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—
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. The facts prove the usefulness, the facts also prove the falseness of claims for prohibition. I wonder why facts can not be used as evidence for truthfuless as to how this plant can remedy so many problems that we are aware of. Why does the propagannda remain accepted by the Law?

    Think of – “the feds as mom and dad” – and – they just said “no.”
    Now – think of – you and/or your brother(s) and sister(s) [as sovereign states] – saying “yes.”
    So! what now? Right! – as children – ya’ll start wearing mom and dad down. Nothing new! you’ve been doing that since birth [parent manipulation], and since the beginning of time. Until you and your brother(s) and sister(s) [as individual sovereign states] – but – [as a unified force] can present yourselves [as such] in concert, you won’t step over the line that you stand on, toe to toe, face to face – 50/50. First of all, you’re not going to hit mom or dad – so! – forget violence. Besides – you know dad will drop kick your ass through the gold posts of life if you try. So! you individually and collectively grind them down, knowing that the mill wheels grind slow – but – the grind fine.
    Here’s the question:
    Did mom and dad say “yes” the moment they walked through the door and you hit them with it? Will they say “yes” when we are done grinding on them? Just don’t let the grinding wheel stop, keep the pressure on, and don’t give up. Keep the faith baby!!! Let your representatives know that they will be under the grinding stone in the next election, which is only a blink of an eye away. Grind, grind, grind!!!

  3. “Why does the propagannda remain accepted by the Law?” This showed be asked until we get the answer. this propagannda for prohibition of Cannabis is harmful to the welfare of our society. It endangers the society as a whole. It is destructive to the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. It interferes with any kind of real mental health issue surround it’s use. The propagannda causes death to American Citizens without any due process and a denial of equal protection. The sick have an absolute right to pursut happiness in the form of good health, cure from sickness and the present law violates that right. Sinces that is a constitutional right the law is unconstitutionally applied to cannabis and any citizens choosing to use for better health and to fight cancer. Can we have the debate NOW!

  4. It’s still a very touchy subject around politicians, not because of the third rail to their career, but as a third rail to their income. You see the numerous tests that promote the many medical benefits/lack of danger of marijuana, and one can’t help but wonder WHY it’s still taboo. The fact that marijuana is a plant could cripple large pharmaceutical companies due to the fact that a natural plant can’t be patented. That’s why pharmaceutical companies market drugs such as Marinoll, a synthetic substance almost identical to THC, which is perfectly legal. If marijuana is legalized, it will render those markets useless.

  5. This is a great article, because it helps to be more clear on the issue and what it means for the future.

  6. Frankly, I think the government should be pressed on this issue of policy without sound science backing it up. I also think that the government should present the scientific evidence that tobacco & alcohol are not harmful to human health and have some sort of medical use that justifies their legality, while prohibiting cannabis and requiring justifications that are historically not applied to alcohol & tobacco. I’d also like to see MMJ states challenged on the disparate licensing prices between pharmacies and MMJ dispensaries; and also on the tax exempt status of BigPharma products. Thanks.

  7. Hey, I used to read High Times all the time back in the 70’s and 80’s. I read an article on how to make brownies with pot. I remember part of it, but not sure if I know the whole thing. It went something like this; Fill pot of water, add stick of butter, bring to boil. Put in your pot. Let simmer for ???, take off heat and cool. Butter will rise to top of water when cooled, skim off the butter and use that in the brownie mixture to make your brownies. Can you help me with that or tell me where I can find the recipe again. Thanks for all the great reading and information.

  8. Really interesting article, thanks for the positivity in the face of criminality. In my own home my kids are being educated in a way that I was not, so time well tell. Im afraid I may not live to see the day that Marijuana and the use of hemp are regarded as the new way of life that it should be…but thanks again ASP

  9. Personally, I think all use is medicinal, whether one uses it for recreation or not.
    As I’m sure most if not all of you here have seen, during alcohol prohibition the way around that was to get a prescription for medicinal alcohol.
    And believe it or not, in moderation, alcohol does have medicinal uses.
    Also believe it or not, tobacco has what could be described as medicinal qualities, the problem with it is the delivery method and all the additives Big Tobacco add to their product to make them unhealthy and more addictive.
    Anyway, just my 2¢.
    Pot is the lynchpin in the ‘war on (some’ drugs,’ Uncle Sam can’t legalize it because their entire charade would fall apart.

  10. thank you for the years of service in what I thought coming out of the 70’s an issue that dumbfounds me why we don’t this legal. You certainly are not a quitter, thank you. Now is the time.
    Interefon made me want to die, marijuana gave me help with pain,food & piece of mind, while suffering the effects of medical drugs.

  11. This article reminds me yet again that the war against “some” drugs is not meant to be won, but merely fought… all parties involved! Even those organizations (such as Norml) fighting on our side of things are in it just to fight, not to WIN!!! I enjoy watching Allen in interviews. He is eloquent, even mannered, and often direct in his replies, assertions, and rebuttals. However, if I had that kind of poise and stage-presence, I’d have had (at maximum) a 10 year career with Norml, and then there simply would be no need for them to exist anymore because I would have managed to FULLY LEGALIZE MARIJUANA!!!

  12. @16 The Delivery System
    Here @ 2011 we got bureaus full of narcotic agents paid in full by the mother loving taxpayer
    I Nic object/refuse to pay these people

  13. Senator Vicki Schmidt is the Assistant Majority Leader from the 20th District, of the Kansas Senate. Her email address is: vicki@vickischmidt. Please email her and let her know you want the cannabis laws changed in Kansas this Year!

  14. As soon as campaign contributions from major corporations to political parties become illegal, we may see some changes in the Cannabis laws. For now, the “LEGAL BRIBERY” system is too lucrative for certain parties to “do the right thing” for the people. Until then, keep up the good fight Allen, you guys are doing great work!!!

  15. Bless you Allen!
    There is much more to life than makin’ stacks of dough. You are the leader of an irreplaceable movement for the recognizance of EACH INDIVIDUAL’S INNATE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO FREE PURSUIT OF LIFE, LIBERTY, AND HAPPINESS!
    Thank YOU!

  16. I’ve been on this planet for 73 years – and – there’s one indisputable fact I have come to know. When you tell someone “NO” – you’re pretty much guaranteed the exact opposite. The prohibs have told us “NO.” Who’s listening and who cares anyway. They can take their little act down the road. I thank them for coming, I’ve heard what they have said – but – we are going to have our way – and – there’s nothing they can do about it. Why? – because – we out number them. They are the minority in this great country. So! “Let them go suck egg.”

  17. It’s easy to forget how much worse it was under Bush. Still, we have a long way to go…undoing a 40? 50? year old Drug War Dinosaur.

  18. I’ve had about enough of researchimg hemp cannabis. Tired of saying to the news channel hemp to answer our problems. Like Russ said 74 years of propaganda scare tactics lies and they have never paraded out one body. You keepers to the keys to the kingdom please tell me how Hemp laws are not treason against the Republic? Surely you know what I mean. I mean it don’t take much to be smarter than me.
    Rebel with a Cause… You da man

  19. Obama said Mubarik will not run in another election, I hope Obama understands, Free people demand Justice.

  20. re “Let them go suck egg.”
    In the meantime here in ThE USA many are locked and loaded, to the million in Egypt, Mubarik step down, flee for safety, if you go to Israel you are doomed.

  21. Mubarak to step down! Why is this important to you folks trying to bring an end to the constructive fraud of Cannabis Prohibition? It serves as a fine example of how oppressed people anywhere and everywhere can remove a tyrant, a bully of sorts using the internet to united themselves in a common cause of injustice. Which is very much like the many State Teapot Parties accross America that we have formed under a common injustice in our own government. What made it successful for them is that they acted with a united front. We can learn from this and use this to bring about a peaceful change in our government’s unwarranted behavior towards cannabis and us it’s citizens.

  22. Good work, St. Pierre. If you are a workaholic, it is for a good cause, one to be proud of, fighting against injustice. I hope that, if you do choose later to go into the private sector, you retain your ideals and don’t work against the interests of legalization in favor of the medical cannabis franchise on pot, which is a scary “box canyon” as you noted. It would protect the rich, while leaving the poor to experience the full rigors of the legal system.

  23. Mr. Allen St. Pierre,
    I would personally like to thank you for all of your hard work that you have put into NORML, all of the great things you’ve accomplished, and so much more!
    Thanks again! Keep up the great work NORML!

  24. 31 Nic
    In the foreplay to a donnybrook – the first one to lose one’s cool [flinch] usually loses. One doesn’t have to demonstrate one’s anger to make one’s point. Sure! let the prohibs “Suck egg or take a hike, or just plain f–k off.” That says – that their BS doesn’t effect us [anymore], that they have not got our goat – that we are indifferent to their line of crap. One doesn’t care what they say or think. That’s old-time stuff – besides – we out number them. So! lets take our untied front to the mountain – but – let’s do it in a peaceful and deliberate manner – mostly in control. Let’s show them that whatever they say or do is falling on deaf ears, and they can save their breath for someone who gives a shit. And -let’s get the voting polls. Let’s hit them below the level of their awareness.

  25. P.S. to 35
    Genesis the Faith is a united front with God as our witness.
    Los Angeles Colony

  26. Bar-T Genesis, Lake Co. Tn. Colony
    Your greatest opposition in Tennessee is Lamar Alexander.
    Anybody and everybody should flood his office with E-mails. If he’s got his counter on -every time he gets but one E-mail he should understand – that’s one less vote. We don’t have to be amongst a gang of protesters on his doorstep [Dharna] – we can be a gang of protesters on his E-mail.
    Genesist the Faith
    San Diego Colony

  27. @ 35
    When that old man threw his shoes at Bush, that was The First Step, when Mubarak steps down is the next step, I hope Obama is keeping up…
    It is so late, so many laws, too many fat counselors of The LAW with nice shoes, too many forsaken souls, it never was about drug prohibition, when you decide if you are free on planet Earth Look around what do you see ?
    I see human corruption disgraces beyond imaginations, an army of men and women whose only purpose in life is to stomp on peoples heads if they inhale Cannabis.
    What I take back to GOD that place beyond The Vail is my only business+

  28. History will be on your side. Some time in the future people will look back on this period as a very dark time for freedom. You and all of the good people at NORML and all of the other anti-prohibition groups deserve a great deal of credit for your tireless efforts to reform this horrible law. Thank you. You will always have my admiration and support.

  29. 39 Nic
    The vail can only be lifted by the one(s) who placed it there.
    The Spirit of God is “within” all of us – constantly – and – all of us will have to answer to God in the final judgment sooner or later. Those who you admonish simply “have no conscience,” and will wear that hell as a vail on the bosom of their soul. We can only be God’s assistant. I wish you Equilibrium of the Soul.

  30. The vail that clouds our vision can only be lifted by the one(s) who placed it there.
    The Spirit of God is in all of us – constantly. We can only be God’s assistant. All of us will have to answer to God in the final judgment sooner or later. Those who you admonish have no conscience – and – will have to wear that hell on the bosom of their soul. I wish you Equilibrium of the Soul.
    Los Angeles Colony

  31. In the meantime drug cops drag sick and dieing to the floor, face down and step on their heads, steal their properties, drug cops violate the citizens here in this USA, like in Egypt.
    It is time, Eric Holder should be hanged publicly, like Mussolini, so that every citizen may see real Justice.

  32. 45 Nic
    Man has inhumanity towards man – and – when that is absorbed by power in those who we elect to represent us, power is corrupt – absolutely corrupt. We are left with two choices. 1. Tar and feather their ass, and run them out of town on a rail. 2. Make a better choice the next time you vote. Nic – here’s the indisputable fact:
    I wish you Equilibrium of the Soul.
    San Diego Colony

  33. 40 Luke “I hate it as much as anyone else “here.” Where is here?
    San Diego Colony

  34. 40 Luke
    The repeal of RFRA is a severe case of “Federal Religious Monitoring” by including Compelling Justification, Competing Prior Governmental Interests, and the government’s Supremacy Clause, interfering with the Establish Clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
    So! – here’s this Genesist’s answer. Genesists worship God, not government – and – if government persists in its suppression by creating laws to accept its ideology, it will feel the hand of God reach down its throat, grab its asshole, and turn it inside out – and – this Genesist will do nothing to stop that reaction [For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction]. If government continues to disrupt God’s Law with its Human Law – the result will be an absolute and total indifference to that government that attempts to justify such Compelling Justification, and Competing Prior Governmental Interests which extends to not only our Sacrament, but our Faith as well. In more explicit terms – that government can go take an aeronautical intercourse in a motivating french pastry [a flying fuck in a rolling doughnut] on the issue.
    Sure these are harsh words for a Faith – but – no harder than prohibs deserve to receive.
    God help us all – and – if God doesn’t – I’ll help myself – and – that’s my Constitutional Right.

  35. OK . Kudos Allen St. Pierre . I personally know the uh
    {m word} plant as cannabis .. Ma ri jua na seems to be a
    keyword with enforcement .. and those making some kinda
    stimulated economic gain from saying “ma rijua na” . . .
    I thank Allen St. Pierre for his acquisition of the way
    NORML may prevail as Manna ~pot legally smoking leaders
    with the way we may all prevail as the leaders of the uh
    grassroots movement to legally procure cannabis manna en
    the ideal new accord will be with ~pot Manna Legal !! 🙂
    Thanks Allen and Keith ., great High Times to now.. OK !!

  36. 49 Bryan
    If you are of the brethren of Genesis – then will you hear me now?
    Received [with] thanksgiving, MANNA is a divine benevolence – God’s sign of that which is sacred, a visible form of God’s invisible grace, a religious rite that confers special grace. In CDXX Communion a Genesist’s individual eternal spirit embraces the Spirit of God “within” – the individual eternal spirit of the essence reaching out to receive the spirit of the Source – a ceaseless flow of energy – Equilibrium of the Soul. Everything that is given to us by God is good – very good. God’s attributes are immutable. God has given us all things. Whatever God has given endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken away from it. God has made it so.
    “The green herb/MANNA” food/meat – is regarded as a gift from God,and eating it sacred. God’s Holy Sacrament is a significant part of a Genesist’s everyday religious life. Genesists have an intrinsic relationship with our Sacrament. By honoring MANNA as our Holy Sacrament, by keeping God’s statutes,
    Genesists enjoy the ordinances of our Faith. Genesists believe in, and honor God’s will, word and blessing.
    Genesis, San Diego Colony.

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