some of my most enjoyable clients are my marijuana defense clients, at least the ones who actually use, rather than those dragnetted into something they did not do. If all alcohol drinkers switched to marijuana, this would be a much more peaceful and non-violent planet.

I felt inspired to write this blog entry after stumbling upon the video of Jack Herer’s pipe invention. The pipe is intriguing, and nicely-designed, too.

Over the years, the marijuana legalization movement has made significant inroads towards legalizing medical marijuana and reducing the penalties for simple marijuana possession. It is entirely inaccurate to view the marijuana legalization movement as a bunch of stoners not to be taken seriously; moreover, many marijuana users are far from stereotypical stoners (including emeritus Harvard Medical School Professor Lester Grinspoon and Cosmos co-author Ann Druyan). By now, the marijuana legalization and drug reform movements have gone very mainstream, to include many people, like myself, who do not even use illegal drugs. Legalize it. Jon Katz.