While battling the effects of multiple sclerosis, a Maine resident helped lead the charge to get medical marijuana okayed in that state.
“We started a state association to ensure safe access to medical marijuana and then we got a National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) chapter started,” said David Knowles. “Two years into it with the help of NORML and their attorneys, we developed a petition to allow the use of medical marijuana and decriminalize possession of one and a quarter ounces or less.”
“It didn’t pass the first time, but it did finally pass in the early 1990s,” he said.
Knowles has now called St. Croix home for the past six years and he’s brought his conviction to allow medical use of marijuana to the Virgin Islands. He’s starting a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and is hoping to start the movement to change Virgin Islands law.
The St. Croix resident started a discussion on a local internet message board which drew a lot of comments, he explained.
“The message board discussion went on for a couple of pages and I realized that a lot of people have strong opinions about the issue of medical marijuana,” said Knowles. “On the surface the islands seem like a conservative place, but when you look under the surface, I think there is a lot more personal use than anyone really talks about.”
There is a wealth of information regarding the medical benefits of marijuana and decriminalizing possession of a small amount of the herb would save the territory a lot of money, according to Knowles.
“There is a lot of positive medical research which has been conducted into the beneficial use of marijuana,” he said. “There is an incredible amount of information out there in respected medical journals by doctors’ associations and international health organizations.”
“Even though it’s disguised by all the borrowing, our government’s finances are in dire shape,” said Knowles. “And it’s simply a shame to think about how many young people are getting a record for marijuana possession. It’s time to change things.”
The medical marijuana and decriminalization movement is not new and has gained momentum lately with 14 states having passed legislation which allows small amounts of cultivation and possession as well as use by individuals who are prescribed the herb.
Through NORML VI, Knowles hopes to decriminalize a small amount of marijuana for personal use and cultivation, allow free access to medical marijuana and respect the rights of people who use the herb during religious services, he explained.
“We want to start out small and get some medical laws passed with a really small amount decriminalized,” said Knowles. “We’re getting our goals together and we want to develop a consensus of opinion. Fourteen states allow medical marijuana use at this time and basically we want to join them.”
“We want to get an amendment to the present law which will include provisions for a small amount of cultivation, possession and medical access with associated paraphernalia without penalty,” Knowles said. “We’d like to start by making possession of one ounce or less by a responsible adult a civil offense. That is the ultimate goal and I think it’s a realistic goal.”
Knowles has been in correspondence with Governor John deJongh and Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, neither of whom support changing local marijuana laws, he explained.
“The way to change the law is through a citizens’ initiative, which is basically a petition,” said Knowles. “To get it going we need a few thousand signatures and then if we can get signatures from 51 percent of all voters in the Virgin Islands, the initiative can’t be vetoed or even changed by the senate for at least three years.”
The group is currently still organizing a board of directors and establishing its non-profit status. A website is in the works and Knowles hopes to have an official NORML VI kick-off in August.
“Hopefully by August we’ll be a NORML chapter and we can start a membership drive and watch the organization grow,” said Knowles. “We’ll be writing letters to senators and doctors and see if we can get any response.”
For more information or to join NORML VI email [email protected] or visit http://groups.google.co.vi/group/normlvi.