Pubdate: 9 May 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Marianne Lippard
Note: as best I can tell, this article did NOT run in the Sunday print
         edition of the Register, only online.


NEW HAVEN - When Cliff Thornton was 18, his mother died of a heroin

One might assume the harrowing experience of being driven to the place
where his mother died, and learning how it happened, would have
forever turned his life away from drugs.

The experience did that at first, but eventually, just the opposite
happened. Today, Thornton is actively involved in a group that is
pushing for the legalization of heroin, marijuana and cocaine.

"I began to see that you had to look at this thing differently,"
Thornton said of the turnaround that came years after his mother's

Thornton feels society's problems are complex and should not be blamed
solely on drugs.

On Saturday, Thornton spoke at a public forum entitled "Marijuana
Prohibition: Why It Must End." About 35 people attended.

John Kardaras, a lawyer, and Mark Braunstein, a plaintiff in a federal
medical marijuana class action suit, addressed the group.

All who spoke were in favor of legalizing the drug, and discussed
strategies for making legalization a reality.

The Connecticut Cannabis Policy Forum organized the meeting, which
took place on the Yale University campus. The group does not, however,
have ties to the school. Michael Gogulski, executive director of the
forum, said the group is looking to expose myths associated with
marijuana use.

"Marijuana causes extreme paranoia in people who have never smoked
it," said Gogulski, an engineer.

He said he decided to do something about legalizing marijuana after
his wife got tired of hearing him airing his complaints to the
television set.

The forum was established in January. Gogulski, 26, also is editor of
Media Awareness Project of DrugSense.

"The government is running scared from its own research, which
challenges the foundation of marijuana prohibition," Gogulski said.

Jelani Lawson, an alderman in New Haven, attended the conference and
said a true grassroots movement would have to happen now for anything
to happen legislatively in 2000.

Gogulski said he would have liked a better turnout and more exchange
of ideas.

The arrest last month of Khalid El-Amin, point guard for the
University of Connecticut Huskies national champion basketball team,
also was discussed.

Thornton, who is involved with Efficacy, a Hartford-based group
focused on large-scale drug policies, said he surveyed 180 students
between 13 to 16 years old while working as a substitute teacher in
Hartford public schools.

When asked whether they felt El-Amin should have been arrested,
Thornton said all but two students said no. All of those who answered
the survey said it would not make any difference if El-Amin spoke to
them about the dangers of marijuana, he added.
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