Friday, October 09, 2009

Keene Smokeouts Not Helping to Legalize Marijuana

I lived in Keene, NH for one year before moving to San Francisco to work for Students for Sensible Drug Policy. For 3 years before that I was going to to school at Franklin Pierce University, about 30 minutes from Keene. Recently some members of the Keene community have taken to the city's center at 4:20 in the afternoon to host "smokeouts" where they smoke marijuana to protest the plant's prohibition.

To be honest, I was surprised to see people smoking in Keene's center of town's Main Street. I was stunned to see the protest taken right into the police station. Still, I was more surprised at the behavior of the people in attendance who did more than just smoke marijuana in pubic. They called police officers names, stood in front of a police cruiser trying to drive away, hurled insults and even spit at Keene police.

Insulting police officers has nothing to do with legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Police officers have a job to do and arresting people for possessing marijuana is part of that job. If you intentionally draw the attention of the police department and then smoke marijuana in front of them, they have to arrest you. If this were a Utopian world or a Kevin Smith film, the police officer would of course quit his job on the spot and start smoking the joint with you - but it's not. When you show up in front of a police station in large numbers to smoke marijuana with plenty of video cameras aimed at the officers, what do you expect is going to happen? Would you quit a job during a recession?

I'm 110% on board with legalizing marijuana (just in case you haven't read anything I've written before). But the "protesters" took it to another level when they started being offensive. Their methods are simply ineffective at best and detrimental at worst.

I wonder how many of these people are aware that NH has passed a medical marijuana bill and that the bill was vetoed by Gov. Lynch. I would hope that they have all taken 5 minutes to write or call the Governor to say as a NH resident, "I disapprove of your veto of HB 648." I seriously wonder if any of them realize how close we are in NH to legalizing marijuana for some of the seriously ill people that need marijuana to live. As they call police pigs during the protest, I can't help to assume that most of these people probably have know idea that their county's superintendent of corrections happens to be a member of LEAP.

In college, my senior internship was with the Marijuana Policy Project's Granite Staters For Medical Marijuana campaign. The campaign followed around presidential candidates during the primaries and put them on the spot about medical marijuana. I got yelled at by John McCain and Mitt Romney. But more importantly I met NH residents like Clayton Holton and Linda Macia who used marijuana for their serious illnesses. I had never actually seen marijuana help people before that internship. Clayton suffers from muscular dystrophy and at the time was a 22 year old man who weighed about 88lbs. He couldn't eat or keep weight on. If he did eat, he got sick. Clayton was literally wasting away and had to live in a nursing home where he could not smoke marijuana but was instead given oxycontin.

I witnessed Clayton smoke just a small amount marijuana and eat himself a big hamburger and fries and keep it all down. Something he just couldn't have done without cannabis. From that day on - I was sold on medical marijuana. It just made no sense to me that this young man would be punished for trying to relieve his suffering and that my tax dollars would pay to punish him. It didn't make sense that police resources would be used to punish him in an effort to continue a prohibition policy that has failed since its inception and was passed largely because of corruption and outright lies in the first place!

NH Compassion is fighting for NH residents like Clayton and many others to have the right to use medical marijuana. Matt Simon, the campaign's Executive Director, outlines his concerns about the rallies in a letter to the editor published in the Union Leader. I echo his thoughts. The point that needs to be made is that we should be working together and following the instruction of a campaign that has been successful at getting the NH legislature to support medical marijuana. These smokeouts haven't done jack. If the veto stays or it's overturned - that's the time to for these protesters to get back out and do what they believe is right - but this is about strategy.

We have come a long way in NH friends. I ask that you put your efforts toward overriding the veto of HB 648, the medical marijuana bill, in a responsible and sensible way. Those serious about changing the law should contact NH Compassion and ask you can help out - and actually follow the advice you are given.

We are so close to protecting, at the very least, some seriously ill NH residents. I couldn't agree more that those who responsibly use cannabis for recreational purposes do not deserve to be criminals - but the people at the 420 rallies should realize that the freedom of those who use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their doctors to improve the quality of their life comes even before your right to get high in the middle of the street.

2 comments:

Bearwhale said...

Well written! I myself cannot see the purpose of 1) telling your opponents that you smoke marijuana and disregard the law and/or 2) literally blowing smoke in their faces. We're here to make a rational, logical argument about marijuana (and drug) legalization and regulation.

If we're so dedicated to the cause, we need to stop bragging about illegal drug use. It isn't helping. And we also need to stop using illegal drugs in front of people who might consider our argument. Really, what does that tell them? "Look at these people. They need their drugs even when they're trying to legalize them."

It's sending the wrong message. We can do better.

sunflowerpipes.com said...

It seems a bit up surd that smoking a little “wacky tabacky” from a glass pipe is illegal. In America the self proclaimed, “land of the free” one would think we would by now be past monitoring the minor indisgressions and leisure activities of its citizens. Compared to the legal excess of Wall Street what’s wrong with a smoking pipe?
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