The Oregonian, June 21, 1986, p. C1

Marijuana convention ignites protest

By Phil Manzano

Opponents and proponents of marijuana use clashed briefly outside the Hilton Hotel Friday when more than 50 noisy demonstrators protested a three-day convention of marijuana law reformers being held at the hotel.

NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, began its 16th annual convention with backers of the Oregon Marijuana Initiative, a statewide November ballot measure to legalize possession and growing of marijuana for personal home use.

For an hour Thursday, [sic - Portland NORML] teen-agers and parents marched around the hotel block in downtown Portland chanting "No on 5 - Get High On Life."

Meanwhile, some NORML conventioneers who observed the protest quickly assembled signs reading "Live and Let Live," passed out literature and chanted "Stop Nazis now" and "Yes on freedom" each time a column of protesters marched by.

The anti-marijuana group was organized by parents loosely affiliated with the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth, according to Kathy Dauenhauer of Portland. She and other protesters said legalizing marijuana would aggravate the youth drug problem.

"I have no problem with people expressing themselves," said Michael Rose, a Portland attorney and Oregon Marijuana Initiative official. "My major regret is only one of those people accepted my invitation to come down and see that these are very responsible people trying to deal with a serious problem.

"It's not an orgy, it's not lunatics advocating that 9-year-olds shoot up smack," Rose said.

The Rev. Rodney Page, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and a staunch critic of Ballot Measure 5, visited the convention briefly Friday.

"It was certainly an interesting collection of people that are for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana," Page said. "I've never seen so many tattoos in my life."

However, Page said he agreed with advocates of the ballot measure when it came to programs to educate, prevent and treat drug abuse, and that "harsh punitive measures certainly are not the answer to this complex problem."

"But I want to also make it clear we do not want to see the current drug laws changed and would want to see strict enforcement," he said.

Page said he was asked to debate at the convention, and that he was still eager for some type of debate on the issue to take place on neutral ground.

Page also said he did not endorse Friday's anti-marijuana demonstration.

"I want to dissociate myself with those who are the kind of moralistic hard-liners I saw marching around the Hilton Hotel," he said.

Oregon Marijuana Initiative organizers charged Thursday that opponents of the measure are "stifling debate" on the issue.

They charge that local radio stations refused to run ads advertising the NORML [sic - Portland NORML] and that intimidation led to the decision by Portland School Board member Stephen Kafoury to cancel a speaking engagement before the convention.

"We'd like to raise the level of this campaign," director John Sajo said. "Free speech, public debate, that's what it's all about."

Sajo said that proponents of the marijuana initiative were not advocating marijuana use, but were saying that existing laws were ineffective and contributed to more drug abuse.

He said Oregon Marijuana Initiative members shared the concerns about teen-age drug abuse raised by those who picketed the convention, but that changing laws to allow personal use would allow more money to be directed toward education, prevention and treatment.

"I think fundamentally marijuana prohibition and drug education are incompatible," he said.

Robert Wagstaff, a criminal defense attorney from Alaska attending the convention said legal marijuana in that state is "just not that big a deal. It's a relatively innocuous substance.

"Exactly what's proposed here (in Oregon) has been found to be a constitutional right in Alaska," Wagstaff said. "Life has gone on."

Saturday well be the last day of the conference. Dr. Norman Zinburg of Harvard Medical School will discuss health issues and marijuana policy at 9 a.m. A luncheon speaker will discuss the recently released report of the President's Commission on Organized Crime.



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