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Medical Marijuana Goes Mainstream

A whopping 63% of Fox News viewers have endorsed the Obama Administration’s decision to stop targeting medical dispensaries in California. The disclosure was made by Geraldo Rivera last week on his popular show, ‘Geraldo at Large.’ For once, Fox is catching up with the rest of the nation.

Geraldo presented more than just a fair and balanced report. The news item clearly distinguished the marked differences between the casual user of marijuana for recreational or personal medical use and traffickers operating illegal Mexican drug cartels, which everyone acknowledged should be targeted for enhanced enforcement. Rivera even applauded Attorney General Eric Holder for his new and rededicated efforts to stop that illegality, inserting into his news report the AG’s announcement of a raid last week, which netted 300 suspects nationwide.

Ann Coulter, of course, came on to criticize Obama, but she is a howler monkey who stands on the end of the branch and shrieks at anything Barack and Friends do or do not do. Even she had a hard time coming down too hard on smokers, preferring to just attack President Obama. Surprise. When Geraldo then turned to conservative Mike Huckabee for a countervailing viewpoint, he tempered his criticism of the new policy by recognizing that every governor has to set its priorities. The best objection he came up with was that if the Obama administration wanted to “change the law, go ahead and change it, but don’t keep a law you are not going to enforce.” That is a far cry from stating this was bad policy, a poor change, and counter -productive to our nation.

What viewers eventually saw on the piece Geraldo did was a presentation that medical marijuana is a wave sweeping over our land, and the 15 states which already provide for it are a precursor to a national future. You could almost sense that was the direction Geraldo was headed when he opened with a segue featuring Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin at a recent ‘Smoke Out’ rally in LA.

Afterwards, Rivera followed with a short piece about a white-collared businessman, explaining to the audience that he ran a lawful, state-compliant dispensary which was busted by the feds. That gentleman, Phil Smith, then explained how he had just spent ten months in jail with hardened criminals and murderers. That too is a far cry from the day and time when marijuana growers were presented to American audiences as hardened criminals. Geraldo even scoffed at the way we once thought of marijuana, with a scene from ‘Reefer Madness’ dropped onto the set in the background.

As he waded through the piece on medical and legal pot, Geraldo even postured this was an issue that crossed ideological lines; that Americans across the board do not want pot law enforced harshly against our citizens. Coming from the barrios of New York City, having grown up in the 1960’s, and spending decades with celebrities in the media, Geraldo uniquely understands how pervasive and personal marijuana is in the American psyche. In fact, as he recovers from knee replacement surgery, I would not be surprised if instead of using Percocet daily he tried out some Purple Haze. (I don’t know, I’m just saying…)

The bottom line is Geraldo is one of America’s grittiest and most seasoned journalists, who has covered stories from mistreatment in mental institutions to mass murders. He knows where ‘pot’ fits into the scheme of things- enough so that he could joke and poke at this story, recognizing as he does our nation has greater issues, more pressing problems.

When NORML (www.norml.com) recently held its annual convention in San Francisco, former Mayor Willie Brown opined that “we should legalize pot because as many people are using it recreationally as are using it medically.” Prop 215 author, activist Denis Peron, once stated: “all use is medical.” Last year, NORML’s founder, Keith Stroup, and Rick Cusick, the Publisher of High Times, along with 50 students from local colleges, were foolishly arrested for smoking joints at a ‘MassCann(abis)’ convention in the Boston Commons. The next thing you know Mr. Stroup was testifying before Massachusetts legislative committees to change the laws in the Bay State. Those statutes have now been amended to provide for the medicinal use of marijuana.

One of my clients, Elvy Mussika, is amongst the last of those getting marijuana from the United States government on a now abandoned program entitled the ‘Compassionate Use Protocol.’ Under the plan, the DEA grows experimental marijuana at the University of Mississippi and freeze-dries it for distribution in a prescription can to Ms. Mussika, a grandmother fighting the intraocular pressures associated with Glaucoma, which constantly cause pain in her eyes. ‘Smoke 3x daily, or as needed for pain’ the jar reads. There are thousands and thousands of other Americans similarly situated, who only want to use pot to relieve pain. For them, marijuana is medicine.

Then there are the Michael Phelps of the world, using bongs and water pipes and rolling papers to get high and give themselves a buzz, for fun’s sake. They too should not be criminalized or denied scholarships to school, should they? Some may not win gold medals in swimming pools, but they should not be posting bail in county jails, either. They may not find themselves as guests of the Jay Leno show, but they should not find themselves as guests of the local sheriff either, should they? It is becoming so normal to smoke, talk, and write about pot that NORML now represents the silent majority of Americans who just want to be left alone with their pot. It would seem that even Fox News agrees.

Google medical marijuana and you will find a cross section of articles in every mainstream newspaper and magazine. As a matter of fact, medical marijuana is becoming so ‘ordinary’ a story that it has found its way to cover stories in the past few months in magazines from Forbes to Harper’s Monthly, not to mention the New York Times. Last month, The Today Show, with Matt Lauer as the interviewer, ran a positive news feature featuring ‘Women and Pot in the Workplace.’ Think about it, one of America’s most popular shows presenting marijuana as medicine in a fair and unfrenzied light. Congressman Barney Frank has even postured that medical marijuana may soon become the law of the land.

In Colorado, a state which has opted for the opening of dispensaries, the Denver Westword, a popular newsweekly, has published a classified ad seeking to hire a random ‘marijuana critic,’ in order to ‘taste-test’ the product which its new dispensaries will be distributing. Lots of daily journalists are out of work. I am guessing there will be no shortage of applications for that job.

What is the outcome of all this to be?

Do not be surprised when a consumer affairs television reporter one day, in a neighborhood near you unveils a feature on the best marijuana dispensaries in your hometown. Medical marijuana is coming to Main Street. We are not just Zig-Zag anymore.

NORM KENT, a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, publishes The Broward Law Blog, www.browardlawblog.com. He can be reached at norm@normkent.com

 

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Norm Kent, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of NORML.

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