Gorman Advocates Legal Marijuana
by Ari Armstrong, October 12, 2002
"When marijuana was made legal for patients, [Bill Owens] called in the federal government and wanted every patient arrested," even though "marijuana is the only thing viable for the treatment of their pain," Ken Gorman said at an October 1 presentation at CU, Boulder, sponsored by the Campus Libertarians. "The drug war itself is nasty, it's illegal, it's unconstitutional," Gorman added.
Gorman, center, talks with members of CU's Campus Libertarians and other students.
Gorman is the controversial advocate of legal marijuana who used to throw out bags of the plant at rallies on the Capitol steps and who served time in prison for selling it. He is still on probation. Gorman also lived in New Guinea and Manila until he was "escorted out" for subversive political activities.
Now, Gorman is working to change American laws. He has endorsed Libertarian Ralph Shnelvar for governor, saying, "I really appreciate what the Libertarians are doing, especially Ralph Shnelvar... [who] is going to release every non-violent drug offender in the state of Colorado." Gorman is interested in pressing ballot initiatives to advance his cause: "Colorado was one of the first states to make marijuana illegal, and I want to make it one of the first states to make it legal."
Gorman pointed out the war on drugs is rooted in racism, mostly against blacks and Hispanics. "The racism behind this war extends to every aspect of this marijuana illegalization effort," he said. Gorman also argued America's prohibition of marijuana has destabilized other countries, such as Bangladesh. He hopes, however, that Canadian laws will be reformed and will encourage similar reforms in the U.S.
Gorman said he was initially hopeful that Bill Clinton would stop persecuting so many non-violent marijuana smokers, but his administration put even more people behind bars.
During the question period, Gorman said prohibition is similar to slavery in that it dictates what people can and cannot do. Prohibition violates the "equal protection of the laws," given that drugs like alcohol and tobacco are legal. The fact that alcohol prohibition was passed with a constitutional amendment -- and repealed with another amendment -- proves prohibitions of other drugs are illegal.
Gorman also addressed the issue of jury nullification: "You're allowed to judge the law each and every time you go into court. You judge the law. If the law is wrong you judge that person not-guilty."
While Gorman reviewed many of the common arguments against marijuana prohibition, he is not a button-down academic. He is an activist who promotes marijuana use. Gorman, who laced his talk with expletives, helped produce an album to be released soon titled, "It's a Cannabis Christmas." One song is titled, "Don't Use Eggnog In Your Bong."
While some consider Gorman an entertaining populist who has built a strong network of support, others worry his rough edges and sometimes arguable claims will hurt the credibility of the reform movement.
Many reformers argue marijuana is less harmful than such legal drugs as alcohol. Gorman goes a step further and argues "you will be healthier all of your life" by taking marijuana. He said regular use can increase life spans by more than six years. "Marijuana cures breast cancer," he added, claiming this information was "suppressed by the DEA."
Many reformers point out hemp is a useful product for paper, cloth, and many other products. Gorman argues "marijuana can replace 90% of [petroleum] products." He said petroleum companies "have to keep marijuana illegal, or they'll go out of business." One audience member wondered why the companies would not try to enter that industry, too, if it would be so profitable. Gorman replied that marijuana production is decentralized, meaning it wouldn't support huge corporations. Yet transforming the plants into products would require extensive capital. Gorman also suggested "piss tests" are encouraged because they benefit specific companies.
What is certain is that marijuana or hemp could be a viable alternative for at least some important products. It is also clear that marijuana helps to relieve nausea for some sick people. We'll never know just how useful marijuana can be for medical and industrial uses, until production and distribution of the plant is legalized. Economic liberty is one legitimate reason to legalize marijuana.
The encroachment of the police state is another reason to reform the laws. The fact that marijuana is illegal and alcohol is legal has nothing to do with the relative dangers of the drugs, and everything to do with bigotry and the politics of fear-mongering. The right to control the substances that go into one's body is among our most fundamental human rights. The police have no business arresting three-quarters of a million people on marijuana charges every year.