Denton NORML draws 100 at inaugural courthouse meeting
A freshly established pro-marijuana organization saw around 100 people gather for its inaugural meeting at the Denton County Courthouse square on Saturday.
Denton NORML, a sub-chapter of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (DFW NORML), featured several speakers, including Loretta Labrada, David Sloane, and Shaun McAlister, who are all board members of DFW NORML.
Formation of the group came after there was a strong interest in the area for an activist organization to raise awareness about the need to change cannabis laws in Texas.
Earlier this year Denton County Commissioners voted to oppose marijuana penalty reduction bills in the state legislature, and the sheriff of Denton County, Will Travis, has been actively fighting against both hemp and marijuana bills in recent hearings, sometimes confusing the two.
While speaking to the group, Labrada stressed the importance of getting involved and making a difference, placing particular emphasis on calling Representative Myra Crownover of District 64 who is the head of the Public Health Commmittee to urge her to grant a hearing on HB 3785, the whole plant medical bill currently stuck in committee.
She emphasized that “a city who can band together to ban fracking in their city can band together and help end prohibition in Texas!”
She also hit on the point of Denton being a college town full of younger people, saying “according to MPP, there were 75,000 arrests in 2010, with 70 percent of those arrests involving persons 25 and younger.”
Sloane, who is an attorney, said that he was “very impressed with the turnout and enthusiasm of the crowd. Not only those that were there from the beginning but also many but also many who happened to be on the square and saw what was going on and came walking up and joined in.”
“I’ve been around to help kickstart a lot of new chapters around the state and other than El Paso I haven’t seen an inaugural meeting with so many in attendance,” Sloane stated. “Absolutely Denton is ready for this! Just like the rest of this state!”
McAlister says that Denton NORML will be a sub-chapter under DFW NORML, allowing DFW NORML to have a consistent presence in Denton since most of their events are central in the metropolex. He also praised the two leaders of the new chapter, Caroline Turner and Marshall Williams, for their efforts in putting the event together.
Turner, who is the president of Denton NORML, said that “there was a lot of foot traffic of people turning their heads when they heard about cannabis. We had a lot of people stop because they were curious about what we had to say.”
She added, “Denton has had a lot of successful grassroots movements in the past, and we know there is a lot of love and a lot of opportunities for marijuana law reform here. We signed some people up for memberships and got a lot of positive feedback for people wanting to volunteer in the future. We see the future of Denton NORML in a very positive light because of the meeting. It gave us some reassurance that people in Denton are affected by prohibition. There are a lot of young people here that don’t know their rights or how to change things, and we want to bring that to them.”
Turner, who is a 19-year-old student, said she became an activist after hearing the stories of Alexis Bortell and Barbara Humphries.
Williams, who is the vice president of Denton NORML, touched on Denton being a college town and believes that is a good thing, saying “Denton is a vibrant community, we have two major universities and one community college in the area which we think will be an invaluable asset with regards to raising support for the cause.”
He adds, “on top of that, people in Denton care strongly for the area. Although we are a large city, it has a very small town feel to it, people care about their neighbors and they have no problem going out of their way to make a change that will help out someone down the street.”
While Williams acknowledges that there have been attempts at such an organization in the past, they have always been tied to a specific college.
“We think that, although the student population is good, there is so much more to Denton than just the students. By being a unified Denton NORML, we can better represent and rally the efforts of the entire community rather than just isolating ourselves to a specific group of students at one specific school.”
By: Stephen Carter
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