Burning Issue Hits Medina Fair Booth

Burning Issue Hits Medina Fair Booth
Posted by FoM on August 04, 2000 at 07:30:50 PT
By Craig Webb, Beacon Journal Staff Writer 
Source: Akron Beacon Journal
Marijuana supporters claiming persecution over lighter distribution. A cloud of controversy hangs over a Medina County Fair booth sponsored by a group of activists seeking to legalize marijuana.John Hartman, president of the Cleveland Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he believes the group's political message has prompted fair organizers to attempt to block the distribution of cigarette lighters with the group's name.
Considering the group's message is in stark contrast to the conservative nature of most of the fair's attractions, Hartman said, he's surprised they were even permitted to rent out the $300 booth space with the Libertarian Party.``To me, the county looks like a police state,'' he said.James R. Bigam, who serves as the fair's director of security, said he approached the group because there were concerns they were distributing the lighters to minors.Besides, he said, the group stated on its rental agreement that it would be selling political items -- not lighters.``This has nothing to do with the message, just the lighters,'' he said.Considering many of the structures at the fairgrounds are well over 100 years old, coupled with the large quantities of straw and sawdust, Bigam said, fire safety is a major concern.``We are just concentrating on putting on a safe fair,'' he said.Medina Fire Marshal Mark Crumley said the group did not violate any city fire codes with the sale of the lighters.Hartman said he wonders why his booth is being singled out when there's another vendor on the midway who specializes in the sale of lighters.``In light of the others selling lighters -- I would think this is politically motivated,'' he said.Fair Board President Jim Martin said the difference is that the other vendors stipulated on their contracts that they were selling lighters.``We just want (NORML) to abide by the rules,'' he said.Roger Carrow, of Mount Gilead, said he never expected his lighter stand would be in the center of a burning controversy.Carrow said he sells specialty lighters that range in price from a few bucks to several hundred dollars.His selling policy is simple: Anyone can buy a lighter, but you have to be over 18 years old or with an adult to get the lighter fluid.``I don't want some little kid running around setting toilet paper on fire in the bathroom or seeing if the straw will burn in the barn,'' Carrow said.He said most of his lighters, which come in a variety of shapes ranging from a dinosaur to a horse, will never see the end of a cigarette.``A lot of people who buy these are not even smokers, they are collectors,'' he said.After being warned it might be kicked out of the fair if it sold additional lighters, the NORML group continued yesterday to display dozens of the contraband items with a sign stating they are available for $1 each.Cleveland resident Jerry Braseman, who confessed to a group of juveniles gathered at the stand that he smokes marijuana weekly, said he planned to continue selling the lighters to raise awareness and money for the group.``There's always someone out there hassling us,'' he said. ``We are like a lightning rod for controversy.''Craig Webb can be reached at 330-725-3547 or 800-589-6590 or cwebb thebeaconjournal.comContact Information: Friday, August 4, 2000The Beacon Journal Publishing Co.Related Articles & Web Sites:NorthCoast NORML Libertarian Party Shop Cleared To Open Claims Mayor is Playing Politics Ravenna: Cannabis Shop Lacks Required Permits 
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