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Norm Kent

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 8, 2013

    Longtime Florida activist Cathy Jordan, a 63-year-old woman who consumes cannabis to mitigate symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), a debilitating condition that she has lived with since 1986, today filed a suit against Sheriff Brad Steube of Manatee County, FL.

    Ms. Jordan alleges wrongful conduct on the part of the sheriff’s department when, on February 15, 2013, they raided her home and confiscated 23 medical cannabis plants, which were being cultivated for her by Cathy’s husband Robert Jordan. The Jordans were both cooperative when the sheriff’s department arrived at their home, and they acknowledged they were growing medical marijuana for Cathy’s medical use. The police raid of the Jordan’s home came just days after lawmakers introduced legislation, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, which sought to authorize the physician-supervised use of cannabis for those diagnosed with serious debilitating conditions. (Florida lawmakers failed to hold hearings or vote on the measure.)

    After the Manatee County State Attorney’s office reviewed the facts of the case, they issued a memorandum on April 2, 2013 declining to prosecute either Cathy or her husband. The Manatee County State’s Attorney’s office found that they could not likely overcome a medical marijuana necessity defense, which would be raised by the defendant should a prosecution be initiated. However, the sheriff’s department has refused to return any of the cannabis that they confiscated from Ms. Jordan during the February 15 raid.

    With this lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment finding that they have a legal right to cultivate and possess medical marijuana under Florida law; an injunction barring the sheriff’s department from making further seizures of medical marijuana from Cathy and Robert Jordan; and an injunction barring the initiation of criminal charges against either of the plaintiffs for their continued cultivation and possession of medical marijuana.

    The lawsuit has been filed by Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale, Chair of the NORML Board of Directors. NORML intends to file a friend of the court brief in the case once the defendants are served.

    Kent stated: “This suit embodies NORML’S commitment to patients who have a medical need for marijuana, while simultaneously showing how the responsible use of cannabis by adults should not be restricted by law enforcement authorities. We intend to prevail in this suit so that seriously ill patients like Cathy no longer have to fear arrest or state interference for simply using their medicine.”

    Added NORML Legal Counsel Keith Stroup: “Cathy Jordan is a courageous woman who has been fighting for many years to legalize the medical use of marijuana for herself and other seriously ill patients. We are proud to stand with Cathy and Robert Jordan to challenge he senseless arrest of patients who use marijuana medically.”

    Florida is not among the 18 US states that presently exempt qualified patients from arrest for engaging in physician-authorized cannabis therapy.

  • by Norm Kent, NORML Board of Directors April 4, 2013

    Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.

    Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.

    Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.

    The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
    http://medicalmarijuana411.com/mmj411_v3/?p=10558

    One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.

    One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.

    Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.

    Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.

    I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.

    Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.

    This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’

    The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.

    The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”

    Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.

    A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.

    Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.

    However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.

    Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’

    My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.

    Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.

    Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.

    We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.

    Thank you.
    Norm Kent
    Chair, NORML Board of Directors

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 27, 2010

    As first reported yesterday afternoon on SouthFloridaGayNews, Google’s YouTube has decided to censor the well done and catchy pro-Prop. 19 musical parody by entertainer Steve Berke after less than 48 hours of the Eminem and Rihanna music video parody going viral on the Internet—garnering over 108,000 views after NORML highlighted the video this past Monday.

    NORML protests YouTube’s removal of a non-controversial, political advertisement that encourages California citizens who’re voting on Tuesday to come out en mass to vote ‘yes’ on the country’s most important cannabis legalization initiative to date.

    Well…if the overlords of public discourse at YouTube didn’t like Mr. Berke’s creativity and support for Prop. 19, what will they do with country music performer Colt Jackson’s video in support of cannabis legalization?

    Or, short filmmakers Fordy Shoor’s and Garth Von Ahnen’s Reefer Madness inspired sci-fi narrative that takes a mocking opposition to Prop. 19. Will YouTube’s censors get the comedy and sense of irony, and build a password wall around it, or allow it to stay up misunderstanding that the animation does not support Cannabis Prohibition?

    Away from YouTube’s prying eyes, comedian and cannabis law reform supporter Rob Cantrell’s new Pro-Prop. 19 video spoofs US Army legend General Patton as ‘General Potton’?

    NORML encourages other like-minded citizens and organizations to contact YouTube and tell them to stop censoring Steve Berke’s ‘Should Be Legalized’ video and let it—along with all other pro-cannabis law reform videos—continue to gather public attention and support for the underlying political message: Let’s end 74-year of Cannabis Prohibition in America!

    YouTube, LLC
    901 Cherry Ave.
    San Bruno, CA 94066
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    Phone: +1 650-253-0000
    Fax: +1 650-253-0001

    YouTube Censors Pro Prop 19 Political Campaign, Comedian’s Video Supports Pro Pot Legalization Drive

    Miami Beach, FL (Oct 26th, 2010) Last week, comedian Steve Berke launched an online political campaign in support of Proposition 19 in California with the recent release of his latest music video, “Should Be Legalized”, a political commentary on Eminem’s music video “Love The Way You Lie.”

    The campaign, supported by NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) was generating huge internet buzz, and had amassed 108,000 views within 2 days, when YouTube flagged it for being offensive, thus requiring users to login to view the video, killing the video’s chance at becoming viral.

    “We were on pace to reach 1 million views within a week, and our video was rallying supporters of Prop 19 and decriminalization in every state that had it on the ballot. Then YouTube flagged us for being offensive and killed any chance we had at reaching our potential audience. Their censorship of this video is similar to the Internet censorship that takes place in repressive countries like North Korea and China.”

    YouTube failed to give any reason to Berke for flagging the video and it is presently inaccessible to the vast majority of worldwide. “The flagging system does not have a system of recourse and re-review,” stated Berke.

    Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, on the Board of Directors at NORML, is among those who are outraged. “We will not let YouTube squash a vibrant political campaign the week before the historic November 2nd elections.

    Videos of rapper Snoop Dogg smoking marijuana are not flagged as offensive, but a song that merely names him as a marijuana user is? YouTube is effectively freezing a viral political movement as it gains momentum in time for a critical vote. They must remove the flag. If they do not, we will pursue the matter further until they do.”

    NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre adds, “YouTube’s building a wall around Steve Berke’s video makes no sense in light of dozens of other videos that depict normal cannabis use. YouTube, whether it means to or not, is stifling legitimate political discourse regarding an important initiative vote in California next week that seeks to legalize and tax cannabis.”

    “I just don’t understand it,” said Berke. “People smoking marijuana in videos on YouTube go unflagged, but our video, that involves actors merely pretending to smoke marijuana as political satire, is flagged immediately.”

    “In Eminem’s video, alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, sexual assault, arson and murder are all prevalent and the video is not censored in any way. In fact, YouTube runs ads against it, not only profiting off the video, but also making it viewable to all ages at all times,” Berke added.

    The link to Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” is here.

    The link to Berke’s “Should Be Legalized” is here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director March 10, 2009

    By Norm Kent, Esq., NORML Board of Directors

    Today I am going to come out of the closet as a Bi-Coastal pot consumer. I lead two lives; one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast.

    In Fort Lauderdale, I own a townhouse where I have resided for over a quarter of a century. In this community, I am a lawyer and a spokesman for NORML, very active in drug law reform. But I cannot practice what I preach. That would be illegal.

    In California, however, I found a small town near Berkeley, east of San Francisco Bay, where I may retire. It is Walnut Creek, a hamlet, I understand, that has more open public spaces than any other village in America. There, I may eventually choose to grow my own pot. I am allowed to do so.

    In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I practice law, and get people out of trouble for growing pot, I have to defend people who do what I am entitled to do in California legally. You see, the rules are different here. Life can thus be a bit conflicted.

    In early 2006, my Florida roommate, after learning he was HIV positive, decided to move back to his hometown of San Francisco. As a pot consumer, he realized he could now get a medicinal recommendation for marijuana and grow pot legally under California law. The Florida laws are not so kind or generous. Cultivation of any amount is a second degree felony.

    We went to San Francisco together, to a community I have visited and loved since the early 1970’s, from my first spectacular drive up the Pacific Coast highway. We found and rented a small apartment in the Haight.

    It has been thirteen years since California voters enacted Proposition 215, which allowed citizens to utilize marijuana for medical purposes if a person had a legitimate need. As a recovering cancer patient, I more than qualified for a medical marijuana recommendation.

    I sought out a legitimate physician, not one running a medical marijuana mill. I came with a full set of medical records tracking my unenviable medical past, including recent spinal surgery. The doctor thoughtfully reviewed with me the medical risks associated with the use of cannabis. Not that I did not have a little experience. I mean, I am 60 years old this year. My friends’ kids go to Bonnaroo. I lived through Woodstock.

    After the screening, my physician then appropriately certified me as an individual who could benefit from the medical use of cannabis. Just like that, I became patient number 380206011. I then proceeded to a medical dispensary, proudly armed with a State of California Medical Marijuana Identification Card.

    As a California patient, I am empowered to acquire cannabis lawfully at medical dispensaries. Under the California Health and Safety Code, I am also entitled to grow up to six plants of my own in my little apartment on the bay. I do not have to hide them from the authorities.

    I joined the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, and was issued a Growers Certificate. It affirms that any herbs I cultivate at home would be grown for my personal medical use. I was now at liberty to grow my own medicine. It is still called pot in Florida. We call it medicine in California. (more…)

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director February 25, 2009

    by Norm Kent, NORML Board of Directors

    The morning after the Academy Awards a band of protestors gathered in Los Angeles on the corner of Main Street and Temple St outside the federal courthouse. They were not there for the Oscars. But one day someone will make a movie about the person they were there for. It may be called ‘Inherit the Wind: the Sequel.’

    The protestors were marijuana patients and medical use advocates gathering in behalf of one Charles C. Lynch (photo below of Lynch’s medical cannabis dispensary opening), who was convicted in a United States court last summer of operating a medical marijuana dispensary in violation of federal laws. The organizers have no red carpet. They just wanted to draw public attention to Lynch’s case hoping that the 46-year old man does not spend decades in prison for giving medicine to sick people.

    California is one of thirteen states in which medical marijuana is legal, but federal law prohibits its use under any circumstances. That means that though Mr. Lynch obeyed local and state laws, he nevertheless became a federal prisoner. That means he is a victim of American injustice at its worst.

    Mr. Lynch was convicted at trial, denied under the Federal Rules of Evidence from presenting any testimony whatsoever about medical marijuana, his own city business license, or the California state law he dutifully and righteously obeyed. A jury thus only heard that some man was selling marijuana to line his pockets, and they convicted him, as a San Francisco jury once convicted Ed Rosenthal.

    We had another trial like that in America. It was called the Scopes trial, and as I recall, a schoolteacher was prosecuted for teaching science in his class and then denied the right to present testimony regarding evolution at his trial.

    On February 4, a White House Spokesman named Nick Shapiro said that President Obama did not want to waste federal law enforcement resources circumventing state medical marijuana laws. Mr. Shapiro opined that he expected the President’s new appointees to consider this when setting policy for their agencies. How about having one of them show up at the sentencing for Mr. Lynch? How about directing the US Attorney to stand down? I am available if they want to send me. (more…)

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