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!