Sunday, October 16, 2005
Loretta Nall, 31, is president of the U.S. Marijuana Party.
-- Rob Carr
By Phillip Rawls
The Associated Press
Loretta Nall, a 31-year-old mother of two, is running for governor of Alabama when she's not busy with her other duties: writing for Cannabis Culture magazine and serving as president of the U.S. Marijuana Party.
Nall says she doesn't want to be seen as the marijuana candidate for governor.
"I want to be seen as a common country girl doing something anybody could do if they chose to," she said.
Nall's days as a common country girl ended in 2002 when officers raided the trailer she shares with her husband and two children just outside Alexander City. Officers found rolling papers, a scale, and a small amount of marijuana -- .87 grams -- but it was enough to net Nall misdemeanor convictions for possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia. She got a 30-day suspended sentence, but she is appealing her case.
The raid and the legal process turned Nall into an advocate for changing drug policy. She got hired by Marc Emery, the recently jailed publisher of Cannabis Culture, and she formed the U.S. Marijuana Party, which has active chapters in seven states.
Now she's seeking the Libertarian Party's nomination for governor because the party already has a structure in Alabama and because they agree on a major issue: They want marijuana legalized.
Nall said she still uses marijuana occasionally for pain relief. She used to smoke for recreational reasons, but stopped after her arrest.
"Now there's no enjoyment in it if you think the cops are going to come," she said.
If Nall had her way, marijuana would be a regulated product like tobacco and alcohol.
Nall already is conducting a vigorous Internet campaign, but running for governor as a Libertarian is not easy. Third parties have to collect more than 40,000 signatures from Alabama voters to get listed on the ballot statewide.
Nall calls the number "a monstrous obstacle" designed by Democratic and Republican state officials to keep out competition, but she plans a walk across the state to help the party collect the needed number.
Mike Rster, state administrator of the Libertarian Party, is not optimistic about his party getting on the general election ballot for Nov. 7, 2006.
"It's virtually an impossible task. I don't see any of the third parties being able to do it," he said.
Nall said she isn't dismayed by the task. She figures collecting the signatures will allow her to meet thousands of voters and help her campaign.
"I've got this gut feeling that come November of next year, I stand a very good chance of being governor with the Republicans trying to out-Jesus each other and the Democrats trying to out-socialist each other," she said.
If Nall comes across Republican incumbent Bob Riley on the campaign trail, he won't be a stranger. She grew up in his hometown of Ashland. "I went to school with Gov. Riley's kids," she said.
Nall and Riley may share the same hometown, but their platforms are very different.
Nall says Alabama's prisons are jam-packed because the state's drug policy is shortsighted. She says many of the people in prison for property crimes were stealing and robbing to support addictions to hard drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
Prison doesn't address their drug problems, but good drug treatment programs would. And over time, Alabama could reduce the $305 million appropriation for prisons, she said.
She envisions programs similar to methadone treatment centers, where addicts could get drugs in a controlled setting and go through counseling to wean them off the drugs.
If Alabama did that, expensive drug task forces would no longer be needed, she said.
Nall also advocates school vouchers and privatizing most of the public education system.
And she says taxpayers ought to be able to choose which programs they want their tax dollars to fund. On their annual tax return, "they could say, 'Yes I want my money to go to education, and no, I don't want it to go to prisons,'" she said.
What would happen if taxpayers put more tax money into a program than was needed or didn't fund one the governor and Legislature thought was important?
"I don't have an answer for that," she said.
Nall is an atheist, but she said that if elected, she wouldn't try to impose her views on others.
"I'm not anti-religious. It's freedom of or freedom from. I've chosen freedom from, and you're free to choose of," she said.
The campaign for governor will take Nall away from her children -- 13-year-old Alexander and 8-year-old Isabelle -- but she said they are excited about their mother's quest for the governor's mansion.
"My daughter is like, 'Do we get to move into the mansion?' We live in a trailer, so the big mansion idea is exciting to my kids," she said.