Grannies Caravan to Washington to Tell Feds: Hands Off Medical Marijuana
Our favorite reformed pot smuggler and marijuana legalization activist, Bobby Platshorn, is at it again, with an ingenious scheme to bring the good word on maryjane to the attention of legislators and the general public. And once again he's drawing on support from an unexpected quarter of the population -- America's senior citizens.
If all goes well --and it's looking "better than fine," Platshorn says -- on Monday, June 17 two busloads of seniors from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and carloads of sympathizers from as far off as Ohio and Colorado, will descend on the nation's capital to educate U.S. representatives on the medical benefits of weed and the need for drug law reform.
A nice Jewish boy from South Philly, the now 70-year-old Platshorn, a West Palm Beach resident, was a major league smuggler in the late '70s, his Black Tuna gang running weed by the ton into the U.S. from Colombia. He did heavy time for the crime, 28 years in 11 different prisons. Since his release in 2008, he's crusaded to undo the unjust laws that got him locked up.
As of this morning the fundraising for Platshorn's senior's caravan was well along, just $500 short of the $5000 needed to rent two 55-seat buses -- one for New Jersey and Philly, one for Delaware and Maryland -- and provide a buffet lunch for his troops. Working with activists from NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, he's hoping to have as many as 150 older Americans work the corridors.
Through his "Silver Tour," Platshorn argues that seniors have a special interest in medical marijuana, as so many of its benefits are tailor-made for the ills of the aging: alleviating pain, quelling nausea, promoting sleep, easing the side effects of chemotherapy, and reducing inflammation.
The legislative object of the seniors' affection is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's H.R.1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013. An amendment to the federal Controlled Substances Act, it's about as simple and straightforward a measure as an be imagined, reading in its entirety:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.
In other words, anyone who lives in a state which has pot laws that differ from the feds' irrational and uncompromising "Just Say No or Go Directly to Jail" approach would be shielded from the federal whip.
(Why H.R. 1523 uses the archaic "h" spelling of the demon weed's name we do not know. Perhaps it's a personal quirk of the bill's sponsor. Rohrabacher -- ACLU rating 8%, John Birch Society rating 80% -- is an arch-reactionary who much prefers the 19th century to the present.)
It makes perfect sense, though, that a state's rights kind of legislator would line up with states' right to stand up to the feds on drug laws. And similar political jiu-jitsu is at work in Platshorn's seniors campaign: Advance from what is typically seen as the right in support of what is typically seen as a lefty issue.
"Dana's so far right that more moderate voices shouldn't fear retribution" for their support of reform, Platshorn explained. "It gets Obama and [Attorney General] Holder off the hook too."
"Even if [H.R. 1523] doesn't pass," he adds, "the presence of one hundred seniors on Capitol Hill will definitely influence other legislators who might be afraid of a 'senior backlash'."
The "Grandma Lobbies for Medical Marijuana" campaign doesn't include a Florida bus. "It wouldn't be practical or healthy for seniors to do other than a day trip," Platshorn told us. "It has to be a day trip."
Whether Platshorn himself will attend is an open question. His activism has provoked the ire of parole authorities, who have imposed travel restrictions that he's repeatedly challenged as unconstitutional, with mixed success. He's put in a request, though.
"I got a non-refundable round-trip ticket for $268," he said. "If I don't get to go there'll be a life-size cardboard cutout photo of myself instead. And a lot of indignant letters."
To contribute to Grandma Lobbies for Medical Marijuana, and to learn more about medical marijuana and Platshorn's Silver Tour campaign (and to buy his memoir!) go here.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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