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One Uninsured Group Can Now Exhale

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Former associate attorney general and convicted felon Webb Hubbell, now working for an insurance agency, has an important message for marijuana smokers: You don't have to quit to get life insurance.

"If you've been declined for life insurance or are paying above-market premiums or simply want to know" about life insurance for "responsible" marijuana smokers, then give him a call, he says on an "audio message" he made for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' Web site to explain its new life insurance program.

"Hello, this is Webb Hubbell," the recording begins, with appropriate mellow jazz in the background. "For years, responsible marijuana smokers have not been able to access affordable life insurance," explains the former Little Rock mayor and Arkansas chief justice.

Hubble, longtime close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, told us that "responsible" dopers means occasional users as opposed to constant smokers -- something like social drinkers vs. lushes.

So these social smokers "have been forced to lie on applications, forgo the health benefits [for people with AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy] of responsible marijuana use . . . or purchase . . . [policies] that did not require an application or a physical. If they were honest about their use of marijuana they were either flat-out declined or rated so high" -- well, how high were they? -- "that they could not afford" the premiums.

"No longer," Hubbell declares triumphantly. Two carriers have agreed to write policies for users, he said. But wait a minute! This stuff is illegal. Well, "technically it is still illegal even in the Netherlands, where you can buy it over the counter," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML's executive director. "Eleven states, with some 100 million people, have decriminalized marijuana," St. Pierre said, "and medical marijuana has been legal for 10 years in some states." We're talking a substantial underserved market here.

So how did Hubbell, who did 18 months in federal prison in 1995-1996 for bilking his old law firm clients, become NORML's insurance agent? Hubbell told us he met NORML founder Keith Stroup in 1996 when both were working on reform in the criminal justice system. And on the three-minute recording he recounts the moving story of a NORML member who was unable to get a bank loan to expand his trucking business.

The "bank required additional life insurance," Hubbell explains, but "his local insurance agent had told him he simply had to quit smoking marijuana to get the coverage the bank was requiring." Well, " he didn't want to quit, and he wanted NORML's help [and] they contacted me," said Hubbell, who works for the McLaughlin Company -- not to be confused with television's McLaughlin Group.

Hubbell said he found a carrier to write a policy for the man and then "we decided the time was right to make traditional insurance . . . available" to other reefer aficionados. So far, two insurance companies have agreed to write life insurance policies, and Hubbell said he hopes to expand coverage to include health and disability insurance.

"Challenging as it may be," Hubbell says on the message, "NORML is . . . working hard to both reform cannabis laws as well as [to help] cannabis consumers all around the world." And Hubbell is ready to get them insured.

Loop Fans simply must listen to Hubbard's "audio message" about the NORML life insurance program -- and the plug for his agency -- at http://audio.norml.org/audio_stash/staff_psa/webb_jazz_test_2.mp3.

One Star Still Shines

Despite her central role in getting the country into that increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's star is scarcely diminished. In fact, even though she was President Bush's national security adviser throughout Bush's first term, she still ranks quite high in the national popularity polls -- scoring twice Bush's ratings.

That may be why people keep asking her if she's going to be on the GOP ticket in 2008.

The question came up again last week in an interview on German television.

"Before we say goodbye," the interviewer said, "the German public also is viewing with interest that the presidential race is starting pretty early this season, almost after the midterm elections. So -- and they're also fascinated by you as a person, so let me ask you this. Could you imagine any circumstances under which you would be on a Republican ticket?"

"Oh, I'm going back to Stanford," Rice said.

"I want to generate some news here," the interviewer explained.

"No, maybe the Germans will see me at Stanford in Berlin," one of the university's overseas centers.

"Going back to Stanford," where she was provost? That's what she says. Of course, that's what she said at the end of Bush's first term -- and she's still here.

Defer That Junket

Bad news for samba fans on the Hill and in the administration. The embassy in Brasilia says if you haven't booked a hotel room in Rio by now, forget about it. It's Carnival time!

The embassy has asked the State Department to send out an ALDAC -- All Diplomatic and Consular Posts -- message alerting them to the problem.

In its request, the embassy said to "please be advised that due to the high tourism season and the upcoming Carnival acceptable hotel rooms in Rio de Janeiro are booked from now through the end of February," and "it is highly unlikely that any accommodations will be available during this period.

"Post therefore requests that all officials and TDY travelers defer travel to Rio de Janeiro until March 5, 2007." Of course, if you're on one of the Hill appropriations committees or in the leadership and are desperately searching for facts . . .

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