Lenny Frieling is the current board chair of Colorado NORML – the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The organization recently worked to pass Amendment 64, and now has a seat on the governor’s 24-member task force to advise the legislature on regulating marijuana and hemp. A criminal defense attorney for the past 37 years, Frieling is also a one of the 350-plus lawyers who make up the NORML legal committee. Marty Durlin spoke with Frieling from his office in Boulder about the future of regulating legal marijuana in Colorado.Edit | Remove
According to Frieling, "Here are the pitfalls. The views on the task force are disparate. Some of the people on the task force I believe to be really quite strongly anti-marijuana. We have reefer madness that still is in the background. People that really believe, contrary to the science – and we have well over 20,000 studies now dealing with marijuana – contrary to the science, people still see it as a gateway drug."
When asked what would happen to the marijuana black market, Lenny replied, "My belief is that although it will never be eliminated I think a huge dent will be put in it. Will people get around the system? Well, we know they will. The question is what percentage. Recreationally, if we go from 100 percent black market to 10 percent black market, that’s a pretty significant impact. A lot of tax revenue. It’s of course better for the consumer because things like pesticide, labels, and normal consumer protection stuff starts kicking in."
Frieling compared the legalization of marijuana with the end of alcohol prohibition. "I want people to notice the benefits. And I don’t want pot smokers blowing smoke in people’s faces," he said, "This is not a license to smoke pot in a public place, at a concert… because some people... it's just like lighting up a cigar. What right would one person have to make another uncomfortable like that? It’s just bad manners."
"In 10 years, I suspect we’ll be looking back and it will be taken so much for granted, that we’ll be scratching our heads like 10 years after prohibition ended, saying, huh, I wonder why they thought it was such a big deal? The sky hasn’t fallen."