By Ted Smith
There is one organization in Canada that has the potential to build a network of activists capable of influencing politicians and convincing judges to dismantle cannabis prohibition. One organization that almost everyone in the cannabis industry has heard about but few have actually joined. One organization that could be used by the growing community of cannabis activists to build alliances, support important court cases and ensure a prosperous future for everyone working in the cannabis field.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is ready to fulfill its destiny as the premier cannabis reform activist network in Canada.
Secretary for NormlCanada Paul Lewin is certainly excited about the future of cannabis and knows why this group is the one we should all get behind. As he say, we should all join, “Because NORML Canada has a large network of volunteers from across the country working on a range of important cannabis-related issues. Because our current focus is on the historic October 19 election. Because on October 19 the choices have never before been so stark. Because on October 19 we must send a message to all the parties that they disregard cannabis issues at their electoral peril. Because we are stronger together.”
After years of struggling to try and build a national network of activists under the Hempology 101 flag, it is clear to me that my energy is best spent focused on NORML. While I fully intend on continuing my work locally in Victoria with the International Hempology 101 Society, it seems like I have an opportunity to collude with other activists on a national level with NORML that I will never achieve with my own group. Since Hempology 101 concentrates on educational and social events, there is no conflict between the two groups as they certainly compliment each other in many ways.
Politics has honestly not been my cup of tea, though I have put some effort into being connected to my local city council. While I realize influencing federal politics should be an important part of the life of a cannabis activist, my focus has been on patients and students. However, it is clear I cannot avoid politics altogether and no doubt NORML is the best group to work with in that regards.
From the very beginning of my career it was clear to me that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had the potential to dismantle the war on cannabis. Breaking the law down in the streets with constant disobedience is very important but it has to be supported with well prepared legal arguments and convincing witnesses in court. Over the years I have spent many days reading case law, going to court to witness or testify in judicial proceedings, often for myself or one of my employees, and helping others understand the legal system in an attempt to beat charges and undermine the ability of the police to enforce the law. Now that the Owen Smith case is done, except for waiting for the decision and some fundraising, it is time for me to take the skills, knowledge and connections I made managing that trial and help others use the Charter to beat the law further.
It is my intention to work with NORML to help coordinate legal challenges across the country, both in court and with fundraising. With a dedicated core group of defense lawyers already working together, NORML has the structure in place to coordinate legal challenges in several ways. Helping defense lawyers work together will have many benefits for individual cases and larger challenges that require significant resources.
Though traditionally focused on politics, Paul Lewin, a defense lawyer himself, has no doubt that by working together to support critical court cases, NORML can dramatically improve upon the movements ability to build solid defense teams for key court cases. “NORML Canada’s mandate is to reform our cannabis laws. There are many ways to pursue this end. Cannabis-related legal challenges have become one of the more successful means of advancing positive change in Canada. It is empowering and heartening to see citizens turn the personal hardship and tragedy of criminal charges into a tool to attack the unjust laws. In such an environment it is incumbent on NORML to aid worthy legal challenges to our unjust laws. “
The first case that needs support is the Allard injunction being lead by John Conroy, president of NORML. As everyone reading this should know, this injunction is not only critical for patients, now and in the future, who want to grow their own medicine, but it is likely to set the stage for any future models of legalization in Canada. If patients cannot secure the right to grow their own cannabis and are forced to purchase off large, heavily-regulated commercial producers, then we can expect the same to happen to recreational users when it becomes legal.
There is a realistic concern that John and the team of lawyers working on the Allard injunction do not have enough support from the patients that started the case. This is a grave situation. It is my plan to bring NORML to the plate to make sure that the Allard injunction receives all of the support it needs.
On the weekend of Sept 19-20, it will be my pleasure to will help NORML host a full slate of activities to raise money for Allard, empower activists and put pressure on candidates in the federal election to promote positive cannabis policies. This will take a lot of help from others, as it is an ambitious plan, with two full days of speakers and workshops, along with as many fundraisers as we can organize. By bringing activists together to discuss politics, law and business, NORML will use this event to build their team of volunteers to help with the election and future campaigns.
Now is the time for cannabis activist in Canada to start working together as much as possible. Using the banner of the oldest cannabis reform group in the world, we can march forward towards the end of the prohibition at full speed. There has never been a better time to be NORML.
By Ted Smith