Overflow crowd turns out for forum to discuss ‘Next Steps’ for marijuana reform in California

California Norml hosts two conferences
By Chris Conrad West Coast Leaf

An overflow crowd came from around the state to Berkeley Jan. 29, 2011 for a California NORML conference to assess ‘Marijuana Reform: Next Steps for California.’ Another conference is set for March 19 in Los Angeles (see canorml.org).

At the Jan. 29 event, State Senator Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano agreed that with Jerry Brown as state governor the prospect of getting meaningful reform passed and signed into law is enhanced. Leno said he is introducing SB129 to protect the jobs of qualified patients who use cannabis medicinally.

Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks and Mendocino Supervisor John McCowen spoke of devising workable solutions at the local level in the face of erratic federal intervention. Surprise guest speaker Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy

Alliance pointed to a global debate that Prop 19 initiated in 2010 and the more favorable voter turnout expected in 2012.

Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer guided the conferees through a series of panels and presentations.

A second room was opened to handle the overflow crowd. During the last panel of the day, that room became an open- microphone forum so everyone had a chance to speak on the future of reform.

All agreed that legalization reached new levels of acceptance in 2010. Dale Sky Jones of the Yes on 19 campaign said this was a major goal of the campaign and that a new initiative committee is in its develop- mental stages. “The question isn’t whether cannabis will be legalized, it is determining what form of legalization will take place.”

Throughout the day, a plethora of ini- tiative ideas was discussed by the panels and privately among the 300 attendees, who included many of the state’s top activists, as well as people who came from across the nation to participate.

Mikki Norris spoke to “who we are,” by listing the diverse players and opinions with a stake in cannabis reform. The call for unity was repeated many times.

One division was made apparent in the two-track path taken by the conference in concurrent afternoon breakout sessions — medical marijuana and full legalization.

On medical use, Steve De Angelo of Harborside Health Center talked about working with local government, while Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access discussed the delicacies of working for the rights of patients across the country who are affected by what happens here. Berkeley family doctor Frank Lucido, M.D. and others expressed physician view- points. Attorneys dissected legal aspects of crafting legalization laws.

Nate Bradley of LEAP, Michael Jolson with the CCHHI or ‘Jack Herer’ initiative, Jeff Jones of Yes on 19, Debby Goldsberry of the Cannabis Action Network, Bruce Margolin of LA NORML, Lindsay Robinson of Marijuana Policy Project, Deborah Small of Break the Chains and others were on a crowded activist panel.

Video of the event is posted online at canorml.org.

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