To cover this story in a traditional manner would be inappropriate. I simply am biased. For what happens to a man when a news industry favor for a friend collides with his own personal stake in the situation. The result made for a very interesting week.
In a dark dreary universe of years past I was once a democrat. I only believed in the existence of two parties, until I happened to nonchalantly stumble into a libertarian caucus. That is where I met Chris Ambrogio, founder of LSU’s Student’s for Sensible Drug Policy.
At a meeting Chris demonstrated the existence of a Louisiana medical marijuana law that was currently on the books. When the text of the bill came up on the power point I remember thinking,
“Oh (expletive), there I am”
By Louisiana Law spastic quadriplegics have been able to receive prescriptions for medical marijuana since 1991. Good Luck getting that prescription filled though. It will always ends with a pair of handcuffs, and not the kinky kind. When SB 541, a bill that would finally rectify this meaningless anomaly, was set to be introduced this legislative session by Sen. Mills; it was time to put this Manship education to the test.
In Early April, SSDP decided they would have a concert to raise awareness for marijuana reform. I wanted to pitch in.Following the format I learned in class, I wrote a press release and sent it out to a number of news outlets.
Then a funny thing happened, it got picked up. One organization, nbc33, wrote a short article on the concert. It included the time and place of the event, two quotes and a boiler plate statement. It was nothing special; until a Manship graduate working at nbc33 saw the article was getting a good bit of website traffic. She turned it into a TV spot.
There were three of us, and when we divided up the tasks, it was my job to talk about medical marijuana. I mentioned that for my whole life, a medical marijuana bill had been on the books to which I’m entitled. Instead a got a life of constant and aggressive physical therapy. This ended up on the nightly local news, and other patients who had been let down by our government began calling in support. We then got another TV spot.
The concert was a great success and we had a great turnout, even though LSUPD shut us a down a bit early. We gave out all the literature we had, and encouraged people to call their representatives. At the concert, I met Dave Brown, a pro-medical marijuana lobbyist who helped me get down to the capitol and have a chance to speak directly to the state senate committee about the bill.
Wednesday there I was. I had never been to one of these things, and was terrified. I heard from Chris that the other hearings on marijuana reform “Was like going to church because there were so many bible verses.” now I was at a medical marijuana hearing in Louisiana. People took cards, green for support and red for against. SB 541 came up, and after a series of jokes by the senate committee chairman, the arguments began. The green side went first.
The senators came and went throughout the whole hearing. They were on the phone, texting, whispering, moving around and sometimes leaving all together. I walked up to speak, and I genuinely think that it was one of the few times that every senator was in their seat and paying attention. With the exception of two opponents, every opponent commended me on my “bravery” for speaking. Many even said they would like to help, but in the end most of those comments were followed by dreary and inaccurate nonsense. It was said that marijuana isn’t medicine, even though it isn’t true. It was said that the federal government wouldn’t allow the banks to store dispensary money, even though it isn’t true.
In the end, for the briefest of moments it seemed as though we would prevail, like reason would prevail in a state so resistant to change. But Sen. Claitor introduced an amendment to the bill that would delay the bill inevitably. The amendment stated that they would wait until the FDA reevaluated marijuana as medicine before they would act, which if they were willing to do we wouldn’t need the bill in the first space. After that amendment failed the bill was killed in a 6-2 vote. In the end I couldn’t help but be impressed that State Senators Honore and Mills had even brought the bill up in Louisiana, now that was brave.
If a picture is worth a thousand words than Ill see you next year State Senate.Forever Manship, tools for being heard.
Freshman year (left) to Present (Right)