Oh, the drama. When hemp activist Michelle Graye set up a small table with hemp and medical marijuana information Tuesday night at Tucson’s National Night Out event in Amphi Neighborhood Park, she had made the honest mistake of going to the wrong place—there were two National Night Out events in Tucson.
But some “offended” parents in attendance called Graye’s very presence at the event “inappropriate” and said the booth had no business at an event whose focus is crime-fighting. You almost get the idea that advocating for cannabis reform is roughly equivalent to leprosy with some of these folks.
|Would you say KGUN 9 maybe overdramatized things a little?|
“What can you tell them? What can you tell me?” Keen badgered Captain Rick Wilson of the Tucson Police Department.
“They have a legal right to be here,” Wilson rightly told the pushy reporter. “That’s just where the matter’s going to have to rest. They have a legal right to be here. We don’t have an exclusive use of the park.”
“It’s a booth for legalized marijuana,” complained parent Michael Lake. “I don’t think that it’s something that was appropriate—for a crime-prevention fair to have a booth that promotes drugs. Especially when, as parents, you’re doing the best that you can to protect your children from things like this.”
When told that the cops said Graye had a right to be there, Lake sputtered, “It’s freedom of speech, obviously, for her, but it’s disturbing.”
|Graye at the National Night Out event in Tucson|
“It’s the ultimate in ridiculousness if you ask me,” Graye told Toke of the Town on Wednesday. “I didn’t even realize this was a news story on the 10 o’clock news until today. It turns out there were two National Night Out events in Tucson yesterday and I had gone to the wrong one, so I was ‘uninvited,’ but no one even talked to me to express their concerns.”
According to Graye, Mary DeCamp, the local Green candidate for mayor has been carrying forward AZ4NORML’s message for marijuana enforcement as the lowest police priority. “The table I set up yesterday was actually promoting the Green candidate, besides AZ4NORML, and in the last two years I have done over 50 tabling events from the campus of the University of Arizona to even a Tea Party event, so I know the leaf gets people’s attention.”
|This is the hemp info table set up by Graye at the National Night Out event.|
“I had been invited to the National Night Out by Mary DeCamp,” Graye said. “I always have materials to bring to my tabling events which include a hemp display table full of legal hemp products (twine, hemp wallet, food products that are legally available at grocery stores and so on.
“Just by a quirk I went to the wrong venue on Tuesday, not realizing that the Amphi event was running concurrently with the other neighborhood Night Out, and I set up my table, and not one person came by to complain or even ask why I was set up,” Graye said. “If asked, I would have said that I was there by invitation of the DeCamp for Mayor campaign and then hopefully someone would have corrected me to say this was not the venue where the Green Party was set up.”
“My table had information on AZ4NORML, Green Party materials which had been given to me by the campaign, hemp products, medical marijuana information (which is also legal in Arizona) and informational pamphlets/newspapers/magazines which were free for anyone wanting more information,” Michelle said.
|Michael Lake doesn’t cotton to folks telling kids the actual truth about cannabis. It’s too “disturbing” for him.|
“Anyone that knows me, knows I’m the most civil person in the room because the First Amendment our our right to peacefully assemble and stand on free speech is sacred to more core beliefs,” Graye said. “Raising the issue of cannabis reform and our endless drug war is the only way to bring change about and I have no control of how the media presents the issue.”
That didn’t stop Green Party of Pima County (GPPC) Co-Chair Kent Solberg from grumbling about Graye’s presence at the event.
“There was press at this event and a number of angry adults and teenagers, who thought that her being there was inappropriate and in very bad taste since this program was directed towards children and families,” Solberg wrote in an email to GPPC steering and county committee members.
Graye, on the other hand, said Solberg, whom she saw at the event, never expressed any objection to her being there. “Mr. Solberg was standing near my tabling area handing out flyers… and he approached me while I was setting up my table and we exchanged pleasantries,” Graye said.
“Mr. Solberg gave me some Beryl Baker flyers which I included on my table and later he came by and took most of them away and he never once said he was unhappy with my presence there… I never once represented to Mr. Solberg, the public or the reporter than I was representing the Green Party, but multiple interests since they all relate to marijuana reform,” Graye said.
Michelle, a “very enthusiastic” member of AZ4NORML, the Tucson chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the chapter for the past few years has made great progress on cannabis reform in the most liberal part of Arizona.
“Our local efforts on behalf of Prop 203 (Arizona Medical Marijuana Act) were instrumental in getting medical marijuana passed in Arizona in 2010,” Graye said.
“With the help of Stu Green, another local cannabis activist, we put forward a local ballot initiative called Sensible Tucson in which we wanted to decrim small amounts of marijuana possession to be not more than a $75 fine,” Michelle told me. “We got thousands of signatures, but our city clerk [Roger Randolph] refused to take our signatures on filing day, saying we were ‘illegal’ since marijuana policy is not a local matter (so sayeth the city attorney).”
The Sensible Tucson initiative would have reduced the penalty for a first-time possession offense of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana to a fine of $25. Subsequent offenses would warrant fines of no more than $75.
Volunteers had spent many hours circulating petitions on a $500 shoestring budget, reported Rhonda Bodfield of the Arizona Daily Star back in July, but the city attorney maintained that Arizona’s state constitution prohibits city voters from amending state criminal statutes through the initiative process.
For KGUN 9’s biased video coverage of the story, click here