NORML: 2013 Annual Report

(If you already think NORML is kicking pot prohibition’s butt, skip director’s note below and join NORML or make an end-of-the-year donation.)

Dear NORML members and supporters,

For all and intent purposes since the good people of California voted in the majority in 1996 to create legal access for qualified medical patients to cannabis, the pace of public advocacy work in support of cannabis law reform at NORML has been, in a word, manic–with one political victory after another piling up at the state level.

As we turned the calendar from 2012, where voters in the states of Colorado and Washington had just elected to end cannabis prohibition, to 2013, I was confident that the then coming year would be the busiest and most productive in the organization’s forty-three year history.

Thankfully for cannabis law reform in America (and the world), I’ve been proven correct.

The Future of Marijuana Legalization is Happening Right Now, Finally!

This annual report briefly summarizes the many advances gained by NORML in 2013, and the progress made in general by the ever-increasing popularity for cannabis law reform in the country.

When NORML was founded in 1970, Gallup polling indicated less than 10% support for legalizing cannabis. Today, Gallup polling reveals that 58% of the American public favor cannabis legalization over its continued prohibition. The prestigious Brookings Institute commenced an educational policy series in 2013 on cannabis prohibition laws, and concluded that the massive change in public attitude in favor of cannabis legalization is likely irreversible as the reforms are increasingly popular with nearly all demographics.

Most of the substantive cannabis law reforms today are affected at the state level–with 21 states having medical cannabis access laws, 16 states have decriminalized cannabis possession for adults and 2 states have crossed the legalization Rubicon. This is placing terrific upward political pressure on a recalcitrant federal government, who otherwise would try to maintain the untenable status quo of cannabis prohibition.

Federal Government Says ‘Uncle’, More States and Countries To Soon Follow

In September, federal officials and leaders in the Senate pushed forward with memos and public hearings making it clear that the Obama Administration was not going to interfere with states adopting cannabis legalization, and were in fact publishing criteria allowing pro-reform states to move forward with implementing full legalization schemes for cannabis.

This monumental decision by the Department of Justice was historic in every sense of the word, and likely marks the death knell for cannabis prohibition in America (and around the world).

To wit, seeing American voters chuck now unwanted cannabis prohibition laws, replacing them with ‘tax and control’ laws that allow retail access for adult consumers, in mid-December, following America’s lead, the country of Uruguay became the first country in modern history to replace prohibition laws with legalized sales of cannabis.

Today, more and more elected policy makers, as well as those ascending into politics, are contacting NORML at record levels seeking public endorsements, asking the organization to prepare reform legislation and campaign funding.

The number of actual legalization bills offered for passage demonstrates another prime example of how mainstream politicians from both major political parties are increasingly embracing cannabis law reform. In 2007, no American politician was willing to work with NORML on a cannabis legalization bill. In 2014, NORML’s lobbying staff anticipates fifteen states will be debating cannabis legalization bills (up from ten states in 2013).

NORML By The Numbers

When I was hired in 1991 to work at NORML, the organization had five basic revenue streams, was in chronic financial dire straits, had numerous liens on bank accounts, rent had not been paid in over a year and the IRS was raking it over the coals in a particularly harsh financial audit.

I was asked to “help right the ship”. My parents thought I’d lost all my senses forgoing opportunities to work in corporate America for a then struggling and politically-lost-in-the-woods non-profit organization.

Keeping the organization fiscally sound, compliant with non-profit regulations, and transparent (financial tax forms are posted annually to NORML’s webpage) for the public have been organizational priorities for over twenty years.

In 2013, the budget for the organization is nearly four times the size of the one I inherited in the early 1990s. The organization now has over twenty five revenue streams, 150 chapters, 600 lawyers on the NORML Legal Committee, the staff conduct well over 2,000 media interviews annually and NORML’s online presence, as well as size of its opt-in social network have no peer in the drug policy reform movement. Despite having larger annual budgets secured by a few billionaire donors, NORML’s webpage traffic and number of Facebook and Twitter followers dwarfs most all of the other pro-drug policy reform groups’ online footprint, combined.

In a recent Zogby poll, when the American public is asked ‘what does the acronym N.O.R.M.L stand for?’, 25% percent responded with an answer like ‘NORML is the marijuana lobby group.’ So well known in American culture, the organization was featured as a question on the December 13, 2013 broadcast of Jeopardy! (So too in 2005 edition of Trivial Pursuit). Annually, NORML signs numerous trademark agreements with major TV networks and movie production companies who want to employ NORML’s apparent cachet in their film and TV productions.

NORML’s Unique Role and Vexation

For NORML, America’s most recognized and respected cannabis law reform organization, these are heady days witnessing and helping to end cannabis prohibition. Especially serving as public representatives for cannabis consumers, to help shape what legalization is ultimately going to look like in our country.

Also unique to the organization is NORML’s dual mission of not only advocating for policy changes to occur post haste, we provide help and legal assistance to the victims of these long misguided cannabis prohibition laws as well. We lend support to many of the millions of men and women busted, prosecuted and incarcerated for what never should have been crimes in our freedom-loving, free-market oriented democracy.

Bittersweetly, NORML’s staff is viciously whipsawed between phone calls from citizens in states with legal cannabis laws seeking help on procuring a permit to sell or cultivate the herb, while the very next phone call is from a fellow cannabis consumer busted in a pot prohibition state for a minor amount, facing serious, life-altering consequences.

For forty-three years NORML has been standing loud and proud, publicly favoring cannabis law reform. The American public is now squarely in NORML’s corner. We’ve helped change our country (and the world) for the better.

Please help us finish the job at hand.


Allen St. Pierre
NORML Executive Director

19 thoughts

  1. Not been a good year for me personally but it certainly does cheer me up to think that soon I might be free. Thanks NORML – you have given hope to many people around the world.

    Happy New Year 2014 !

  2. Thank you for all the hard work to correct this terrible injustice! Finally I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Do you really know what it is to be “FREE” soon we will! Thanks to all our hard working advocates like NORML!!!!

  3. Congratulations to everyone at NORML, and to all of us who are donating, writing and calling our Congressman and making good history for our grandchildren’s children. get your popcorn and your hemp granola ready… 2014 is going to be VERY interesting for legalization. And the rewards will last a lifetime…

  4. TEXAS ! TEXAS ! TEXAS ! Largest hypocritical state in the country. If I lived 10 west I could get medicinal Marijuana, Here in Texas 10 years to life and lose all Medicare benefits. PLUS DOCTORS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO CHARGE $200.00 times TWO FOR A PRESCRIPTION BE FREE AS IT WAS before HEARST. MORGAN, ROCKEFELLER and friends!

  5. Allen, your work is so appreciated by those of us who share your passion for legalization and returning America to a nation where freedom flourishes. I am so envious of Colorado and Washington. The folks here in NOVA Norml are working hard to achieve the same accomplishments, and we will support you in every way that we can.

  6. Does N.O.R.M.L offer lobbyist training so that I can become a proper well educated foot soldier in my state? (ny)

    [Editor’s note: For the past 40 years the premiere training ground for cannabis law reform activism are the state/local NORML chapters. You can locate and contact your local NORML chapter via this link.

    Heads up: NORML’s board of directors has tasked the staff to contract for meeting space in Washington, D.C. in 2014 for a ‘Lobby Day Conference’.]

  7. Thanks Allen and NORML. Please help New York pass the legalization bill being presented as New York (home of Woodstock) will be discussing it in the new year. I will be making my donation to support NORML which is in my opinion has a great site where great people can discuss our frustration with the outdated prohibitionist laws regarding the legalization of marijuana. This site has the best marijuana discussions and posts, not to mention articles. If New York can pass this reform bill there will be no stopping legalization across the globe. In only a few days Washington and Colorado will open their borders to the legalized sale of marijuana for recreational use. This is proof that “It’s only illegal because our politicians say it is.”

  8. can’t wait to hear the outcome of ‘Lobby Day Conference’

    good news all around for pot, industrial hemp, and organic agriculture. i want to end prohibition so more people ~Tune In~ and start thinking agricultural!

    You Are the 99%! A great year in review!

  9. Great work, NORML, and thank you!

    I’m hoping that the good people at NORML continue to be lobbyists for cannabis, and that they become multipliers, training other people to be pro-cannabis advocates in all of the states and territories to find the right balance between personal freedom to grow your own and government regulation.

  10. 2013 was a really good year. To have two states and one South American legalize marijuana is a major accomplishment. The opposition to marijuana prohibition is fading. Now is the time to refer to the prohibition of Marijuana as the worst mistake in American history. I find it difficult to criticize the communist regimes when the Federal Government of the United States of America has knowingly turned a illegal prohibition into a national agenda and then oppress and punished its population for over 90 years. And call it a issue of public safety. The little red book that the Peoples Republic of China used was full of public safety issues. The Nazi’s used public safety and moral fiber to eliminate the Jews. Now that public opinion has changed toward marijuana prohibition we can see it for what it really is, a illegal prohibition designed to control and manipulate the population. History will refer to this period in American as the age of ignorance.

  11. Thanks Norml, best wishes for the new year. I support your work and will send some $$$ asap.

  12. …after 4 yrs,10 months,24 days of being hair tested to keep my employment,i am even more thankful of norml and all the hard work you have given to free the good herb from the clutches of the money,power hungry crystal palace that runs this country. altho i still cannot consume,it has been a good year on your part. thank you all and look foward to a year of bigger change again in 2014…happy new year and peace to you all!

  13. “To wit, seeing American voters chuck now unwanted cannabis prohibition laws, replacing them with ‘tax and control’ laws that allow retail access for adult consumers, in mid-December, following America’s lead, the country of Uruguay became the first country in modern history to replace prohibition laws with legalized sales of cannabis.”

    What are you talking about? They didn’t “take America’s lead.” Despite progress we are STILL quagmired in federal prohibition. Partly because of this, we are still stuck paying ~$10/g for a PLANT, over 5 times the value of pure silver. What Uruguay is doing is truly revolutionary: their FEDERAL government is dispensing high grade cannabis directly to the people at $1/g. WE should be the ones emulating Uruguay, not the other way around.

    [Editor’s note: The politicians in Uruguay who’ve led the reform efforts cite the precedent within states in America; that the United Nations didn’t interfere with America’s deviation from long standing anti-drug treaties. Uruguay’s chosen path for cannabis law reform will likely be very different than America’s because this country is so much more free-market oriented than socialist-leaning Uruguay. It is very unlikely that any state or federal government is going to get directly into the production and sales of intoxicants.

    Even in the twenty or so states with only state-owned liquor stores, the state governments are only selling the end product, with the wide variety of product created and sold to the state liquor stores manufactured by private companies. This is the legalization system chosen by the voters of Washington last year, where their Washington Liquor Control Board is now going to sell cannabis products too.

    It is VERY unlikely that the federal government in America will ever seek to have 100% control and profit from legal cannabis commerce.

    NORML thinks this is as it should be as the organization has always supported the private production of cannabis and opposes government efforts to create a cannabis monopoly on production and sales.]

  14. The federal govt doesn’t want the true value of cannabis to become public knowledge. Experience has shown the american population that cannabis has medicinal value, life saving value ignored by the powers benefiting from its prohibition. Keep up the good work NORML and im in our corner.

  15. I support legaization of marijuana, but I am sick of proponants of marijuana and its use claiming that it is ‘nontoxic,’ over fifty known carcinogens have been identified in cannabis smoke, including; nitrosamines, reactive aldehydes, and polycylic hydrocarbons, including benz[a]pyrene. Don’t argue a case for something with great potential without being completely honest about its potential harm. Otherwise, the whole argument for it, is just filled with propaganda and misinformation. That does more harm for the cause than good.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Cannabinoids are relatively non-toxic. Combustive smoke contains carcinogenic materials.]

  16. Did anybody read the new news on here about it becoming legal in pa? Where’s this Judith Parker lady from the 1980s? Her comment “it’s a proven fact that it cause damage to brain cells” is so ridiculous. Do your homework before you make a comment like that. As of the 21st century scientist proved that statement to be completely false.

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