Oregon: HempStalk 2008 Gives Legalization Activists a Voice
By Bonnie King, Salem-News.com
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Bringing Oregon's hemp movement to center stage, HempStalk 08 created an environment where rational discussion regarding Cannabis legalization was the norm.
Thousands converged on Portland's Eastbank Festival Plaza last weekend for the fourth annual HempStalk, learning about the benefits of hemp cultivation and to support legalization of Cannabis for all adults.
Paul Stanford of the The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF) is an organizer of the event. He introduced Dr. Phil Leveque as an integral force behind the success of medical marijuana in Oregon.
Leveque took the stage and addressed the enthusiastic crowd, "Good afternoon, you Potheads!", met with a resounding applause.
The emperor himself, renowned author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, activist Jack Herer came to share his story and promote hemp products. Jack first presented his anti-prohibition research in the mid 1970's and has sold nearly a million books since then.
"I thought it would be a good time to introduce the world to all hemp products, at an event like this," Jack said.
To some this may seem like a lot of preaching to the choir, but this choir of young and old is A-typical, they are active, and they have their own voice.
Speaking throughout the 2-day event were many experts from all ends of the anti-prohibition movement.
"We have some educational panels, we have one on industrial hemp, the legal use of marijuana, any questions people may have, we've got some attorneys up there that will be answering those," explained Madeline Martinez, president of Oregon NORML. "We also have a panel on spirituality, which for a lot of us, Cannabis is a spiritual experience. It is considered a sacrament in many ways, as Mexican and Native American, my ancestors used it spiritually as well as medicinally. It's ancient medicine for many of us."
Lifelong advocates like Keith Stroup, founder of NORML (National Organization for Reformation of Marijuana Laws) says the propaganda is all hype.
"You cannot die from an overdose of marijuana," Stroup says. "We once had a federal hearing when we were trying to get marijuana rescheduled under federal law. We had an expert come in and testify that in order to overdose on marijuana, you'd have to ingest 1600 pounds at one time. Now, I've got some friends who've tried, but no one's succeeded at doing that yet."
Changes in our laws and judicial system is understood to be essential for a healthier, more cohesive America.
"So the point is," Stroup continued, "My goodness, science, medicine, anybody with a rational mind would say, 'If people are going to use drugs, let's direct them to those that are the least harmful, not those that are the most harmful,' and our current policies do just the opposite. We're hung up over this- something that's leftover from the 60's, early 70's, where for a lot of older Americans when they think about marijuana they think of a young, long-haired anti-war demonstrator from the Vietnam war, burning his draft card and smoking a joint."
"Well that was never an accurate representation of the average marijuana smoker, but especially certainly is not today. As I say, marijuana smokers come in all shapes and sizes and political beliefs. The fact that someone smokes marijuana doesn't mean they're liberal or conservative, you can't tell. They come from all beliefs. So, it's time we got over our hang up with marijuana and start having a social policy that makes sense for the health of the country," said Stroup.
Oregon has long been known for it's progressive moves, but is is this movement making any ground?
"I think we're getting closer. It's not a sprint, it's almost a crawl," said Paul Loney, attorney. "It depends on what happens on the federal level, because feds can make life miserable here, if they want to."
Even Congress is getting into the swing, recently challenging the DEA's interference in medical marijuana states, of which there are now 12. The federal ban is in itself a contradiction as there is a federal medical marijuana program, but it's kept very quiet.
"Well it's tricky because they won't give any data on it," explains Chris Conrad, Editor/Publisher of West Coast Leaf.
"In fact in California when they passed the SB420, the legislature not the voter initiative, but the legislature passed the bill on it, they wanted to include in there that it was reasonable for a patient to have six pounds and 200 square feet of garden canopy, which is consistent with the federal program, however the federal government wouldn't verify the program existing, they wouldn't verify how much marijuana they gave, so the legislature then refused to use those numbers and that's how they came up with 8 ounces and six plants. They just made up a number because the government wouldn't back up its science."
"We felt that was wrong," Conrad said. "We think that it's a matter of public record, there are studies showing that information is true, it's been published in the New York Times and so forth. Why can't the legislature look at what everybody else knows? But the federal government once again was able to stop our state from doing the scientific thing just by pretending like it wasn't keeping track of its own science."
I asked Paul Stanford what hemp legalization would mean to Oregonians. "Well, for farmers, it would revolutionize agriculture," he said. "Because instead of buying petrochemicals, instead of buying fuel for their tractors, they can press their own fuel, and the bi-product is going to be food."
"Hemp has been grown in Europe for about a thousand years, and literature says it can grow up to as far as the Arctic Circle," said Dr. Phil Leveque.
Sept 3rd, MSN Money said this about legalization, "Tax gains. Drug prices would have to fall sharply in order to squeeze out the black market. Still, Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer in economics for Harvard University, calculates the $10 billion-plus U.S. marijuana market could reap $6 billion in annual taxes."
They contend that "a new legal drug industry would create jobs, farm crops, retail outlets and a tiny notch up in gross domestic product as the black market money turned clean."
A 1994 study by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C., suggested 100,000 jobs and 60,000 retailers could emerge from a legal marijuana industry.
Savings on drug-related law enforcement -- FBI, police, courts and prisons -- of $2 billion to $10 billion a year if marijuana were legalized, based on various estimates, or up to $40 billion a year if all drugs were legalized, based on enforcement costs from the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Hemp products are some of the strongest and most beneficial on the planet Earth, and plenty of examples were on hand at Hempstalk to make that perfectly clear.
With a diverse array of entertainment including The State of Jefferson, Los Marijuanos, Folk Yuke, John Trudell and more, there was an enthusiasm in the air that comes from being a part of something significant, common people making positive change.