NORML’s 38th Annual Conference: Strung Through The Heart

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 6, 2009

    By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors, medical marijuana patient

    NORML’s 38th annual conference in San Francisco, convened September 24-26, was the best attended, ever. Held at the Grand Hyatt, downtown, under classic San Fran weather conditions: 78 degrees and sunny, with the fog creeping up over the hills and a river of fog laying atop the water, streaming in from the ocean through the Golden Gate, sailboats, freighters…the sun-drenched surrounding hill…all of which was to be seen from the hotel’s restaurant on the 36th floor. Medicating could be done, down at street level, on the plaza surrounding the hotel. NORML’s annual conference was held downstairs in the grand ballroom and adjoining meeting spaces. Well, my brothers and sisters in the movement to legalize marijuana, we kicked ass this during this amazing weekend!


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    The caliber of the presenters and breath of topics @ NORML 38.0 was just astonishing; everything from martial artists using cannabis just before the fight for calming and focus, to how current tax court decisions are shaping the trend toward a wider range of services delivered to patients at dispensaries, to a deep and satisfying look into the science of the exceptional safety profile and utility of cannabis as a medicine. And, if you couldn’t have been there in San Francisco with us, now for the very first time in history, you can attend conference from anywhere in the world, free, on the Internet, simply by visiting NORML’s 38th conference broadcast.

    I arrived in San Francisco early enough the day before Conference started to do the NORML “walk through” with Grand Hyatt hotel staff. My morning had started at home at 4:00am doing chores before the two-hour drive to the airport, then my flight to SFO and transport to the Hyatt, only to find out that I was one of the 57 attendees who were being bumped to other hotel properties for one night, because a nasty overbooking computer-glitch. The cynical among us made muffled comments that this “glitch” might have something to do with the US Customs Service/Homeland Security Conference in progress at the hotel the day of NORML’s arrival. The overbooking problem ruffled a few feathers, but we got over it quickly and everyone with a reservation at conference was booked onsite by the end of the first day. The Grand Hyatt staff was awesome in dealing with the mess. And after all, really, how can you be in a bad mood anyway, you’re in San Francisco at a NORML Conference???

    A tiny case in point: on day 1 of Conference, during our 4:20 afternoon break, as several hundred of us medicated on the plaza, San Francisco’s Thursday Green-Transportation Bike Protest, with police escort, pedaled by, a significant number of their ranks biking buck-naked…

    As I lay in bed that night, finally in my rightful hotel room, my head a-buzz with all the people I’d talked to and some of the world’s finest cannabis, I pondered why NORML Conference was so much fun, and why I had gotten such a huge emotional lift from the day’s events. Sure, I was seeing old friends, making new ones, the common struggle and all of that…but as I continued to think about it, I realized that while those were all important elements of it, but they did not account for the power of what I was feeling.

    Then it struck me! Just three weekends before NORML’s Conference, over the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I had held our daughter’s wedding on our ranch, with 70 campers and 120 guests for a sit-down dinner under a tent set up next to our home. We had the first rain in 14 weeks and rainbows the day of the ceremony. The feelings I was getting from the first day of NORML’s Conference was something very much akin to those same feelings that welled up inside that big tent during my daughter’s wedding. Yes. NORML, too, was a meeting of family, self-chosen family, the very tip of an iceberg, a worldwide network of people who, with cannabis, are strung through the heart.

    The more I thought about all the people I’d talked to that first day, our wheelchair warriors, our intellectual samurai, our organizers at ground zero…the more I realized that almost to a person, they were at NORML’s 38th annual conference because there was a truth that must be told, a wrong that must be righted, sick people who must be cared for, the defenseless defended…they were there in San Francisco primarily because their hearts demanded it, their internal compass of right-and-wrong would accept no less.  And, after all the many years of losing our battles, after 20 million marijuana arrests, the tide has started to turn…

    We are winning on many fronts now…but, it is not over, there is so much left to do, please help. Join the fight; please join NORML, if you haven’t done so already. And, I hope to see you at the 39th annual conference, next year.

    44 responses to “NORML’s 38th Annual Conference: Strung Through The Heart”

    1. the first thing i think about in the morning and the last thing i think about before falling asleep is cannabis…… my only regret is not having the life i need to spread the word as much as i could…… i make do though….. i talk about it to as much people as i possibly can, i try to change as many minds as i can hell ive even gotten a couple people into smoking….. i cant imagine the life you guys at NORML must lead….. knowing how many peoples lives you have affected, knowing how much of a part you are in the movement….. knowing that millions of people know who you are and what you do, being the voice of those same millions of people….. i envy all of you…… keep up the great work and i just want to let you know, one day, i hope to be someone just like you

    2. Anthony says:

      I hope we don’t need a 39th conference…

    3. Cliff says:

      Doesn’t Hyatt Regency own more prisons in this country than any other corporate entity? Hmmm…
      2 and 2 together… (added by Mobile using Mippin)

    4. David says:

      Legalize it already, the world is going insane from not being able to smoke weed, that was put on this earth to smoke if you want to. There is no reason for it to be illegal.

    5. Cindy says:

      Weed was put on earth to smoke, not to be made illegal by people.

    6. Gail says:

      Great description, looking forward to veiwing online, how cool is that?

    7. Tyler D. says:

      I tell you what, writings like this make me hate that I’m on the other side of the world. I’m so proud of NORML and what they’re doing. In my book, NORML isnt some fad or anything else that would be taken lightly.

      I had a feeling of these sorts 2 weeks ago. I went home to Louisiana for my first time in 9 months, and as I sat at the dinner table with my immediate family and the former sheriff of Vernon parish Frankie Howard. As we talked politics and the problems we have in our state, I decided to take the plunge and bring up the controversial topic of cannabis. To my amazement, my own father voiced his opinion that “marijuana should be legal, as long as they’re not hurting anybody”. Understand that this is a respected man in many opinions other than my own. To hear him say that, I saw the my brother and myself had opened his eyes to more than the way things have always been. Frankie believes that one day it will be legal everywhere, after its legal somewhere. I was so excited at that moment and divulged everything about NORML that I could think of. I spoke of how NORML advocates responsible usage and how we desire to be legal with our recreation. My heart was in my throat the whole time and I was truely happy. The story above reminded me of that feeling, and hopefully someone from Louisiana will read this and get motivated enough to start (or even better continue) to email our state representatives and people in power.

      So again, thanks NORML for being the spearhead behind which I stand. You guys rock.

      Tyler D. Delrie

    8. Buck says:

      This is a problem I have with NORML. I am a supporter of legalization and I have even worked your booths at local events. My husband benefited greatly from using Medical Marijuana during cancer treatments and I’d like to be able to use it like I would a glass of wine after dinner from time to time.

      However, when I worked that booth half the people there were baked. They couldn’t put forth coherent rebuttals to myths because they were wasted.

      Likewise, at the NORML conference where you are supposed to be discussing serious issues and developing strategies you’re all downstairs getting wasted.

      We know that Marijuana alters perception – that’s the reason we enjoy it recreationally. So, it makes no sense to me to be getting baked when you should be dealing with serious issues. The time for fun is when the work is done.

      Maybe this is why it’s 40 years on and we’re still on square one with this movement. Come on guys, light up when the work is done not when you’re supposed to have a clear head to develop plans to move forward.

      [Editor’s note: For someone who claims to support legalization, your perpetuating stereotypes that are damaging to reform is not at all helpful. NORML’s staff and volunteers are not ‘wasted’ in public and they readily rebut government propaganda at the drop of a dime.

      The NORML conference recently convened in San Francisco was the best attended ever with a small minority of attendees not present in the plenary sessions at any one time because they were at the vendor booths, networking with other activists in the halls or medicating out in the outdoor space provided by the hotel.

      Your perception that cannabis law reform is at square one is also incorrect as demonstrated by the fact that hundreds of cannabis consumers lawfully used cannabis in San Francisco with little to no harassment from the police or hotel staff. Hundreds of conference attendees toured cannabis wellness centers and dispensaries in the SF Bay clearly show that cannabis law reform has progressed well past square one.]

    9. AK says:

      Seriously gang, if you want to convince legislators and voters that cannabis legalization is the way to go, could there possibly be a worse way to go about it than getting baked, nude bike-riding, and other assorted hippie crap? You criticize “Buck” for “perpetuating stereotypes,” but YOU are the reason that these stereotypes exist! I cringe when I read something like this, because there’s no way that Energy Turle and Weird Beard are going to convince Mr. & Mrs. Middle America of anything.

    10. ol tex says:

      The difference in the law between states where medical use is legal and those sates where it is not is like night and day.

      While California and other citizens enjoy the right to be “in the open about it” without fear and dsipensaries sell high quality medication for a reasonable price we Texans are being thrown in jail at the rate of 50,000 per year even though many of us would choose a natural medication over synthetic any day IF WE HAD A CHOICE.