Marijuana Advocates to Protest U.S. Open of Surfing

July 4, 2008

Members of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws Say They Plan to Picket After They Were Denied a Booth at the Competition.

HUNTINGTON BEACH Marijuana advocates plan to protest the U.S.  Open of Surfing after they said they were denied a booth at the world-renowned competition.

Officials with the Orange County chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws ( NORML ) said they were refused a booth after being told by an organizer that the city and event sponsors did not support the group’s message.  The group advocates the repeal of marijuana prohibition and the use of medical marijuana.

U.S.  Open officials deny the accusation, stating that the refusal was purely a business decision.  City officials said they have nothing to do with the granting of booths and denied having any kind of say.

“We’re still going to be there anyway,” said Kandice Hawes, president of the organization’s Orange County chapter.

About a hundred people from NORML and supporters plan to picket the event on July 26 and 27.

James Leitz, executive producer of the U.S.  Open of Surfing, said the group was denied a booth this year because he said they had misrepresented themselves last year, applying under the guise of another organization.

Leitz said last year an Anaheim man handed in an application under the vendor name of “Steve’s List.” The application didn’t mention marijuana, according to Leitz and a copy of the document given to the Register.

“Then all of a sudden all of this marijuana stuff goes up in the booth,” Leitz said.  “That alone right there is not how we play.  I don’t care who you are…  That’s a check mark against you.”

Steve Lawrence who put in the application for Steve’s List said that he spoke to an organizer last year and let her know that his Web site was dedicated to the cannibas patient community.  The Web site is now defunct.

Lawrence, a member of NORML, said he filled out the application truthfully and didn’t think he had to include cannibas or marijuana on the document.

“I filled it out as well as they expected,” Lawrence said.  “What I see is that they just don’t want NORML there…”

Lawrence said he allowed the NORML group members share the booth with him for a few days last year as long as they paid half of the cost.  He and Hawes said none of the U.S.  Open officials asked them to leave or even approached them about the issue.

“They’re just trying to make up an excuse,” Hawes said.

Instead, Hawes said a female organizer told her on several occasions that “they called Huntington Beach and that they didn’t want us there and didn’t support our kind of organization and said that the sponsors didn’t want us there anyway.”

Leitz denies the accusations, stating that he stands by the decision to exclude the group.

“I myself personally have to worry about the 8-year-old kid…  I have to worry about the message we’re sending,” Leitz said.  “I have to worry about the family-friendly atmosphere.  I think OC NORML’s message …  or what have you is vague.  We just don’t’ think it’s appropriate for the family-friendly nature of the event.”

Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)


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