COLUMBIA — The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws began its Fall 2010 State Conference on Friday with a low-key introduction to Saturday's planned events.
The speakers Friday included Radley Balko, senior editor of Reason magazine, and Richard Newton, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Balko, who will be the closing keynote speaker for the conference, spoke briefly about California's Proposition 19 to the sparse crowd gathered in Allen Auditorium in the Arts & Sciences Building at MU. If Proposition 19 had passed, it would have decriminalized several marijuana-related activities by allowing the government to control and tax the illegal drug. The ballot initiative failed by a margin of 7.8 percent.
Balko said that, if given the choice, he would legalize all drugs.
The stage was afterward ceded to Newton, a former U.S. Customs pilot, who said he changed his stance on marijuana legalization when he realized how little regulation enforcement provided.
He cited the example of the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s, which lasted only 13 years. "Prohibition doesn't work, and it's because we have free will," Newton said.
"Law is not always a good thing," Newton said. "Which is why it can change."
His organization's mission, he said, does not advocate drug use. Newton emphasized that drug prohibition is the problem, one that he said could be solved by regulating and taxing the sale of drugs.
NORML state coordinator Dan Viets said he thinks that some states will pass legalization measures during the 2012 election.
"The real battle is in the states," Viets said.
The conference will continue Saturday with a noon screening of the film "What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?" in Allen Auditorium at MU.