By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors, medical marijuana patient
NORML’s 38th annual conference in San Francisco, convened September 24-26, was the best attended, ever. Held at the Grand Hyatt, downtown, under classic San Fran weather conditions: 78 degrees and sunny, with the fog creeping up over the hills and a river of fog laying atop the water, streaming in from the ocean through the Golden Gate, sailboats, freighters…the sun-drenched surrounding hill…all of which was to be seen from the hotel’s restaurant on the 36th floor. Medicating could be done, down at street level, on the plaza surrounding the hotel. NORML’s annual conference was held downstairs in the grand ballroom and adjoining meeting spaces. Well, my brothers and sisters in the movement to legalize marijuana, we kicked ass this during this amazing weekend!
The caliber of the presenters and breath of topics @ NORML 38.0 was just astonishing; everything from martial artists using cannabis just before the fight for calming and focus, to how current tax court decisions are shaping the trend toward a wider range of services delivered to patients at dispensaries, to a deep and satisfying look into the science of the exceptional safety profile and utility of cannabis as a medicine. And, if you couldn’t have been there in San Francisco with us, now for the very first time in history, you can attend conference from anywhere in the world, free, on the Internet, simply by visiting NORML’s 38th conference broadcast.
I arrived in San Francisco early enough the day before Conference started to do the NORML “walk through” with Grand Hyatt hotel staff. My morning had started at home at 4:00am doing chores before the two-hour drive to the airport, then my flight to SFO and transport to the Hyatt, only to find out that I was one of the 57 attendees who were being bumped to other hotel properties for one night, because a nasty overbooking computer-glitch. The cynical among us made muffled comments that this “glitch” might have something to do with the US Customs Service/Homeland Security Conference in progress at the hotel the day of NORML’s arrival. The overbooking problem ruffled a few feathers, but we got over it quickly and everyone with a reservation at conference was booked onsite by the end of the first day. The Grand Hyatt staff was awesome in dealing with the mess. And after all, really, how can you be in a bad mood anyway, you’re in San Francisco at a NORML Conference???
A tiny case in point: on day 1 of Conference, during our 4:20 afternoon break, as several hundred of us medicated on the plaza, San Francisco’s Thursday Green-Transportation Bike Protest, with police escort, pedaled by, a significant number of their ranks biking buck-naked…
As I lay in bed that night, finally in my rightful hotel room, my head a-buzz with all the people I’d talked to and some of the world’s finest cannabis, I pondered why NORML Conference was so much fun, and why I had gotten such a huge emotional lift from the day’s events. Sure, I was seeing old friends, making new ones, the common struggle and all of that…but as I continued to think about it, I realized that while those were all important elements of it, but they did not account for the power of what I was feeling.
Then it struck me! Just three weekends before NORML’s Conference, over the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I had held our daughter’s wedding on our ranch, with 70 campers and 120 guests for a sit-down dinner under a tent set up next to our home. We had the first rain in 14 weeks and rainbows the day of the ceremony. The feelings I was getting from the first day of NORML’s Conference was something very much akin to those same feelings that welled up inside that big tent during my daughter’s wedding. Yes. NORML, too, was a meeting of family, self-chosen family, the very tip of an iceberg, a worldwide network of people who, with cannabis, are strung through the heart.
The more I thought about all the people I’d talked to that first day, our wheelchair warriors, our intellectual samurai, our organizers at ground zero…the more I realized that almost to a person, they were at NORML’s 38th annual conference because there was a truth that must be told, a wrong that must be righted, sick people who must be cared for, the defenseless defended…they were there in San Francisco primarily because their hearts demanded it, their internal compass of right-and-wrong would accept no less. And, after all the many years of losing our battles, after 20 million marijuana arrests, the tide has started to turn…
We are winning on many fronts now…but, it is not over, there is so much left to do, please help. Join the fight; please join NORML, if you haven’t done so already. And, I hope to see you at the 39th annual conference, next year.