The Texas Marijuana March 2012 turned out to be perhaps the hottest march in recent memory, with high temperatures during the afternoon topping out at 96 degrees and heat indices in the 102-105 range. Despite the heat, a few hundred activists made the walk from Austin City Hall to the Texas State Capitol, braving the unrelenting sun and pavement to hear moving and heartfelt speeches from a variety of NORML affiliated speakers from around the state.
Texas NORML’s Secretary, and the Director of Texas NORML’s Women’s Alliance, Cheyanne Weldon, led off by urging women, and especially mothers, to get more involved with the movement. Vincent Lopez, Texas NORML’s Patient Liaison, gave perhaps the most moving speech of the afternoon, detailing what life is like for a medical marijuana patient stuck with the unforgiving laws of Texas.
Local attorney, and Texas NORML’s Legal Counsel, Jamie Spencer, supplied a “know your rights” speech for the crowd, followed by music from “Cage Free Country Crossover” RPD, and special guest, Alex Marley (Bob Marley’s Jamaican cousin).
Following the music break was the most energetic and hard-hitting speech of the March, provided by Sam Houston State University history professor & faculty advisor for the SHSU NORML Kats, Dr. Kenneth Hendrickson, who warned of the growing militarization of police, the use of these forces against non-violent marijuana offenders, and what could happen if people don’t take action.
The Marijuana March ended with a current candidate for public office, NORML of Waco Inc. Founder, and candidate for Texas House District 56, Clif Deuvall, who ended the event with personal, heartfelt, stories of his past as an award winning educator, decorated Vietnam War Veteran, and loving father. Clif also stressed the importance of voting for candidates who agree with NORML’s mission.
As in years past, there were a couple media outlets who showed up for the Texas Marijuana March: Austin’s local Fox News Affiliate, MyFoxAustin, and Austin’s newspaper the Austin American Statesman.
What was unexpected, however, was how differently these two media outlets portrayed the Marijuana March.
After having several friendly, even positive, stories relating to Texas NORML on MyFoxAustin over the past couple years, we didn’t expect their coverage to be off base or misleading.
Watch their broadcast stories about the 2012 Texas Marijuana March below:
Marijuana Legalization Rally: MyFoxAUSTIN.com
When the reporter, Ken Herman, from the Austin American Statesman approached me for an interview, as Jamie Spencer was delivering his “know your rights” speech, I had no idea that he was there in an attempt to write a hit piece on Texas NORML and anyone in favor of legalizing marijuana. But, when he preceded his questions by telling me that “not only do I think marijuana should remain illegal, I also think alcohol should be banned,” I knew this wasn’t going to be an interview like I had ever done. Mr. Herman proceeded to pepper me with the same question multiple times, asked in slightly different ways. He wanted to know why NORML doesn’t spend most of our time telling people to not break the law, coupling the question with the false assertion that marijuana consumers are primarily responsible for the tens-of-thousands of drug war related deaths in Mexico.
Despite making numerous attempts to explain to Mr. Herman how the laws of prohibition are the true enablers of black market drug cartels and their violence, he chose not to include any of my statements regarding that in his subsequent article, instead focusing on quotes from a few teenagers who were in attendance at the March. You can read Mr. Herman’s horribly written, and horribly biased article here: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/marijuana-and-mexican-violence-a-question-of-supply-2346796.html
Of course, I could not let this kind of yellow journalism pass without at least attempting to get the Austin American Statesman’s Editorial Board to run a response. As of today, they haven’t run my response, but I have submitted it, and have called to follow up and discuss it with their Editor.
And here is my reply to Ken Herman’s yellow journalistic hit piece, submitted to the Austin American Statesman. Let’s hope that the paper will at least be professional enough to give their readers the factual side of the story:
“Prohibition has failed, both in the 1920’s and since the Controlled Substances Act”
Mr. Herman’s article ignores the Texas Marijuana March’s purpose, which wasn’t about encouraging illegal activity, as he stated. The Texas Marijuana March was focused solely on calling for an end to marijuana prohibition through legal political action.
Texas NORML’s purpose is not to encourage illegal activity. NORML’s Mission Statement is “to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.”
However, it wasn’t surprising Mr. Herman missed the point considering that he began my interview by stating he not only agrees with marijuana prohibition, but also thinks alcohol should be banned. That idea was tried for thirteen years, ending in complete catastrophe as was fully documented recently by Ken Burns’ five-and-a-half hour PBS documentary, “Prohibition.”
Just like alcohol prohibition, the idea that demand can be significantly reduced is a pipe dream. Marijuana is the most used illicit drug in the United States. The US Dept. of Health & Human Services estimates around 100 million Americans have tried it, and tens of millions use it yearly. In fact, the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use & Health estimates more than 10% of the entire US population aged 12 & older used marijuana at some point in the past year, and nearly 30% aged 18-30 used marijuana in the past year.
In addition, polling now shows more Americans support legalizing marijuana for adults than oppose. Late last year, Gallup found nationwide support for legalizing adult marijuana use at 50% versus 46% opposed. This year, Rasmussen reported support for legalizing and taxing marijuana was at 47% with just 42% opposed. This isn’t a fringe issue anymore.
Not all who support ending marijuana prohibition are “lawbreakers.” Actually, many who don’t use marijuana also don’t like the use of their hard earned tax dollars to arrest and jail hundreds of thousands of people every year for marijuana. Yes, according to the FBI around 850,000 are arrested every year for marijuana offenses in the US, with nearly 90% of them for possession. Forbes reported estimates that ending marijuana prohibition could yield more than $40 billion annually from tax revenues and law enforcement savings. That is a significant amount of public resources, no matter how you slice it.
It’s ironic that statements by Mexican officials were brought up to argue for continued prohibition, because since leaving office, previous Mexican Presidents, Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, have made public calls for marijuana legalization. Mexico’s current President, Felipe Calderon, told an interviewer the US should consider “legal market alternatives” to our current drug policies. Of course, Calderon wouldn’t dare overtly call for legalization because US taxpayers send billions of dollars annually to Mexico for the drug war. Over the past several years the drug war has claimed an estimated 50,000 lives in Mexico, but according to DEA officials such as Michele Leonhart it’s “a sign of success.”
Why are cartels not killing thousands over beer or tequila trafficking routes?
Because there isn’t a significant black market for those legally regulated products. Suggesting that demand in the US is primarily responsible for the violent black market in Mexico ignores the fact that marijuana (like alcohol) has been ubiquitous in human society for thousands of years. The cause of the violent black market in these cases lies with the arbitrary prohibitive laws passed in vain attempts to curb their use. And Texas NORML seeks to legally facilitate the end of marijuana prohibition, saving hundreds of thousands annually from arrest, and curbing the violent black market.
Of course, it will be disappointing if the Statesman chooses not to run this response, but it won’t be too surprising. In Texas (even in Austin), it is difficult to get fair and balanced coverage of the marijuana legalization issue. No matter, Texas NORML will continue to push the issue, and we will continue to make public calls for an end to marijuana prohibition.
Please, mark your calendars for Saturday, May 4th, 2013, for next year’s Texas Marijuana March, which will be taking place during a Texas Legislative Session. We need all the outspoken support we can get.