The High Times Interview: NORML's Head 'Head'

By Rick Cusick, Associate Publisher, High Times Magazine
Allen St. Pierre was born in Belfast, ME to an upper-middle-class blue-collar commercial fishing family. He had an almost cinematic upbringing on scenic Cape Cod, where his family continues to own a variety of water-born businesses. To this day, he says, “my father doesn’t know where the front-door key is.”
Ironically, although he studied wildlife at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he graduated there in 1989 with a degree in legal studies. While working at a Washington, DC–based law firm, St. Pierre was asked to do some volunteer legal work for NORML; he accepted, he says, “because I was a stakeholder with marijuana use back then, as I am today.”

Allen St. Pierre
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre uber high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains

Following an employee purge, St. Pierre was asked if he’d accept a consolidated position at the organization – for 70 percent less than his law-firm salary. He said yes, thinking he would be there for “six or seven months, to help NORML through a rough gap.” Twenty years later, he’s now the longest-serving, continuously employed marijuana-law reformer … ever. St. Pierre claims he’s a hippie who’s forced to wear a suit and tie and is often mistaken for a lawyer: ”In fact,” he jokes, “I play one on TV.”
High Times sat down to speak with NORML’s executive director four weeks before California voters cast their ballots on a historic measure to legalize marijuana in the Golden State, on the occasion of NORML’s 40th anniversary.

Okay … if California doesn’t legalize marijuana, what happens?

If it [Proposition 19] loses by a small percentage, it will absolutely establish a baseline, politically speaking, of 50 percent. We’ve already told everybody and their brother that we are coming right back in 2012. It’s already a fait accompli. California will continue to be in the vanguard of legalization – not only for the country, but also for the world.

So is the War on Marijuana winding down?

Well, it’s funny: You’ve got troops in the field, and they’re out there fighting and dying at just a horrific pace, but the generals back in Washington are talking peace.
Clearly, one can see that decrim and medical marijuana are the bridges to legalization; that is all absolutely underway and really can’t be contested. However, at the same time, one would not be wrong to whistle by the graveyard and admit that the data still points to massive arrests, massive incarceration, massive drug testing, massive forfeiture of people’s homes and properties, record amounts of children being taken away from their parents, people being denied organ transplants if they’re medical consumers …. All of those terrible ills of a 74-year War on Marijuana – marijuana prohibition – are still terribly present.

Is marijuana still the third rail of American politicians: Touch it and you die?

It’s definitely no longer the third rail, there’s no doubt about that. In the 1980s, there was a period I call the “marijuana mea culpa,” after Judge [Douglas H.] Ginsburg was denied his ability to get to the Supreme Court because he admitted to having smoked marijuana. And you had many senators and congressmen who wanted to run for president – the Jesse Jacksons, the Al Gores, even Sam Nunn; I mean, God, I could go back—
Newt Gingrich…
Newt Gingrich! All these folks immediately came out and tried to vet the fact that they had used marijuana. And then Obama pushed the level further here with “Of course I did and I used cocaine …. ”
Should marijuana stakeholders be pissed off or happy with Obama?
They should, in toto, be happy with him. He was transparent about his own use; his answers are pretty candid and culture-enhancing. The other politicians have tried to give a culturally relevant answer while still being damning of the behavior, whereas Obama turned it around and said, “No, I thought the point was to inhale.” And he notably said that to a group of students.
No president has taken an abeyance like he has from the Drug War; from Richard Nixon forward, every single president except Jimmy Carter has rung that Drug War bell very loud. Obama coming up with the Department of Justice memo basically saying that the states have autonomy is stark. But then we saw that the arrest rates haven’t really abated at all; they’ve actually picked up a bit. There are still federal raids in California – but clearly we can see a large reduction in the number of people arrested for medical marijuana during these raids. Prosecution is incredibly subjective.

Has medical marijuana been an impediment to legalization?

No, it hasn’t. It could be in time if those who profit and sell or cultivate medical cannabis put money up to oppose the legalization of marijuana. Under the guise of “medical cannabis only,” we will find that the legalization of marijuana will largely stall out for any number of reasons.
I think “medical cannabis only” is a very dangerous box canyon to pursue as a strategy. You can be a medical-marijuana consumer and still be denied your Second Amendment right to own a gun, you can be denied an organ transplant, you can be denied the custody of your child, you can be denied the ability to get on an airplane or get health benefits from the federal government, including Section 8 housing. That’s a huge tradeoff. You can walk into a place that has about 200 strains of marijuana, but if you go home and use it, you’re about half a citizen. So I would ask a medical-marijuana consumer: “Why?” In some ways, a sub rosa illegal marijuana user maintains more rights and privileges than a medical-marijuana consumer.
In the end, we want good, legal cannabis at the most affordable cost. Prohibition is an anathema to that. Medical marijuana clearly is not serving that end, and only the end of prohibition will get us to that point.
There are quite a number of marijuana and drug-law reform organizations, and the balkanization among these groups is a well-known—
Hindrance.
Has that factionalization been an impediment to legalization?
It would be better if they worked together in a greater degree of concert. Another component of this – a vexing thing about this balkanized group of folks – is that they’ve been so reliant on such a small, almost incestuous pool of donors. The reliance on such narrow funding conduits has made it much harder than not to get all the groups to work together in a cohesive way.

Where does NORML get its funding?

About 95 percent of NORML’s budget comes from people who donate, on average, $53 per year. People project onto NORML that we must be supported by celebrities, that people like Willie, Woody and Bill Maher write us massive checks. Almost none of our money comes from that.
You can read the rest of the interview @ High Times

58 thoughts

  1. Faith. I hear you as the immutable of the ways of manna.
    Saying {m word} : ma rijua na was a keyword with the way
    enforcement or powers of The State of Republic are not ::
    bemused by the likes of free care of the nation and Earth
    and we will want manna to be a kind of sacrament without
    the avarice of money nor defaming the role of cannabis..
    If and when you see this message , I will see you are the
    leader of manna faith who may be activist about Genesist:
    The Way Manna Way Our Right and Peace Under Overseer God.
    May Manna Legal be the prevailing progressive way of pot.

  2. 51 Bryan “I am a brethren of the Genesist Faith.”
    Recreational users – have many different names for Cannabis [cannabis even being a botanical name]. Many languages – have different names as well [Marijuana being one]. Medical users – even call it delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol. “Its true name is Hemp.” Religiously it’s “The Green Herb – Manna.”
    Here’s the point. It’s the recreational connotation that draws a negative reaction,and concept. Marijuana is a nasty word to many,many people. It’s like taking one step forward and two steps backwards. Hard to push forward with a negative word that puts a zinger in the mind and pisses people off.
    Here is another point. God made the “Green Herb – Manna” before he/she made us – but – with a clear understanding – that it is – “for us” – [Genesis I:11,12]. Our Creator then “gave Manna to us” in Genesis I:29,30,31, and “reaffirmed that gift” in Genesis IX:3.
    “Manna,as a Sacrament,and a gift from God” has one name and one purpose. That one purpose is religious and Sacramental medicinal use. When these two purposes are recognized by law – government will have no effect on recreational use.
    Have a great CDXX Communion
    Manny
    San Diego Colony

  3. Awesome! Awesome is a big word, but when the picture (worth a thousand words and all of their meanings) shows the Head ‘Head’ of NORML, plus a hundred mile view over a million of years geological time, well, awesome fits.
    Thank you High Times, and thank you Allen.

  4. OK. In the Book of Mark it says Manna from Heaven in most
    books. It’s like High Times rolling a strong indica and
    double recessive indoor sativa mix and saying “Bread for
    your Head” ., “Food from God” [Now let’s smoke it]{photo}
    and setting up the end of the day joint after bonghittin
    and around the time of musical instrument [practicin] en
    ways .. Manna Legal may be the proper 2011OK National OK
    to Legally Smoked Cannabis Joints and “bongs”.,uh{m word}
    was a step back like Genesist says (again) as it’s the uh
    keyword with law enforcement granted dangerous drug name:
    Ma ri jua na was not what I say so Yes I Cannabis !! ~pot

  5. 54 Bryan – FYI
    Yes – MANNA. Yes! – Religious Use. Yes – CDXX Communion.
    Ezekiel [the Prophet] XXXIV:29,30,31.
    29. And I will raise up for them “a plant of renown,” and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. 30. Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they are my people sayith the Lord God. 31. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men,and I am your God, sayith the Lord God.”
    Exodus 30:22-29
    22. Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses saying, 23. Take thou also unto thee principle spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty sheckels, and of sweet calamus [kaneh bosem – cannabis] two hundred and fifty sheckels, 24. And of cassia five hundred sheckels, after the sheckel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25. And thou shalt make it an “oil of holy ointment,” an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be “a holy anointing oil.” 26. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony. 27. And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, 28. And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and thee laver and his foot. 29. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.
    Good CDXX Communion.
    Manny
    San Diego Colony

  6. The federal government has historically clearly been deceptive and dishonest regarding the public-policy issue of marijuana. Their true motives are ill-gained profit and power, against the will and at the expense of the tax-paying populace. As the Lord is my holy witness and in the name of Jesus Christ, I admonish the demons driving the misguided Prohibitionists’ actions back into the depths of darkness from which they have slithered.

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