Alabama: Marijuana Advocate Energized By Arrest

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, Mar 18, 2003.


    by Carla Crowder,


    Loretta Lynn Nall is an unlikely political activist. With her at-home candle business, Stevie Nicks hairdo, and kitchen-table computer, the mother of two is truly grassroots, especially the grass part.

    In October, Nall founded the Alabama Marijuana Party, a political action committee trying to loosen marijuana laws and raise awareness about the plant's medicinal benefits.

    "I'm a common country girl. I have big ideas and opinions," she says. "And a big mouth."

    Nall and her family live in the backwoods of Tallapoosa County, hardly a hotbed for the cause. So she was quite pleased when her letters to the editor began appearing in Alabama newspapers.

    "We are not criminals who rob, steal or otherwise cause harm to the fabric of society, and it is time to stop treating us as if we were," Nall wrote.

    The Birmingham News published a letter Nov. 7.

    Six days later, eight agents with the Tallapoosa County Narcotics Task Force converged on Nall's home and took her to jail.

    Court records say the agents found about $20 worth of marijuana. They confiscated rolling papers, a set of scales, some magazines and unknown "leafy substances" from the freezer.

    Nall was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. She is out on bond, and denies having any marijuana in her trailer; legalization activists know better, she said.

    Equally upsetting to Nall, she said authorities targeted her because of her advocacy. "I think they would love to come in here and take me away and shut me up," she said.

    It was her first arrest.

    At a court hearing, she perused the search warrant request that drug agents used to secure a judge's permission to search her trailer. It noted the letter to the editor, Nall said, and it included a comment that her kindergarten daughter Isabella made in school about leaves hanging from the walls of her home, plants that she couldn't bring to class.

    Eric McCain, a Sheriff's Department Investigator who works in the Tallapoosa County schools, secured the search warrant. McCain said the warrant was not based on Nall's letter. "Of course, it ( the letter ) didn't help her out any," he said. "It didn't make or break her ... We just used that to put in our file."

    He would not give details about where the information for the search warrant came from. It's not unusual for drug agents to rely on confidential sources.

    In a sense, the arrest has energized Nall, 28, and her husband, Terry, 36, an ex-Army man. He's the Marijuana Party's behind-the-scenes Web site guru.

    "We had lives. But now this is our life. It's consumed us," Terry Nall said.

    The Nalls grew up in Ashland. They lived in Germany and Texas, during his stint in the Army. They returned to Alabama to be close to family. Much of her support comes from Canadian activists.

    Loretta Nall said her views on marijuana were shaped, in part, by her brother's experience. An alcoholic, Randy Sapp, 35, has been in and out of jail for alcohol-fueled crimes.

    "For work release, they put him to loading Budweiser trucks," Nall said.

    That didn't work out so well.

    Sapp, back home in Ashland, is frank about his addictions. "If marijuana was legal, I would never pick up another drop of alcohol," he said.

    While voters in California and Nevada have tried to legalize marijuana for medical use, or in small quantities, Nall is dangling on the outer edge of the fringe in Alabama.

    "Loretta's been far more vocal in the middle of the desert," said Ben Power, 53, president of the Florida Marijuana Party.

    Power, who suffers from congestive heart failure, said he uses marijuana to dilate his blood vessels. His son is a sheriff's deputy, and drug agents have never targeted his West Palm Beach home.

    "I just think it's a lot easier in places like Miami, West Palm and Key West, where ideas might be a tad more progressive than in Alexander City," Power said.

    Nall is considering moving to Montgomery. She's alarmed that law enforcement officials question her 6-year-old daughter at school. The Nalls also have a 10-year-old son.

    They would hate to leave their two acres, the chickens, guineas, goose, St. Bernard and cat named Catfish.

    Terry Nall experiments with native landscaping plants and medicinal herbs. Plants in pots and cups and buckets are spread all over their yard and trailer.

    Some of the "green leafy substance" that deputies confiscated for tests in the state forensics lab had been cut up and left to dry on a plate, said Tallapoosa County Investigator Fred White.

    "That's kind of abnormal," he said.

    The Nalls predict the cuttings will turn up positive for geraniums and catnip. Even as deputies searched her property last fall, Loretta Nall could not contain her proselytizing. She told them marijuana was harmless.

    A black deputy reminded her that it's still illegal in the Alabama. She kept talking. "I told him that at one time it was illegal to help a slave to freedom in the state of Alabama."

    MAP posted-by: Beth
    Pubdate: Sat, 15 Mar 2003
    Source: Tuscaloosa News, The (AL)
    Copyright: 2003 The Tuscaloosa News
    Author: Carla Crowder

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