Facebook informs me that today would have been Ben's birthday.
As a student, I knew about Ben primarily through the headlines he made as a leader of NORML and related pot causes. I'd spot him playing chess at the Union or hanging around at marches and protests. When I worked at the student paper, I would often encourage reporters to call him for various stories, but never dealt with him myself.
I interned at Isthmus in 1993, however, and was assigned a story about medicinal pot. I called Ben and we talked on the phone for about an hour. He taught me about various aspects of medicinal marijuana that I still repeat. In particular, he explained how the pill forms of THC being pushed at the time didn't do any of the work that actually smoking pot did -- restore appetite, relax muscles. "You get plenty high," he told me, but it didn't do anything to comfort cancer patients or others that sought the legalization of medicinal pot.
He was a tremendous advocate, clearly able to out-wit anyone who challenged his stances. I never saw him lose a point and only the extremely inexperienced challenged him.
We should figure out some way to honor Masel around here. Any ideas?