Opening Remarks At NORML 2008: NORML Board Chair, Stephen Dillon, Esq.

It’s Not Your Parents’ Prohibition
Stephen W. Dillon’s Welcome Address
To The 37th Annual NORML Conference
October 17-18, 2008
Berkeley, California
Doubletree Hotel/Marina

I. Welcome/Introduction (Cannabem liberemus!)
Good morning! I am Steve Dillon, chairman of the NORML Board of Directors. I want to welcome all of you to our 37th Annual Conference in beautiful Berkeley, California. We are very glad you are here – California is still the ground zero in the government’s war on medical marijuana.
I am honored and excited to be with you and our outstanding group of speakers and panelists. We have a great conference planned. There are lots of opportunities to learn, share, experience with each other, and recommit to ending the government’s prohibition of marijuana.
II. The theme of the conference this year is: “It’s Not Your Parents’ Prohibition“.
My parents were born during the government’s failed effort at alcohol prohibition (1919-1934). They learned about home-made beer and wine and even about secret stills for liquor in their basements. They shared with me some of the alcohol paraphernalia of my grandfather, Dr. John Dillon. He had a silver folding whiskey glass and a leather cigar case with fake glass cigars or containers for booze. My parents weren’t old enough to drink alcohol during the prohibition, but my grandparents did regularly. My parents didn’t think that their parents were criminals, only Al Capone and the gangsters who committed violent acts to support their illegal business enterprises.
There was an attitude of our citizens at that time that the government couldn’t really tell us that we couldn’t drink, we were Americans! It was fun to go to the speak-easy. It was a “forbidden fruit” that lead some people to drink alcohol just because we weren’t suppose to. However, people didn’t often get arrested for drinking a beer or having a glass of wine. People didn’t have their homes searched or seized or forfeited for home brew or wine. This marijuana prohibition is much worse than our parents’ prohibition. (1) unconstitutional/illegal, (2) more costly, (3) much longer/never-ending, (4) loss of freedom and property, (5) loss of opportunity, (6) loss of medicine and compassionate care of sick, (7) dishonest, (8) drug-testing.
What were the results of the American alcohol prohibition? It is undisputed that the prohibition was a complete failure. It certainly didn’t work to prohibit alcohol consumption by millions of Americans, from the very rich to the very poor. The prohibition resulted in an increase in organized crime and brutal violence. It resulted in corruption of our courts, police, and politicians. It misdirected our tax resources – it wasted millions of dollars that could have been spent to improve the lives of Americans.
The prohibition resulted in a growing disrespect for government and law enforcement. It led to countless deaths, not only from the gang violence in the streets trying to control the illegal market, but also from the deaths from tainted home-made liquor – “bathtub gin”. The prohibition made millions of American citizens “criminals” overnight, even though the vast majority had no intent to harm anyone, not even themselves. They had lost the right to choose.
Federal law enforcement officials like the FBI’s Hoover, used the prohibition as a reason to greatly increase the funding and power of their agencies; and they have never relinquished that power.
The alcohol prohibition was doomed because it was standing directly in the way of the citizens’ right to choose to use alcohol – even if it wasn’t good for them. There is a fundamental belief in America that we the people have the right to make decisions about how we live our life. That we are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – however we define it, as long as we don’t hurt others or interfere with their rights. The government’s marijuana prohibition was also doomed to fail for the same reasons.
III. The government’s 71 year prohibition of marijuana has also failed and is also counter-productive.
When the marijuana prohibition started in 1937, the government was trying to keep in place the federal law enforcement bureaucracy from the alcohol prohibition which ended just a few years before. The government picked marijuana to prohibit for a variety of reasons such as: (1) mostly blacks and Mexicans used marijuana (maybe 5000 users at the time). – racist, (2) most Americans were unaware of the benefits of marijuana, even though it was used in many patent medicines and treatments, (3) powerful lobbyists and their politicians protected the pharmaceutical industry, the paper industry, the oil industries from the competition for consumer dollars. The prohibition is still in place for all these reasons, mainly greed and control.
The marijuana prohibition has also resulted in an increase in organized, violent crime and gang warfare on our streets. It has resulted in corruption of police, politicians, and courts. It has wasted billions of our tax dollars each year; money that could be spent on education, or roads, or Social Security, or on protecting us from real crime or real terrorists. The marijuana prohibition has led to a strong disrespect for government, in general; and for school, police, and law enforcement officials, in particular.
One of the worst consequences of the marijuana prohibition is the loss of the truth about marijuana and its benefits. The government lies about marijuana. Drug Czar Walters regularly states that people aren’t getting arrested for marijuana possession. This is despite the fact that the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2007 recently stated that 872,721 citizens were arrested last year. One arrest each 37 seconds! (90% for possession only) Last week on October 10, 2008 the 20th million arrest for marijuana in this country happened. Samuel Caldwell was the first federal marijuana prisoner. He was sentenced in October 1937 to Ft. Leavenworth for four (4) years for two (2) joints. He died in prison of stomach cancer. There are now at least 33, 655 state marijuana prisoners and 10,785 federal marijuana prisoners. One out of eight (1/8) inmates are there for a marijuana offense. The marijuana arrests last year were a record, up 5% since the year before. Marijuana arrests accounted for almost ½ (47.5%) of all drug arrests in the country. Our America, sweet land of liberty has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population.
Americans will smoke pot if they want to, just like past Americans drank alcohol if they wanted to. About ½ of the adult population has tried marijuana. Over twenty (20) million regularly use it. Twelve (12) states have medical marijuana laws and dozens of cities and towns have decriminalized marijuana possession or have made it the lowest priority of law enforcement. More states are passing and considering eliminating the ban on hemp and hemp products, also.
The American public knows that marijuana isn’t’ harmful to them like alcohol or nicotine, which are legal, regulated, and taxed. The government itself has recognized and reported the truth in the past about marijuana and its effects; such as the Shafer Commission in 1972 and DEA Administrative Judge Francis Young’s decision in 1988. Many medical studies and reports from all over the world, for thousands of years, have told us about the relative safety and medical benefits of marijuana.
The American public has responded to numerous polls indicating that marijuana prohibition should end. The Zogby poll (3/22/07) found that over half of all Americans support decriminalization. The Time/CNN poll (2002) found that 72% of Americans wanted decriminalization for possession and 75% favored allowing states to provide for medical marijuana. We have come to the point where it is totally illogical and counterproductive to prohibit marijuana. About 80% of the voters in the medical marijuana states voted for change.
IV. We know prohibitions don’t work. 10 year effort/strategy (1998-2008) UN report on drug eradication concluded recently that despite the 10 year plan-drugs are cheaper, better, and more available.
This continuing, disastrous violation of our fundamental rights is destroying our land and darkening our spirits. A quote regularly attributed to President Abraham Lincoln is …..”That prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes….a prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.
Our first marijuana law in 1619 was in Virginia. It mandated that each farmer must grow it. Our Founding Fathers grew it and used it. Presidents George Washington and Jefferson wrote about it. President Jefferson said “that the freedom and happiness of man are the sole objects of all legitimate government.” He also reminds us that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” They risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defend their liberty. What will we do?
V. Conclusion
Our government must be forced to change direction and end this disastrous marijuana prohibition! We need to elect new leaders and restore our freedom to choose for ourselves. Just like the alcohol prohibition, we must recognize that the prohibition has failed and restore our liberty and freedom – end the costly damage to us, and our constitutional rights.
It is important to remember that the government needed to pass the 18th Amendment to try to regulate alcohol. There is no constitutional amendment giving the federal government the power to prohibit marijuana. The states have the right to continue to make laws regarding cannabis as long as they don’t violate our fundamental liberties contained in the bill of rights.
It is time for a change! It is time to take action to end prohibition. We are the people! We are the majority. We have the truth on our side, and we have the courage to stand up for our rights. What are we waiting for? If we wait for someone else to fight for our freedom, we will lose it.
As Simon Weisenthal, a Holocaust survivor said “Freedom is not a gift from god. If you want freedom, you must work for it every day.”
I look forward to working with you all in this battle. We are winning! And we will win! We will look back sometime soon, and be glad we spoke truth to power and to re-legalize marijuana. Thank you for attending and participating in our conference. I know you will enjoy this opportunity to rekindle the flames of liberty and justice in each of us and in our country
And let us go forth from this place, committed anew to the cause of liberty for all people, the next year we may celebrate in a world made better by our efforts..

0 thoughts

  1. great speech but we need this type of energy to reach our leaders and so called main stream America. the funny thing is the more i talk to people the more i realize FEAR is the only reason marijuana prohibition is still here. our government has spent 30 yrs and a mountain of money convincing middle America that marijuana is linked to crime. Our new president has to relay the message that it is not marijuana but in fact prohibition that causes crime. WE are going to need the help of the federal government to free our elected officials of the fear that ending prohibitions will make it appear that they are soft on crime.

  2. Ron Paul would have fixed this crap too, dont bring obama into it 😛
    and by the way, this friggin speech rocked. i hold aspirations of smoking the first legal joint in my town 😀

  3. The whole thing is just a shame. If there was never a prohibition, and hemp was not made legal we wouldn’t have half the enviromental problems we are about to face. If you dont know what i’m talking about look up the uses of hemp.I am almost positive the powers that made this beautiful plant ilegal is the antichrist. The bible says god gave us every herb barring seed. I just don’t see how man can say where god messed up.

  4. I agree with every word of this. I have to admit I don’t have a track record of partaking in the smoking of marijuana due to my respect for the law. At the same time I realize that change is needed, these laws that prohibit the substance only make things worse. Alcohol and nicotine are certainly more damaging than marijuana but the fact remains that programs such as D.A.R.E. (one I remember from childhood) try to brainwash us into thinking that it is just as bad as meth or heroine, which is complete bull of course. Meth and heroine damage the body and the lives of many people. I agree that the government needs to protect we the people from such substances but marijuana is a step to far, for it is nothing like other said “drugs”.

  5. That was terrible. It made me cry.
    Aren’t we aware that it’s going to take a lot more than a pretty speech to re-educate the stupid people of this nation? I can’t believe the ignorance that is behind the failing of America. Our infrastructure is crumbling, we are yards behind the Asians and at least a few miles behind the Europeans, we are hell-bent on exploring outer space but can’t finance our way out of a wet paper-bag. Working people are being enslaved, our privatized prisons need to be kept full and prisoner’s bonds are now traded on the stock exchange. We are hell-bound to crisis intervention but totally ignore prevention. We emphasize state and local laws but trample on the constitution of our ancestors. And while we turn a blind eye to the alcohol, tobacco & pharmaceutical mafia financing the unfair laws on marijuana prohibition – we stupidly applaud the entire enforcment complex which continues to grow and prosper because of it. The way to poison a dog is to put it in his food. That’s whats happening here.
    As a former Dutch citizen who started smoking grass legally when I turned 18 (and matriculated from a 600 year old university with a Ph.D. in Clinical Physiology and MS in Herbal/Nutritional Biochemistry) I am appalled at the lack of WORK that is being done by us – American citizens – to overturn draconian laws which allow innocent people to suffer jail time causing loss of family ties, loss of income, loss of a home, loss of the right to work and right to vote – all because they want to be a weekend warrior. WE ARE SHEEP! Stephen Miller says it’s time for a change, time to take action. But he fails miserably in telling us HOW. Instead of telling us what to do next his speeach talks about the past. It’s time to RISE UP and DO SOMETHING besides making nice speeches: it’s time to get doctors involved and put them on the hot seat; its time to get rid of signs that warn about higher penalties for being in a school zone; instead we need to infiltrate the SCHOOLS and let students know the truth about drugs, the policies, and those financing the war…and other pertinent information. And that’s just for starters. It’s HIGH time – and why should it just belong to Miller’s?
    Dr. Van

  6. Mr. Dillon states what so many of us have known and have been saying for 40 years, yet the press turns a deaf ear. They still fail to grasp the fundamental injustice and unconstitutionality of criminalizing responsible cannabis use. I’ve often pondered what it would take to get this issue the attention it deserves. Maybe when the Feds try to arrest God for sending rain to illegal fields of marijuana?

  7. Why do these followers of Christ feel the need to put there fellow humans in jail for making and educated adult decision for themselves? I was born without that gene and thank whoever for that. Have they never heard live and let live. We will never be like them as hard as they fight and as many as they can put in jail it will not work. You cannot dictate morality but that is what they strive to do to us. We will never conform to a law that was born from racism is perpetuated by greed and supported by lies. Why don’t you people do some reading and hug a hippie we don’t bite….

  8. I am an honest man, I pay my taxes, I abide the law, I also smoke, and I feel that I am doing no wrong in fact, it is my sacremnt to nature and self. We left Europe to find Religious freedom. They have made it illegal to follow ones beliefs and live one’s life according to them and their Higher Power. That’s like making Holy Water Illegal for Christians, They just wouldnt stand for it. It would be Un-constitutional. I would assume the same goes here? But I guess not.
    I am committed to the cause and I thank you for that, it was truely inspirational! Let’s make a difference and pursue the happiness. Thank You again.

  9. Obama is under enough scrutiny without dealing with marijuana laws. Even then, he is still “the man” and by definition has a vicious lust for power and money. The last thing our government is concerned with is the good of its people. He will do nothing about it.
    We have to do something about it.

  10. I agree with Jason above. It was a great speech. He said everything that I have always believed. But, it is just a speech and probably only heard by people like us. It seems our leaders only pay attention to poll results when it suits their re-election bid.
    ” our government has spent 30 yrs and a mountain of money convincing middle America that marijuana is linked to crime.” Linked to crime? Thats the dumbest shit I ever heard. The only link there is that they made it a crime.
    I cant speak for everyone but Ive never robbed a bank. Hell, after a good smoke, the kitchen is about as far I as I get.

  11. Amazing speech I wish I was there! To quote a favorite movie (pineapple express) If marijuana isn’t legal within five years I am going to be disappointed with humanity.
    -Mike 20 yr old, Austin Texas

  12. it’s true, we are winning the battle.
    however, we’ve still got so far to go.
    i dont trust obama 100%.
    this isnt a crap shoot.
    and i hope i dont regret voting for him.
    he’s made a lot of promises, a lot of which can be achieved…
    we just cant slow down now.

  13. It is the time, we as cannabis users are closer to our goal of reform and we can continue to fight for it!, this speech was amazing iam touched

  14. The theme this year of “It’s Not Your Parent’s Prohibition” is a great theme because of the humanizing effects it can have on the mind of anyone who knows about the Alcohol Prohibition that took place in the early 1900’s. Marijuana has gained a bad reputation from all of the years of negative opposition and uninformed anti-drug activists. The new message will show how history will prove itself again; The prohibition of marijuana does nothing but organize criminals and put nonviolent offenders in jail. Alcohol has very little medical value, which is why I believe that it will be difficult to promote marijuana as a medicine. The first step should be declassifying it from a schedule 1 drug to a lesser schedule so proper testing may take place.

  15. I didn’t vote for Obama, however, I do think he is our best chance for change of our obsolete marijuana laws whether for medical purposes and or recreational reasons…so yesss…it’s time for change big time…keep puffing…

  16. Obama is not the answer to legalizing marijuana. (In fact, I don’t think he’s the answer for anything – but thats a dif comment)
    In the words of the great economist Friedrich Hayek:
    “Society’s course will be changed only by a change in ideas. First you must reach the intellectuals, the teachers and writers, with reasoned argument. It will be their influence on society which will prevail, and the politicians will follow.”
    We’re making progress, Michigan and Mass. for example, but the battle is far far from over and we cant let up for a second.
    BTW, lovely article. But, can it not be posted in capslock?

  17. He puffed and he puffed. I hope he don’t blow my house down!!
    the GOP is running an online survey about what direction that party should take. Tell them to “go green”. the GOP hates to waste money!! Ron Paul’s party!

  18. I just saw on my local news that some cities and townships from my area are lacking enough money that they are planning to cut back the fire department funds. I have a strong feeling that they won’t be cutting back marijuana arrests though. How’s that for priorities? Yes things do need to change. I’m sure Obama is aware of the problems with marijuana prohibition. He said himself that the war on drugs is a failure. I just hope he has the guts to do something about it.

  19. certain government “cutbacks” are only publicity stunts to lull the public into thinking “wow, things are bad, they really need more of my tax money so that children wont die in fires.”
    They try the same shit locally too: “If you dont vote for the property tax increase then your local high school wont have a football team next year.”

  20. This was a great speech. Sadly, it probably won’t have the effect it should. If logic and reason were truly embraced by our people, MJ would be the only legal drug and alcohol might be the substance we were trying to re-legalize. I seriously doubt Obama will touch this issue, he would not want to have public opinion swayed by his support of this touchy subject.
    As he is the first African-American president, I doubt he would want to jeopardize the future chances of another person from running because he touched this issue.
    Marijuana is still illegal because we have not evolved as a culture to the point were we will overturn laws such as the ones keeping it illegal. The laws were enacted not with a scientific basis, but with the fear and intolerance which seem to still run rampant even today in the 21st century. MJ will likely be kept illegal because the narco prison industrialist society we live in demands that we have these systems in place to “protect” us from harm. Only when the old guard in government is tossed out will a positive change be possible and that day will come, but I feel it is long away… not trying to rain on anybodys parade but this of it this way: We all know that MJ prohibition is a failure and has been for decades, so why did we allow it to continue? Because small froups of men and women in power kept it that way and that is not going to change. We need a new Democracy, one that lets the common man be heard and actually have control the policies of our government, not just voted on by a representative. A national referendum on the ballot for relegalizing MJ would seem to be the answer, why cant we do that? To end our current financial crisis we should re-legalize MJ, take the drug money out of the dealers hands and put it back into the public coffers where it would do the most good, and finally end the governments plan to keep us smoking lower quality schwag until we tire of it and quit.. I keep on puffing regardless!!!!

  21. Why do these articles always stir up such a passionate response from people? Because people feel an injustice in the law and an unjust impediment to their freedoms? Well guess what, any of these if they do exist are in your head. Marijuana is readily available and easy to grow if you wish to. So stop moaning and get planting and keep your mouth shut, oh and avoid the police and idiots that are known to the police, this goes without saying for anyone regardless of if you choose to smoke marijuana or not. Any kind of media drawing attention to the prohibition of Cannabis is reinforcing prohibition regardless of which side the argument is on. Ignorance is bliss unless you just like to protest of coarse and there is plenty of things to protest about so protesting about something that you think is a waste of time, really actually is exactly that so shut up and be happy!

  22. The fact of the matter is marijuana laws will not change until we form a new government. I believe this will happen naturally. Many people and prophets believe that in 2012 or before the federal government will crash hard. No more federal government laws, tax dollars, taxes, any of that! People will have to govern themselves and make laws that make sense! It has been prophesied that the USA will reform the original 13 colonies. With education suffering, people starving and unable get medical care it is truly criminal to spend billions in eradicating marijuana. People need to be educated fully, and then let them make up their own mind. Marijuana is safe in like anything in moderation. At least people cannot overdose and die from smoking it.

  23. This speech is effective in terms of rhetoric, however, the way I see it, there are two problems: 1. This will not reach mainstream media, and 2. he fails to mention possible actions to be taken. Love
    17, Fl

  24. Everyone should do as no12 lori b suggested,#I did#.
    THE PLATE.Istead of talking to each other we need to
    take this time to send your thoughts to obama.With
    luck maybe he wont go back on his word like clinton
    did after he got into office.

  25. Hello fellow members, I wanted to introduce myself. Im Ryan.
    I think this is a cool forum so I finally decided to make a post.
    I thought about starting my own board but Im glad I found this one instead. Great Info!

  26. Hi guys. Go often to the house of thy friend; for weeds soon choke up the unused path.
    I am from Serbia and learning to speak English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: “Thus, getting a cheap airline ticket to go home and celebrate such moments would travel flights tips on buying cheap airline tickets for the festive season.”
    Best regards 8-), Adita.

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