High in America
The True Story Behind NORML and the Politics of Marijuana
In the fall of 1972 Steve Kafoury, a thirty-one-year-old Portland
teacher and social worker, was running for the Oregon state legislature.
Several times, as he went door to door in search of votes, the
same odd scene occurred. As soon as he knocked on the door, he
would hear people rustling around inside. Someone would peek out
a window. Finally a young person would open the door and Kafoury
would smell the distinctive odor of marijuana within.
Kafoury had smoked and soon he was promising the young people,
whenever this happened, "If I get elected, I'll do something
about this. You won't have to be paranoid anymore!"
He was elected, and he did do something. In less than a year,
in large part because of Kafoury's leadership, Oregon became the
first state to end criminal penalties for possession of small
amounts of marijuanato enact, in other words, the decriminalization
policy the Marijuana Commission had recommended a year before.
Stephen Kafoury was born in 1941 in Portland, where his father
manufactured women's clothing. The family was Democratic, and
politics was often the focus of dinner-table conversation; Kafoury
can remember being heartbroken when Stevenson lost to Eisenhower
in 1952, when he was eleven. He went to Whitman College, in
Walla Walla, majored in history, graduated in 1963, and joined
the Peace Corps, which sent him to Iran for two years. Returning
home, he earned a master's degree in education from Reed College
and then went to work in Portland's black community, where he
founded an alternative school and worked to help low-income black
youths get into college. After a few years of this he began to
see the importance of political action, and he ran for the state
Elected, Kafoury was appointed to a special committee on alcohol
and drugs, whose chairman said he was interested in lowering the
drinking age to eighteen and doing something about marijuana-law
reform. Kafoury, as he studied the political situation, found
a good deal of support for reform. The influential Portland City
Club had called for reform, as had the state's ACLU and Democratic
party. Pat Horton, the thirty-year-old Lane County district attorney,
had quit prosecuting possession cases, and Republican governor
Tom McCall had testified for reform before the Marijuana Commission.
Even more important, Kafoury found a widespread sentiment within
the state legislature that it was time for reform. There was opposition,
and there was confusion as to what the reform should be, but he
began to think some kind of a bill could pass.
As he planned his legislative strategy, Kafoury made two crucial
decisions. The first was to push for the most liberal bill possible.
The second was to enlist the support of a sixty-one-year-old Republican
hog farmer named Stafford Hansell, who he hoped could sway the
votes of other conservative legislators.
Kafoury's bill proposed to remove all criminal penalties for the
private use or possession of up to eight ounces of marijuana or
for the cultivation of up to two plants. It was a liberal bill,
and when it came to the floor of the state legislature in mid-June,
it sparked heated debate. The day's emotional highlight was the
speech by Stafford Hansell, the bill's floor manager. He was playing
to a packed gallery, and he made the most of his opportunity.
"Mr. Speaker, members of the assembly," he began, "since
it became known that I was to carry HB 2003, the marijuana decriminalization
bill, I've received letters, telephone calls, and looks of disbelief
from my fellow legislators, all indicating that Hansell has finally
flipped completely, with the old Devil winning out. In response
to those who do not know me well, I want to prove to you that
there are no telltale needle marks on my arms." He paused
to pull up his sleeves. "I am not a dope addict. I haven't
smoked a cigarette for twenty-five years, nor had a drink of intoxicating
beverage, inclusive of whiskey, wine, or beer, for twenty-four
years. In other words, there is no element of conflict of interest
as I speak in support of HB 2003. Neither was I captivated by
the eloquence of Representative Kafoury. I am speaking because
I wish to, because I believe the issue should be faced by each
and every legislative body in the United States."
Slowly, Hansell held up his exhibits for the legislators and the
gallery to see: a cup of coffee, a bottle of aspirin, sleeping
pills, amphetamines, a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of beer, a
bottle of wine, a bottle of whiskey, and finally a marijuana cigarette.
He spoke at length on the health hazards of each item and the
penalties for their use. Then he concluded, "Having explored
all the basic components of the marijuana situation, I am convinced
we could and should take steps to decriminalize its use. Prohibition
was not the answer to our alcohol problem in 1919, nor is it the
answer to the marijuana problem in 1973."
He sat down amid an ovation that was richly deserved. The fact
that Stafford Hansell was a hog farmer had tended to detract from
the more basic fact about him: At a time when the great leaders
of his political party, the Nixons and Rockefellers and Reagans,
were content to play politics with the marijuana issue, Stafford
Hansell was that rarest of creatures in the political jungle:
an honest man.
His impassioned plea was not, however, persuasive to his colleagues
in the Oregon legislature. When his bill came to a vote, after
more oratory on both sides, it was soundly defeated.
The reformers were shattered. And yet, a day or two later, Steve
Kafoury began to sense that all was not lost. Hansell's speech
had received a vast amount of publicity, and there seemed to be
a sense, both in the legislature and the state as a whole, that
an opportunity had been lost. Quickly, Kafoury introduced a new,
more moderate bill, one that did not allow cultivation and that
classified possession of up to an ounce as a noncriminal violation,
punishable by a fine of up to $100. This bill passed easily a
few days later.
NORML had played no role in the passage of the Oregon bill. Stroup
knew a bill had been introduced there, but NORML had been focusing
its attentions on a number of other states where reform bills
seemed more likely to pass, mainly by sending in Stroup, Dr. Whipple,
John Finlator, or other pro-reform witnesses. When Stroup heard
that a bill was about to pass in Oregon, his first thought was,
My God, the states are starting to move without us! He hurried
to Oregon, met Kafoury, and was with him on the night the decriminalization
bill passed. To Stroup's amazement, Kafoury was disconsolate.
Marijuana was still illegal, he said, and there was a $100 fine.
"My God, man," Stroup said, "this is the first
state to stop locking people up, this is the biggest thing that
ever happened to marijuana reform."
Slowly, Kafoury began to think that he'd won a victory after all.
In the aftermath of the Oregon victory it seemed possible that
several other states would pass decriminalization bills before
the year was out. Stroup's instinct was to jump on the bandwagon
and to try, if possible, to seize its reins. NORML redoubled its
efforts in the various states that were considering bills, sending
in witnesses, trying to convince legislators that the Marijuana
Commission had provided the blueprint, Oregon had led the way,
and the time had come for every state to act.
The breakthrough didn't come. In the Massachusetts senate, just
a few weeks after the Oregon bill passed, a similar bill was defeated
by a twenty-six-to-thirteen vote. Another bill was defeated in
a floor vote in Maine, and bills in Maryland, Rhode Island, Montana,
Hawaii, and Connecticut all died in committee. The Oregon success
was not as easily transportable as Stroup had hoped, but he rationalized
that 1974 would be the breakthrough year.
There was even a problem back in Texas. Stroup had gone there
several times in the spring of 1973 as hearings were held on a
reform bill. He arranged for testimony by John Finlator and also
by Richard Cowan, the young Texas conservative who'd written the
National Review article. He put together a group called
Concerned Parents for Marijuana Reform, made up of people whose
children were imprisoned, and its officers testified. The new
law, which passed on May 29, reduced possession of marijuana from
a felony to a low misdemeanor, which carried up to six months
imprisonment for possession of up to two ounces, up to a year's
imprisonment for possession of up to four ounces, and continued
felony penalties for larger amounts. Sale of marijuana was reduced
to a two-to-ten-year offense, and the law provided for persons
imprisoned to apply for re-sentencing under the new, lower penalties.
It was hoped that this retroactive provision would soon free most
of the seven hundred marijuana prisoners in the Texas prison,
but that proved not to be so simple. Gov. Dolph Briscoe declared
that the re-sentencing provision infringed on his exclusive right
of pardon and parole. Frank Demolli, whose twenty-five-year sentence
could have been reduced to ten years under the new law, filed
suit against the governor. NORML entered the case as amicus
curiae, in a legal effort headed by Gerald Goldstein, a young
San Antonio lawyer who had been working with NORML on Texas drug
Frank Demolli was then in his third year of confinement. He was
twenty-one and was no longer the innocent lad who thought marijuana
was a giggle. He'd spent a year in the county jail in Austin,
while his case was on appeal. A lot of other inmates were dopers
and bikers. He watched some bikers kick one kid half to death
for smearing their colors, which they'd painted on the cell wall.
Another time, a kid came in with ten hits of LSD sewn in his pants.
It was the purest acid Demolli had ever used; he had a great trip,
a day's escape. Once, he watched as a big guy started to beat
and rape an obnoxious inmate; when Demolli and the others realized
what was happening, they pulled him off. Demolli was learning
to live with violence, to accept fear as a way of life.
Eventually, when he was sent to the Ferguson unit of the state
prison, he started taking college courses. He noticed a NORML
ad in Playboy one day and wrote a letter. It was a few
weeks later that Stroup and the others visited the prison. Demolli
was shaken when he saw Stroup's long hair. It reminded him of
his trial, when he'd refused to cut his own long hair, so that
the jury would be impressed with his sincerity, and he wanted
to warn Stroup to watch out, that it was dangerous to wear your
hair long in Texas. Demolli and the other prisoners were upset,
too, by the sight of Jurate Kazickas, the tall, blond reporter.
Demolli had seen only one or two women in his eighteen months
behind bars, and had touched none, and to be that close to such
a beautiful woman made him want to cry.
But the biggest thing Demolli got out of Stroup's visit was an
appreciation of the power of the media. The warden and his assistants
were like gods in the prison world, and yet they were clearly
worried about the possibility of bad publicity; they feared these
reporters who, thanks to recent court rulings, could enter their
prisons and ask questions and talk to inmates. Demolli
began to see that perhaps he could help himself if he could learn
to use the media and if he could win the help of friendly politicians
like Ron Waters, who had seemed so shaken by what he saw in the
prison. So Demolli, who was already editor of the prison newspaper,
became a letter writer. He wrote hundreds of letters to newspapers
and to legislators, urging support of the marijuana-law-reform
The bill passed, but the governor refused to enact the re-sentencing
provision, and eventually Demolli's lawsuit against the governor
was rejected by the Texas court of criminal appeals. It was a
cruel blow, but Demolli kept on writing letters. The issue was
no longer legal; it was political. Liberal legislators, and some
Texas newspapers, were putting pressure on Governor Briscoe to
parole the marijuana prisoners. In time Briscoe did parole some,
in a program called Project Star, but he refused to parole "pushers"
like Demolli. By then several legislators had taken an interest
in this case, including Ron Waters, Ronnie Earle, and a woman
named Sarah Weddington. Eventually Ronnie Earle went to Briscoe
and urged him to parole Demolli. He pointed out that Demolli was
causing a stink, that he'd keep on stirring up publicity as long
as he was behind bars. The governor said that if Demolli was causing
him trouble in prison, he'd only cause him more if he got out.
Earle said no, that Demolli had parents in Colorado, and he'd
go there if released. Briscoe said he would parole the boy if
he would get out of Texas. Demolli was more than happy to agree
to that condition. He was freed, and he hastened to Colorado,
where he took a job as a copy editor with a newspaper and enrolled
in college. He had spent four years in prison.
There were some important additions to NORML's staff in 1973 and
First, Larry Schott joined the staff full time as Stroup's deputy.
Schott ran the office when Stroup was traveling, edited The
Leaflet, and in time headed up NORML'S Center for the Study
of Non-Medical Drug Use.
Another important addition came when a tall, intense, chain-smoking
young legal scholar named Peter Meyers marched into NORML'S office
in the summer of 1973 and announced that he wanted to bring a
right-of-privacy suit to test the constitutionality of the federal
marijuana law. Stroup and Schott were skeptical. They'd seen other
young lawyers rush in and say the same thing, then disappear after
a week or two. Still, Meyers had impressive credentials. As a
law student at George Washington University he'd studied under
John Banzahf, who assigned his students to undertake Nader-type
suits against federal agencies, and he'd been involved in several
important cases. Stroup decided to give Meyers a try.
That summer the Supreme Court had made its historic ruling on
abortion. It said, among other things, that in the first three
months of pregnancy the mother's interests are paramount and that
her right of privacy included a right to abortion. To Peter Meyers
it seemed clear that if the right of privacy covered abortion,
an act that millions of people viewed as murder, it must also
cover the right to smoke marijuana in one's home.
By October, Meyers had filed NORML v. U.S., in which he, working
in collaboration with Ramsey Clark, set out to establish that
the federal marijuana law was in violation of the right of privacy,
and thus unconstitutional.
It was a tricky question. The right of privacythe idea that
one's home is a sovereign domainhas never been absolute. The
state can break down a man's door if he is, say, murdering his
wife or manufacturing bombs in his basement. The question was
whether marijuana was such a serious offense that it justified
governmental intrusion into private conduct. It was the sort of
question that courts traditionally prefer to leave to the legislatures,
and in this particular case, the courts moved very slowly. Not
until 1980 would NORML get a ruling on its test case.
In the meantime, Meyers had made himself invaluable as he headed
Up NORML'S expanding program to challenge the marijuana laws in
federal and state courts. Calls and letters poured into NORML
every day from people who were in jail, or seemed headed there,
on drug charges. NORML referred as many as possible to its growing
national network of lawyers who defended drug cases for reduced
fees, or even pro bono. Meyers himself could become involved
in only a few of the cases that came to his attention, and Stroup
urged him, in choosing those cases, to look for ones that were
particularly unusual or outrageous and would thus attract media
attention and public support.
One example was the case of Roger Davis, a black political activist
who was convicted in Wytheville, Virginia, in 1974, of selling
nine ounces of marijuana. He was sentenced to forty years in prison.
Both NORML and the ACLU joined in his appeal, providing lawyers
to assist and advise Davis's own lawyers, and after Davis had
served three years in prison, a federal judge freed him on the
grounds that the forty-year sentence amounted to cruel and unusual
punishment and was thus unconstitutional. Such a case, in addition
to helping an individual defendant, was useful to NORML politically.
Very few marijuana defendants were sentenced to forty years, but
Stroup's horror stories, as he called such cases, served to remind
millions of people that such sentences were still very possible.
Another well-publicized case concerned the Piedras Negras jail
break, in which a Texan whose son was imprisoned in a Mexican
border town on a drug charge hired three other men to get him
out. Armed with shotguns, the men crossed the border, raided the
jail, freed the son and thirteen other Americans, and escaped
back to Texas. There was no U.S. law against raiding a Mexican
jail, but U.S. prosecutors, under pressure from angry Mexican
officials, charged the raiders with conspiring to export weapons
(their shotguns) without a license. NORML entered the case at
the urging of Gerald Goldstein, the San Antonio lawyer who was
becoming one of NORML's most active volunteers. For NORML, the
jail break case was an opportunity to publicize both the inhumane
conditions in Mexican jails and the way U.S. officials catered
to the Mexican government. NORML often tried to publicize the
stories of young Americans who were arrested on drug charges in
Mexico and other foreign countries. Sometimes the people had in
fact possessed drugs, sometimes they were framed, but in either
case they were often tortured, deprived of all legal rights, and
in effect kidnapped, since the surest way out of a Mexican jail
is to bribe corrupt officials. U.S. officials, for their part,
rarely showed concern for Americans who were in Mexican jails
on drug charges. To NORML, and to others in the drug culture,
the Piedras Negras raiders were not criminals but heroes, and
their story ended happily when Goldstein won a reversal of their
Meyers directed NORML'S major legal challenges to the government,
including the 1978 suit to stop the paraquat spraying in Mexico
and the suit to permit the medical use of marijuana, and he also
brought a series of lesser-known suits against federal agencies.
One caused the U.S. Parole Commission to modify its parole regulations
so that marijuana offenses were classified among the least serious
category of offenses. He also filed a series of suits under the
Freedom of Information Act, including one to force the CIA to
reveal details of LSD tests it had conducted on unsuspecting subjects
and another to force the Army to release details of some tests
that showed that you could be just as good a soldier if you smoked
as if you didn't.
Drug law was a new area, and Meyers worked to make NORML a clearinghouse
for the latest information that could be of use to local defense
lawyers. Sometimes NORML would formally enter a local case; more
often, Meyers would give advice from the background. In other
cases NORML would not be called in until a smoker, represented
by a lawyer inexperienced in drug law, had been given a long jail
sentence; then NORML'S volunteer lawyers would help with the appeal.
The suits were many and varied. Indiana's NORML chapter overturned
a state law that made it a crime to possess smoking paraphernalia.
In South Carolina a lawsuit forced the Citadel, a military college,
to recognize a NORML chapter. In California, NORML joined in a
suit that established that marijuana use was not a crime of "moral
turpitude" for which a public-school teacher could be fired.
In all this NORML was keeping pressure on the government, winning
publicity, demonstrating that smokers had legal rights, and making
itself the rallying point for a national effort by lawyers, many
of whom were themselves smokers, to challenge the laws that defined
smokers as criminals.
Another important staff addition at NORML came in the spring of
1974, when the long feud between NORML and Amorphia was at last
resolved. The defeat of CMI had left Amorphia dispirited and all
but bankrupt. Blair Newman left in the spring of 1973, and Gordon
Brownell, Amorphia's political director, Mark Heutlinger, its
business manager, and Mike Aldrich, its writer-philosopher, struggled
to keep their reform lobby alive. In time they began to consider
a merger with NORML. The feud, they decided, had been between
Stroup and Newman; the others got along with Stroup well enough.
Discussions were held, and the merger took place. Brownell stayed
in San Francisco as NORML'S West Coast coordinator. Heutlinger,
a West Orange, New Jersey, lawyer's son who had a master's degree
in business from George Washington University, came to Washington
to be NORML'S business manager. But Stroup could find no place
for Mike Aldrich in his plans, and when Amorphia closed its doors,
as LeMar had before it, Dr. Dope was abruptly an unemployed marijuana
scholar, forced to collect unemployment insurance until he got
back on his feet.
By the spring of 1974 it was clear that other states, rather than
rushing to follow Oregon's example, were taking a wait-and-see
attitude, and decriminalization bills were bogged down in a dozen
During this period of uncertainty the anti-marijuana forces launched
a major counteroffensive. The leader of the counteroffensive was
Sen. James Eastland, of Mississippi, already distinguished as
a racist, a reactionary, and one of the world's leading anti-communists,
but not as an expert on drugs.
Marijuana is often viewed simply as a health issue, but with the
entry of Eastland into the debate, its essentially political nature
becomes more clear. It was no coincidence that Ramsey Clark was
the first important politician to encourage NORML, or that Eastland
was the first important politician to oppose the fast-spreading
reform movement. Both men were symbolic figures: Clark a champion
of American liberalism and Eastland of American conservatism.
For a time, when Clark was attorney general and Eastland was chairman
of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they were poised in classic,
public confrontation. They disagreed on voting rights, on legal
aid for the poor, on capital punishment, on Vietnamon almost
everythingand it was therefore no surprise that their disagreement
should extend to marijuana. Underlying the questions of whether
people should use the drug or whether marijuana is a health hazard
is the more basic issue of personal freedom versus governmental
power. Eastland liked the marijuana laws for the same reason he
had liked the Jim Crow laws: because they were a convenient way
to put people in jail. Eastland represented political forces that
were concerned with preserving the status quo and that rightly
perceived marijuana as yet another threat to their authority.
His hearings came at a time when Richard Nixon was about to be
driven from office, when the war in Vietnam was about to be written
off as a failure, and when gay rights and the women's movement
and many other liberal causes were gathering momentum. Thanks
to the Marijuana Commission and the Oregon legislature, the ban
on drugs seemed to be crumbling. To Eastland, it must have seemed
that the Bolsheviks were at the gates, and that his anti-marijuana
hearings were the last opportunity to turn back the tide. Politically,
the drug issue provided a way for Eastland to rally many people
who did not share his views on economics and on race. If in the
1930s marijuana could be painted as a drug that turned black men
into rapists, then marijuana laws could be passed and used to
lock up black troublemakers. If in the 1970s marijuana could be
portrayed as a serious health hazard, then that fact could be
used to discredit all the liberals who smoked or defended the
drug. It was with these larger political concerns in mind that
Eastland opened hearings that were nothing less than an attempt
to discredit the Marijuana Commission and to reverse the trend
toward marijuana-law reform.
The forum for Eastland's anti-marijuana offensive was the Senate
Sub-Committee on Internal Security of which he was chairman. Since
his subcommittee had no jurisdiction over the drug issue, it was
necessary for Eastland to argue that marijuana had become a threat
to national security. The hearings were therefore called "Marijuana-Hashish
Epidemic and Its Impact on United States Security," and Eastland
argued first that marijuana was creating a generation of "semi-zombies"
who would not or could not defend their country and second that
"subversive forces" were behind this epidemic. The only
subversive force he named was Dr. Timothy Leary.
Eastland's hearings opened on May 9 and continued for five more
days. He called only anti-marijuana witnesses, mostly scientists
and Pentagon officials, and he refused to let pro-marijuana scientists
or other reform spokesmen testify. He made no pretense of objectivity,
declaring at the outset, "We make no apology, therefore,
for the one-sided nature of our hearingsthey were deliberately
planned this way."
It was Eastland's thesis that pro-marijuana scientists and their
allies in the media had in recent years fostered a "myth
of harmlessness" about marijuana. Moreover, he said that
a "pro-marijuana cabal" had launched a program of "character
assassination" against scientists who warned of the weed's
dangers. Eastland did not attack the Marijuana Commission directly,
but he and various witnesses stressed that important "new
evidence" had made the dangers of marijuana more clear than
they had been three years earlier, when the Marijuana Commission
conducted its investigation.
A central charge, made by various witnesses, was that marijuana
caused an "amotivational syndrome," one that led young
people to become passive, to ignore their studies, to dislike
work, and generally to drop out of society. Warned Eastland: "If
this epidemic is not rolled back, our society may be largely taken
over by a 'marijuana culture'a culture motivated by a desire
to escape from reality and a consuming lust for self-gratification,
and lacking any moral guidance. Such a society could not long
endure." Interestingly, the "amotivational syndrome"
was the opposite of a major claim made by antimarijuana spokesmen
of the 1930s: that smoking made people violent.
Going beyond the amotivational syndrome, various witnesses at
the hearings blamed marijuana for causing insanity, psychosis,
homosexuality, promiscuity, impotence, deformed children, and
violent crimes, including the "fragging" (murder by
hand grenade) of U.S. Army officers by enlisted men in Vietnam.
One scientist said moderate marijuana use caused chromosome damage
similar to that suffered by survivors of the Hiroshima bombing.
However, upon examination, most of this "new evidence"
tended to be very tentativethis was "suspected";
that was "indicated"and all parties called for more
One witness, a psychiatrist from the Tulane University medical
school, had conducted experiments on monkeys. He pumped marijuana
smoke into the lungs of ten monkeys and implanted electrodes in
their brains to measure the results. Two of the monkeys died (of
respiratory complications, he explained), and the other eight
suffered changes in brain-wave patterns. His testimony resulted
in national headlines along the order of "Marijuana Smoking
Causes Brain Damage." A later witness at the hearings, a
Nobel Prize winner, pointed out that the monkeys had been given
dosages that were the equivalent of a human being's smoking one
hundred strong marijuana cigarettes a day. But that sort of rebuttal
didn't make headlines.
From a political point of view the Eastland hearings were extremely
effective. Their purpose was to discredit the Marijuana Commission,
and to a very great degree they succeeded, by publicizing the
"new evidence" theory that could be used to sidestep
the commission's findings. The underlying political reality was
that the Marijuana Commission was a paper tiger politically, because
millions of people wanted to disbelieve its findings and because
it had no continuing institutional role. The scientists, both
in and out of government, who set the tone for national drug policy
did not look to the Marijuana Commission for their budgets and
research grants; they looked to Congress, and Congress reflected
the mood of a nation still opposed to marijuana. Eastland, by
stacking his hearings with anti-marijuana witnesses, was able
to flood the country with anti-marijuana propaganda at a crucial
time in the struggle for reform. His hearings had no legislative
intent. They were purely a publicity barragepart of the battle
for the hearts and minds of the American peopleand as such
they succeeded brilliantly.
Some two years after the Eastland hearings, Dr. Norman Zinberg
wrote an article for Psychology Today in which he examined
the fine print in some of the "new evidence." He noted
that the Tulane "brain damage" report had been based
upon a dosage level equivalent to about a hundred joints a day.
He noted also that a 1975 study that supposedly supported the
"amotivational syndrome" theory was based on volunteers
who received THC, the intoxicating agent in marijuana, equal to
fifty to one hundred joints a day. He pointed out that one well-publicized
study, used to suggest chromosome damage to smokers, was based
on the examination of only three people. He said another study,
used as evidence that marijuana caused brain damage, was based
on the experience of ten subjects who had used LSD, heroin, barbiturates,
and alcohol as well as marijuana. Of a study charging that marijuana
caused psychosis, he wrote, "They cited the case of a 17-year-old
boy seduced by a homosexual who also gave him marijuana; the youth
became psychotic. But the insistence of these researchers that
it was clearly the marijuana that was responsible for the psychosis
hardly convinced other psychiatrists."
Time after time, upon examination, the new evidence against marijuana
fell apart. Yet each new study received coast-to-coast headlines
and reinforced the reefer-madness mythology. Reporters seemed
to put aside their professional skepticism when dealing with people
with "Dr." before their names, seemed never to suspect
that some of them might be incompetent or publicity-seeking or
politically motivated. This disinclination was a constant frustration
to the reformers, as the new evidence slowly eroded the momentum
that the Marijuana Commission had given their cause.
As Stroup traveled to various states in the summer and fall of
1974, he began to encounter a new mood. Previously, the reformers
had gone to a state on the offensive, with the Marijuana Commission
report as their Bible. Now their opponents had their own Bible:
the green-jacketed, printed volume of the Eastland hearings, which
had been sent to thousands of legislators and law-enforcement
officials across America. (The volume became an underground best-seller
among marijuana smokers because of the numerous marijuana recipes
for brownies, chili, meat loaf, banana bread, and the likethat
were printed in its Appendix.)
Not only did opponents of reform have their answer to the Marijuana
Commission report; they now often called Eastland's anti-marijuana
scientists to testify at their state legislative hearings. Suddenly
the reformers were on the defensive again, forced to rebut medical
arguments that they thought meaningless but that laymen found
alarming. The Eastland hearings may have been deliberately one-sided,
but they carried the imprimatur of the U.S. Senate, and many state
legislators took them very seriously.
By the fall of 1974 the reform movement was at a standstill. It
was at that point that Stroup, in desperate need of new ammunition,
looked for help to his new allies at the Drug Abuse Council.
By then, eighteen months after Stroup had won Tom Bryant's gratitude
by briefing him for William Buckley's television show, the NORML-Drug
Abuse Council alliance was in high gear. Tom Bryant was on NORML's
advisory board, the Drug Abuse Council was giving up to $30,000
a year for NORML'S nonpolitical activities, and Stroup was on
close personal terms with several members of the council's staff.
After the Eastland hearings Stroup went to his friend Bob Carr,
the council's chief writer, and said he needed help. In state
after state, reform bills were bogged down, and the Eastland hearings'
scare stories were a major factor.
Carr suggested that Bryant might issue a statement. He checked
with Bryant, who gave tentative approval to the idea. Carr and
Stroup then stayed up all night drafting a tough statement that
attacked the various "new evidence" studies. The next
morning, somewhat to Stroup's and Carr's surprise, Bryant approved
the statement as they'd written it. The UPI story that resulted,
in which Dr. Thomas E. Bryant deplored the widespread publicity
being given unreliable, misleading scientific data received wider
coverage, and had far more credibility, than if Stroup had said
the same thing.
Later, the council sponsored a conference at which two dozen leading
scientists declared that there had been no significant new scientific
findings on marijuana since the Marijuana Commission's report
in 1972, another challenge to the "new evidence" argument.
Throughout the fall of 1974, Stroup and Carr searched for ways
to challenge the Eastland committee and the wave of anti-marijuana
publicity it had created. Stroup was badly worried, because in
state after state reform bills were stalled and legislators were
saying "Let's wait and see how it works in Oregon."
But how was Oregon's new law working? Smokers thought it was working
&e, some law-enforcement officers grumbled about it, and no
one really had any solid information on it. One night Stroup and
Carr came up with the idea that the council would sponsor a survey
of public attitudes toward the new law in Oregon. Carr took the
idea back to the council and was given $10,000 for the survey,
which was carried out by a Portland public-opinion firm.
The results of the survey, briefly, were that there had been no
significant increase in marijuana use in Oregon after the new
law, and that most people there approved of the law. That was
exactly what Stroup and Carr had hoped the survey would say. Carr
issued a press release on it that got national attention, on the
order of "New Marijuana Law Works in Oregon." For a
mere $10,000, it was the most publicity the Drug Abuse Council
had ever received; it also underscored how politically effective
surveys and analyses could be.
Politically, the Oregon survey could be used as proof that decriminalization
worked. Just what the survey actually proved was debatable, but
politicians like studies, surveys, statisticsevidence that
makes it easier for them to justify doing what they already want
to do. The following spring, Bryant and his staff often testified
before state legislative hearings, reporting on the Oregon survey
and other data. They could not lobby for decriminalization, of
course; they were only non-political experts, providing their
statistical data and their policy analysis. In fact, Stroup worked
closely with Carr to coordinate the testimony of NORML witnesses
and council witnessesto divide it up so that NORML'S people
would make the key political points and the council witnesses
would stress the scientific points.
The NORML-Drug Abuse Council alliance was politics as usual. If
NORML'S scruffy band of dope smokers and Tom Bryant's very respectable
think tank were improbable allies, they only proved once again
that politics makes strange bedfellows. And effective bedfellows,
because their alliance, and particularly the Oregon survey, would
contribute to the great political breakthroughs of 1975.
But before that happened, Stroup would become caught up in some
extraordinary politics, politics that definitely were not being
played as usual. The Nixon administration, in its final years,
had been obsessed with an "enemies list" mentality,
with finding ways to use the power of government to destroy its
critics. One man who was high on Nixon's enemies list was Hugh
Hefner, and in 1974 Stroup's friend Bobbie Arnstein would become
tragically enmeshed in the Nixon administration's attempt to destroy
her boss. She turned to Stroup for help, but there was precious
little help that he, or anyone, could give her.