420 Marijuana Forum Aims for High Controversy

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Although the exact reason for the date is unknown, April 20 is an unofficial marijuana holiday around the world. It is on this date for the past 16 years that the University of Colorado's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (or NORML) has put on an annual event known as The National Forum on Marijuana. However, this year proponents of both sides of the argument will get a chance to battle over the issues in an open public forum... followed by a public "420 moment".

Last year's Smoke-Out in Denver

Far from the "pothead" stereotype, marijuana legalization and decriminalization activists around the country are working hard for change. "There never has been an intellectual public discourse on marijuana," said Alex Douglas, a junior sociology major and director of the University's chapter of NORML. "Putting both sides of the issue on the table, the forum offers the opportunity for students and the community to be engaged and educated in all aspects of the marijuana issue."

On Monday, April 20, the event will come to a close with the famous "420 tradition" where thousands will gather near the University to pay homage to their favorite historic plant. Medical marijuana patients in Denver have reason to rejoice; the Obama administration's Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that the DEA will suspend all ongoing raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Colorado is one of 13 states to have legalized Marijuana for medical purposes; Michigan being the most recent to join the pack. "It's nice to know we finally have a president honest enough to admit he inhaled," says Phil Bowles, a local Denver resident, "after all, inhaling is the whole point, right?"

Kevin Booth, a featured speaker at the event and director of the Showtime documentary American Drug War which will be screened in full at the event on Sunday, is hopeful that progress in being made. "It's interesting to note the changes to our drug laws since the release of 'American Drug War'. I'm certainly not taking credit for it, but its interesting to me that the one argument I did NOT cover in my film is the one argument the DEA seems to be riding on these days - that is the old 'pot is a gateway drug' wives tale. For one thing, they warn that the pot of today is 30 times stronger then it was in the 70s. Funny thing about that - you know those commercials that show the guy who still sleeps on his parents sofa because he smokes pot? Those are my friends back in Texas who smoke the low grade weed. My friends in Los Angeles who smoke the pure clean hydro grade all drive expensive cars, own multi-million dollar homes, and have busier more productive lives than any beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, beef-eating, pro-drug-war conservative I have ever met. Case closed."

"Alcohol is the true gateway drug and you can buy it everywhere, and cigarettes kill almost a half million Americans per year. So tell me about this moral through-line that says tax-paying and otherwise law-abiding citizens should be locked in a cage because they would rather smoke a little weed instead of drinking beer or wine. It's time for this lie to end. Marijuana was made illegal through funding from the big chemical companies not that long ago, the problem is that we have all been raised to accept these ridiculous laws that only protect the profit margins of the alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical corporations who would lose billions of your dollars per year if Marijuana were legalized."

Booth is currently in production of a new reality TV show which will follow former drug kingpin "Freeway" Ricky Ross as he leaves prison and attempts to make amends to the community for his actions in the 1980s. For many, the story of Ross' involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal is a prime example of governmental hypocrisy and disinformation in the War on Drugs that goes all the way back to the anti-drug propaganda pieces of the 1950s and 60s. Advocates claim that information gleaned from these films make up much of the popular lexicon of anti-drug knowledge and the majority of it has little or no basis in reality.

Other speakers scheduled to appear at the event include Steve Bloom, founding editor of High Times magazine; Jessica Peck Corry, a conservative pundit and executive director of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative; retired Lafayette judge Lenny Frieling; Food and Drug Administration official Devin Koontz; and Allen St. Pierre, national executive director of NORML.

The National Forum on Marijuana will be held at the University of Colorado, Boulder, from April 18-20. The full schedule of events is available at NORMLCU.com. Check your local listings for play times of "American Drug War" on the Showtime network, the DVD is available in stores or direct from Booth's Sacred Cow website. If you can't make it to Boulder for the big 420 tradition - the buzz on the web is that similar events are likely to be taking place across the country and around the globe!


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Kevin Booth
Sacred Cow Productions
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