Pubdate: Wed, 28 Apr 1999
Source: Vermont Times, The (VT)
Section: Front Page
Copyright: 1999 the Vermont Times
Author: Cathleen P. Warren


For those citizens living life out of the proverbial loop, Burlington and
the surrounding area has been gripped by the Million Marijuana March (MMM)
mania. Posters are everywhere, flyers blanket the town, advertisements
infect the airwaves. Parents, hold your children tight because reefer
madness is headed this way. 

More than 28 cities worldwide plan to participate in the Million Marijuana
March, a public demonstration designed to promote the decriminalization of
Mother Nature's most controversial creation. The rally's platform is based
on four demands: Cease all cannabis-related arrests by law enforcement, halt
propaganda portraying marijuana as an addictive threat to society, legalize
marijuana as a medicinal product, and distribute the plant to those
suffering from a number of diseases characterized by pain, wasting syndrome,
and nausea.

According to MMM organizer and sufferer of Krohn's Disease, Dennis Lane, the
rally will not be a pot-laden day of debauchery. "It's not a reason to smoke
and drink in public," he said. "That's not going to change the laws. People
have to vote. We have to do anything and everything we can to change the
laws. We don't want to legalize it. We don‚t want to decriminalize it. We
just want to end the Prohibition. It‚s a wonderful plant. Other countries
are way ahead of us in terms of industrial and medicinal use. This is a
protest for freedom. If we
don't own our own bodies, then what do we have?" 

Lane addresses the current state of marijuana in a steady stream of
statistics and supporting evidence. He pauses periodically and sighs to
himself, "Jeez, there's just so much to talk about." He jumps from topic to
topic, from the history of Prohibition to the Billy Greer trial to the
origins of the United States. "This is not just about pot," he said. "This
is a direct attack on the Bill of Rights. I feel like a Jew in Nazi Germany
in the thirties." 

University of Vermont assistant research professor Bob Melamede, an
outspoken proponent of medical marijuana and kingpin of the Cannabis Cable
Network on public access TV, agrees with most of Lane's opinions. "In terms
of medical use, the evidence is unequivocally there," he said. "But
unfortunately, the government would rather you not have relief from your

"The DEA concluded than marijuana is one of the safest drugs known to man.
It‚s safer than aspirin. If you swallow 600 aspirin, you‚re going to
overdose. There have been no recorded cases of marijuana-related overdoses.
It's a very safe drug." 

Million Marijuana March mania isn't limited to Burlington. The Internet
boasts dozens upon dozens of sites devoted to supporting medical marijuana
and industrial hemp. High Times, a monthly magazine featuring marijuana bud
centerfolds, now appears on even the most conservative of newsstands
nationwide. Preparations are underway in London for a day-long hemp fashion
show this Saturday. Supporters in Oslo plan to march on their Parliament.
Albuquerque citizens are readying to march on their jail while folks in
Austin are focused on the governor's mansion and Minnesotans plan to visit
their governor, Jesse "The Mind" Ventura. 

Melamede keeps his eyes on the evidence. Lately, he has been looking
skeptically at the FDA's newest strategy in the war on weed: Marinol, a kind
of extract of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, manufactured in pill form.

"They're saying that marijuana has no medical value but the active
ingredient should be declassified and  prescribed," he said. "Somehow, they
want us to believe marijuana has different properties than the active
ingredient. So, you know these people are insane. If you're a cancer
recovery patient and you‚re really sick and you're puking your guts out, the
last thing you want to do is take a pill that may or may not work in a
couple of hours. You want to take a couple of hits and feel better." 

If successfully declassified and legalized,  medical marijuana could offer
relief to those suffering from a variety of diseases and maladies including
AIDS wasting syndrome, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy,
arthritis, lupus, anorexia and bulimia, various anxiety disorders and
migraine headaches. 

Melamede feels medical marijuana remains a taboo topic because of the
influences of what he calls "big money industry." "Tremendous amounts of
money stand to be lost by special interest groups," he said. "The
pharmaceutical industry stands to lose enormous amounts of money as their
painkillers may become obsolete. Lawyers will lose money because
cannabis-related arrests number approximately 700,000 per year. The DEA will
have a lot more time on their hands. 

"The alcohol industry wants people drinking their products rather than
smoking dope. The cigarette companies want people smoking cigarettes rather
than dope. All these industries give huge donations to the politicians that
keep marijuana in its current classification. We need cooperation and
intelligence rather than fear tactics." 

In an article from April 10, the Winnipeg Free Press described the landing
the world's largest hemp processing plant as "the biggest economic win for
Dauphin since CN Rail came through more than 100 years ago." The Canadian
government lifted the ban on growing hemp in March 1998 after drug-war fears
were outweighed by industrial potential. Hemp can be processed for a variety
of uses including fabric, cardboard, plastics, and automobile parts while
the seed can supply nutritionally sound oil for human and animal consumption. 

Lane, who has used more than four thousand of his own dollars to sponsor
Saturday's event, promises music and speakers. Informational tables will
spring up in City Hall Park. The Muses and Mighty Fine Diamonds will provide
musical stylings. Currently incarcerated Billy Greer is reportedly sending a
taped message for participants. 

Lane encountered difficulty booking politicians for the event, as many don't
want to associate themselves with such a controversial issue until public
opinion has been clearly formulated and expressed. Nevertheless, Lane
will persevere, ensuring Burlington a niche in Million Marijuana March
history and lending credibility to his status as a High Times featured
Freedom Fighter. 

"Somebody's got to stand up and say Enough!‚ I've decided to devote the rest
of my life to trying to educate people and change the laws. I've got to
stand up and speak the truth. If not me, who?"

The Million Marijuana March stumbles into Burlington City Hall Park this
Saturday, rain or shine, from  1 to 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the
public. Reports of cancellation, which plagued last year's demonstration,
are to be considered bogus.

Bob Melamede Assistant Professor Department of Microbiology and Molecular
Genetics University of Vermont
802 656-8501

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