At the national conference of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) here at the Governor Hotel, in Portland Oregon, our own Michael Whitney is on a panel this morning to talk about the marijuana legalization campaign.

Allen St Pierre Executive Director, NORML, is moderating. Also on the panel are Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; David Nott, Executive Directort of the Reason Foundation; and Craig Reinarman, PhD, University of California/Santa Cruz.

I’ll live blog the panel starting at 10am pacific time.

Jane Hamsher and I are selling the wonderful new Just Say Now t-shirts, some featuring the wonderfully soft hemp/cotton blend. We’re gathering signatures, engaging people in the campaign, and premiering the great Just Say Now products.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer is now keynoting up in the main hall, talking about how marijuana legalization and industrial hemp farming can be issues that bridge the gap between the mythology of left and right.

He points out that a constructive conversation about decriminalizing marijuana engages both Barney Frank and Ron Paul.

Panel beginning now.

St Pierre: 800,000 Americans will be arrested this year for marijuana crimes. Yet there are 2400 medical dispensaries. There is a plurality not a majority for legalization.

Introduces Michael of FDL, new player introduced into the legalization effort because our members voted to work on this campaign. Talks about the Arkansas recruitment effort of Bill Halter — calls FDL "fleet of foot" and "unwedded to a top-down membership model."

Introduces "Reason" as one of the best reads in the United States, where thinkers write.

Neill Franklin, new director of LEAP, one of the most important law enforcement organizations involved in law reform. Very importnat to have trustworthy allies in the law enforcement community.

Craig Reinarman, internationally recognized researcher who keeps good track of the opposition to ending prohibition.

This is a bridge period between medicalization and legalization.

Reinarman: Want to talk about marijuana madness: not the prohibition, the other kind. The arguments that marijuana causes psychosis, being deployed in the anti-prop 19 campaign in California. I suggest that the link is very tenuous; and that we need to take the argument very seriously. This is the latest scare tactic being deployed by folks against us. The electorate is fearful and prone to scapegoating: not just being used in the referendum, but used in the culture wars too.

I was dismissive, as a student of drug scare, I thought this was silly. British colonial overlords worried in India that hemp use was filling asylums; turned out not to be true. reagan drug czar claimed mj made you gay. 200 times the psychoactive dose on monkeys causes brain damage; they had to raise the dose so high in order to "prove" their case.

I’m a deconstructor of drug war narratives: these are serious scientists this time, not ideologues. The Drug Control Industrial Complex is using this, and the science is not easy to dismiss. We need to address this.

The studies suggest this is not nothing; if we dismiss this out of hand, we risk being like the other side. More is required of us, we need to take their studies seriously.

Their studies show a correlation, not a causation. Dutch study of 4,170 males; 7 needed treated. If you double the risk, it goes to 14 who show psychosis. Which is defined differently, you just had to say yes to: "Hearing voices that other people do not hear?" Does this mean the fifty million Americans who say they are born again and have a personal relationship and talk with God are psychotic? No.

"Feeling that other people can’t be trusted?" Think of the huge number of snitches out there. Think of Wall Street in charge of our pensions. Which is a sign of error: trusting or not trusting?

"Having ideas or beliefs not shared by others?" This defines all great thinkers or innovators in human history.

One study found 20% among mj users; 10% among non-mj users. Huge variance depending on definition of pychosis and use.

Use itself had wide variations: casual, daily, when you were 18, now?

The studies did not control for any of the known possible confounders of psychosis.

As a simple sociologist: mj has gone from 5% in 1960 to 50% a half century later, yet we don’t see evidence of huge intake for psychosis.

Yes, heavy use too young can affect school performance and the developing brain. Those prone to mental illness

[Note: you can see a live video at the top of the page now]

"This is pharmacological bigotry and it’s time to end it!"

Now up: David Nott of Reason. Intro: "there’s a hipness to their wonkness, a marriage of thoughtfulness and the free market"

Nott: we have been arguing for legalization for 40 years. But now we are competing with many other huge issues. Let me talk about what I see as the puzzles in the debate right now.
New study now: what are parents afraid of? Terrorists, kidnapping, drugs. This is what they fear for their kids. What are kids’ actual risk? Drowning, suicide, homicide by a known person. Yet these are eclipsed, thanks to efforts in the 1980s.

How can we change this? At a conference at AEI, conservative think tank: look at costs, look at benefits, it’s a total failure. Rand Beers (architect of Plan Colombia): "I want to commend you for a flawless study. But no politician ever lost an election because they voted more money for law enforcement." Think of what that’s done to our law enforcement over the last 30 years.

In 30 years, we’ve institutionalized two million more people. We imprison four to ten times other industrialized nations. Many times more per capita than Rwanda, Cuba, Russia. America has gone down this path together: red states, blue states. We need to change this debate: how can we?

What’s in the news cycle, what positions are people taking? I think politics is an emotional business: think of how GWB used 911 because it recalled for all Americans how we felt that day. Was the 2008 bank meltdown the same shared experience? Yes, based on fears about jobs, housing, retirement.

The reality is that the federal govt is borrowing 1.2 trillion this year and more next year. 40% of the budget is borrowed.

We have exported our drug war: 28,000 people killed in Mexico in the past four years. We have to confront people’s fears and talk about the senseless waste of money and lives.

We can learn a lot from the medicalization: somebody complained about our kids’ lemonade stand and the police came to shut it down. Think, then, about the complaints generated by dispensaries, and by legalization.

[Pot Wars, film about dispensaries in California]

More dispensaries in Los Angeles than there are Starbucks.
"who knows who is running some of these?"
"nobody is testing the mj in LA"
Still a lot of uncertainty about what’s legal and what’s not.
Dispensaries operating in a gray area, collectives that haven’t been raided are lucky.

No one had a bigger stake than the truly ill people who need mj to help them stay well.

2009: Holder says stop targeting patients in compliance with state law, then LA supervisors passed a law that will close lots of dispensaries. New zoning restrictions, sensitive use areas. All but a few will need to relocate.

Isn’t medicalization a step towards legalization.

Californians wonder why their government is spending so much money on a war they can’t win. Regulating mj like alcohol. If the legislators can do it, then the voters will.

Prop 215 passed with 56%, the same %age of Californians who now favor legalization.

St Pierre: Neill Franklin next. Very few come through the door Neill has, as a state trooper in MD. No one in this room possesses the commanding understanding of the toxic nature of the drug war on law enforcement.

Neill:"Where’s a cop when you need one? Well, I’m right here on your side." [Applause]

LEAP fast growing organization of crime fighters formed in 2002 by five retired cops to reduce death, disease, crime, and addiction. Same goals as the war on drugs! But they decided to do it by ending prohibition. After decades on the front lines, prohibition had to end. We are a 501c3 — not just cops, judges, retired federal agents, wardens, and guards.

I’m here for the duration until these policies are changed. It took the assassination of a close friend, a drug agent in the MD state police, to help me get here. I learn something new about this policy every day. It’s a bad policy with worldwide effect.

The damage to our neighborhoods, our citizens, cuts wide deep and long. It’s going to take a lot to fix that. we’re here to educate; we have a unique perspective. From the law enforcement, we speak our own truth about what we know: inappropriate focus and use of law enforcement and the unsolved crimes that go unsolved because we miss the mark. Crimes of violence that go unsolved leaves a perpetrator at large to prey on our citizens.

New scare tactic: drugged driving and the inability of law enforcement to detect drugged driver. As a cop, if you don’t have the skills to detect a driver who’s drugged or drunk or texting, you need remedial training. All law enforcement needs to do is observe, stop, make the stop, do the test, and document.

We used to arrest folks for DUI without breath tests. Relied on the observations of the officer; it took work. Legalization, eliminating perverse drug policies, will put more cops on the street to find and arrest impaired drivers.

Two words: opportunity and momentum. The opportunity of a lifetime is only good for the lifetime of the opportunity. So what if Prop 19 doesn’t pass in November? Maybe in two years, but how many will die here and worldwide? In Mexico, 1200 die every month. We lose thousands here as well. In two years, a lot of lives will be disenfranchised.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime — for somebody’s life.

Momentum: the numbers indicate we have momentum for policy change. We are starting to go vertical, and quick. People thought they would never see this in their lifetime; our board chair was one. Many organizations getting on board: NAACP, CA council of churches, National Black Police Association. Very short period of time, but you can feel it building.

Let us not let this momentum to pass us by: once lost, it is hard to resume. Don’t let it die, way too serious an issue not to take this very seriously. We each have a role to play: discover your role, accomplish your missions. Let’s change the discussion from IF we should do this to HOW we should do this.

In Wyatt Earp’s words: You’re either in this fight, or you’re not. And if you’re not, get out of the way. Just say WHAT? [now] Just say WHAT? ]Now!] JUST SAY WHAT? {NOW!!!}

Cool call and response….

St Pierre introducing Michael Whitney, Just Say Now as a gamechanger.
We came up with the name same time NORML did. JSN is a co-project of SSDP, FDL and now LEAP. It’s a transpartisan space for no party, both parties. Board includes Bruce Fein, Neill Franklin. Organized 75,000 people online.

Goal: support Prop 19 as well as AZ, OR, [one other]

Getting our feet wet for 2010, then really push in 2012.

Disconnect between what people think and how politicians and media treat this issue. 73% support medical.

45% of young voters are likely to turn out if legalization is on the ballot. Young voters will show up for MJ.

Congress doesn’t represent the American people on this.

Only 4 of CA’s representatives support 19, both Boxer and Brown oppose. Feinstein heads up the No on 19 campaign. CA Dems voted to be neutral on 19.

we want to challenge this disconnect between politicians and people. We want to pass everything on the ballot in 2010 and put more things on the ballot in 2012.

Incrementally more difficult tasks, people get more engaged, politicians get more challenged by people who are more supporting of legalization.

Facebook censorship: we wanted to broadcast our launch to people who might support us. After 38 million ads were seen, Facebook reversed course and censored us. Instead of removing our leaf, we launched the Censored by Facebook campaign; HuffPost.

FB changed their excuse four times in two days, ended up saying, "guys, stop asking us about pot leaves, seriously."

Then Reddit (owned by Conde Nast) was told to censor our ads by their bosses despite their huge community interest. NOt just censor, but refused our ads completely. Huge protest on Reddit, whose users started turning on AdBlock to deny Reddit revenue. Within two hours, Reddit condemned their parent company and said they’d run our ads for free

(huge hoots and applause from audience)

Reddit sided with their community, which is the goal of our movement.

We want to take our online support offline, sneak preview of what’s coming up next week that I probably shouldn’t liveblog….

Allen St Pierre also previews a huge initiative between FDL, SSDP, HuffPost, and NORML that should roll out next week as well.

Break! Time to hit the Portland food carts across Alder street. See you there….