Post heavy consideration and consultation with family and friends — and after a serious life changing event recently — I’ve decided to resign as NORML’s executive director after some 25 years with the organization.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling 2008 book Outliers, he puts forward the premise that when humans focus intensely on a vocation or particular skill set, after approximately ten thousand hours of dedicated work and apprenticeship, most humans will come to ‘master’ whatever the given subject matter.
Having poured nearly seventy thousand hours working uber full time on cannabis law reform since early 1991, I’m seeking to apply this deep knowledge base and network of contacts in numerously different ways as America (and other countries too), finally, transitions from cannabis prohibition to cannabis commerce.
Coming To NORML
When I was a far younger person I wrestled with a fundamental question: ‘What to do post college‘? Did I want to work for a business? For government? In politics? Academia? Possibly for my family’s small businesses on Cape Cod, where I grew up?
After volunteering for NORML as little more than a concerned cannabis consumer who wanted prohibition to end post haste, I quickly learned that working at a non-profit advocacy group for the public interest focusing on cannabis law reform could be immensely rewarding regarding both the organization’s ability to provide aid and assistance to the victims of pot prohibition enforcement while at the same time effectively advocating at all levels of governments (and litigating in the nation’s courts) to end the long-failed prohibition on cannabis.
As NORML’s former executive director and board chair Richard Cowan once noted: “Working at NORML is both intellectual heaven and an emotional Hell.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
A Long-Failed Prohibition…
The depth and cost to my fellow citizens of the carnage wrought from what has been nearly an eighty year failed federal prohibition on cannabis has at times stretched my capacity as a human to relate to the financial costs, physical and emotional pain, suffering, separation, isolation and ostracization that the over 25 million cannabis law offenders have endured (arrests, incarcerations, civil forfeiture, child custody, drug testing, drug tax stamps, etc.).
On any given day after working at NORML any employee over it’s long history can be forgiven for feeling as though they’ve incurred a form of PTSD.
…Is Giving Way To Cannabis’ Legalization
However, because of immense devotion, sacrifice, energy and donated resources by like-minded citizens, literally a cast of thousands have worked cooperatively over decades to make incredible strides to, pun intended, normalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults, and advance voter initiatives and legislation that has brought us to this juncture in the nearly fifty year effort by citizen-activists to end cannabis prohibition.
- When NORML was found in 1970, national polling pegged public support for legal cannabis at twelve percent (when I arrived at NORML in 1991, a little more than twenty percent favored legalization). Today, according to Gallup, fifty-eight percent of the public support legalization. A 2014 Brookings Institute paper indicates that, like gay marriage in America, cannabis legalization is all but a political given.
- Today, the voters in four states have broken through the government’s Reefer Madness to create the ‘beginning of the end’ for national pot prohibition, with hundreds of millions in local and state taxes coming into government coffers assures that other states are going to soon follow. (Fifteen states have decriminalized possession for a small amount; by some people’s measure over three-fourths of states have medicalized access to cannabis products).
- Even at this early stage of cannabis commerce there are over four thousand tax-paying, licensed cannabis-related businesses, who, now joined with longstanding cannabis law reform organizations, will work vigorously to try to bring a fast conclusion to national cannabis prohibition.
The importance of the existence of non-profit groups like NORML, Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project to end cannabis prohibition in our lifetime can’t be overstated (or under appreciated by an emerging and nascent cannabis industry).
NORML Puts The ‘Grass’ In Grassroots
As unabashed and full throated supporters for cannabis law, NORML has built up a large social network online that reaches millions of concerned citizens weekly, making the days in NORML’s office pre-Internet in the early 1990s a very distant memory. We are blessed with consumer activists, coupled with a large (and politically active) network of state and local chapters, and, a NORML Legal Committee fueled by over six hundred lawyers — all of which helps to maintain NORML’s clear dominance in the United States organizing and informing millions weekly in the cannabis community.
Times are changing at NORML and in the broader marijuana law movement…where there are now equal calls and emails from aspiring ganjapreneurs than there are from victims of prohibition enforcement seeking help.
Fruits Of One’s Labor
Ever mindful that two generations of NORML’s supporters, board members and staff were not fortunate enough to witness the social changes they agitated for, or, don’t reside in a state where bona fide cannabis law reforms have occurred, I feel tremendous gratitude that I’ve lived long enough to see cannabis go from verboten to tax-n-regulated commerce.
As a resident of the District of Columbia I too now get to enjoy the fruits of reformers’ labor by growing my own ‘NORML director quality’ cannabis and readily sharing it with friends and family (at this year’s NORML Lobby Day Conference in May I gave away nearly half a pound of fine cannabis to the adult attendees who had to do little more than hold their hands out; a middle aged woman from Florida attending a cannabis-related conference for the first time, cried when I asked her to hold two hands out, and placed what used to be worth hundreds of dollars of ganja in her hands. She rightly declared that the amount of cannabis I conveyed upon her would surely get her busted back in Florida. I immediately agreed and welcomed her to a post prohibition world of our making. In effect, welcome to freedom).
While the financial compensation working full time at a non-profit organization can leave one wonting, the immensely awarding scope of the work and positive impacts on people’s individual lives and the advancing of societal-changing public reforms and public policies has, for me, always been the driving impetus to pour, literally, half my life into working for cannabis law reforms at NORML and NORML Foundation.
Life Changes: Blessings
In late March, after years of fits-n-starts, tribulations, rivers of tears and unspeakable amounts of money, my wife and I are finally blessed with the birth of a beautiful and healthy daughter.
As a new father-at-fifty the frenetic workload and travel schedule that I’ve maintained for so long at NORML/NORML Foundation — compounded by low pay and no genuine prospects to increase one’s compensation after twenty five years at the non-profit organization — to be the father that I’ve always aspired to become does not at all comport with continued full time employment at NORML/NORML Foundation.
However, I love NORML as much going out the door as much as I did walking in, so I intend to serve out the two remaining years of my board seat, working in concert for weeks with the Interim Director Randy Quast (Randy is among a handful of current NORML board members that I recruited in 2013; he has selflessly donated over half a million dollars in support of Minnesota, Portland and national NORML) and whomever the board chooses as my successor to continue NORML’s important and relevant public advocacy work on behalf of cannabis consumers.
As alluded to earlier, the country is in a transitional period between pot prohibition and a legal cannabis industry that will soon reach $20 billion in annual sales — NORML and it’s chapters, along with working hard to end cannabis prohibition in the remaining forty six states while concurrently helping the victims of prohibition enforcement — must also too pivot while working where mutually possible with the nascent cannabis industry, advancing consumer access to sensibly-regulated and taxed cannabis-related products.
Gratitude And Thanks
There are simply too many thousands of people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and meeting over these twenty-five years at NORML to properly thank here, but I surely want to acknowledge Paul Armentano, Richard Cowan, Rick Cusick, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Justin Hartfield, Eleanora (and her late husband Michael) Kennedy, Ethan Nadelmann, Rick Steves and Keith Stroup for abundantly providing me professional support and guidance for so many years.
Lastly, I would have likely been headhunted away from NORML over a dozen years ago if were not for the love and support of my wife Sara, who, always allowed me to continue public advocacy work in favor of cannabis law reforms despite it’s impact on our families’ lives.
Please continue to provide support and fidelity to Randy and NORML’s staff in this transition period, and, importantly going forward, for NORML’s incoming executive director, whomever the courageous individual chosen by NORML’s board of directors.
The Secretary of State’s office confirmed yesterday that proponents of the measure, The Adult Use Marijuana Act, collected over 600,000 signatures from registered voters to place the initiative on the ballot.
Passage of the Act would permit adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from preventing responsible adults from possessing and cultivating cannabis for non-commercial purposes in the privacy of their own homes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”
Sixty percent of likely California voters say that they intend to vote for the initiative this fall, according to a February 2016 Probolsky Research poll.
The AUMA is endorsed by a host of statewide and national organizations, including the ACLU of California, the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and NORML.
California is one of several states where voters will be going to the polls in November to decide on statewide marijuana law reform measures. Separate legalization measures have either qualified for the ballot or are anticipated to appear on the ballot in Arkansas (medical), Arizona, Florida (medical), Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri (medical), and Nevada. A Michigan legalization initiative effort is presently in litigation.
As predicted, 2016 is turning out to a historic year for the marijuana legalization movement. With three statewide initiatives already cleared for the November ballot (Florida, Nevada, Maine) and several other initiative campaigns awaiting certification, there has never been a greater need for grassroots marijuana activism. From gathering signatures and making volunteer recruitment calls, to data entry and talking face to face with voters, there is still plenty of work to be done. To get involved today, simply follow the three easy steps below!
First, please consider becoming a member of our organization (NORML Membership). In addition to being a part of the nation’s longest serving marijuana law reform group and getting a great membership package, we have compiled an extensive collection of fact-based information that you can use to support your efforts as you engage lawmakers in your community. Regardless of the point you’re trying to make (recreational, medical, hemp, CBD, etc.) you’ll find recent studies, articles and other resources that will help reinforce your argument (NORML Library).
Second, if there isn’t already a NORML affiliate in your community (Chapter Locator), I encourage you to begin the process of forming your own chapter. For more than 40 years, NORML affiliates and chapters have been leading reform conversations on the local and state level, and they continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions regarding marijuana. If this is something that you’d like to be a part of, please take a few minutes to review NORML’s new Chapter Starter Packet. It will serve as your number one resource as you get started. If you need help finding others to join you, I’m happy to help connect you with people in your area.
Third, start contacting your local, state and federal representatives about pending marijuana-related legislation by using our online Action Alert Center. We’re constantly monitoring dozens of marijuana-related bills from around the country so we’re able to provide you with the most up-to-date legislative alerts and talking points. In addition to advocating for marijuana law reform using the legislative process, we also welcome the opportunity to work with your organization to draft a municipal ordinance, similar to the ones recently adopted by local governments in Ohio and Florida.
I look forward to working with you to establish a new community of marijuana activists in your state! For more information about forming a NORML chapter or getting involved with marijuana law reform efforts, please email KevinM@NORML.org or visit NORML.org.
After a narrow defeat in 2014, Florida voters will have another opportunity to legalize medical marijuana this November by voting YES on Amendment 2, but not before being inundated with misinformation from some of Florida’s most notorious marijuana prohibitionists. With more than $10 million dollars committed to defeating the measure, Floridians can expect a salvo of refer madness unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. Even in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – anti-marijuana groups spent roughly $800k between all four states fighting legalization efforts.
In an effort to level the playing field, Central Florida Chapter of the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws (CFL NORML) led by executive director, Christopher Cano, recently launched a grassroots fundraising campaign with a goal of $250,000 to combat the continuous flow of fear mongering and attacks expected this fall. Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform being utilized by the organization features a video produced by CFL NORML, pictures of past events, and of course a donation page where contributions can be made.
“We are appalled at the gross amount of funds the opposition plans to spend in order to continue the unjust policy of marijuana prohibition in Florida,” Cano said. “The Medical Marijuana Movement should be about one thing and one thing only, the patients. Mel Sembler and his No On 2 allies are willing to spend obscene amounts of money to hurt veterans and sick patients, and we simply are not going to take that laying down”.
To show your support, please donate by clicking the link below or volunteer by contacting CFL NORML using the following email address: email@example.com.
The majority of US voters believe that the adult use of cannabis ought to be legalized, while more than nine in ten Americans endorse allowing its use for therapeutic purposes, according to the results of nationwide polling data provided by Quinnipiac University.
Fifty-four percent of respondents say that the “use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Support for legalization is strongest among those age 18 to 39 (69 percent), Democrat voters (65 percent), Independents (61 percent), and males (60 percent). Support is weakest among Republicans (36 percent), those over 65 years of age (37 percent), and female voters (47 percent).
By contrast, super-majorities in all demographic categories — including 94 percent of Democrats, 93 percent of Independents, and 81 percent of Republicans — support permitting physicians to authorize medical marijuana use to qualified patients.
In response to a separate polling question, 87 percent of respondents agreed with a recently enacted Congressional amendment authorizing V.A. physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to military veterans in states that permit it.