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NORML Attorneys Strategize Freeing the Weed

Russ Belville

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The county sheriff stood before the room of acknowledged marijuana smokers.

“Does anybody have any questions?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said one man, raising his hand. “Is it true there’s a pot smoking section in the Pitkin County jail?”

The audience snickered a bit. The sheriff, without missing a beat, replied, “Yes, and if you like, you can be in it tomorrow morning.”

The sheriff was Joe DiSalvo of Pitkin County, the home of Aspen, Colorado. He was speaking before an assembly of the nation’s top marijuana law reform attorneys at the annual NORML Aspen Legal Seminar.

DiSalvo is unique among Colorado sheriffs in being a wholehearted supporter of Amendment 64 and the legalization of marijuana.

“In Aspen, we have always put marijuana enforcement just one level of importance higher than jaywalking,” he explained. “The skiers here—and I’m one of them—will tell you that on the slopes, marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug.”

The event is held at the Gant Resort near the end of May. It’s off-season here, too late for the skiers, too early for the summer, so prices  are reduced from their usual extravagantly expensive to merely pretty expensive.

While this event is primarily for criminal defense lawyers and cannabusiness civil lawyers who receive continuing education credits, the public is invited to attend as well. If you’re a dedicated follower of marijuana law reform, being here will fill your head with more of the tips, tricks and details of prohibition, the courts, police procedures and business law than a month of reading blogs and articles.

For instance, Sean McAllister, a Denver attorney, spoke at length about the latest changes to the regulations in Colorado. Brenda Grantland with Forfeiture Endangers American Rights explained the horrendous practice of civil asset forfeiture and how marijuana attorneys can defend their clients and get their property returned from police. NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano ran down the latest science on cannabis and psychomotor performance, showing us how the latest studies show no statistically significant difference between sober drivers and those who test positive for THC. The day concluded with Steven Farber, a defense attorney from New Mexico, explaining how to combine a civil and a criminal practice.

The day’s events only run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., leaving plenty of free time to enjoy the sights of Aspen. I hung out with some attorney friends from San Francisco, and we all had to walk a bit slower to compensate for the 7,800 foot elevation. Then at 5:30 p.m., everyone returned to the Gant for an opening reception, which featured the NORML Silent Auction.

I’ll have more from Day Two and Three in Tuesday’s Radical Rant. Right now, they need my laptop for the PowerPoint presentations, so I have to cut it short.

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