As I continue my Legalize America (50 x 50) Tour, I am increasingly convinced that we are just a few months away from essentially ending marijuana prohibition.
This week, the evidence became more clear in our nation’s capital, Washington DC.
Last Friday, I joined Adam Eidinger and the crew from the DCMJ for a protest at the White House. We were to join with the Weed for Warriors project and lay our bodies down at the gates of the White House to represent the (over) 22 veterans who commit suicide each day in America.
We were prepared to get arrested that day to bring attention to our veterans’ need for medical marijuana, but a couple of incidents changed that plan.
First, Congress passed legislation allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana for vets who live in the states that allow it. The so-called Blumenauer Amendment finally passed on its third try, having lost by three votes just last year. This time, a number of Republicans switched their votes to support the bill, thanks in part to the lobbying of Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher (more on him and his connection to HIGH TIMES shortly).
Second, as I approached 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the protest, there was an abundance of police and security milling about. It turns out that some lunatic with a gun was shot near the White House. The Secret Service had the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Square Park all on lockdown. Police with body armor and automatic weapons kept us far from the White House out on H street. Snipers could be seen patrolling the White House roof.
Eidinger and DCMJ / W4W smartly recognized today was not the day to escalate tensions with the police. They set up the mobile PA on H Street and we continued the demonstration. I shared a joint with Chris Goldstein and N.A. Poe who had made the trip from Philly for the demonstration and marveled as others puffed away on the street, just yards from federal cops with assault weapons.
“Who would have ever thought,” I mentioned to Chris, “that someday I’d get my first toke of the day by hooking up in broad daylight in front of cops at the White House?” For all those people who say that voting doesn’t matter, this joint’s for you.
Eidinger turned the mic over to assembled activists for speeches. Longtime Yippie stalwart Dana Beal spoke first, lecturing on the history of the movement that began by fighting Richard Nixon.
Then Eidinger handed me the mic. I launched into one of my stock speeches on how legalization hasn’t turned my hometown of Portland, Oregon, into a blighted hellscape. Then I pivoted into talking about how President Obama was once just Barry of the Choom Gang.
A reporter with an Eastern European accent caught me after the speech. She had never heard these details about President Obama’s youthful pot use. “He was part of The Choom Gang – ‘choom’ was Hawaiian slang for smoking pot,” I told her, explaining how Obama used to go for “total absorption hits” (holding the toke until no smoke comes out), “interceptions” (grabbing the joint out of turn if someone lingered) and “roof hits” (hotboxing the VW van and sucking the lingering smoke off the ceiling). “Not only was our president a toker, he was the king toker.”
The following Monday was the NORML Conference at George Washington University. The presentations were excellent, delving into the rapid progress legalization has experienced over the past four years. Notably, John Hudak, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institute, spoke to the assembled activists and told us that only a few years ago, there wouldn’t be someone from Brookings talking about legalization because it was not a serious issue. Our victories, he told us, have forced intellectuals and policy wonks to take legalization seriously.
That night the after-party was held at a rooftop walk-up bar on I Street. I enjoyed what is now banned in the legalized Pacific Northwest – smoking pot in a public space with friends. NORML’s Allen St. Pierre kicked off the party by smoking a 24-karat gold joint and telling the crowd he has his first harvest of legal director-grown marijuana on him. He legally gave away buds of what we’re calling ASPOG – Allen St. Pierre OG – and we rolled them up and smoked them without a worry in the world.
But Tuesday was the day I saw the last vestiges of the prohibitionist era begin to slip away in Washington DC.
We assembled early in the morning at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill for the NORML Lobby Day. Last year, NORML invited elected officials to speak to us, but only Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) was able to make it. This year, NORML had managed to get four members of Congress to speak to us – Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA).
The four representatives delivered their speeches and took a few questions. NORML bestowed on my congressman, Earl Blumenauer, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and also noted that Congresswoman DelBene was the first female federal elected official to address NORML in its 46 years.
I had packed up my hand recorder and was taking pictures of the assembled NORML activists when we got a surprise, fifth member of Congress to speak to us. I hastily reset my recorder on the podium as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) delivered his remarks to the activists, including the bombshell you’ve probably already read about: Congressman Rohrabacher uses medical marijuana!
Rohrabacher is a lifelong surfer who proved it by showing us the pooka shell necklace he still wears daily beneath his business suit. He explained how he’s torn up the cartilage in his right shoulder from paddling out for waves over thirty years.
“I went to one of these hempfests in San Bernardino,” the Congressman continued, explaining his recent visit to the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup & Carnival in Southern California where a vendor showed him a cannabis-infused topical preparation to rub into his aching shoulder.
“And you know what? I tried it about two weeks ago, and it’s the first time… in a year-and-a-half that I’ve had a decent night’s sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone.”
Following his speech, the NORML activists began heading out for their lobbying assignments. I grabbed my recorder and caught Allen St. Pierre for a comment. He told me that I probably had a big scoop on my hands, since Rohrabacher’s staff told him they’d never heard the Congressman make that public admission before.
Sure enough, I rushed back to my hotel room and got the story published. Before long, it was picked up by the Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, and CNN. A sitting GOP Congressman admitting to using medical marijuana was the political story of the week not involving the presidential race.
Tokers and tokettes, weed is winning in Washington DC. It’s only a matter of time before it wins nationwide.
(Photo courtesy of MarijuanaStocks.com)