For my out-of-town readers, Ben Masel was a well-known local Madison activist, known for his NORML advocacy, his primary challenges to establishment politicians, and his lawsuits defending civil liberties against illegal actions by law enforcement. He took part in the Capitol protests last year even while struggling with lung cancer. He passed away on April 30, 2011, and shortly afterward the Madison City Council passed a resolution naming April 20 (4/20) as Ben Masel Day.
I did not know Ben Masel personally, but I always had a great deal of respect for his calm demeanor and his willingness to put himself in harm's way to stand up for a cause. I wrote his name in on ballots for local elections from time to time if I really didn't like any of the choices, because I knew it would not be a disaster even if a bunch of voters did likewise and Ben accidentally won. He was a competent and responsible adult who used his skills to advance causes that are frequently associated with young hotheads (and potheads). He has been missed.