Mark Russell

Paul Wellman

Mark Russell

Marijuana Legalization Supporters: Not Afraid to Talk

Local Medical Marijuana Users Show Support Outside Courthouse

“We get a lot more honks than we get fingers,” says Mark Russell, founder of the local pro-legalization group I Am Not A Criminal, of his experiences protesting in support of Proposition 19. The prop, which will be voted on this coming week, would allow Californians to grow, sell, and consume cannabis; Russell, his fellow medi-marijuana users, and other supporters gathered outside the Courthouse on Saturday to show their support for the legalization movement. Locals will also be voting on Measure T, which would close down local dispensaries.Waving signs and hollering out to anyone walking, driving, or cycling by, Russell’s statement seemed correct—Santa Barbarans mostly honked or called out, and only one flipped off the group.

With the political season in crunch time, local legalization supporters are making a last bid to gauge feelings and win votes. “People on the fence will maybe get their minds changed [once they see people willing to be vocal in their support],” said Russell. He and others agreed that medical marijuana users (he uses it to prevent migraines) are instantly judged as criminals—by law enforcement and citizens alike—and that only a fraction of those who support legalization will risk being public about it. The non-supporters are “afraid of the truth”—that legalization will require better parenting and education, even though it would hopefully reduce the opportunities for teens to get weed off the street.

Although everyone seems to be in support of Prop 19, many say that it’s not what they had hoped it would be. Said Russell, “It’ll create chaos and confusion [because of the lack of regulatory specificity]. Prop 19 is all about the money.” He still thinks it’s a step in the right direction for cannabis, because people who feel they need it will obtain it no matter what the laws say, but that it needs improvement.

Of all the characters standing at the corner of the Courthouse, it’s hard to miss Fred Kapp, age 55. He’s wearing a fedora crossed with red, green, and black bands that are speckled with medical marijuana pins and has an “I Heart Boobies” around his wrist. He’s also in an unmissable bright pink “I Am Not A Criminal” shirt. Kapp stands off to the side for a few minutes as he takes a “dosage” to treat his chronic pain syndrome—he walks with a cane. His mother was the first terminal patient here in Santa Barbara looking for medical marijuana—“all our terminal patients receive free marijuana”—and he’s been smoking since before Woodstock, which he attended, of course. He stands next to a small group sitting on a stone wall; several are rolling joints themselves, ready for another dosage to relieve pain, stress, anxiety, or a bevy of other issues marijuana purportedly helps.

A middle-aged man on a bicycle calls out as he pedals past, “Got any samples?” Russell deflects back, “No.” With any luck for the Prop 19 supporters in town, though, it’s only a matter of time before there’s plenty of samples to go around—without the criminal implications or stigma.

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