NORML presents Hunter S. Thompson Media Award to "Denver Westworld" at conference

This past week, Denver played host to the annual conference of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. On Friday, I was part of a panel discussion at which NORML presented its Hunter S. Thompson Media award to "Denver Westworld" -- which is close, but no herbally enhanced cigar.

I had been wondering if such a spelling error was in the offing, given that the online conference agenda also used the spelling "Westworld." But NORML director Allen St. Pierre, who presented the award, was good-humored about the gaffe, boasting that when NORML sends us a new plaque with the proper name of this publication, the first award will become an instant collector's item thanks to what he referred to as a "stoner" misspelling.

Not that stoners are the only ones who make this error, as I pointed out while accepting the award on behalf of Westword as a whole. Since the paper's 1977 founding, plenty of folks have called us Westworld, as if our moniker was a homage to the popular 1973 movie, in which a Western tourist attraction turns bloody thanks to a malfunctioning robot played by Yul Brynner. And this phenomenon could well ramp up again next year: The Internet Movie Database lists a Westworld remake starring Russell Crowe that's expected to hit theaters in 2012.

The panel that followed was moderated by Steve Bloom, a past Hunter S. Thompson award winner for his work on the website CelebStoner.com. Bloom and fellow panelist Chris Goldstein, of FreedomIsGreen.com, discussed their participation in Willie Nelson's Teapot Party, which now has more than 64,000 Facebook friends -- a number that grows daily. Also on hand: attorney Jerri Merritt of TalkLeft.com, Radical Russ Belville, the man behind NORML's daily radio show and Stash blog, and Phil Smith of StopTheDrugWar.org.

A frequent theme struck by panelists was the impact of the Internet and social media when it comes to changing opinions about marijuana. Belville argued that the "prohibitionists" are inept at using new-media tools in comparison with reformers, while Smith said he's now increasingly confident that legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use will happen in his lifetime -- something he was less confident about until recent years.

Indeed, optimism was the theme of the day. Guess that's how the Westworld turns.

More from our Kenny Be/Comics archive: "NORML conference deserves honorary proclamation: Kenny Be's Worst-Case Scenario."

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