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I did something

By John Chase
Regional Leader, The November Coalition

On November 3rd I stood at the polls for ten hours straight except for three five minute breaks, asking people to sign a petition to put medical marijuana (MMJ) on the Florida ballot in 2000. I was at my clean-cut, best military posture in immaculate but informal dress, even wearing my NAVY / RICE baseball cap. I was able to get their attention, and people listened to me. Except for the comings and goings of sign-holding supporters of various candidates, I was alone. This was at a 'twofer" precinct, the largest in the county, I believe. It was an experience I won't forget.

Pris came at noon with a sandwich and watched it for a while. Afterward she told me that it would be hard for her to approach strangers like that to ask for their support. I told her it was hard for me but that I had to do it. I managed to obtain the signatures of almost 150 individuals, about one each four minutes.

Not much middle ground on this issue. A lot, certainly the majority of those I approached brushed past, shaking their heads. The signers were mostly from families of sick people who had gotten or tried to get MMJ. Most were aware of its ability to help the stomach hold down strong drugs such as AZT or during chemotherapy. Many were aware of the benefits for those who suffer from glaucoma. (These were almost all elderly, remember.) One told me she had lost a son and had tried to get MMJ but could not find it. Many retired nurses signed. Others told me they were currently undergoing chemotherapy and comments such as, "I'm so glad you're doing this" and "Bless you" made the day okay for me.

Near the end of the day I noticed an intense-looking old guy in one of those 'lean-back' wheelchairs being pushed by his elderly wife. They had voted and he was resting about 40 feet from me. As they were leaving, they came up to me and he growled "I want to sign one of those. What does it do?" It wasn't easy to tell him it was for the year 2000 vote, because I doubted that he'd last that long, but I told him and he made no comment. They both signed and went on. His legs were in such bad shape that he couldn't even wear shoes. One leg was purple, with an abscessed big toe looking like it would soon be a candidate for amputation.

I finally quit at 5 p.m. It was getting dark and few of these retired folks were showing up. Few drive after dark, you know-retirees that is and that is what we are around here.

During the day my mind went back to the afternoon last March when a woman from the November Coalition (website of families of drug felons) phoned to ask if she could put my first letter that was published in the St. Petersburg Times on the website. I said, "yes," of course, and then thought to myself, 'This is getting serious, I sure hope I'm doing the right thing'. I didn't know then the mantra of the drug warriors about the 'legalizers' being dupes of the 'carefully camouflaged, well-heeled intellectual elite" who are trying to legalize drugs on the backs of sick people. I have read volumes since then and I am more convinced than ever that­­to put it kindly­­the government is on the wrong track.

I know it contradicts intuition that relaxing drug constraints would help, but gradually this is beginning to be believed. First the Dutch and now the Swiss, whose upper house of parliament just voted 30 to 4 to expand their program providing heroin to addicts, and who will vote on the 29th on a broad referendum of drug reform, which may even include 'national drug stores'. Their goal is to find a practical solution to the illegal drug syndrome of (1) Open air drug markets, (2) Overdose deaths, (3) drug-induced thefts, (4) homelessness, (5) unemployability and (6) spread of disease. The Swiss march to the beat of their own drummer. The Swiss have their cadre of moralists who see drug use as a character defect which can be corrected only by coercion and punishment, but they are a minority.

Even U.S voters are beginning to see it. Of the nine issues that involved drug reform or candidates who had taken a position on it, the reformer side won in all nine.

For the U.S., most of the support for drug reform will vanish when marijuana is legal again as it was before 1940. Reformers will have a tougher job then. I'll probably still be pressing on the same drug reform issues as the ACLU­­e.g. Property seizures, DEA home invasions, illegal searches, draconian sentences­­you know, the stuff the Bill of Rights is made of.

It has been a good month. Mean-spirited Republicans losing all over the country. Perhaps by 2000 the Republicans will have dumped their puritanical, arrogant rectitude so we can have rational debate on issues more important than their own parochial social bullshit (forgive me).

This election proves that we do not have to put up with the Mean-spirited Republicans. All we have to do is to VOTE, and I thank you all for doing it.

I guess I'm not retired after all; just working for free.

My love to all - John Chase

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