On May 21, 2006 I was invited to attend and speak at the Candidates forum hosted by The National Coalition of 100 Black Women in historic Tuskegee, Alabama.
I was the only gubernatorial candidate to show at the event. Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley did not show due to laryngitis. I had a touch of it myself but refuse to let such things stop me from addressing any crowd of Alabama voters who are kind enough, fair enough and interested enough to bother extending an invitation to the Nall for Governor campaign.
There were other candidates there for state and local office. Three of these candidates were law enforcement officers and their presence there worked so heavily in my favor by the end of the day that I am still somewhat speechless.
Here's how it all went down.
Being the highest ranking candidate there I was given the floor first. The audience was largely African-American Democrat with a white Democrat thrown in for good measure. I never know what kind of reaction I will get from an African-American audience when I come out with my positions on drug policy reform. They have lived in the war zone for many years and it can sometimes be difficult to get them to look at the issue from a different angle.
On the first go round I stated my platform planks in a two minute opening statement. I got a glazed over/shocked look from the crowd but no response other than that. Not a good way to start the day. Everyone else then took their turn at the podium.
There were three candidates for Circuit Clerk. One of these candidates was a veteran narcotics task force officer who made it a point to say over and over how much good he had done his community by fighting drugs.
There were two candidates for Sheriff. The incumbent, Leon E. "Chief" Frazier, and David M. Warren, who is also the husband of a state legislator. Both of them started out anti-drug and seemed somewhat perplexed that my message was so different from theirs.
After all the candidates were done speaking the audience submitted questions on 3x5 cards. My first question was,
"What will be your first action if elected Governor?"
My answer was, "Make marijuana enforcement the lowest law enforcement priority for the entire state and fight for the release of all non-violent drug offenders."
Next up were the circuit clerk candidates and the question asked of them was, "We have murder cases that are over 5 years old that have never been investigated, we do not have enough judges, the court docket is so backlogged that no one gets a timely trial and the forensics lab is overloaded with drug cases. What are you going to do about this?"
At this point there was a great deal of "riding a bicycle around the room" from the candidates because they did not know what to say.
The candidates for Sheriff were up next and they were asked what their top priorities were.
The incumbent: "I have cleaned up Macon County while I have been in office. I have reduced the drug trade and violent crime and if you re-elect me I vow to eradicate drugs in Macon County."
The challenger said something along the same lines but made no outrageous promises of complete drug eradication like the incumbent did.
The rest of the candidates answered their questions and then it was time for the final round of questioning and closing statements. I knew that somehow I had not connected with my audience like I usually do and I was not feeling great about any of it.
When I was called back to the mic I suddenly got very hot and my heart was racing. My last question was, "Can you really sign into law making marijuana enforcement the lowest priority?"
I looked into the eyes of my audience and I said,
"As Governor I would have a great deal of leverage because I would have veto powers. This can be done. It would take political negotiating and wrangling but yes I could get this done as Governor.
I want you to know that what I am saying to you today is not about the right to get high. It is not about the right to use drugs. It is about evaluating what we are doing to see if it is meeting its stated objective. I think we can all agree that the drug war has failed. We all want the same things. We want safe neighborhoods where there are no gangs, no violence, no people selling drugs to any kid that wants them in an unregulated market.
We want to keep families together. If I were to sit down with our law enforcement officials today and have a rational discussion about the drug war you would see that we are all really on the same page. I am not anti-cop but I do readily admit that the drug war has fostered disrespect and contempt for law enforcement. I want our officers to be safe and to protect all of us from real crime."
"If you want your court system unclogged and able to deal with crimes like rape and murder then you have to address it by ending the drug war. If you want the forensics lab to devote its time to solving violent crimes with actual victims then you have to address it by ending the drug war. The drug laws actually create the crime that they were designed to protect us from. People who smoke marijuana do not belong in jail. Marijuana should be legal and available to adults. That would solve our prison crisis as most people in prison in Alabama for drug crimes are there for marijuana. It costs us $95 million a year just to house the marijuana smokers in Alabama's prison system. That is a lot of money that we could use to make things better for our state and our communities."
The incumbent sheriff was up next and some brilliant attendee in the back submitted the following question to him.
"Just how exactly will you completely eradicate drugs from Macon county?"
The whole room giggled at that question and I spoke up and said "I swear I had nothing to do with it."
The sheriff gets to the mic and stands there for a minute looking at everyone, me included, and then he sighs big, shakes his head and says for all to hear, "It can't be done. Drugs cannot be eradicated from Macon county or anywhere else. Even if we put our military on the borders to stop "those Colombians" from bringing their junk in, even if we had missiles that could fly down people's chimneys we would never be able to eradicate drugs from anywhere."
Then he sat down.
His opponent was next up to address the question. Mr. Warren looked at the audience and then at me and he said, "No matter what else you might think of Mrs. Nall's platform she is absolutely RIGHT on drug policy. It has filled our prisons to bursting, and it's YOUR KIDS who are taking the hits and getting sent to prison or shot down in the streets. We need to address drugs with treatment cause it ain't a problem for law enforcement. We got to do this different and I will do it different. If we want our courts to work, our prisons to work and our communities to be safer then we have to address drugs from a different perspective focused on treatment for those who need it. Prison is no place for a drug addict."
This gentleman has my endorsement now. When he spoke those words he was like a preacher getting down on Sunday morning. He was feeling it and he knew it was right. I think he was just waiting for someone to give him an opening. The incumbent Sheriff even admitted that the drug war can never be won. The audience responded well to those little doses of truth and I felt them come alive and begin to get excited. I'd also like to add that Mark Allen Treadwell who is running for Circuit Court Judge ( and if he wins could potentially be the judge in my appeals case) was in attendance and was clapping along once the truth got rolling off the tounges of the candidates. That gives me hope that things really are about to change here.
Afterward the veteran of the Narcotics task force made it a point to shake my hand and wish me luck. The two candidates for Sheriff were engaged with other folks, they looked like they were discussing the sudden shift in drug policy and I thought it best to leave them to their constituients, and so I did not get the opportunity to speak with them. I will, however, be publicly endorsing Mr. Warren for Macon County Sheriff and I will be getting LEAP to send both of these gentlemen some literature.
So, yeah, maybe I do live in a trailer and I possess nothing more than a GED but I see the fruits of my labor pay off in a way that makes me richer than any person I know. There is no reward greater than success when your goal is justice for all.
There are many other things going on in Alabama right now. I am involved in a ballot access petition drive that has to be completed by June 6 in order for me to get my name on the ballot. Please watch this video of Democratic Candidate Joe Copeland and me , and keep in mind that he gets automatic access to the ballot while I have to use all of my resources to overcome massive hurdles because I refuse to sell out and run as a Democrat or a Republican. I deserve to be on that ballot as much as anyone else, my ideas make more sense than anyone elses and if I get my name on there I will win this election.
PLEASE MAKE A CONTRIBUTION to put me on the ballot in Alabama. I can make miracles happen with your support.
We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.