Indiana NORML Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Steve Dillon, has been given the Al Horn award for Lifetime Achievement by the national organization.

The Al Horn Award Winners for 2014

In Key West each year, we also present the Al Horn Award — our lifetime achievement award, named after an early NORML attorney, an outstanding criminal defense lawyer who ran a progressive law collective in Atlanta, GA — to a lawyer who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to justice. This year the award was given to two midwestern attorneys — Dan Viets from Missouri and Steve Dillon from Indiana — both of whom have for decades headed the statewide NORML organization in their state, working politically to legalize marijuana; as well as serving on the frontline of the war against marijuana smokers by representing those charged with marijuana crimes. I am honored to serve with both gentlemen on the national NORML board of directors, and were I in need of a criminal attorney in either MO or IN, I would be delighted to be represented by either man, knowing I had a committed and experienced advocate arguing on my behalf.

In the end, this fight to legalize marijuana is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom – the right to be free from government intrusion into areas of your personal life. In the words of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 sodomy prosecution, Kennedy discussed the privacy provisions of the First Amendment and the liberty interests protected by the Constitution. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life … It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.”

Let me encourage any criminal defense attorney reading this who is not already a member of the NORML Legal Committee to consider joining the NLC; and encourage any criminal defense attorneys who have not yet attended one of our annual legal seminars, to take the plunge. You will be glad you did, and you will find a supportive and helpful legal community.

And the next time you find yourself in need of a good criminal defense attorney because of a drug arrest, go to the NORML website and take a look at the NORML Legal Committee attorneys from your state. If I am a defendant in a marijuana case (and I have been), I want my lawyer to understand there is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana by adults. That’s not the only thing a smoker should look for when selecting an attorney, but that is the first thing.