|Drug War Chronicle:
What inspired you to become an activist?
Loretta Nall: Although
I've smoked pot off and on since I was 12, I had never grown or sold it
or been arrested. Then, last September, I was sitting at my computer
and heard a helicopter overhead. I wasn't worried -- I wasn't growing
or anything -- but it circled the house for about an hour, so I grabbed
my video camera and started taping. As soon as I got back inside
the house, four big black Dodge wagons pulled into the yard, and about
15 or 20 heavily-armed undercover cops came piling out. I ran out
and said, "What the hell is going on?" One of the cops flashed a
badge and said the helicopter pilot thought he saw some pot. He asked
if they could look around, and I asked if they had a warrant. He
said no, and I said, "Well, you can look, but let me get my camera to film
you doing this warrantless search." I went inside to get the camera,
and by the time I got back outside they were all hauling ass in a cloud
There was no pot found, no
charges, but that incident shook me. The cops didn't know who I was;
they could just target anybody. I'm a libertarian, and I feel like
I own my 2.15 acres from the ground up. I had just found the Cannabis
Culture web site (http://cannabisculture.com)
and was learning about Marc Emery's British Columbia Marijuana Party (http://www.bcmarijuanaparty.ca),
so I decided to start an Alabama branch of the BCMP. A month later,
I wrote a letter to the Birmingham News calling on citizens to stand up
and fight to change the marijuana laws. Six days after that, there
were 20 cops all over my property. This time they had a warrant --
based on my letter to the editor and an alleged statement from my daughter
to her teacher that we had green plants hanging in our house. The
cops either found or brought with them 87/100 of a gram. They locked
me up for nine hours, and the case has dragged on since then. I go
back to court next month. My lawyers tell me I will be convicted
at the district level, but I will be able to appeal to the circuit court
and get a jury trial. Alabama doesn't do jury trials at the district
level. If I can get a jury trial, I'm confident I will win.
So why did I get active?
Well, they started it! I had wanted to be active in the cause, but
fear held me back, as I'm sure it does millions of others. If they
hadn't come and messed with me, I'd probably still be back in the closet.
Now I've decided to play their game, but not necessarily by their rules.
They don't like me very much here now, but with people getting their doors
kicked in, getting their homes and kids taken away, I decided I had to
see what I could do.
Chronicle: What is
the US Marijuana Party? What does it want? What will it do?
Nall: We are a grassroots
organization of regular people all across the country. We're sick
and tired of being persecuted and hunted and locked in jail; a lot of us
have tasted the jackboot up close and personal. We want to see all
criminal penalties for adult marijuana use removed, criminal records expunged,
the ability to buy, grow, and sell without prosecution, and the government
out of our bladders. We will run for office at every level of state,
local, and national government. We don't really expect to win on
a one-plank platform, but to put the issue in the public spotlight.
We aim to shave a few votes from Democrats and Republicans here and there
until some of them begin to realize that there are 90 million people in
this country who have smoked pot. The US Marijuana Party aims to
wake up those people who are running for elected office and let them know
they will pay a price in votes if they continue to oppress us.
Chronicle: How many
state chapters do you have now, and what do you expect from the state chapters?
Nall: We currently
have chapters in 27 states, a little more than half. We've got Ed
Forchion, the New Jersey Weedman (http://www.njweedman.com)
in New Jersey. If we had a guy like Ed in every state, it'd be over
in no time. We'd be there... or we'd be dead. Running a state
chapter is an important role. Folks in the state chapters are expected
to do a lot of letter writing, to be in the public eye, to get contact
info out, to organize other people, organize events and protests, do media
interviews, fundraising, the whole ball of wax.
Chronicle: Why create
a new organization instead of joining an existing one like NORML or the
Marijuana Policy Project?
Nall: Those groups
do an exceptional job of lobbying, but none of them actually runs candidates
for office. We saw a niche there. By getting candidates on
the ballot, we can both force other candidates to address the issue and
get our message out to people who are not necessarily interested in drug
reform, but who do follow the elections. The US Marijuana Party can
serve as a large umbrella for anyone who wants to change the marijuana
laws, and drug reform in general. We would like to see the USMJ Party
become a massive voting machine. We have all of these excellent groups
working various issues -- is it medical marijuana or recreational? -- and
we want it legal so we don't have all these problems. If we can demonstrate
support at the ballot box for changing the marijuana laws, maybe we can
Chronicle: You also
host Pot-TV, which is funded by Canadian marijuana seed entrepreneur Marc
Emery, who founded the British Columbia Marijuana Party. What's the
Nall: Marc Emery and
the BCMP were my political inspiration. As I said, I had just found
Cannabis Culture, which Marc publishes, when I had that run-in with the
police, so Marc was one of the first activists I came in contact with.
He funds a great deal of what I do through Pot-TV, but the USMJ Party relies
on contributions and donations from concerned Americans, as well as paying
for things out of our pockets. Still, the Pot-TV money pays for my
travels, and while I'm traveling I also do my USMJ Party business.
I wear a lot of different hats.
Pot-TV is great! I
started at the end of May. Steve and Michelle Kubby were the hosts,
and when Steve got really sick, Michelle asked if I could co-host.
I did four or five shows with her and got good reviews, so when they decided
to move on, Marc asked me to take over. I feel like one of the luckiest
people in the world now. I do it from my house in Alabama, but they're
upgrading the server in Vancouver and are about to start doing live broadcasts
from BCMP headquarters there. We're looking at doing a cable version
and some other expansions; there are investors looking at it. We're
trying to take it to the next level. We don't want to be just a bunch
of hippies. We want it do be like CNN in its credibility and the
breadth and scope of its coverage.
Chronicle: So how has
life as an activist been?
Nall: Very exciting.
In the last year-and-a-half, I've spoken at events in Atlanta, Ohio, Oregon,
Seattle, and, of course, at DPA in New Jersey. I went to Goose Creek
twice, and that was my first really confrontational activist gig.
It was frightening, very racist. I was a little bit scared.
Still, I felt like I had an advantage over some other people because at
least I was southern. If nothing else I informed people of their
rights. The second time, I talked to Jesse Jackson a little bit,
and went on my first civil rights march. And now Principal McCrackin's
resigned! I was so happy you had to peel me off the ceiling.
And there's a lesson there: When big shit happens, don't be afraid to go
in and set up shop. Have your material ready and start talking to
the first person you meet. If you can get to where something is going
on and start spreading the word, that helps everybody. Those kids
and parents in Goose Creek were so happy to see us; they could see they
Chronicle: And you
met with Dennis Kucinich?
Nall: Yes, I traveled
to Austin to interview him for Pot-TV. He has a very progressive
drug policy platform, and his campaign has asked me to work with them on
drug policy. The USMJ Party is supporting Kucinich. We will
be taking out full-page ads in the major primary states in support of Kucinich
and his drug policy planks. Look for ads in Boston, Rhode Island,
New Jersey, and Delaware soon.
Chronicle: How does
a self-described libertarian end up supporting a progressive Democrat like
Nall: He has a pretty
good platform overall. I guess we'll have to go our separate ways
on gun control.