The Cause: Cannabis
In early November of 1970, a young public interest lawyer named R. Keith Stroup, along with a few of his friends who also believed that state and federal laws that criminalized the responsible use of marijuana by adults was counter-productive and unenforceable, met in a Georgetown row house in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. and decided to form an organization called ‘National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’, aka, NORML, the now brilliantly infamous acronym and service mark that is readily recognized as America’s ‘Pro-Marijuana Lobby Organization’.
However, after filing the necessary paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service and the Washington, D.C. government, it was not until this day forty years ago, March 2, 1971, that ‘NORML’ came to be a formally recognized as a non-profit public interest group with a clearly unique and revolutionary mission statement: To End Decades Of Marijuana Prohibition.
So, it is on this day that we bittersweetly recognize NORML’s improbable existence and remarkable longevity in opposition to all-powerful American governments (and their bureaucratic and law enforcement agents) and to the organization’s clear contributions to reforming the nation’s (and, very likely, much of the world’s) marijuana laws.
However, the organization is chagrined that it is still in existence despite the clear failure of Cannabis Prohibition laws and the popularity among the general public for ‘soft’ reforms (the public overwhelmingly supports medical access to cannabis and for ‘decriminalization’; a near majority of Americans in recent surveys support legalization for responsible adult use).
The principle goal of NORML, after 40 years of public advocacy for ending the criminalization of cannabis by the state and federal governments, is still to put the organization out of business.
So, again, it is with equal degree of frustrated embarrassment and great civic pride that we mark this day in both the organization’s impactful history as well as that of America’s five-decade old effort to end another failed government prohibition (placed into historical context and cost to the public, Alcohol Prohibition barely lasted a dozen years).
In the coming year, NORML and NORML Foundation will mark the organization’s 40th anniversary not so much in celebration, but in reflection of the amazing public advocacy efforts, setbacks and achievements that have led the nation to this day where 15 states have ‘medical’ cannabis laws, 13 states have ‘decriminalized’ possession, and, by the end of 2012, likely one or more states will either pass cannabis legalization legislation or state voters will approve legalization initiatives.
NORML interns have been scanning hundreds of photos, documents, interviews and news articles from the organization’s huge archives for the purposes of memorializing and informing America’s experience with Cannabis Prohibition and the organized activities to reform the laws.
Change Is In The Air…You Can Smell It
Cannabis law reformers are on the precipice of major social changes in favor of the liberalization of cannabis laws—and the state and federal governments, law enforcement and competitors to legal cannabis all recognize this to be true.
None of this would have been possible for NORML over these many years without the dedicated grassroots support provided by stakeholders.
Recognizing that most of the hardest work that entailed the greatest amounts of personal self-sacrifice are thankfully behind us, we also have to recognize there is still much work left to do before adults can lawfully use cannabis products in a manner and form similar to the way adults can consume alcohol products.
On this day, NORML’s official birthday, I’m asking NORML supporters and cannabis consumers far and wide to join me in celebrating a most remarkable public interest group that exists to serve and protect cannabis consumers, lobby and litigate for reforms, and educates the public, media and elected officials about cannabis (and why Cannabis Prohibition laws must end now).
What has been ever fascinating to me in the nearly 20 years I’ve worked for the organization is how much positive change NORML achieves on a shoestring budget of well under one million dollars annually. None of this would have been possible without a large network of volunteers, lawyers and activists willing to both care and share.
There are some public interest organizations that reportedly scare the clothes off of elected policymakers, groups like the National Rifle Association, NAACP, AIPAC, ACLU, Operation Rescue, etc…However, according to popular Internet tracking sites (i.e., Alexa), none of these organizations have the web traffic that NORML has.
Money Is the Mother’s Milk Of Politics
What these groups have that NORML does not possess is committed funding sources and/or endowments.
That’s OK; on one hand being cash-starved keeps a public interest group like NORML innovative, humble and committed to representing stakeholders’ interests. However, on the other hand, despite the general public’s increasing support for reforming cannabis laws and recognizing prohibition’s failure, NORML’s ability to politically persuade the body politic is greatly hampered by finances that belie the genuine and festering public support in favor of NORML’s reform agenda.
Make a $40 Donation in Support of NORML
Please join my family and I in making a $1 donation to NORML (or the NORML Foundation if you’d like the tax deduction) for every year NORML has been working in the public eye in support of cannabis consumers and to reform our country’s antiquated cannabis laws.
You can make a quick-n-easy online donation here.
On behalf of the membership, NORML’s chapter network (over 150 chapters), NORML Legal Committee of Lawyers (over 600 lawyers nationwide), the board of directors and national staff…thanks very much for making NORML the longstanding and responsible voice for cannabis consumers for forty years!
Thanks to the GlobalMana Foundation and the design group Northshorecartoon for publishing a very creative, funny and spot-on political commentary in the form of a short cartoon focused on the costly absurdity of the U.S. government banning the domestic production of industrial hemp.
Most all other countries (Canada, France, Great Britain, China, Switzerland, etc…) do not allow the lawful use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, yet, they allow for the production of one of the most utilitarian and environmentally-friendly row crops that humans have been cultivating and prospering from for thousands of years.
Regardless of whatever happens in state and federal governments with ‘marijuana’ laws in future regarding medical access, decriminalization or legalization, the US government must stop trying to enforce a complete and total blanket prohibition on all forms and uses of the amazing cannabis plant—notably, like other major countries have done regarding industrial hemp.
Key Speakers At 2010 NORML Conference in Portland, Oregon: Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Best-Selling Travel Author and TV Host Rick Steves
There are three important components in this 2010 NORML conference alert:
-Early-bird Pricing For Registration Is About To Expire
-Conference Agenda and Speakers Announced
NORML is honored and proud to have the former two-term Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson (R) address the 39th annual national NORML conference on Friday, September 10 at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
Gary Johnson became the first sitting governor in 2002 to speak at a NORML national conference in Washington. To date, few elected policymakers—and no governor in American history—have been more politically supportive of ending cannabis prohibition than Governor Johnson. As New Mexico’s term-limited governor from 1994-2002, Governor Johnson championed numerous drug policy reforms, including legalizing medical cannabis.
Governor Johnson, a man of both big political ideas and financial means, is an early and declared candidate to be the next U.S. president in 2012 (running a decidedly libertarian-leaning campaign as a Republican) who favors substantial changes to America’s longest and most expensive war—the war on some drugs.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D) is a long-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oregon, who is a co-signer of current federal legislation that would reschedule cannabis to allow its medical use by qualified patients.
Rick Steves, a best-selling travel author and NORML Advisory board member is a longtime supporter of cannabis law reform based on his travel experiences and personal observations, who, in 2008 hosted an ACLU television program called ‘Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation’.
-Early-bird Pricing for Registration Is About To Expire; Register Now, Save Money-
After a one month-long period promoting early-bird discount pricing to pre-register for the conference, prices are about to take a turn upwards. Register now to save, especially if you’ve already reserved a room at the sold-out Governor Hotel, overflow hotel Red Lion or live in the greater Portland area. Discount pre-registration pricing ends at midnight (Pacific) Sunday, August 29.
-Conference Agenda and Speakers Announced-
The 39th annual NORML conference, ‘Just Say Now!’, continues the tradition of inclusiveness, expertise, passion, devotion, experience and celebration of all things cannabis-related—where over fifty speakers from across America will speak on matters ranging from legalization, medicalization, hemp, history, politics, science, law, business and culture.
Don’t delay if you want to be assured a seat at America’s oldest and largest pro-marijuana conference, as it will likely sell out soon (the host hotel and overflow hotels already have…).
I hope to see you this September in Portland!
From the Family of Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes
Van Nuys, California, August, 2010
Dear Friends of Hemp and Cannabis,
Our father, Jack Herer, was a man of leadership, compassion and idealism. He worked relentlessly for decades to achieve his dream of legalizing Cannabis hemp in all its forms, personal, medical and industrial. He wanted Cannabis to be free and open, and to be given full respect for its enormous economic, environmental and cultural benefits.
As an idealist, Jack was adverse to half measures. He originally opposed Prop 215 because it stopped at medical use only. He initially opposed Senate Bill 420 because it set limited quantities as a safe harbor. Over time, however, he came to appreciate the freedoms they created, and took pride in the role he played in inspiring those changes. Jack’s great fear about Prop 215 and SB 420 was that people would accept those limits, become complacent and stop working for full legalization. He feared we would be stuck with medical use forever.
Likewise, Jack railed against Tax Cannabis 2010, now Proposition 19, and its plan for limited legalization and local authority to tax and regulate marijuana sales to adults 21 and above. It falls far short of what he wanted. Jack ‘wanted it all,’ and Prop 19 is just a part of that dream. Unfortunately, Jack passed away before Prop 19 made the 2010 ballot; so many people think he would still oppose it. We don’t believe that, and we ask that everyone stop saying he would cling to that position as we move toward the Nov. 2 vote.
As his family, we want the world to know that the last thing Jack Herer would want is for Californians to vote to keep Cannabis illegal. He was smart and had the political savvy to know that once a measure is on the ballot, the time for bickering has passed. That is why he campaigned for Prop 215 despite its shortcomings. That is why, were he able, he would now be telling voters to rally around and Vote Yes on Prop 19.
Does that mean he would want everyone to stop and be happy with the modest changes that Prop 19 affords? Absolutely not! What Jack would want us to do right now is to support Prop 19, and come Nov. 3 he would be right back again, telling you to renew your commitment to bring a comprehensive California Hemp and Health Initiative to the voters in 2012 or some future date. Jack Herer would ask – no, he would demand your yes vote on Prop 19, along with a pledge to continue fighting for the plant, the people and the planet.
It is true that Prop 19 does not fulfill our father’s dream; but it takes us much closer to achieving it than we are now, and for that reason we, his family, endorse Prop 19 today.
Please vote yes on Prop 19 Nov 2, but do it with the dedication to keep working toward complete legalization in Jack’s honor.
Sincerely, Dan Herer et al.
(Courthouse News Service) – Two North Dakota farmers failed to convince the 8th Circuit that cannabis grown for industrial hemp is not technically marijuana and should not be regulated under federal law.
The court in St. Louis upheld dismissal of the farmers’ lawsuit seeking a declaration that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) does not apply to industrial-use cannabis.
The appeals court pointed out that the Act defines marijuana to include all cannabis plants, regardless of the THC concentration.
“The CSA likewise makes no distinction between cannabis grown for drug use and that grown for industrial use,” Judge Pasco Bowman wrote.
The three-judge panel rejected the notion that industrial hemp is not marijuana under the Act, or that Congress has no authority to regulate their state-sanctioned cultivation of cannabis.
Judge Bowman said Congress had a “rational basis” for regulating the cultivation of all cannabis plants in order to effectively regulate marijuana.
The “rational basis” here is that North Dakota farmers can’t grow tall, reedy hemp plants that could never ever get anyone high, because that will confuse the law enforcement officials who are working to eradicate short bushy cannabis plants that are grown to get people high. Somehow, in Australia, Canada, and China to name a few countries, police who are tasked with eradicating illegal cannabis in those countries that have legal hemp have no difficulty whatsoever distinguishing the two crops, but American police are just baffled by basic agriculture.
Silly as it sounds, that’s the court’s argument. We’d never be able to “effectively regulate marijuana” if farmers were growing hemp. Not that we’re actually “effectively regulating marijuana” now. Prohibition of marijuana is the absence of regulation — no regulations on who can buy it, who can sell it, where it can be sold, what age you must be to purchase it, where it can be used, what THC potency is allowed, whether the crop can be grown with certain pesticides and fertilizers, and what penalties should be leveled for failure to follow the regulations. Yes, there are laws against marijuana that makes all of those actions a crime, but by definition you can only regulate something that is legal.
Prohibition doesn’t make those actions go away, it just makes them crimes. Therefore, those actions are occurring in an unregulated manner. So how is it, again, that growing an industrial hemp plant is preventing the government from regulating something that prohibition made unregulated?