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Reporting from Netroots Nation in Las Vegas

As I write this, Senator Al Franken from Minnesota is sitting across from me at my table in the huge Rio Hotel ballroom.  We’re watching House candidate Tarryl Clark, who will take on Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota.  He came out from backstage to watch and since my table is closest to the door, he just plopped down and gave me a polite “Hello.”

I’m starstruck that the guy I watched declare “The Al Franken Decade” on Saturday Night Live when I was twelve is six feet away from me.

More below the fold.I arrived in Las Vegas and got to the Netroots Nation convention just an hour before my panel.  I was on with Jill Harris and Stephen Gutwillig from DPA, Major Neill Franklin from LEAP, and Jon Walker from FireDogLake blog.  There were probably three dozen people at our panel.  There were a dozen panels going on simultaneously, but I still think there could have been more people at ours.

Ben Masel from Wisconsin NORML was at my panel and he hung out as I was interviewed by a graduate student named Brooke from UC Santa Barbara.  We then retired to his room to, uh, enjoy the fifteenth-floor view and test the insulating potential of wet rolled up bath towels.

On returning (after a quick purchase of gum, eye drops, and Febreze), walking down the hall I ran into my blogging colleagues out at Pam’s House Blend, Pam Spaulding and Autumn Sandeen.  Pam and I stopped at a cafe to have a bite and we just talked and talked.  It was great to get her take on the Shirley Sherrod firing.

Now I’m here, in a room with probably a couple thousand progressive bloggers and, of course, Senator Al Franken.  The scope and professionalism of this conference is amazing.  We’re live streaming on UStream and on Dish Network.  I’ve gotten to speak to many people from may different special interest groups and found a way to get them to think about marijuana policy.

Unions?  Drug testing violates worker rights and provides an unfair way of companies to fire workers who might be interested in organizing.

Environment?  Prohibition forces illegal growing to occur on public lands and sometimes that leads to environmental damage.  And great fields of hemp would do wonders for reducing oil usage and sucking up carbon dioxide.

LGBT Rights?  HIV+/AIDS patients in 36 states can still be locked up for smoking a joint, even if it is helping them keep on weight and ease pain, even if their doctor recommends they smoke that joint.

Civil Rights?  Please.  Every one of us on the panel made it abundantly clear how racist the war on marijuana is.

Marijuana law reform hasn’t made it to the plenary sessions, but we’re in the break outs and it is beginning to look like the netroots are ready to openly and strongly support ending prohibition.

OK, Senator Franken is speaking.  Gotta go…

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