Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Local hopes run will influence candidates

Local hopes run will influence candidates

By Amy Redd
The Alexcity Outlook

In the midst of a three-year battle with the local judicial system, Alexander City resident Loretta Nall announced she was running for governor of Alabama in 2006.

Nall, a 31-year-old wife and mother and founder of the Alabama Marijuana Party, appeared at the Alexander City Courthouse Tuesday to continue the appeals process for a 2004 misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction. The case, which Nall claims violated her constitutional rights, helped form the basis for Nall's campaign for governor in 2006. Nall is seeking nomination from the Libertarian Party and among the top issues of her campaign are drug policy and prison reform, she said.

"The drug war has given rise to the current Alabama prison crisis, which is costing Alabamians millions of dollars a year with only negative returns in exchange," Nall said. "The other candidates are not up to addressing these important but controversial issues because they have built their political careers on meaningless slogans like 'Tough on Drugs' and 'what about the children?,' which in fact do nothing to deter drug use or protect children. Through my candidacy, I would love to force the other candidates to address these issues."

Nall was convicted on misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia after local narcotics investigators found marijuana seeds, a scale and rolling papers in her home during a November 2002 raid.

Tallapoosa County District Judge Kim Taylor gave Nall a 30-day suspended sentence over 12 months and a year of unsupervised probation in February 2004, which she has appealed. Nall said her home was searched after she submitted a letter to the Birmingham News about drug law reform and said her constitutional right to free speech was violated because of the police raid of her residence.

"Political freedom of speech has gone out the window. Just look at my case. You voice public dissent about a public policy and then you go to jail," she said.

Nall said drug policy reform is needed in Alabama because taxpayers bear the cost of keeping non-violent offenders in already overcrowded prisons and and policy reform could "save tens of millions in law enforcement budgets, court costs, prison costs, not to mention the immeasurable social costs of saddling young people with criminal records for smoking a little pot."

"We're paying for them to be non-productive citizens. It's not about the right to get high. It is about how the current war on drugs is not meeting its stated objectives," she said.

In March 2005, Nall appeared in court to appeal her original sentence, where she said she was offered a plea bargain of eight months in prison without the possibility or probation or parole in exchange for a guilty plea. Nall refused to plea out and demanded a jury trial.

Tuesday, Nall learned her case would be carried over into the next session and her next court date has yet to be decided.

"If they (the court) are hoping for dismissal and waiver, it's not going to happen. I'm going to continue to show up and I'm not going to plea out," she said.

As Nall continues her fight with the legal system, she is also planning activities for her campaign, including a walk across Alabama in which she hopes to share her campaign issues.

Nall also plans to address issues such as non-compliance with the Patriot Act, bringing National Guard soldiers home from Iraq, gun control laws, legalized gambling, states' rights and a proposed check box style governing system that she said would "let citizens decide how their (tax) money is spent."

"I promote an Alabama that is overall way less dependent on the federal government," she said. "I want Alabama to be more self-reliant and able to take care of her own without so much Washington D.C. influence."
The Outlook gave me top billing on the front page. It is the perfect storm. The man in the middle is my congressional Rep. Mike Rogers whom I have lobbied many times and write on average twice a week. He went back on his word on the medical marijuana vote in Congress this year and voted NO. I think I'll autograph a copy of The Outlook and send it to him.

On the opposite side of the page is a story about the local Mexican eatery being denied a liquor license because of alleged drug dealing on the premises.

I very much appreciate the Outlook doing such a bang up job on this article!!

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