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out on a limb
Volume 16/Issue 4

Toni Pizanie by Toni Pizanie
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Marijuana Policy Project Plea for Financing!

R ecently in a large stack of junk mail, I came across an unusual request for money. The six page plea stated, "Contrary to popular belief, the medical use of marijuana is illegal in every state in the nation except California." As a former caretaker of AIDS patients, I know that marijuana is being used for several medical purposes: AIDS, glaucoma, cancer. I didn't realize that anyone who truly needed marijuana for medical treatment would be forced to break the law. It wasn't logical.

Yet, the report showed a picture of Kenny and Barbara Jenks who were arrested for using pot to treat their AIDS-related wasting syndrome. On Nov.5, 1996, California passed Proposition 215 giving its residents a respite from continued suffering or obtaining pot illegally and facing arrest and prison. The battle cry went up-the time is right for reform!

MPP met with U.S.Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), an openly gay man. Frank introduced bill H.R.1782 on June 4, 1997 to allow states to determine their own medicinal marijuana policies without federal interference. A new bill will be introduced in 1998 and the "states' rights" approach should ensure passage in the near future.

An AB C News poll released on May 29, 1997, reports that 69% of Americans support legalizing medical use of marijuana. Yet, only eight patients legally receive marijuana from the federal government. Those patients who are legally using marijuana in California can still be prosecuted by the federal government. Belden & Russonello's scientific survey in April, 1995 reported that 79% of U.S. voters support "legalizing marijuana to relieve pain and for other medical uses if prescribed by a doctor."

Organizations taking a favorable position include: AIDS Action Council, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Public Health Association, California Medical Association, California Society of Addiction Medicine, Florida Medical Association, Lymphoma Foundation of America, National Association of People With AIDS, National Nurses Society on Addictions, and New England Journal of Medicine.

If you are interested in assisting or need information, please contact Marijuana Policy Project Foundation, P.O. Box 77492, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. 20013 or http://www.mpp.org.

Parties and Politics!

Several individuals have opened their homes recently to raise funds for candidates. The community owes big Thank Yous to these generous people. It was an excellent opportunity for political activists to rub elbows with influential backers, the candidates and the candidates associates. In a world of very busy politicians, knowing their associates can be as helpful as having their ear when time allows you personal contact.

The election is history and with it goes some of the most enjoyable conversations and associations for the politically minded. There were lots of the same old faces and interestingly enough some new ones. Forum and LAGPAC were represented as usual by Randy Evans and Chris Daigle with their loyal associates. MAC (Mayor's Advisory Committee on GLTB Issues) was represented by this face as chair and some very able new additions to the gay political scene. MAC vice-chair James Donovan spoke briefly with the Mayor and Councilmen on several occasions as he prepares to take charge in August, 1998. Two fresh faces representing the MAC were Mary-jo Webster and Dr. Jami Buth, also of GGA. Other high profile activists standing in for the District Attorney's New Task Force, Forum, GGA, LAGPAC, Log Cabin and MAC were Gregory Curtis, Eddie Domingue, Crystal Little, Nancy Sharp and Jack Sullivan.

Every party in the gay or straight communities, whether in a private home or public arena, saw the popular Eddie Sapir with side-kick Mike Goff. Eddie ran a tight race with Peggy Wilson for Council -at-Large. If you witnessed any of their debates, you know that Eddie very openly let the public know that Miss Wilson played a less than truthful campaign. From his Thank You parties to fundraisers for other candidates, Troy Carter was accompanied by Jasper Thomas. Of course, the Mayor's presence was everywhere with a large entourage which always included Jim Wiltberger, Forum advisor, former LAGPAC Co-chair and long time gay political activist. You could hardly take a step without bumping into Jim Singleton, Roy Glapion, Oliver Thomas or Ms. Haik-Terrell. David Marcello, Bobby Jones and Marie Bookman were also familiar faces at most social events.

There are also many experienced politicians who are presently retired from public service but are said to be the powers behind several candidates for re-election. Two of the most interesting and knowledgeable are Moon Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans (the Moon Walk) and dad to Mary and Mitch, and the very amusing Mike Early. I enjoyed brief conversations with them and especially enjoyed just listening to their stories and conversations with other politicos.

For some, they will slip into that old ennui until the next round of political races and parties. For leaders in the gay political ranks, it is on to working for transgender rights, repeal of the sodomy law, sensitivity training for police, protection for victims of same sex partner abuse, continued education of homophobics, recruiting membership in political organizations, raising money to keep up our fight and more. A queer's work is never done but always more pleasurable during election time.

MAC Honors Udick!

A party honoring past MAC Chair Robert Udick was held in the post fire doll house of yours truly. In attendance were Mayor Marc Morial with Michelle, Councilman Troy Carter, Commissioner Bridget Bane, Jim Wiltberger, the members of the MAC with their partners and Ken Marino with Michael, the MAC liaison to the Human Relations Commission. The Mayor presented a surprised and very deserving Robert with a certificate and words of appreciation for Robert's work on behalf of the Mayor's Office in the GLBT community.

The atmosphere was relaxed and festive. For many MAC members and their partners, this was the first opportunity to visit and share interests outside of formal meetings. The MAC is comprised of 15 members from Ph.D.'s to no D.'s, an inclusive body which believes in the rights of all citizens. MAC boasts three transgender members, seven gender identified females and eight gender identified males. We are a mix of different religious beliefs, varying backgrounds, a melting pot of nationalities and races. And there is room for more diversity if you are interested in applying.

As the first Chair under Mayor Morial, Robert organized the committee to be working members only. Everyone is expected to serve on a sub-committee and work toward goals set by the committee. Dr. Carol Tully is working with the NOPD on writing a program for police sensitivity training. Mary-jo Webster heads the sub-committee for assistance to victims of partner abuse. Eddie Domingue and I represent the MAC on the New Task Force to repeal the sodomy law. Nancy Sharp, Diane Tanner and I are working on transgender issues and represent MAC on the Human Relations Commission sub-committee studying tg protection. Randal Beach is the liaison to the LGCCNO. Jose Ramirez-Domenech is coordinating related activities at Xavier University. Dr. Ronald Wilcox and Dr. James Donovan head the sub-committee on social issues and are always ready to take on one more issue. Jan Harrell heads the legislative sub-committee.

As smoothly as this hard working group is in the Mayor's board room, we are even more congenial socially. My gratitude to Robert for making this event necessary. This post election party was the best of the season thanks to a special group of concerned and active GLBT people.

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