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Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 13:14:08 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Store is hardly normal for Lodi
Store is hardly normal for Lodi
Small town residents aren't sure what to make of shop that pushes for
BY CARL CHANCELLOR
Published Friday, November 23, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.
LODI: Stepping through the front door of this tiny storefront on Lodi's town
square is like being transported back in time more than 30 years.
The sweet and pungent smell of burning incense, the otherworldly glow of
black lights, psychedelic posters, lava lamps, tied-dyed shirts and music
from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead -- a heady combination
of sensations that call back the 1960s and '70s for visitors to the newly
opened NORML ``retail boutique and information center.''
NORML is the name of the store, which the green neon sign in the front
window proclaims. It is also the name of the nonprofit political action
group -- the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- that
has been working to decriminalize the use of marijuana since its founding in
Since its opening in Lodi less than a month ago, the NORML store, which sits
directly across the street from Village Hall, has been a town curiosity.
``A lot of people have been stopping in and walking by to see what we are
all about,'' said Cher Neufer, who manages the store. She also goes by
Cheryl, the name she used when she ran unsuccessfully as the Libertarian
Party candidate for the 22nd District Ohio Senate seat in 2000 and this year
for Harrisville Township trustee.
Dressed in a loosely fitting tie-dyed T-shirt that reads ``Legalize
Freedom,'' the good-natured Neufer, 54, describes herself as one of Medina
County's original hippies.
``Overall, I think we have gotten a good reaction,'' she said. ``People are
always waving to us through the window, or giving us the thumbs up.''
``Us'' refers to Neufer and assistant store manager Alice Higgins.
``This is the best thing to happen to Lodi,'' proclaimed Higgins, 41, who
calls herself a ``rebel and free spirit.''
Not everyone in Lodi is as sure as Higgins that Haight-Ashbury meets
Mayberry is the perfect mix.
``We have had a few inquiries,'' said Lodi Mayor Tom Longsdorf. ``At this
point, I don't quite know what may or may not happen.''
The late '60s ``summer of love'' novelties that the store sells -- clothing,
backpacks, American flags made from hemp, patches honoring marijuana, love
beads, black-light posters -- remind one of what was once euphemistically
called a ``head shop.''
But there is one big difference.
``We don't sell any drug paraphernalia,'' said Neufer, noting the absence of
pipes, bongs and roach clips on store shelves.
What Neufer and Higgins push in their little shop of cannabis is a political
agenda that supports the removal of all penalties for the private possession
of marijuana by adults, the cultivation for personal use, the casual
not-for-profit transfer of small amounts and the development of a legally
controlled market for marijuana.
One of the main features of the store, in addition to the dozen pamphlets
dealing with marijuana and marijuana use, are several clipboards stuffed
One petition urges Ohio Gov. Bob Taft to support the medical use of
Another calls for repealing a federal law that strips financial aid from
students convicted of a drug-related crime.
``And this one is for NORML membership,'' said Neufer, holding up a yellow
legal pad filled with more than two-dozen names.
Neufer, who is a graduate of the University of Akron, said she never drank
or smoked cigarettes, but did get into marijuana while in college in the
``I smoked pot and I don't see how pot has hurt me,'' said Neufer, who
refuses to buy into the argument that smoking marijuana leads one to harder
Higgins, who also works as a bartender, stressed that alcohol consumption
has caused countless deaths and is much more dangerous than pot smoking.
``You don't hear of people getting killed from smoking pot,'' she said.
The drug debate aside, it seems that most town folk are taking a
wait-and-see attitude toward the store.
``There are a few people who are excited. I think there was an initial shock
when people heard it was coming, but I don't see that now,'' said Owen
Yoder, owner of Western Auto, the combination automotive and hardware supply
store two doors down from NORML.
Yoder, who has operated his store on the square for 35 years, visited his
new neighbor recently and indicated that what he saw in the store was
``But I don't see how they are going to sell enough to make a go of it,'' he
Neufer said most of the business people have been supportive, although she
said that the local newspaper refuses to carry the store's advertisement.
Still the lack of advertising hasn't seemed to hurt business.
Deborah Hargrove, 50, was just one of a half-dozen people who came into the
store during a 20-minute period one recent Friday afternoon.
``I just love it. This place is cool,'' Hargrove declared.
The store is open six days a week. On Monday through Friday, the hours are
noon to 7 p.m.
``On Saturday we are here from 11 to 4:20 (p.m.),'' said a smiling Neufer,
staying true to her nonconformist nature.
Carl Chancellor can be reached at 330-996-3725 or
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