Waving Sen. Norm Coleman's Freak Flag

It’s always nice to start out the day with a steaming cup of sweet irony. So, you can imagine how pleased I was to find the following letter from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Executive Director Allen St. Pierre in my inbox this morning, along with an open letter to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., written by his former college smoking buddy Norm Kent, a NORML board member.

It seems that Kent was a tad ticked off by a form letter sent by Coleman’s office, explaining the senator’s anti-pot position – a regurgitation of tiredass lies proffered by the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy, including that pot is a “highly addictive” substance and that using pot makes our “schools and workplaces … more dangerous.”

For Coleman, it seems, pot has had one negative effect: memory loss.

Read below St. Pierre’s introduction and Kent’s open letter to his old buddy Norm:


NORML's open letter to Sen. Norm Coleman

Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman acknowledges on his website that he was a "campus organizer in the '60s" when he attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. His Wikipedia entry states: "He ran for student senate and opined in the school newspaper that his fellow students should vote for him because he knew that 'these conservative kids don't fuck or get high like we do. … Everyone watch out, the 1950s' bobby-sox generation is about to take over.'" Several photos show the then longhaired Coleman speaking through a bullhorn and unfurling an anti-war banner with other students.

Since that time, the Brooklyn, NY-born politician graduated from the University of Iowa Law School and stayed in the Midwest, where he worked as a prosecutor in Minnesota for 17 years before his two terms as mayor of St. Paul. In 1996, he switched parties – from Democrat to Republican – and in 1998 he lost the Minnesota governor's race to Jesse Ventura. In 2002, Coleman was elected senator by a 2% margin. He benefitted from the sudden death of the state's incumbant Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash 11 days before the election.

NORML board member Norm Kent, who is a lawyer as well, went to Hofstra with Coleman. Kent recently received a form letter from Coleman regarding his current anti-marijuana position. It reads, in part: "I oppose the legalization of marijuana because, as noted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana can have serious adverse health affects on individuals. The health problems that may occur from this highly addictive drug include short-term memory loss, anxiety, respiratory illness and a risk of lung cancer that far exceeds that of tobacco products. It would also make our transportation, schools and workplaces, just as examples, more dangerous."

Offended by Coleman's comments, Kent fired off a letter to his former smoking buddy.

Norm Kent's letter to Sen. Norm Coleman

Dear Mr. Coleman,

My friend Norman.

Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana. Years ago, in our dorm rooms at Hofstra University, you, me, Billy, your future brother-in-law, Ivan, Jonathan, Peter, Janet, Nancy and a wealth of other students smoked dope.

Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows, but we got high, and yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's advice.

We grew up to become lawyers. Our other friends, as you go down the list, are doctors, professors, parents, political consultants and professionals. No one ever got cancer from smoking pot or diabetes from using a joint. And the days of our youth we look back fondly upon as years where we stood up, were counted and made a difference, from Earth Day in 1970 to helping bring down a president and end a war in Southeast Asia a few years later.

We smoked pot when we took over Weller Hall to protest administrative abuses of students' rights. You smoked pot as you stood on the roof of the University Senate protesting faculty exclusivity. As the President of the Student Senate in 1969, you condemned the raid by Nassau County police on our dormitories, busting scores of students for pot possession.

You never said then that pot was dangerous. What was scary then, and is as frightening now, is when national leaders become voices of hypocrisy, harbingers of the status quo, and protect their own position instead of the public good. Welcome to the crowd of those who have become a likeness of which they despised. Welcome to the mindless myriad of legislators who gather in cocktail lounges to manhandle their martinis while passing laws against drunk driving.

We have seen more people die last year from spinach then pot. We have endured generations of drug addicts overdosing on a multitude of drugs, from heroin to crystal methamphetamine. In your public life, as an attorney general, mayor and United States senator, you have been in the forefront of speaking out against abuses which are harmful. You have been a noble and honorable public servant. How about not being such a dope on dope?

How about admitting that if the Rockefeller drug laws were applied to Norman Bruce Coleman on Long Island in 1968, or to me, or to our friends, and fellow students, you, I and others we knew and loved might just be getting out of jail now? How about recognizing that for too long too many have been wrongly arrested, unjustly prosecuted and illegally incarcerated for unconscionable periods of time?

How about recognizing that you have peers who have smoked pot for 25 years or more and they are successful record producers, businessmen and parents?

How about standing up and saying you have heard and witnessed countless stories of persons who have used pot medicinally, as I have, to endure the effects of chemotherapy?

You who have travelled to Africa and seen the face of AIDS so up close and personal would deny medicinal marijuana relief to those souls wasting away from malnutrition, nausea and no access to fundamental medicines?

How about not adopting the sad and sorry archaic path of our office of drug control, which this week suggested pot smokers are more likely to become gang members than others?

How about standing up and saying: "I, Norm Coleman, smoked pot in 1969." That "I am not a gang member, a drug addict or a criminal."

How about saying: "I was able to responsibly integrate my prior pot use into my life, and still succeed on my own merits."

How about standing up not only for who you are, but who you were?

How about it, Norm?

I will always love, admire and cherish what you have achieved and accomplished and the goals you have met. I will always fondly look at the remarkable success of your present.

How about you looking back at your past and saying: "What I did was not so wrong and not so bad and not so hurtful that generations of Americans should still, decades later, be going to jail for smoking pot – nearly one million arrests for possession last year."

Can't Norm Coleman come out of the closet in 2007 and say "These arrests are wrong - that there is a better way, and we need to find it."

You might find more integrity and honor in that then adopting the sad and sorry policy of our Office of National Drug Control Policy.

You might find the person you were.

Norm Kent

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

marijuana, ONDCP, Sen. Norm Coleman

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