Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jun 2010
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2010 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Carol Motsinger


ASHEVILLE -- Twenty years from now, Jennifer Foster thinks that the 
marijuana prohibition will be relegated to the history books.

And if this happens, some of the early steps toward decriminalization 
in this state can be traced to the North Carolina National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml) inaugural 
meeting Sunday evening at The French Broad Brewing Co.

Norml is a national nonprofit organization supporting the removal of 
all criminal penalties for the private possession and responsible use 
of marijuana by adults.

The purpose of Sunday's meeting -- and a benefit concert that 
followed at The Garage at Biltmore -- was to raise money for the 
group's nonprofit status as well as to discuss creative reform 
strategies and to educate about bills in committee in the N.C. 
General Assembly that would allow marijuana use for medical purposes.

"(Lifting the ban on medical marijuana) is something that's really 
urgent ... people will die," said Foster, organizer and an Asheville 
attorney. "We really want for people to know that this is something 
people support."

The goal is to have Norml branches throughout the state, said 
organizer Alex Bumgardner, of Gastonia. The UNC Asheville graduate 
said there is a presence in Charlotte and Asheville already, but the 
group had its first meeting in Asheville "because the momentum is 
already there." About 150 people have already expressed more interest 
in the group, Foster said.

She said that in her 15 years as a criminal law attorney, she's heard 
countless stories "about how criminal penalties of marijuana use and 
possession wreck lives."

"There is no real rational basis for marijuana to be illegal when 
alcohol is not," Foster, "it just doesn't make sense."

For Bumgardner, the impact of decriminalizing marijuana would be far 
reaching, suggesting the state's textile industry could be revived by 
the legal production of hemp, a nonpsychoactive cannabis strain. The 
time and money spent to enforce the laws prohibiting marijuana could 
also "be dedicated elsewhere," he said. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake