The $100,000 NORML Challenge from Rick Steves and Justin Hartfield

Board chair note:

NORML’s board of directors has always consisted of a wide variety and array of stakeholders who support ending cannabis prohibition. At the most recent Annual Meeting of the board, members elected five new directors to serve three-year terms.

We’re blessed that two of these newly elected directors, Rick Steves and Justin Hartfield, are taking it upon themselves to increase the amount of resources the staff has available to accomplish their dual tasks of both reforming cannabis laws and helping the victims of the prohibition laws.

Both Rick and Justin are accomplished businessmen who believe strongly in NORML’s mission.

Rick is America’s best selling travel author and host of the popular and long-running PBS series Travels With Rick Steves. Rick was the co-petitioner (and a major funder) for his home state of Washington’s successful cannabis legalization voter initiative last year.

Justin is the founder behind WeedMaps, the most successful online commercial company to date in the cannabis community (that is not directly marketing cannabis products) and a major donor to numerous cannabis law reform organizations.

Norm Kent, Esq.
Chairman, NORML board of directors
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

The $100,000 NORML Challenge from Rick Steves and Justin Hartfield

Dear NORML members and supporters,

When the federal government announced that Washington and Colorado were free to legalize, tax, and regulate the sale and recreational use of marijuana, the term “Lower 48” took on a new meaning in my mind. Bit by bit, that Lower 48 will join the “Tokin’ Two” and the USA will be finished with the war on pot. At least that’s the challenge before us now.

When I joined NORML a decade ago, no politician I know would stand by our cause. Today I have a copy of a letter on my desk signed by both Washington State senators and nearly our entire congressional delegation asking President Obama to support the will of the people in our state. Just this morning I got a phone call from our governor, Jay Inslee, to thank me for the work the drug reform activists in our state have done and to say he was eager to work with us to make this new approach to marijuana work.

In other words, together–under the leadership of NORML–we, the people, are ending the US war on pot. With the last election and with this week’s announcement from the attorney general in Washington DC, we are beautifully positioned to make sure a responsible, adult American citizen is never again arrested for enjoying the beauties of recreational marijuana.

But this doesn’t just happen. Tens of millions of Americans enjoy marijuana. But only ‘tens of hundreds’ are actively involved in taking the crime out of its use with a substantial personal commitment of time or financial support. I’ve spent lots of time and money at this and, given our successes in the last year, it’s been time and money brilliantly spent. It’s a pure joy to be in this battle with others in the drug reform movement–especially my friends at NORML.

With this letter I’m challenging you to join me and my partners at NORML to empower our organization to build on our recent triumphs. In other words, if you care about legalizing pot in the USA, it’s time for you to kick in some serious money.

We’re all in this together. And we’re doing what we can to defend the civil liberties of American pot smokers. Many give their time, talents, and money–depending on what they’ve got to give. Sadly, many more just toke away and watch from the sidelines while NORML fights their battle. My fellow NORML board member Justin Hartfield (of WeedMaps) and I have pledged $100,000 to challenge the huge family of NORML members and friends to get engaged and to match us.

This is an historic moment as people power is bringing down the US war on marijuana. And now is the time to help fund NORML’s work. NORML is fighting for each of us, and it can’t happen without our collective financial support. That’s why Justin and I are challenging you to step up to the plate and be a contributing part of this winning team. Donate whatever you can, and–up to a total of $100,000–Justin and I will match you. That doubles the power of your gift.

Donations of appreciated stocks and in-kind donations are always welcomed.

Think of how far we’ve come. Think of the heroic contribution drug warriors on the NORML team have made over the decades. Think of how our country is ripe for progress in drug policy reform. And now it’s time for a little heroism from you. Together we can make NORML $200,000 stronger. Dig deep and give a little bigger than normal for NORML… right now.

While I’ve been a marijuana law reform activist for over 35 years, this past week’s Department of Justice memo allowing legalization to move forward in the states of Colorado and Washington, along with today’s 25th anniversary of the momentous legal decision by DEA judge Francis Young in the seminal marijuana legal challenge known as ‘NORML vs. DEA’ (ruling in NORML’s favor to reschedule marijuana for medicinal purposes) clearly demonstrate that American’s long suffering war against marijuana consumers is drawing closer and closer to an end.


Rick Steves
Edmonds, WA

Justin Hartfield
Irvine, CA

17 thoughts

  1. Rick,
    You’re a real cannabis warrior. 35 years?! I’m 35 years old and grew up watching your show. You’re such a nice guy on your show, yet you have been killing the DEA’s made-to-fail drug war with smiles and kindness all these years leading up to Washington State’s victorious vote. And to learn you are from Washington State? What a trip. The American people are indebted for your service.
    How about a “Rick Steve’s America?” with a hemp and marijuana tour, using cannabis tourism, (Washington and Colorado) history (Kentucky, the war of 1812) and architecture (hempcrete, North Carolina Hemp builders) in just the same format you do with Europe but regarding the 50 states and our cannabis history?
    America would donate big ca$h for that!
    Here is my link to my White House Peitition to grow hemp in arid farm lands for cellulose ethanol:

  2. Thanks, Rick!

    I hope this fund raiser is running for a couple of months because folks with kids in school and university students alike just got done forking over big bucks for the academic year, can’t afford to donate anything until the credit cards get paid down, better yet paid off. You know, clothes, books, school supplies on top of whatever is still owed from summer vacation, you know, on top of the regular monthly bills and stuff. Ain’t heard about the sacred herb for months and months, just too much going out and not enough coming in so ain’t no reason to even ask how are you doin’ how you been.

    I sure hope with legal cannabis there will be a nice range of prices so that even at the low end there is something decent in the shops.

  3. Yeah, I’ve always liked Rick Steves. Smile big and give em’ hell Steve, and thanks Norml.

  4. Yea me and Steve go way back
    and I always knew he would lead the pack.
    Its people like him and I
    That will lead the future with…
    Intelligence and compassion
    Full Steve ahead.!

  5. I would like to thank you guys for all you do to promote reasonable cannabis laws.Thru NORML I have seen progress over decades of support.As a retired vet my objective is to promote legalization. The drug war is a miserable failure.As long as law enforcement in border freedom states see this as a cash influx asoppossed to actual crime.Eric Holder only teased the citizens ,confused narrow viewed southern elder politixians.I have a goal to move to Boulder,Colorado to practice using a safe medication in place of dangerous narcotics that can take my life as they do every day.Now in a time when wounded warriors are being neglexted,I see a great chance to do a trial study to prove the safeety of cannabis.As much as I wish to contribute money,I only have time an my keyboard.Daily I tweet about my theory that pot can an does save lives.The proof is myself.As A Georgia resident ,every day is a gamble to mention without that chance of criminality.Thanks guys an I will not ever abandon my philosophy.Will assist NORML any way I can.If so let me know. Colorado will remove a mountain of issues as time will prove.Sincerely Glen Brown.

  6. I’m 56. Work with my back my own life. I have off and on back pain. I received 60 vicodin a month for well over 3 years. I got addicted marijuana does help. And I can tell you don’t matter what them yuppie say marijuana is not addictive

  7. Money is useful, many would say essential, for achieving results in political disputes–and the task of changing the laws is in fact a political issue–it is persons in public office, both elected and appointed, who actually determine what the laws will say and how they will be interpreted and enforced. Defying or breaking the law is a police matter; changing and reforming the law is a political matter. Our original Constitutional political system has been parasitized–indeed, taken over by–a police state and a military-corporate-directed empire.

    If you don’t believe it’s a police state, you should have been here in St.Paul in 2008 during the Republican convention. If you don’t believe it’s a police state, explain the NSA’s blanket snooping on all electronic communication, or DEA’s decades of unfettered access to all Western Hemisphere phone calls, or the terroristic SWAT tactics used to bust growers and even dispensaries, or our mass incarceration of more people than any other nation as well as the racial disparity in that disgraceful distinction, or the coordinated violent police suppression of the peaceful Occupy protests, or you should simply have been in St. Paul in 2008 for the National Republican Party convention. What used to be the culminating event in our citizen-based democratic process was transformed into a “national security event” featuring a massive display of military and police intimidation and repression in the streets and a predetermined ritual media mockery in the hall.

    And if you don’t think we’re an empire, can you explain why the Armed Forces Network is broadcasting sporting events to American military personnel in 125 countries and all the ships at sea?

    As the saying goes, “Our democracy is experiencing technical difficulties.” How can we effectively resist, and begin to reverse, the damage?

    I believe that ending drug prohibition, and in particular re-legalization of cannabis, is the prescription for restoring liberty and restraining unaccountable, corrupting police power. That’s MY idea of medicinal marijuana!

    Therefore, I applaud efforts to raise money for the cause. But money, as important as it is, is not in fact speech, just as corporations are not in fact persons. And for reaching the political goal of legalization–yes, “regulation” may be the focus-group-tested terminology but come on, let’s be honest!–for legalization, money is necessary but NOT SUFFICIENT.

    Because of the nature of this issue–its roots in racism; its resonating reflection of the repressive puritanical strain in American culture; its saturation in media sensationalism and lurid lying for so many decades–it’s not susceptible to the customary price-tag approach that lobbyists and other corrupters employ for quotidian political controversies.

    Besides just money, there HAS to be a popular mass movement, and it has to both more widespread and better organized. When this money is raised, using it to organize effective local chapters would in my opinion be a better investment than using it for an advertising campaign or for lobbying.

    Successful recent political insurgencies, and there haven’t been many the cheer about in America lately, seem to arise from the local- groups-working-upwards model more than from the central-HQ-influence-peddling approach.

  8. First, I’d like to thank you Rick on behalf of what you call “the ones on the sidelines”, for your generous contributions, patience, and perseverance.

    Please don’t think for a moment that your incredible efforts, achieving such big monster success in the war agains prohibition aren’t being acknowledged by the general public. The entire nation is watching, praying and pushing for you!

    With that being said, there is no doubt in my mind that what prevents people from coming out of the shadows is somewhat related to the terminology. Let’s leave the bad image in the past, and end the stigmatic corporate branding of this beautiful plant.

    It’s called Cannabis, NOT Marijuana!

    Drive this Cannabis re-branding movement to the lower 48 states, and the public will sure come out of the shadows and give you the support you need.

    Keep pushing forward,
    Chris Kusher

    [Editor’s note: This is an old and tired debate, and an unnecessary one as 1) cannabis is just one of many acceptable names along with marijuana, 2) Media, government legislation, legal research and search engines are largely employing the term ‘marijuana’, so persons or businesses that choose to use the term ‘cannabis’ over ‘marijuana’ will get less traffic and views, 3) trying to make others be politically correct re use of chosen language is almost always a futile waste of time. Will the racist-tinged term ‘marihuana’ (now commonly spelled ‘marijuana’, unless the text is the Supreme Court or Harvard scholars, who both tend to employ the previous spelling) be used less after prohibition? Maybe. Will it matter? 4) opponents for decades have accused reformers of ‘trying to hide the ball’ by calling cannabis ‘pot’, ‘weed’, ‘ganja’ and ‘medicine’ that people should use whatever term they’re most comfortable with as the central point in the eight decade old public policy debate is not the word that describes the plant in question, it is the PROHIBITION of the plant.]

  9. I really appreciate the work and sweat people have put into helping states have new and better marijuana laws, but I have noticed other than New York, its been the Democratic states that have been fortunate enough to have their laws changed.
    I live in Indiana and our Governor, Mike Pence, still thinks that marijuana is a gate way drug. I’m not even going to try and convice them other wise, because the real people that don’t want the marijuana laws changed are the people that donated to his campaign.
    Mike Pence is not a King nor a dictator he works for the people of Indiana and the voice of the people is not being heard.
    Is there not a way to work around these republican politicians or maybe swoop around them and pick up the voices of the people in these Republican states. If not; There Should Be. That swoop should be led by your company and the many other hard working companies out there trying to change Marijuana laws for the better.
    I hope this post is taken well. I try, and will continue to try, to have an open mind and not think selfishly about other states having their laws changed and not my own. How ever it sure would feel better knowing that my contributions are going to a to help the laws in other states as well as My own.

  10. In an earlier post I wrote “because the real people that don’t want the marijuana laws changed are the people that donated to his campaign”. I was speaking of Mike Pence’s campaign doners.
    Okay, I would like to say that I’m not sure what the doners stance is on marijuana laws, but I’m pretty sure there is at least one that stands to benifit by haveing marijuana laws un-changed.
    I don’t think that it is fair to say that all the Governors doners share his opinion.
    :this post was an update due to, un-obtainable information regarding the editing of previous post

  11. When it’s a legetimate problem you are growin for and being treated for then why is there a problem paying your taxes and sharing your knowledge on the pot man. Fuqit dude chill pay ur fees let the govt do what they do n live your life… All my friends do the low rider… :0)

  12. I’m disabled and nearly homeless, but I still need marijuana as told by two doctor’s to treat various disabling symptoms. I’ve donated a small amount ($20.00)and truly believe most person’s can donate some amount, be it $5.00 or $50,000.00 to support this cause we all want to have passed. Also over the past week I’ve voted over 300 times for the Intuit Big Game/Norml advertisement to run during the Super Bowl. Come on folks this is the very least you can do!!

  13. It is very disappointing that this campaign did not reach the donation goal of $100K (26% with 2 days to go). The community should have met this goal in one day. The WePay system could have been one, albiet small, barrier for the donors to hurdle. The donation webpage should have had the $4.20 donation amount at the top, front and center of the page: The lead off amount of $5K was probably off putting for many (note the number of broke people posting comments via facebook on the donation page). This campaign needs better promotion…everyone donate $4.20. Put this front and center on the NORML website and facebook comment. Would love to see this goal met.

    Everyone in the country who uses cannabis should dontate $4.20 to this cause.

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