Bob Randall was one of the more interesting
people I have been privileged to know, and he had an enormous
impact on public policy all across the country.
Bob first came to see me at NORML in 1976,
and, as anyone would be, I was distressed by his story that
he would go blind but for his use of marijuana. He had recently
been busted for growing a couple of plants, and he wanted
to raise a defense, based on his medical need.
It was impossible not to like the man, and
to be impressed with his serious commitment. He was a man
who was driven by the need to fight his impending blindness,
and marijuana seemed the best hope he had.
I could not have know then that Bob Randall
would eventually become the leading intellectual and political
force working to legalize the medical use of marijuana in
America. In fact, he and Alice, and the organization they
created, Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT), led the
legislative pushes to legalize medical use in several of the
early states, including New Mexico, the first state to enact
legislation in 1978. That was especially significant, as it
also involved Lynn Pierson, a dying cancer patient who had
become a good friend and close political ally of Randall.
Randall testified effectively in most of the 33 states when
the legislative proposals were being considered in committee.
Some individuals in the reform movement felt
tension when dealing with Bob because he would vocalize his
feelings about separating the recreational use issue from
the medical use issue. Sometimes he seemed hostile towards
I agreed with Bob’s basic premise,
although I felt he could have been more sensitive in the way
he addressed the issue. I always felt that those of us who
smoke marijuana for the pleasure of it should not try to qualify
as a medical user in those states that permit medical use,
as it undermines the seriousness of the medical use issue,
and it fails to win the political acknowledgement that smokers
need -- that there is nothing wrong with the responsible us[e]
of marijuana by adults. I do not want to ask a doctor if I
can smoke marijuana unless I am using it as a medicine.
Additionally Bob should have been more appreciative
of the fact that if marijuana is decriminalized or legalized
for recreational use, that will surely include those who use
it for medical purposes, or for any other reason. But he felt
they could win the medical use issue easier and earlier than
we could win the general recreational use issue. That was
a reasonable assumption, although it has not proven to be
Bob might have been a bit more sympathetic
towards social smokers, since he himself was once in that
category. But his basic point was valid: the arguments for
legalizing the medical use of marijuana are different from
the basic arguments for legalizing the recreational use of
marijuana. Those of us who are social smokers should not try
to sneak in under the coattails of medical use.
Bob Randall was a fascinating, committed
man who had enormous impact on the public policy debate over
the medical use of marijuana in America. And he did it as
a strong individual. I was privileged to know and work with