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Benjamin Franklin Invented NORML (and the marijuana law reform movement)!

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director January 17, 2010

    Today America Celebrates Ben Franklin’s 304th Birthday

    By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors, medical marijuana patient

    Of all of America’s Founding Fathers, only Benjamin Franklin was a signer of all three of our country’s essential documents, The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty that ended the Revolutionary War and the United States Constitution. Benjamin Franklin was also the only Founding Father who actively campaigned against the institution of slavery. As a scientist, Benjamin Franklin, the man who learned to control lightning, was as revered and world-famous in his day, as Einstein was in his. Franklin, among many other things, gave us the conceptual framework we still use every time we think about things electrical. He was the first to describe electricity as having positive and negative charges. Ben Franklin’s fingerprints are everywhere one looks in 21st Century.

    Ben Franklin has often been called “the first American”, because, in so many ways, he embodied the brash new nation he helped create. His talents as an inventor and scientist are legendary. Consider a few of the useful creations that Ben left us: bifocal glasses, the wood stove and the lightning rod. They were all inventions he chose not to patent because he saw they were so potentially useful to the general public. They were among his many gifts to humanity. As the statesman, Ben Franklin was as essential to creating our new nation, as was George Washington, the soldier. Franklin’s unique combination of charm, celebrity and brilliance brought France in on our side of the Revolutionary War with the troops, navy and money necessary for us to win. As a proud citizen of a free society, Ben’s genius also flourished with his social inventions like the volunteer fire department, the lending library, the community hospital and, what has become, the University of Pennsylvania. As a writer, his prime work is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, a bestseller, never out of print since it was written, nearly 250 years ago. It is the true story of a runaway printer’s apprentice who, at the age of 17, stole himself from his older brother to whom he was indentured until he was 21 years old. Franklin’s Autobiography is the original blueprint to the ‘American Dream’ of how to become a self-made man. Horatio Alger and Dale Carnegie, are simply Ben’s 19th and 20th Century adherents and proselytizers. Today in the 21st Century, self-help books cover whole walls in bookshops. Franklin was the author the world’s very first best-selling book in the self-help genre.

    I made a few comments at NORML’s National Conference at the 2008 conference about why I believe that NORML is a legitimate offspring of Ben Franklin’s social genius. On my flight home, I looked out the airplane window and I saw Ben waving back at me.

    I was seated aft of the wings, watching the flaps extend to slow the aircraft for landing. I noticed from each of the tailing edges of the wing’s struts, there was a little antenna-looking thing, about as long as a ballpoint pen. I wondered, were those things some version of Ben Franklin’s lightning rod? The flight attendants couldn’t tell me, but I collared a pilot and asked him. “You bet,” he answered, “those are kind of negative lightning rods. As the air rushes over the wings, these little rods help drain off any charges the airplane builds up flying. With those little rods dissipating the plane’s electrical charge, they make aircraft far less likely to be hit by lightning.” Yes, kindly old Benjamin Franklin had been looking back at me from the tailing edge of that wing strut, after all.

    Ben Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts in Jan 17, 1706, in an age dark with superstition and just fourteen short years after the Salem witch trials had been held. Not only were witches seen as real, witches were so greatly feared they were seen as needing execution by pressing, drowning, burning and hanging, or all of the above. Natural phenomena were so poorly understood that the Devil often got the blame for their occurrence. For example, if lightning struck your house or barn, it was seen as a sign that you deserved it. People might stand back let your lightning-struck building burn, as God intended, and work to save only “innocent” buildings around it. Franklin’s revelation, and kite-in-the-thunderstorm proof, was that the lightning in the clouds was the very same stuff as the static electricity created by brushing your hair or rubbing your socks on the carpet, just present in vastly larger quantities. It was also Franklin’s brilliant and revolutionary deduction that one could safely discharge lightning striking a building by channeling the charge down a wire to a rod buried three feet into the ground, still a foundation of today’s international fire protection codes.

    By explaining and controlling one of nature’s most fearsome phenomenons, Ben Franklin’s elegant gift to humanity of the knowledge of what lightning really was, swept away before it countless generations of hocus pocus, superstition and ignorance on the subject.

    After arriving as a runaway youth in Philadelphia with nothing more than two loaves of bread under his arms while eating a third, and through the full employment of his wits and ambition, by the age of 35, Ben Franklin was a rich man. He was a great success as a businessman, both printer and publisher. Along the way, Ben Franklin also invented franchising as a way to speed the creation of his wealth. By hiring and training the very best and brightest employees he could find, and then sending them off to other colonies with the capital sufficient to set up Franklin-style print shops there, they created a sizable income stream that was sent back home to Philadelphia. Ben was soon financially set up for his new life as one of the great scientists and statesmen of modern history. By the age of 42 Ben retired from business for good. The invention of science has always been regarded as one of mankind’s greatest achievements; Ben Franklin soon became one of the history of science’s great practitioners. At the age of 47, Ben was awarded the Copley Medal, his era’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Physics.

    In 1787, Josiah Wedgewood produced 20,000 of these medals in porcelan and sent one of them to Ben Franklin, who said he was tormented by doubts while looking at it.

    But of all the gifts Ben Franklin left the modern world, one of the most precious and productive, and something he is rarely credited with as its inventor, is the service club, the voluntary association of free people who come together and, by joint action, make their communities better…you know—the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, NORML! Ben Franklin, as a young printer, started such a club, the prototype of all future service clubs and nonprofits. It was called, Junto. They met every Friday night in a room above a tavern. It is during these club meetings where the first lending library came to life, the University of Pennsylvania, the volunteer fire department and the community hospital got their legs under them. Junto was the place where good ideas became community action; this is Ben Franklin’s brilliant organizational legacy that led directly to NORML.

    Well, just how well are we modern day folks at NORML caring for Ben’s precious intellectual legacy? First, the Great Experimenter would probably ask, “How is the experiment going?” NORML’s website could connect him with 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies in the burgeoning field of Cannabinoid/endocannabinoid research and to 2,500 cataloged articles from the general press on the subject of marijuana.

    malemede.jpg
    As a writer, publisher and businessman, Ben Franklin would revel in the world-wide web and its potential. NORML’s website and blog are visited by up to 40,000 people every day, about 4 million unique visitors per year. Our website is stocked with over 10,000 pages of closely vetted information on the subject of marijuana, and from our online lending library of information, each day, every single day, the public downloads and prints off, in their own homes and offices, between 1.25-to-1.5 million pages from NORML’s website! That makes it about 10-million pages per week, or 500 million pages per year—all printed off by the end-user without requiring a single postage stamp for delivery!!! (A penny saved is still a penny earned—just as Poor Richard taught us so many years ago.) I think old Ben would be very proud of NORML for this wonderfully frugal, but revolutionary and growing success in the world of information dissemination.

    The scientific method and proper intellectual rigor applied to the problems at hand were extremely important to Ben Franklin, all throughout his long life; these are organizational values that have been instilled since the beginning of NORML by our Board of Directors. In addition to our well-known legal tradition and the support of the over 550 attorneys of NORML’s Legal Committee; NORML’s scientific tradition forms the second, interlocking intellectual backbone of our organization. In the nearly 40 years of NORML’s existence, many luminaries in the area of science and science education have served/or are serving on the NORML’s Board of Directors. Here is just a small sampling from the long distinguished list of men and women of science who have helped make NORML what it is today: Dr. Benjamin Spock, M.D., the ground-breaking and best-selling pediatrician; Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., world-recognized pioneer in alternative medicine; Dr. Kary Mullis, PhD., Nobel Laureate Chemistry 1992, for work upon which is based all DNA replication and cataloguing work that has been done since; Dr. Louis Lasagna, M.D., the first scientist to prove experimentally that the placebo effect was real; Dr. Lester Grinspoon, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, Harvard Medical School; Dr. John P. Morgan, M.D., Professor of Pharmacology and a noted Pharmaco-ethnomusicologist; and Ann Druyan, President of Cosmos Studios, and co-writer and co-producer with her late husband, Carl Sagan, of the beloved Emmy and Peabody Award winning Cosmos Series for PBS. NORML Board Members, all.

    Yes, indeed, I think Ben Franklin would be very proud to have spawned NORML, just as we are, proud to be Ben’s offspring.

    HAPPY 304th BIRTHDAY, BEN! THANKS FOR EVERYTHING! LET FREEDOM RING!

    *Thanks to Robert Melamede, PhD for the chart

    76 Responses to “Benjamin Franklin Invented NORML (and the marijuana law reform movement)!”

    1. Mark says:

      # 40:

      There were 2 bills:

      Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009 (Introduced in House)

      HR 2943 IH

      111th CONGRESS

      1st Session

      H. R. 2943
      To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use, and for other purposes.

      IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

      June 18, 2009
      Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts (for himself, Ms. BALDWIN, Mr. PAUL, Mr. ROHRABACHER, and Mr. HINCHEY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

      ——————————————————————————–

      A BILL
      To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use, and for other purposes.

      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

      SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

      This Act may be cited as the `Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009′.

      SEC. 2. ELIMINATION OF CERTAIN MARIJUANA-RELATED PENALTIES.

      Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no penalty may be imposed under an Act of Congress for the possession of marijuana for personal use, or for the not-for-profit transfer between adults of marijuana for personal use. For the purposes of this section, possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana shall be presumed to be for personal use, as shall the not-for-profit transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana, except that the civil penalty provided in section 405 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 844a) may be imposed for the public use of marijuana if the amount of the penalty does not exceed $100.

      This was the other bill:

      Apr 17, 2008 – Introduced in House. This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the House for consideration. This is the latest version of the bill currently available on GovTrack.

      HR 5843 IH

      110th CONGRESS

      2d Session

      H. R. 5843

      To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use, and for other purposes.

      IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

      April 17, 2008

      Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts (for himself and Mr. PAUL) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

      ——————————————————————————–
      A BILL

      To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use, and for other purposes.

      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

      SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

      This Act may be cited as the `Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults’.

      SEC. 2. ELIMINATION OF CERTAIN MARIJUANA-RELATED PENALTIES.

      Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no penalty may be imposed under an Act of Congress for the possession of marijuana for personal use, or for the not-for-profit transfer between adults of marijuana for personal use. For the purposes of this section, possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana shall be presumed to be for personal use, as shall the not-for-profit transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana, except that the civil penalty provided in section 405 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 844a) may be imposed for the public use of marijuana if the amount of the penalty does not exceed $100.

      This bill is very large, and loading it may cause your web browser to perform sluggishly, or even freeze. This is especially true for old and/or bad browsers. As an alternative you can download the PDF of the bill or read the text on THOMAS.
      Continue on to the bill…

      So if I am not mistaken, one bill died and the other is still alive.

    2. Jed The head says:

      Ben Franklin was the most important person in our history. His use of hemp is well documented as well as Jefferson and Washington and most of our founding fathers. If you support prohibition of hemp/cannabis you are a racist. And can we all please stop using the Spanish name for this plant. It was a tactic used by those responsible for prohibition. If they would have called it by it’s English names Hemp or cannabis the general public would not have gone along with prohibition. They vilified it by calling it marijuana and saying that Mexicans, blacks and jazz musicians were the only ones using it (reefer madness). Let’s all show respect for our founding fathers and call it by it’s English names. Let us not continue Harry Anslinger’s tactics.

    3. claygooding says:

      Ahhhhhh,a breather from the proby beating and drum beating.
      A good article,and a reminder that our countries history is full of productive skilled people that have made this world a better,safer place.
      And in actuality,we all hope to leave this world with someone,anyone believing that our own efforts and tasks have made a difference for the good of man and/or society.
      Winter solstice is past,time to get your ground ready for spring and time to offer our government one more chance to do more harm to the cartels than all the billions of dollar and DEA actions have accomplished,after trying for the last 40+ years.
      If our lawmakers will legalize marijuana,we the people will remove 70% of the cartels cash flow by the fall
      of 2010.
      And we don’t need tax dollars,guns or helicopters to do the job. We will do it with a hoe and a water can.
      How many billions of dollars,peoples lives,peoples civil rights and time will it take for our law enforcement people to do the same job?
      And removing 70% of the cartels cash flow will deal the cartels more harm than anything our government has accomplished,or will accomplish continuing to do the same things they are now.
      It is a viable,peaceful solution to a stagnant,violent
      situation.

      America does not have a marijuana problem,we can find marijuana in any town in America.

    4. Anonymous says:

      Too bad Anslinger wasn’t hit by lightning !

    5. Jim says:

      Great article. I am proud to live in Philadelphia knowing Ben Franklin was here too.

    6. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Benjamin Franklin is the complete opposite of the “Florida’s so-called drug czar, Bruce Grant.”

    7. Tuerto says:

      In light of current events, what would Mr. Franklin say about the economic opportunities of cannabis, both industrial and commercial? It’s my prediction that legalized production, sale, and taxation of cannabis will happen out of necessity, not only for commercial sale to recreational smokers, but for our industries as well. Since money speaks the loudest and clearest, I hope that eventually legislation will make the right decision. That’s what I think Ben would say. Also, during The American Revolution, landowners were jailed for NOT growing hemp for the war effort. But I’m not trying to preach to the choir.

    8. Anonymous says:

      Ben , you were a great person .

      Today on ; Live leak ,titled ” Burning weed on the COP ” it shows a man in the army being made to destroy Pot in Afghanistan .
      Why ? Are they afraid you’ll become peaceful i ask you ?
      ………..or are they afraid you won’t want to kill Afgan’s people anymore & use dialogue instead ?

    9. Freedom says:

      Happy B-day Ben. Excellent article. You gotta know , our founding fathers would be livid over what our country has become due to our governments rule. Todays government considers our founding father as terrorists and radical extremists. Isnt that just telling of the world we DO live in, whether people see or want to admit. With that said, you know our government must consider reformers and sites such as Norml as extremists. Why? Becuase they know we are a threat to the system they have set up contrary to what the founders intended.

      Our ‘leaders ‘ today understand that drug laws are the lynch pin , once changed, changes how law enforcement will be performed, to our benefit, not theirs.When that day happens, we will be well on our way to bringing back the REPUBLIC this country is supposed to be.

      If you consider, we reformers are doing as our founding fathers would have done. Meeting and discussing what is good for the people reguardless of what our ‘RULERS’ want. So would that make us as they were? revolutionaries? I hope so, and I hope it scares the hell out of our RULERS.

    10. Lea says:

      Excellent article and again a wealth of information shared here for everyone to use. Thank you.

    11. Emory says:

      One day this government big business scandal with marijuana and hemp will be revered as the age of modern alchemy similar to the time of alchemy in the dark ages. When the masses realize the petro chemicals and toxins in every daily product is what plagued society with cancers and disease alike the mad scientists that experimented with harmful and even deadly elements.

      When will there be change Obama!?

      We need JFK back!

    12. Mike Cann says:

      Happy Birthday to the marijuana reform movement in America! Keep on doing it NORML!

    13. Tony Sparks says:

      Medical Marijuana Spots http://MMJSpots.com we support NORML

    14. The military does not destroy and set on fire alcoholic beverages just marijuana . Marijuana does not cause violence & aggression needed to fight a war like alcohol does .

      FLASH FLASH
      This just in . Seattle’s new City Attorney is dismissing all marijuana possession cases even those already underway by the old City Attorney .

    15. peacefullsolution says:

      claygooding your post is right on i have repeatedly told people we should just leagalize and that would take money out of these catels pockets.These guys are in bussiness only because of the cash,i like the hoe and water can comparison.These goverment agencies are like their own industries driven off of the drug war they dont want it to quit even the prison system is making money.The middle man is paying for it all it makes me sick.

    16. Dave N says:

      Benjamin Franklin was a rebel indeed,
      he liked to get naked as he smoked on the weed,
      a genius but if he were here today,
      the government would fuck him up is righteous A…

    17. Anonymous says:

      Dave N. Are you fkn serious? STFU and go back to your hole.

    18. Dennis says:

      Did Ben smoke weed?

    19. Dave N says:

      yes Dennis Ole’ Ben smoked the weed as did many of our founding fathers.

      Anonymous is not a Tenacious D fan I take it.probably a narc that’s why he/she wont give their name so bite me Anonymous.

    20. Tyler D. says:

      Awesome article NORML. This made for a great read. I think Benjamin Franklin would be pleased with NORML for the pursuit of civil rights and freedoms that are currently infringed.

      You guys are great.

      *Kudos to Dave N on the Tenacious D reference.

    21. Lindsay says:

      this might be just something i heard years ago, but someone told me that ben f. used to grow marijuana plants in his own personal garden…is this true?

    22. Anonymous says:

      Didn’t realize you were “quoting” Tenacious D. My apologies. Can’t say that I’m a big Tenacious D fan. Just thought you were in here trolling like so many do. Sorry for being an azz.

    23. Great article! (added by Mobile using Mippin)

    24. John Kinton says:

      Before America was founded, King George made a law that everyone in America HAD to grow marijuana, for hemp to make ropes, etc. George Washington and our other Founding Fathers are known to have smoked marijuana. Also, the first automobile was actually a diesel engine which was supposed to run on hemp oil. Today, we could use that technology to run cars on hemp oil, if marijuana were legalized, rather than screwing around with trying to make oil from corn.
      Also, in the 1920′s, t-shirts were made from hemp rather than cotton, and the shirts could last nearly 100 years! I actually have one of those old shirts, and it is still in great condition. We should use hemp to make more things, as it makes the strongest rope, clothing, etc. It is the strongest fiber in the world. Hemp for Victory!!!

    25. Papaporkchop says:

      In early america it was law you had to grow hemp, if.not it was treason! Just a thouht… smoke up my friends! Pro pot since 98!

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