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Want To Learn More About Legal Marijuana? Head To Aspen


norml scholarships drug policy reform conferenceBy Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel

We sponsor two legal seminars each year at NORML, one in Key West, Florida, in early December, and the other in Aspen, Colorado, in late May/early June. Those are two wonderful venues for those who are looking for a mini-vacation, in addition to a valuable legal seminar. The 2015 Aspen legal seminar will be held next week (May 28-30) at the Gant Hotel.

This seminar is available for non-lawyers, as well as attorneys, for those who have an interest in the criminal defense and regulatory side of the legalization movement. And a visit to Aspen, now that marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, provides an excellent opportunity for those from other states to see what legalization actually looks and feels like, since there are now several legal dispensaries operating in Aspen. If you have not yet had the pleasure of walking into a retail store to legally purchase your marijuana, now is your chance. It is an empowering experience, and one that reinforces the importance of ending prohibition.

At NORML our basic goal is to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of why one smokes. Until we achieve that ultimate goal, we also do our best to provide assistance and support to victims of the current laws. The NORML Legal Committee (NLC), comprised of several hundred criminal defense and business attorneys, plays a major role in providing that support. NORML is the only legalization organization that has a legal committee, sponsors legal seminars, or that provides legal assistance or advice to those who have been arrested or who need legal assistance entering the legal marijuana market.

Lawyers who specialize in defending victims of prohibition, and business lawyers who represent the interests of the newly legal marijuana businesses in several states, are a special breed. Motivated by their commitment to legal marijuana, they have chosen a legal specialty that may not pay them the financial rewards they could make practicing corporate law, or probate law, or personal injury law, or many other higher-paying fields of practice; but they are at the cutting edge of the legal profession, willing to push the cultural and legal envelope. They generally feel an emotional and cultural attachment to the legalization movement, and most would tell you they get far more personal satisfaction by helping their clients stay out of jail on a marijuana charge (or avoid a criminal charge altogether), or by helping new marijuana entrepreneurs through the labyrinth of regulations and permits necessary to enter these newly legal markets, than they would get from helping rich individuals or institutions get richer, which is what many lawyers do.

This group of committed lawyers draws strength and knowledge from attending these seminars, and from the opportunity to spend time with their legal colleagues from around the county. It reminds us all of why we do what we do, and it empowers us to go forth and fight the good fight. Being an effective lawyer means trying new theories and defenses, and not being discouraged by the fact that we are not always successful. If it were easy, the clients would not need an attorney.

Because we have room at our Aspen venue (unfortunately we do not have extra room at our Key West venue), we permit non-lawyers to attend at a discounted registration fee. And those non-lawyers who do attend report they enjoy the opportunity to meet some of the leading NLC attorneys in an informal setting, and they find fascinating the internal debates and discussions regarding legal theories and new challenges being faced by this group of attorneys. It’s a rare opportunity to be part of this subset of NORML, and one well worth experiencing.

In addition to the seminar, social events where one can relax and get to know the other attendees, including the speakers, include an opening reception on Thursday night; a benefit dinner at the lovely home of Christine and Gerry Goldstein in Aspen on Friday evening , catered by Chris Lanter, chef and co-owner of the trendy Cache Cache restaurant in Aspen; and a Saturday afternoon cookout with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary Woody Creek home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, outside of Aspen a few miles.

If the 2015 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar and related social events is of interest, whether you are an attorney or someone who follows the legalization movement and wishes to learn more, you can still register for this seminar on line and join us in Aspen next week. I hope to see you there.

This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.


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  1. Kathleen Chippi on

    We don’t need new cannabis laws…..we only need the REPEAL of all cannabis laws….MPP/NORML/DPA/ASA/NCIA all know this and it is their last priority because once it happens “we the people” will have need for their ‘services’…..

  2. what we need to do is gather in a big circle, pass around a peace pipe and come up with laws to protect us all; not some special interest groups ideas. I’m an MMP living in RI. My 21 year old son who lives with me is constantly being stopped and searched by the police when he leaves our house. This kind of harassment should not be allowed.

  3. Kathleen Chippi on

    “… now that marijuana has been legalized in Colorado,”

    LOL…Keith, apparently you don’t agree with the authors of A64 who argued for over 2 hours at title board that A64 did NOT legalize….

    1 hour, 21 minutes, 48 seconds

    Attorney, Steve Fox, (MPP primary author of A64), “I mean she made our point better than we have, which is legalization is not what this is. She said it clearly and they are going to propose an initiative regarding the legalization of marijuana. What we are doing is regulating marijuana. It’s a significant legal difference and it would be inaccurate to call it legalization.”

    or minute 50:55 seconds: Mr. Ramie (A64 attorney), “I think it would work if we deleted the word, starting on line 1, with legalization.”

    LOL…BETTER YET: tell that to the Appeals Court (the People v. Watkins, Beinor v. ICAO and Coats v. Dish Network) and the state of Colorado, both of which say otherwise….But confusing people sure helps keep (NORML) attorneys employed….

    State of CO Attorney General amicus in Coats v. Dish Network second sentence: “Contrary to popular perception, Colorado has not simply legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.” and the last sentence: “If the People want to enact a broadly applicable “right’ to use marijuana as the dissent in Beinor declared, then a new amendment to the Colorado Constitution should be required.”

    Oh and lets not forget to thank national NORML for bringing the unscientific 5 nanogram THC impairment level for DUI to Colorado. Before NORML’s ‘contribution’ to our over-regulatory nightmare, we had no THC limit and LEO used to have to prove actual IMPAIRMENT. But this unscientific nonsense keeps NORML’s criminal defense attorneys with plenty of ‘business’.

    “…..provides an excellent opportunity for those from other states to see what legalization actually looks and feels like,”

    but isn’t…says the Appeals Court 3 times now and the state attorney general….and the authors of A64.

    “If you have not yet had the pleasure of walking into a retail store to legally purchase your marijuana, now is your chance. It is an empowering experience, and one that reinforces the importance of ending prohibition.”

    Too bad the reality is IF one USES the cannabis one purchases in Aspen, one is still at risk of loss of: employment, child custody, occupational licenses, gun rights, unemployment benefits, housing, assets, banking, insurance, student loans, any government aid, ‘privilege’ to adoption, ‘privilege’ to organ transplant, freedom etc…JUST LIKE BEFORE A64 PASSED…..

    and IF NORML attorneys are so on top of ‘legalization’, why have they not filed ONE single lawsuit in CO or one single amicus brief in CO to help fight or over turn these BAD court rulings that clarify the current law of the land in CO to STILL be “all cannabis is STILL ILLEGAL in CO”?

    I begged CO NORML to help the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project and all people in CO and nationwide to get an amicus in Coats v. Dish Netowrk in the CO Supreme Court. I got a email back saying they were unable to help, but did wish me good luck on “my efforts” to protect the will of the people in CO and nationwide. Fortunately we didn’t let the non help from NORML stop our amicus.

    PCRLP has what possibly is the most important arguments made to date in a high court nationwide and this ruling will set precedent nationwide. We argue patients have “rights” (not privileges that can be taken away by the state) and most importantly, we argue that federal law does not trump medical cannabis law specifically. No high court in the nation has agreed to hear or ruled on the federal preemption issue to date while NORML attorneys bask in the plethora of legal confusion they helped create, like unscientific 5 nano DUI.

    Wondering why grassroots (non attorney) activists like myself have to independently ‘clean up the messes’ (in the courts at our cost) our supposed national ‘drug reform’ groups like NORML, MPP, DPA, ASA, NCIA etc make. Our end goal is to repeal all cannabis prohibitions for all people for all uses. We prefer to correct the problem BEFORE more people are harmed by bad laws, not benefit from people being harmed by bad laws, like NORML criminal defense attorneys. PCRLP amicus arguments can be found at cannabislawsuits dot com…….”

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