By Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel
We sponsor two legal seminars each year at NORML, one in Key West, Florida, in early December, and the other in Aspen, Colorado, in late May/early June. Those are two wonderful venues for those who are looking for a mini-vacation, in addition to a valuable legal seminar. The 2015 Aspen legal seminar will be held next week (May 28-30) at the Gant Hotel.
This seminar is available for non-lawyers, as well as attorneys, for those who have an interest in the criminal defense and regulatory side of the legalization movement. And a visit to Aspen, now that marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, provides an excellent opportunity for those from other states to see what legalization actually looks and feels like, since there are now several legal dispensaries operating in Aspen. If you have not yet had the pleasure of walking into a retail store to legally purchase your marijuana, now is your chance. It is an empowering experience, and one that reinforces the importance of ending prohibition.
At NORML our basic goal is to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of why one smokes. Until we achieve that ultimate goal, we also do our best to provide assistance and support to victims of the current laws. The NORML Legal Committee (NLC), comprised of several hundred criminal defense and business attorneys, plays a major role in providing that support. NORML is the only legalization organization that has a legal committee, sponsors legal seminars, or that provides legal assistance or advice to those who have been arrested or who need legal assistance entering the legal marijuana market.
Lawyers who specialize in defending victims of prohibition, and business lawyers who represent the interests of the newly legal marijuana businesses in several states, are a special breed. Motivated by their commitment to legal marijuana, they have chosen a legal specialty that may not pay them the financial rewards they could make practicing corporate law, or probate law, or personal injury law, or many other higher-paying fields of practice; but they are at the cutting edge of the legal profession, willing to push the cultural and legal envelope. They generally feel an emotional and cultural attachment to the legalization movement, and most would tell you they get far more personal satisfaction by helping their clients stay out of jail on a marijuana charge (or avoid a criminal charge altogether), or by helping new marijuana entrepreneurs through the labyrinth of regulations and permits necessary to enter these newly legal markets, than they would get from helping rich individuals or institutions get richer, which is what many lawyers do.
This group of committed lawyers draws strength and knowledge from attending these seminars, and from the opportunity to spend time with their legal colleagues from around the county. It reminds us all of why we do what we do, and it empowers us to go forth and fight the good fight. Being an effective lawyer means trying new theories and defenses, and not being discouraged by the fact that we are not always successful. If it were easy, the clients would not need an attorney.
Because we have room at our Aspen venue (unfortunately we do not have extra room at our Key West venue), we permit non-lawyers to attend at a discounted registration fee. And those non-lawyers who do attend report they enjoy the opportunity to meet some of the leading NLC attorneys in an informal setting, and they find fascinating the internal debates and discussions regarding legal theories and new challenges being faced by this group of attorneys. It's a rare opportunity to be part of this subset of NORML, and one well worth experiencing.
In addition to the seminar, social events where one can relax and get to know the other attendees, including the speakers, include an opening reception on Thursday night; a benefit dinner at the lovely home of Christine and Gerry Goldstein in Aspen on Friday evening , catered by Chris Lanter, chef and co-owner of the trendy Cache Cache restaurant in Aspen; and a Saturday afternoon cookout with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary Woody Creek home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, outside of Aspen a few miles.
If the 2015 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar and related social events is of interest, whether you are an attorney or someone who follows the legalization movement and wishes to learn more, you can still register for this seminar on line and join us in Aspen next week. I hope to see you there.
This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.