Source: Bay City Times, The (MI)
Author: Pati LaLonde, Times Writer
Published: Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Bay City Times
Contact: [email protected]
Talking is allowed, but toking isn't when a group pushing to decriminalize marijuana use hosts an informal educational meeting at 4:20 p.m. today in Wenonah Park. The time and date are references to a term that started in the San Francisco area for smoking pot.
"We want to get new people involved in fighting for their freedoms," said "Ioka" Chope, president of the Bay City Chapter of NORML - National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
"People that smoke it need to know their rights, know what's going on," said Chope, who would not provide his given first name. "Basically people need to learn how to get a bill enacted and then people vote on it and it becomes law."
Chope said he expects "the Barney Frank Bill" to be introduced in Michigan soon. It would decriminalize marijuana for medical use, noting that the drug is used for stress, cancer and for pain relief.
NORML has for 30 years represented the interests of those who smoke marijuana responsibly and believe that recreational and medicinal uses should not be a crime, according to the group's Web site.
The group supports the removal of criminal penalties for the use and cultivation of marijuana, and the development of a legally controlled market.
"Don't throw people in jail, give us a fine," Chope said. "If you are under the influence while driving, you need to go to jail. If we're just walking down the street with a bag in our pocket, just give us a ticket."
The organization believes that urine testing for marijuana in schools or for employment is a violation of the constitutional right against unreasonable searches, he said.
Based locally at 118 N. Van Buren St., the group now numbers 70, but Chope is hoping that number doubles before this afternoon's event is over.
Although the meeting is about marijuana, Chope says those attending may not bring drugs into the park.
"We're not pushing drugs," he said. "We don't believe in children touching them. There is a legal age to smoke, drink ... same thing here."
Lt. Dan DeWaele of the Bay City Police Department said this morning that "as long as they proceed in a legal manner, no action will be taken" by police.
What members of the group are hoping is that people with the same ideas show up for some give-and-take and a lesson in enacting laws to decriminalize marijuana.
"We're stating what we believe in, what we're trying to do," he said. "We're here and we want to be heard."
For more information on the meeting or to sign up call 893-2392, or check out the Web site:
Learn more about the national group at: http://www.canorml.org/
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