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May 26, 2008

Wisconsin roots in Bob Barr’s conversion to Libertarian party presidential nominee

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, May 26, 2008

On Sunday, former congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) received the Libertarian Party presidential nomination at their convention in Denver. But how did a right-wing ideologue like Barr, who championed the USA PATRIOT Act, authored and sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, and blocked the counting of votes in a Washington DC medical marijuana initiative end up being the nominee of a party that embraces freedom and is named after liberty?

Well, I’d say it all began back on Thursday, October 21, 1999, when I joined my friends Jim and Cheryl Miller and fellow Wisconsin medical cannabis activist Jacki Rickert (The Medical Marijuana Commando Squad) for a protest at Barr’s Capitol Hill office. Cheryl Miller was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971 and by 1999 had become completely paralyzed from the neck down.

The “Commando Squad” at Barr’s Capitol Hill office on Thursday, October 21, 1999.

It began when Jim placed Cheryl on a mattress in Barr’s office doorway, with Jacki on the right in her wheelchair and me on the left, and explained our mission while performing a “spasticity demonstration” on Cheryl’s afflicted limbs. Later, after supporters inside Barr’s office began chanting, “Bob Barr has gone too far,” Capitol Police broke up the demonstration, arresting Jim and placing Cheryl back in her wheelchair, sans padding.

Here's the video of the action at Barr's: .

Group shot outside Barr's office in 2001 that led to 30 minute detainment by Capitol Police at Barr's orders.

Returning to Barr’s office in April 2001 to pose for a group shot outside, our little commando squad was then detained and questioned for a half hour by Capitol Police as we were exiting the building, on Barr’s orders.

In July 2002, I was back in Washington for a Capitol Hill press conference for NORML click here with Jim and Cheryl Miller and Reps. Barney Frank, Ron Paul and others announcing the introduction of Frank’s States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act. Later, the late Libertarian filmmaker and activist Ron Crickenberger shot footage of Cheryl and me for use in LP tv commercials highlighting medical marijuana patients, including one used in Ed Thompson’s 2002 Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign.

Crickenberger also filmed Cheryl for a commercial targeting Bob Barr, who had been redistricted into a primary against another Republican incumbent. Run on behalf of the Libertarian candidate, the devastating commercial, voice over stating Bob Barr wants to jail patients like Cheryl with her asking, “Why would you do that me, Bob?,” aired thousands of times. Although polling gave him an 18-point lead going into the election, when the dust cleared, Barr was defeated. The powerful words of the seriously ill Cheryl had clearly struck a nerve with voters, and Barr’s congressional career had come to a sudden end.

Watch Cheryl's commercial here: .

It seems Barr’s awakening and transition from tyrant to civil libertarian had a lot to do with this extraordinary woman who, despite near total immobilization from multiple sclerosis, had the courage to go to Capitol Hill and stick up for medical cannabis patients like herself. Cheryl died on June 7, 2003 from complications of MS. A memorial, including a candlelight vigil at the US Supreme Court, was held for her in September 2003. Cheryl would have been 62 on May 21, 2008.

Barr himself acknowledged the power of Cheryl when he met Jim Miller at a talk in New York last year. His conversion shows that even the most hardened opponent of medical cannabis is capable of seeing the light. May that light shine into the cold hearts of the many elected officials still working against we the people to keep this medicine from patients who need it today.

Posted by Gary at May 26, 2008 09:55 AM


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