NORML Founder And High Times Publisher Tell MA Court: Make Private Cannabis Use Legal For Adults

Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson will be arguing the appeal of my marijuana conviction for sharing a joint at the 2007 Boston Freedom Rally on the historic Boston Common with High Times associate publisher Rick Cusick. We both took the stand at our trial and testified under oath that we were certainly sharing a joint, and were protesting the constitutionality of the very marijuana laws under which we were arrested.
The state law under which Rick and I were prosecuted has since been modified by a voter initiative last fall removing all criminal penalties, and setting a $100 civil fine, for the possession of up to one ounce of pot in Massachusetts. Nonetheless, it would be great if we could convince the court of appeals that the private use of marijuana in Massachusetts, as it is in Alaska, is constitutionally protected conduct.
Keith Stroup, Esq.
NORML Legal Counsel

0 thoughts

  1. awesome
    next, you should call for the arrest of the last three presidents for possession. Clearly, they must think it should remain illegal, yet they admitted to possessing it.

  2. can someone plz post the debate? i wanna watch the video or just some audio of it… can you plz share it with us or something…. Thank YOu.
    [Paul Armentano responds: Keith’s court hearing is tomorrow. Updates regarding today’s legislative hearing are available on the NORML Audio Stash blog, and on the website. There’s video posted on Keith’s remarks here:

  3. Holy Smokes.
    Hemp back in Colonial Massachusetts how appropriate.
    The Universal Life Church of the Holy Smokes
    Potland, OR

  4. Keep pushing that the laws violate our constitutionlly protected rights. That all three legisaltive constructs are base on the Constructive Fraud. Therefore Congress did not have the rights to abrogate the rights secured by the people in this matter on cannabis. That the Constructive Fraud is harmful to the Nation’s health and welfare while go aganist the will of the people.
    Keep pushing and don’t let up.
    Great work folks! We will win back what is ours in the first place.

  5. I hope you will keep us up to date as this process moves forward. Do you think this will have any effect on the bills that will be coming up next year?
    Good luck. I hope this works and prohibition will be a thing of the past.

  6. This was on CNN yesterday and Obama said he will consider the legalization and of course taxation of pot. call the number and press # to voice your vote.
    973-409-3274 listen to message, press # to record your vote
    [Paul Armentano responds: This was not on CNN. The only phone numbers worth calling are those of your elected officials. This number is operated by Humor Hotlines. calling it does nothing to persuade elected officials to support marijuana law reform. See:

  7. Up to one ounce, and 25 plants, in your home is legal in Alaska? Are you kidding me? Hell, I need to move to Alaska, man! I didn’t know legality of this nature existed ANYWHERE in our country. Are you guys sure about this? I’m not doubting anyone – but why in the hell can’t it be like that nationwide? Worldwide, even. Hell, we need to be praising Alaska for their more common sense approach. Truth be told, I think that is awesome. I feel like some great victory has just been won, and that state’s policy has probably been in effect for a long, long time now. Thanks, Alaska.

  8. Why can’t it be like Alaska in ALL 50 STATES.Seems to me their (Alaska) not having any problem with it

  9. Great move! I would like to see “smokeouts” be organized around federal buildings and in downtown areas… let’s have ’em round up as many of us as possible. How do you think the civil rights movement got started? Civil disobedience!!!! I’m sure law enforcement in the GOD FORSAKEN state of Florida would have a FIELD DAY if people lit up on the streets… *sigh*

  10. Im sure those last 3 presidents possesd pot at some point…most people have
    why would you arrest someone for claiming that they have possesed marijuana at some point in their life?
    i dont understand your point.

  11. Is there anything the community can do to help your case? Emails, reading through lawyer jargon? Telephone calls?
    You should add up all the costs associated with your arrest. This includes the officer who cited you, every person in the court room you will be attending, include the cost of the court room. Show them how much money they are wasting for you smoking that one joint.
    I imagine you are talking at least a few thousand dollars just to prosecute you. I dont know you but I imagine you being arrested did not change the way you feel about the plant/weed. Why can we not fight to classify it as a flower? Whats the scientific theory behind this? This is something I do not know and I encourage all of you who read this to go do research and lets find out why its not classified as a flower. After all the plant does flower both male and female. The male actually has pollen, how many weeds flower and have pollen? Ill post back if i find out some info.
    Good luck to you, dont settle for $100 fine.

  12. Don’t let people forget how our country started, and the basic rights we had! Remind people about Alaska as much as possible =)

  13. if everyone who smokes joints in every state in the USA shared a joint with a friend in public, how long would it take to overload the court system?

  14. Paul Armentano, thank you for adding that comment for that phone number. The fact that people actually believe that phone number is for real just shows how gullible people are and how some people will believe anything.
    They say if it gets 1 million hits then obama will consider legalization? This is how bad our education system is. A lot of Americans dont know how laws are made, they dont know how government works. Maybe if instead of spending 3 times as much on the drug war than education, we should flip that and spend 3 times as much on education than the drug war.
    Now im not suggesting giving every teacher a 6 figure income but imagine how many bright young adults that could go to college if it were cheaper. Imagine all the smaller classes in schools by hiring just 1 or 2 more teachers. We all know smaller classes yield higher quality education. Just my mini rant for the day. There would be more but i got some really good stuff. Not sure of the name but one hit and boom, your high n happy. Legalize, regulate, educate, medicate!

  15. There must be a lot of rich folks out there. I never have and never will pay $300/ounce for cannabis…I simply cannot afford it. I disagree with Mr.Stoup that home growing, like home brewing, will not be popular. Why? Because legal alcohol is cheap and home brewing and wine making are not all that simple to do. But, home grown pot is dirt cheap compared to black market prices and proposed legal prices. Growing outdoors is not very difficult…indoor growers have many other issues and expenses and may approach the $25/ounce cost that Keith quotes…but growing outdoors is very inexpensive and no more difficult that growing tomatoes or peppers. Many of us will most certainly take advantage of our freedom to grow our own annual supply for the cost of fertilizer and water rather than go without because we cannot afford outrageous retail prices.

  16. I would be interested in which constitution, state or federal and which amendment protects that our right of privacy. If is Alaska It must be the 4th. The right of privacy is implicit in the 4th and 5th amendments.
    The right of liberty and property are also fundamental rights secured by the 4th and 5th. Marijuana is property.
    If Keith convinces the the court a fundamental right has been affected by the enforcement of the marijuana laws the court can not contiue to review these laws by rational review.

  17. you can argue about the price of an ounce of marijuana
    until dawn if you like, but the point is you look like
    a bunch of old riches debating about an item that only the rich can afford.You can legalize it if you please but legalization will always benefit the rich and the people who can afford to buy it.
    marijuana is no longer the poor’s remedy it used to be
    because the rich have stolen it from the poor and making it a high class drug (see stiletto stoners
    sushi eating yuppies)that only the high class can afford.
    But mind you the poors can grow it for cheap and all youre f…. rhetoric about what the price of an ounce of marijuana should be is just bla bla bla….

  18. So… does this (well, really the MA decrim that passed last year)mean that Connecticut is the only state in New England to pass NO marijuana reforms at all?!
    We here in the great state of Connecticut are suddenly the West Virginia of the Northeast!!

  19. I love the thoughts of legal marijuana but I get sick to my stomach when I hear people talk about 400 dollar an ounce legal weed.
    There is nothing ridiculous about 30 dollar an aounce weed with a 20 dollar tax on it. That is 50 dollars an ounce. I am still shocked that the market acttually stays afloat at the insane prices the growers and middle men are asking for.
    I cant afford 400 dollars an ounce, legal or not. I think the price is offencive, in fact.
    At those pricfes I would either grow or keep buying 80 dollar compressed mexi bricks.

  20. @ 7&8
    If what you say is true, (i havent looked up the specifics). Then Alaska can get away with it becuase it has no neighboring US states where those people could just cross the state line to buy it kind of like I do going from NY to Pennsylvania to get fireworks.
    But that is the beauty in Massachusetts legalizing if they do. They boarder a number of states and it will force those states officials to scramble to legislate so as to not lose out on tax revenue for their own state. although I am sure State Troopers will be stepping up patrols of the major highways going in to Mass. But that could just be feul for our fire in the “Govt waste” catagory of our arguement against this unjust law. I can speak for NYS that they step up Trooper patrols about a month before July 4th for fireworks but with the state looking to layoff employees I dont think they could justify a 24/7 approach for to long.
    [Paul Armentano responds: Alaska’s legalization policy regarding marijuana use in private is based on a 1975 court ruling’s interpretation of an adult’s right to privacy, as articulated in the state constitution. It has nothing to do with Alaska’s borders (or lack thereof) with other U.S. states.]

  21. terrific video. I want to see at least the first couple of guys speak directly to the US Congress on this subject. I only fear that their intelligence will be too great for the House and the entire place may implode. Nancy Pelosi has expressed an interest in at least decriminalization. With the Democrats controlling both houses & the POTUS, this should be a slam dunk issue. Please approach congress and get the truth out into the general population!

  22. Canabis Prohibition is the Constructive Fraud. I am sorry that you folks were not more direct about the facts of this issue. That fact is when you gather together and construct a set of lies then present those lies to the public and or congress and testify that it is the truth when it is really a lie, That Is Fraud. It becomes constructive when that said group conspires to deprive or injury someone secured inalienable rights, My Rights!, Your Rights have been unlawfully injuryed. That the welfare and safety of the Nation is damaged by the present of these unlawful legislation. Why beat around the bush? We had an absolute inalienable secured constitional contracted right that has been unlawfully removed. What is the fucking deal guys? Why the hell are we not addressing this cannabis issue as unlawful. It seem to me that everytime I haer someone speak for regaining what was ours in the first place they are trying to strike some sort of deal, some kind of compromise, tax us, regulate us, legalizes it already. But wait they are the ones outside the scope of the law, it is the legislation and laws that are unlawful, not us. It is these cannabis laws that violate the constituion, not us. It is our will that is not adhere to, the government is not allowed to have a will that is not in harmony with the will of the people.
    Great work guys but I want my secured rights respected and intact, I want our contract with this government complied with by our Government forthwith and hereafter period! We the people want thier compliance today not tomarrow.
    Liberty lies or dies with us. Freedom is just a word without meaning. Home of the Brave is but a well told lie.

  23. Well after some research,
    In keith’s Defendants Motion to Dismiss
    (go to bottom of page)
    “Marijuana is harmless and its prohibition is not rationally related to a legitimate legislative purpose.” In absence of a rational basis for enactment, prohibition is unconstitutional”… pg 2
    The courts have for years said the marijuana laws are rational because marijuana is not a fundamental right. And again NORML is saying liberty to use marijuana is a fundamental right.
    This case by Keith does not mention the federal constitution, does not claim marijuana is property, does not claim deprivation of liberty by being arrested,does not claim the marijuana laws are unreasonable and unnecessary.
    Did not read Ravin v Alaska
    Appeals Court 2008-P-1410

  24. Lawyers can argue any point to make it seem right, then judges can rule on those points and make any ruling they come up with seem right. It’s all so subjective despite the fig leaf cover of “law”. There was a card in the game of Magic that had as it’s quote, “The fastest ways to lose one’s goods was to plead for them in the courts of Mercadia” and that about sums up where we are.
    Politics is the art of the possible. Since it takes a long time to change Congress’s and the Supreme Court’s makeup, it will still be a very long time before the folks at the top are replaced in sufficicent numbers to make whatever pro-legalization rulings come along actually stick. Incumbent congressmen and senators are re-elected at a rate exceeding 90%. Supreme Court judges have a lifetime appointment. Public support is roughly 50/50 and that’s not enough of a mandate to get a quick change going.
    Still, I hope someone recognizes the 9th Amendment’s potential and dredges up the bogus hearings back in the 1930’s that led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that led to the unjust and inequitable situation we the citizens of the US find ourselves in. Stranger things have happened. Brown vs the Board of Education anyone?

  25. The debate has been legalized! These guys look terrific testifying. Let’s just hope that when cannabis emerges the winner, we will see immediate law reform.
    Who wants to live in a free state? MA has a chance to create an immediate stimulus with legal marijuana; and the creation of a cannabis economy that is rich with jobs that are created in this new legal industry.

  26. pot bust photp by k stevens
    Its Harvest time in the northwest for apples, wheat and marijuana the value of last years apple crop was one billion two hundred eighty three million one hundred sixty three thousand dollars. Wheat came in for this state at seven hundred fifteen million one hundred sixty three thousand dollars.
    No one knows the value of the marijuana harvested in Washington every year. A very rough 1995 estimate of five hundred fifty million dollar market value was all I could find, marijuana’s illegal the growers don’t tell the value of the crop and they don’t pay taxes on the profit. Instead of legalizing marijuana and collecting taxes our state spends millions on eradication
    The Marijuana Eradication Program (MEP) is sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration and managed by the Washington State Patrol. The emphasis of this program is to combine the efforts of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies to eradicate marijuana-growing operations within the state of Washington.. Last year the MEP took credit for ripping out and destroying one hundred thirty six thousand pot plants state wide the estimated street value of those plants two hundred seventy two million dollars. So that and what ever the operational costs for MEP came out of our states economy.
    There are other draw backs beside waste, to the enforcement and eradication of cannabis law enforcement agencies often turn suspects arrested for other crimes by offering reductions of charges against them in exchange for gathering and giving information these snitches or confidential informants are often turned loose without regard to the CI’s criminal history and the danger to the community
    The MEP Hotline receives and monitors anonymous information from concerned citizens about marijuana-growing operations. This information is sent to an enforcement agency near the reported marijuana grow for action. Some of your neighbors may hold a grudge..
    We now have decades of proof that treating marijuana use as a crime is a failed strategy.
    In 2010 the Washington legislature will consider MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION BILL # 5616 I support 5616 but I believe it should go farther. To allow regulated and taxed sales just like liquor if sales are allowed the drug cartels will disappear. Law abiding gardeners will gladly grow legally and pay taxes and merchants will sell legally and collect sales tax.
    Some of our state legislators do not believe there is support for any of this legislation . We have to show them we support legal pot.
    A phone call or letter may be enough to show we are a majority if not we may all have to go to Olympia in 2010

  27. Re; #30
    Re: Paul
    I hear what you are saying but your going to tell me, that with whats going on in Cali with the Federal DEA circumventing the state law there, that Alaska having no other US State boardering it thus affording other US citizens outside that state the opportunity to circumvent their states laws by puchasing in Alaska, that the DEA doesnt see Alaska as a threat to “Domino theory” country wide legalization?
    [Paul Armentano responds: The DEA’s actions in California pertain to open-market sales of cannabis. Alaska’s longtime policy does not enable such behavior. Several states have reduced personal possession and even in some cases cultivation to non-arrestable offenses — Ohio for instance — and the DEA and the Feds have never challenged these changes.]

  28. Jury Nullification is the fastest way to kill this unjust law on cannabis. We must act through our jury process and just refuse to allow these laws to effect us any longer. The government can’t stop us from nullifing the law at trial.
    Don’t forget to throw your seeds in the pathways and properties of our government. Those city planters and all those foreclosed homes and those divided highways are just waiting for your seeds. We will just out grow them in to respecting our rights.

  29. This is great! However, the issue remaines, if people are able to grow cannabis in their backyard and M.A. cannot tax it, then that presents a problem. With the talk of $300-$400 an ounce, no average person will pay that price. In a sense, you could “reincarnate” the black market where it could be sold cheaper and tax free. Also, people would probably rather grow cannabis themselves, rather than pay a rediculous price. I am no economist, so my question is, if we get it legalized, how do we get this commodity at a reasonable price? I think this issue is vital to leagalization. Any thoughts?

  30. Google andr ead Ravin V Alaska and read it again.
    Criminal laws do not affect individual rights to liberty and property as well as privacy? These individual rights are not protected from unreasonable government intrusion?

  31. They should come to Ohio and try to talk about legalizing it here. The Cosino’s and the weed and the hemp, these things can lead into job creation and lots of tax revenue. So they should come to Ohio before November 4 and try to put the issue of legalizing weed on the ballot.
    Keep doing a awsome job guys.

  32. Why should I pay a tax on pot I grow, will I have to start paying taxes on the tomatoes and beans I grow too…?
    [Paul Armentano responds: Under the proposed bill you would NOT pay a tax on the marijuana you grow for personal use.]

  33. Let me get this perfectly straight: AK has Hemp/Marijuana legalised for personal consumption, and at least 8 other States have “allowed” useage of medical marijuana but no one has gone back and asked Congress to look at the hearings that are (someplace) documented that caused this ruckus in the first place?! I read that a hearing was convened, and that a “Mr.Hurst” had considerable revenue invested in the timber industry and stood to lose millions (by todays standards, that would be equivilant to billions)if hemp were legalised. So this alledged Mr. Hurst (alledgedly) threw alot of money at some folks that were to testify at the hearings on the Marijuana Tax and one of these “dillholes” stood up and spoke for a DOCTOR who had already a well voiced and published opinion on why marijuana should NOT be illegal and should be publicly available, but sadly was not present (delayed? carjacked? Forgot what day it was?)and the “Person in charge” took this “dillholes” word for what the doctor had said and stated to the hearing committee: “Yes, we have spoken to him and he agrees with us”, or words close to that and totally contrary to what the good Doctor had stated and argued for, and on that bit of ROT alone, the “tax” act was enacted, and then came its being illegal, and then enter Hollywoods Reefer Madness to do its job on the public opinion??…sigh..
    So to summarise: A person spoke up that had no MEDICAL background but whos comment was taken and RECORDED as that of a REAL Medical authority (sic), and LAW was enacted from that….fast forward to present day….And people are aware of this, and yet Marijuana remains illegal why?? Paul Armentano, to be sure, could probably put his finger on the quote and text verbatim of the excerpts to which I type, if not the original Congressional hearing I should wager, especially when it comes to this “he said/dias eh” mirror and more rhetoric and debate would happen but alas, its all about money!
    If you had a budget of say 500K to use every year in keeping Marijuana illegal, and you could take peoples homes, belongings, possessions, money, stocks etc and sell them to pad that “budget” just because they grew/sold/used marijuana, don’t you think you’d keep doing it?! Of course you would. And you’d keep people in PRISON a long time just because of a harmless smoked PLANT. Tobacco lobbyists don’t want Marijuana legal, nor do Tobacco Farmers, or Forest/Timber Industries as they would see the RAPID loss of revenues. Neither do the makers of Alcohol or Denim (Blue Jeans used to be made of Hemp and lasted ALOT longer than they do now)or paper goods.
    They needn’t suffer. Get on board with the rest of the populace. Stop wasting our tax dollars prosecuting and maintaining a “Corps of elite” to eradicate growers of Hemp/Marijuana and stop taking their real and personal property Nay! Rights! away. Stop telling our Law Enforcement Officials to go after people that grow/consume it and start telling them to go after the Drug Cartels that create the violence associated with buying Marijuana (Buy the bag, the money goes to a drug czar who uses it to buy weapons and in turn uses those weapons on warring/competing czars..) in the first place. Lets make “Made in the U.S.A.” mean something again, instead of being laughed at for convicting a rapist to 13 years in Prison and a Hemp Grower to 25. Wake up Congress! Wake up House and Senate!! Its time for a change. And the time is now! So whilst we’re at it, lets’ make sure employers are made to toe the line and cannot “shake the trees” to lose its workers when they find out that they consume marijuana.
    Workers Compensation Claim denials: Worker had used Marijuana three days prior while off duty and AWAY from place of employ. While walking to his workstation one day, a ceiling tile fell, and cut his shoulder and back, requiring medical care. He was made to take a blood, breath and urine test, and when the results of the tests came back POSITIVE for THC, he was FIRED ON THE SPOT!! Company policy needs to be made to immediately reflect the legalisation of Hemp/Marijuana. So lets not forget that we need to hold employers to the line when it comes to our privacy as well!
    Okay, I’ll get off the soapbox now, as I know I was merely preaching to the Choir..
    [Paul Armentano responds: I dedicate an entire chapter to the history of cannabis prohibition in the U.S. in my book. just published a short summary of this history here:,8599,1931247,00.html
    “It wasn’t until 1914 that drug use was defined as a crime, under the
    Harrison Act. To get around states’ rights issues, the act used a tax to
    regulate opium- and coca-derived drugs: it levied a tax on non-medical uses of the drugs that was much higher than the cost of the drugs themselves, and punished anyone using the drugs without paying the tax. By 1937, twenty-three states had outlawed marijuana: some to stop former morphine addicts from taking up a new drug, and some as a backlash against newly arrived Mexican immigrants, some of whom brought the drug with them. Also in 1937, the federal government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which made nonmedical use of marijuana illegal. Only the birdseed industry, which argued that hemp seeds gave birds’ feathers a particularly shiny gloss, was exempted from the act, and to this day birdseed producers are allowed to use imported hemp seeds treated so they don’t sprout.”
    Also, please note that marijuana is illegal under federal law today because it is classified by Congress as a Sched I controlled substance under the 1970 CSA. The Marijuana Tax Act was deemed unconstitutional in 1969.]

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