The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


How Normal is NORML?

A woman with a “High! My name is Loretta” nametag greeted me at the door of the Curtain Club in Deep Ellum. Loretta Labrada gave me a “High!” nametag and offered me an item from the bake sale. It’s an assortment of brownies, cupcakes and Rice Krispie treats. Would a group whose mission is to legalize marijuana actually sell adulterated edibles at a public meeting? I declined the offer because I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself at my first NORML meeting.

Their Mission

I arrived half an hour early to DFW NORML’s March meeting on the last Saturday of March. Founded in 1970, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws is the oldest and largest marijuana legalization organization in the country. It supports the removal of all criminal penalties for private possession and adult responsible use, private cultivation and nonprofit transfers of small amounts. It also supports patients’ use of medicinal marijuana to relieve pain and suffering. NORML’s website reads: “We represent the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly and believe the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime.” 

Committed Members

The next person to greet me with a “High!” was Sarah Waterman. Sarah sat on a stool next to her husband, Scott. It was their second time driving from Plano to make a NORML meeting. Sarah asked me if it was my first meeting. I told her it was. “Why are you here?” she asked. I gave her a muddled response that didn’t expose any stand on the subject of marijuana legalization and she offered me a seat at their table. Sarah held a cup of water while her husband sipped on a beer. “I don’t like to drink. It just gives me a headache,” Sarah said.

Sports, youth group and a home drug test kit that a “Not My Kid” seminar gave my mom kept me away from drugs during high school. Not My Kid is a nonprofit that has the opposing view on marijuana use, labeling it as the “gateway drug.” NORML’s website’s response to this allegation is that the prohibition of marijuana is actually what forces marijuana users to associate with the world of hard drugs in the illicit drug black market.

The Watermans have two daughters, 10 and 12 years old. “We don’t ever smoke in front of them,” Sarah said. Scott works in information technology and Sarah in sales. “When I was a kid we grew it in our front yard,” Scott said. “I was mowing the lawn and almost mowed it over and my uncle ran outside screaming.” That was when Scott lived in Arkansas. He began dealing in high school. “I was making quite a bit of money. But one time there was this big guy and I called him a name I shouldn’t have and he pulled a gun to my head,” Scott said. “After that I took a break from selling.”

We sat at a table in the center of the room where directly in front of us Steve Williams, DFW NORML’s media coordinator, was setting up his tripod and camera to record the meeting. “Let me know if I’m in the way,” Williams said. Williams is a heavy-built white guy with white hair. The Watermans engaged him in conversation, asking about his involvement with NORML. “In the 80s it just wasn’t a big deal. At 18 everybody smoked,” Williams said. He outgrew smoking after his teenage years and didn’t keep up with the drug’s legalization movement in the news. “My sister is a retired nurse. She called me one day, she has diabetes, and she was telling me about the benefits of medical marijuana,” Williams said. 

A Case to Consider

At DFW NORML’s February meeting Sarah and Scott heard C.J. Maestras from the Cash Hyde Foundation speak about medical marijuana as a viable medical treatment option. Cash Hyde was the youngest medical cannabis patient in the US. At 20 months was diagnosed with a stage four brain tumor. Traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation put him at a 10 percent chance of surviving. After 40 days when he was unable to eat solid foods his family replaced all opiates and pharmaceutical treatments with 0.3 milliliters of refined cannabis oil. Within two weeks of receiving the oil he was eating again. He survived all of the side effects of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants even though his family was told after his fourth cardiac arrest episode that he would ultimately die from brain damage and organ failure. But he continued his treatment with medical marijuana and he survived. On his fourth birthday legislation in Montana changed to re-criminalize marijuana and the drug task force took away his treatment. It took 3 weeks for his cancer to return. Cash passed away in November 2012. 

“I just don’t get why they couldn’t have continued using their own dosages,” Sarah said.

“Sarah, you don’t know what the situation was. They might not have had the same resources you do,” Scott said.

A kid ran around the bar placing Rasta flag colored wristbands that say “One Love” on each table. He had a black t-shirt on that says, “I like my mom’s tattoos.” Around 150 people were crowded around the stage and bar. The bottom of the stage had a green banner across it that read, “We’re Effin’ NORML.”

Dedicated Supporters

Executive Director Shaun McAlister kicked off the meeting at 4:20 p.m. Williams said McAlister puts in 80 hours a week into the organization. First, McAlister recognized NORML’s March Cannabis All-Star, Briana Ross, a model and avid volunteer. Pete Marrero, the national promotions coordinator, then talked about NORML’s upcoming April 20th celebration. The next speakers covered all current local, state and federal marijuana legislation. Larry Talley, strategist for DFW NORML discussed the Texas State Legislature.  

“Hoorah if you believe in a free country,” Talley said and the crowd responded with hoorahs of approval. “Twenty-four percent of the world’s prison population is locked up here in the U.S. We can’t really call ourselves a free country when we jail our people at a much greater rate than any country in the world. We are going to end the prohibition of marijuana and ring the bells of freedom.” Scott jumped off of his stool yelling and whooping. “I have tears in my eyes,” Scott said.

Next, Nicoll Curtis, a volunteer for NORML, spoke about her life with lupus, a chronic illness that requires chemotherapy. She said it would be much easier to use hemp oil to replace the oxycodone, anti-nausea and neuropathy medicines she must take. “But they won’t legalize it,” Curtis said. “All of my doctors know this, know where I stand at this point, and are actually starting to get behind this.”

The last to speak were two “pro-pot” Arlington politicians: Daniel Wood, running for City Council and Chris Dobson running for Mayor. “I’d vote for him,” Scott said after Dobson’s speech.

To conclude the meeting, a reggae-rock band that was named 2013 Best Activist Artist by High Times magazine, the Effinays, performed. They had the audience on their feet and Scott, with his tenth beer in his hand, jamming. After a few songs I said goodbye to my NORML friends. I told them I hoped to see them at the April 20th celebration at The Green Elephant.

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