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Radical Rant: Texas Tokers Take Tarrant County Courthouse

Russ Belville

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This Saturday was another glorious day for the cannabis community. Protestors took to the streets for the Global Marijuana March on May 7 in over 300 cities worldwide.

I was in Ft. Worth, TX, for the march this year. It marked 11 years to the day that I began my career in marijuana law reform activism. On May 7, 2005, I joined in the Global Marijuana March in Portland, OR. That is where I met the former Executive Director of Oregon NORML, Madeline Martinez, who immediately put me to work on Oregon NORML’s website and cable access TV show.

I never would have thought marching in the streets one spring day in Portland would lead to helping lead NORML’s Oregon state affiliate, working for National NORML, building an audience of thousands for my weekday marijuana news podcast, forming Portland’s local NORML chapter, and traveling the country covering the emerging legal marijuana industry.

If I had stayed home that day, who knows? I might still be teaching Excel classes to bored business professionals for a living, safely ensconced in the cannabis closet, living a double life.

Roughly 1,000 Texas tokers took that leap out of the closet on Saturday as they gathered at Hyde Park in Ft. Worth for the march. Led by Shaun McAlister of DFW NORML, the event featured a dozen or so vendor booths peddling glassware, hemp- and CBD-based products, and activist information. And when your event starts with an impromptu King of Elvii[*] on 50cc motorbikes, you know it’s going to be a fun event.

Speakers included Christy Zartler from MAMMA – Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism. Her severely autistic, non-speaking daughter sat in her wheelchair as Zartler explained how medical cannabis is the only medicine that provides any measure of relief for her. Texas has a limited CBD-only medical marijuana law and Zartler wants to see it expanded to include her daughter’s condition.

 

Since Texas is a state without an initiative process, there are only three ways to fight back against prohibition. Step one is to lobby for cannabis-friendly legislation, but since few Texas legislators are keen on marijuana reform, step two is to work to elect cannabis-friendly politicians. That was accomplished Saturday as we later found out that Jeremiah Looney, a veteran who spoke eloquently for medical cannabis access, was that day elected Mayor of Whitewright, TX.

Step three is to use the power of jury nullification to make enforcing the prohibition laws impossible. As a juror, you can decide whether the application of the law itself is just. Cops could have video and eyewitnesses to the defendant selling 60 pounds of weed to an undercover cop and you could still vote “not guilty” if you believe caging people for marijuana is wrong. You can never be punished for your verdict and if just one of 12 jurors votes “not guilty,” the defendant goes free.

Numerous speakers addressed the issue of jury nullification, but none so passionately as Karen Reeves from Central Texas.

The march made its way from Hyde Park through the streets of Fort Worth, closed off by the police who were very tolerant of the hundreds who were openly smoking pot as they marched. We made our way to the Tarrant County Courthouse, where activists filled the steps of the courthouse and delivered more impassioned speeches, including my keynote.

Texas still has a long way to go to achieve marijuana legalization, but I don’t believe that the Lone Star State will be the last to legalize[†], as some Texans told me that day. With such a strong activism base in Dallas/Ft. Worth and the growing activism in numerous cities throughout Texas, I think Texas will surprise everybody and become one of the first Southern states to legalize marijuana.


[*] The collective noun for a group of Elvis impersonators – like a murder of crows or a pack of wolves or a gaggle of geese – a King of Elvii.

[†] That would be my birth state of Idaho. Or maybe Kansas. Or Mississippi.

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