Rick Steves: A Wonderfully Effective Advocate for Legalization

Travel writer and public television travel host (and NORML board member) Rick Steves is truly a breath of fresh air.

As countless American travelers know, Rick Steves is a popular, prolific, and clean-cut travel expert who hosts the popular public television series “Rick Steves Europe” as well the National Public Radio show “Travel with Rick Steves,” and he has written many guidebooks for Americans traveling in Europe. His company, Rick Steves’ Europe, also hosts hundreds of trips to Europe each year. He helps readers, viewers, and tour participants discover not only great cities but cozy villages off the usual tourist-trampled paths. He helps American travelers connect intimately with Europeans—often for a fraction of what mainstream tourists pay.

Steves says his company’s mission “is to inspire, inform, and equip Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. We value travel as a powerful way to better understand and contribute to the world in which we live. We strive to keep our own travel style, our world outlook, and our business practices consistent with these values.”

Steves, who is an active member of his Lutheran church, has a wonderfully wholesome and charming style and has developed a unique comfort level with average Americans. They like and trust him. And it comes as a surprise to many to learn that Steves has another side to him: he is also a marijuana smoker and a public advocate for legalizing the responsible use of marijuana. Because of his ability to personally connect with his audience, Steves is an especially effective NORML advocate whose public support carries great credibility.

More and more public figures are beginning to speak out, but Steves was ahead of most all of them and has insisted on making his personal views on the subject public, regardless of the audience. Steves made his first appearance as a featured speaker at a NORML conference in 2003, and has been a featured speaker at many of our conferences since. He also frequently joins us to address the annual Seattle Hempfest. He was first elected to the NORML board of directors in 2013 and he continues to serve in that capacity.

Steves has shown a willingness to articulate in public what many marijuana smokers believe but are uncomfortable saying out loud: that in the right situation, smoking cannabis can be a positive and life-enhancing experience. Not only is it not harmful behavior, when used responsibly, but it can actually improve the quality of one’s life. The mind is clearer, and one’s creative juices are enhanced by the experience of getting high. Beyond that, it can be a wonderful way to simply relax.

Steves has an effective way to explain his interest in marijuana smoking. “I’m a travel writer. For me ‘high’ is a place. Sometimes I just want to go there. And if my government says no, there better be a good reason. And there isn’t.” He finishes his talk by wishing his audience “Happy travels…even if you’re just staying home.”

Steves was an official sponsor and significant financial supporter, and toured his home state of Washington actively campaigning in support of the ballot initiative (I-502) that voters approved in 2012, and he actively supported and personally toured Oregon in support of the successful Oregon initiative (Measure 91) in 2014.

And he has announced he is making similar commitments to the legalization initiatives that will appear on the November ballot in both Maine and Massachusetts this fall. He will spend three days in both states this fall, barnstorming to build support for the measures, and he will make a significant financial contribution to the campaigns in both states.

Rick Steves - NORML Board MemberJust this past week Steves announced he was putting up $50,000 as a matching grant to the Maine Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, to match the contributions from other supporters.

I’ve worked hard to help legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use in Washington State (where I live) and in Oregon. This November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative that will end prohibition and replace it with a sensible marijuana policy in their state too.

As a NORML Board Member, I am proud to announce that NORML is endorsing this initiative. And to demonstrate my commitment, I am going to match every donation up to $50,000, dollar-for-dollar. This October, I’ll be visiting Maine to speak about the initiative and help build support for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana in the state.

Through my travels in Europe, I’ve learned that pragmatic harm reduction makes much more sense than legislating morality. And I believe in civil liberties. Responsible adults should be able to use marijuana, just as they can use alcohol. Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska have demonstrated that it is possible to build a system of marijuana control and regulation that works.”

This isn’t about being “soft” or “hard” on drugs. This is about being smart – and controlling and regulating marijuana the right way.

Please consider making a donation today. Together, we can make history in Maine.


Rick Steves

Guidebook Author and Travel TV Host

NORML Board Member”

In a press release issued by the Maine campaign, they thanked NORML for endorsing the initiative and expressed their appreciation of Rick Steves’ generosity. “NORML has spent decades educating the public about marijuana and advocating for sensible marijuana policy reform,” said campaign manager David Boyer. “We are proud to have their support, and we are very grateful for Mr. Steves’ exceptionally generous offer. A lot of celebrities express support for ending marijuana prohibition, but few put their money where their mouth is.”

And that is the point of this column. Lots of celebrities talk the talk, but few actually walk the walk. It is a delight to be working with Rick Steves, a celebrity who does both exceptionally well. Rick Steves may well be the single most effective legalization advocate in America, and he is especially helpful bridging the gap between those of us who smoke and those who don’t.

Thanks, Rick, for all you do to advance the cause of personal freedom for all of us, smokers and non-smokers alike.


This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

9 thoughts

  1. Thank you Keith, not only for the deserving accolades you credit to Rick Steves, but for giving me another shot at convincing the NORML board we can crowd-source a “Rick Steves World Cannabis Tour.” (The title keeps changing, but you get the drill…)

    Yes, I realize Rick is busy legalizing California and now Maine, and yes, I understand his brand named experience is in Europe, but we really, REALLY NEED an educated travel guide for the rapidly changing world of cannabis destinations.

    Here is the basic outline of my proposal: Crowdfund for production and then sell the exclusive videos during a one-time cannabis awareness auction where percentage and donations fund the campaigns of legalization representatives in their states and countries. There can be a three-month moratorium after advertising and before the big release in order to boost donations.

  2. If we need to break it up into a series, then let’s start with Rick’s strong point; Europe. (We may have to wait and see if England doesn’t “Brexit” from the Eurozone), but Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Strazburg, Athens and London would be great starts to help the common traveler sift through evolving marijuana law.
    A European version of NORML Executive Director Paul Armentano’s link to state-by-state marijuana law directory is in tall order.

    As for the U.S., Mr. Armentano’s guide is a great place to start, but considering the number of states due to legalize in the coming months, who better to create a part pot-umentary part travel guide for the state-by-state U.S. marijuana traveler and connoisseur?
    As I posted in Rick’s previous blog, with articles like this “101 guide” from Leafly:


    …misinforming travelers to “get marijuana from the streets” of Mexico and Colombia, we need someone to travel to places like Montevideo, Uruguay to explain the local law, how to become a resident and consume locally and legally. Don’t make me break out a selfie stick! We need expert production here!

    As you can tell I am one of many Rick Steves travel and marijuana enthusiasts. As much as I would love to send Rick to the Himalayas with David Attenborough somewhere in Nepal to explain the origins of human coevolution with the remarkable cannabis plant, I realize we have to stick with our production budgets and expertise. So please help me convince Rick Steves to create an official European Canna-tourist Guide, and perhaps our fundraising videos can evolve from there?

    Happy travels Rick… Even if you’re just staying at home… 🙂

  3. Here is the latest from the European Drug Report:


    Of course, even Leafly says to take the report with a grain of salt, (or perhaps some French table wine in the Provence region), but these statistics for marijuana consumption in Europe;

    “Below are the proportions of national residents, ages 15 to 64, who’ve ever consumed cannabis, according to the new EMCDDA figures:

    France: 40.9%
    Denmark: 35.6%
    Italy: 31.9%
    Spain: 30.4%
    United Kingdom: 29.2%
    Czech Republic: 28.7%
    Ireland: 25.3%
    The Netherlands: 24.1%
    Germany: 23.1%
    Norway: 21.9%
    Finland: 21.7%
    Poland: 16.2%
    Slovenia: 15.8%
    Croatia: 15.6%
    Belgium: 15%
    These statistics should be taken with a few pinches of salt. Some of the surveys and research used by the EMCDDA to construct the report are quite old, and the different countries use different survey methods. More importantly, because cannabis is still illegal, it’s extra hard to get reliable results. It also seems strange to draw the age-group line at 64 years, especially given the many seniors now enjoying cannabis. Still, the list gives a reasonable indication of relative use among countries and offers a few key takeaways.”

    When I went to France in 2000 I caught a Pantera concert in Paris and was delighted at the offer of a passing joint while I sat out Powerman 5000 before the Norwegian death metal band Satyrcon came on. But to my dismay the herb was mixed with tobacco. Then they horrified me by telling me the French traditionally whack the seeds and buds down to shake before they mix it with tobacco. If international flights stopped serving alcohol, I know how to get two birds stoned at once… MaryAirlines? Canna Air?

    1. Derek Williams, who used to post the news articles on the CLEAR-UK website (what happened to it?) said in Britain 2/3 of all cannabis users roll it into a joint with tobacco. (Closest thing in US is the “Blunt” with nicotine in the tobacco-leaf cigar skin.)

      PS– strange that nearby Belgium has so much lower interest in herb than France– any guesses why?

      No. 1 oligarch objective: get as many kids first exploring cannabis “hooked for life” on hot burning overdose $igarette $moking.

  4. Why I cannot get anything done in Indiana to get marijuana legalized it’s just really sad

  5. Mr. Steves worked to get weed legalized in Washington first but he stopped short, for some unknown reason, in including an allowance for home cultivation. It is still illegal for adults to grow their own in Washington but some of us have been working for years now to get this changed only to have the bills die in committee due to lack of support. Where is Rick Steves while all this is going on. Please stand up and lend your voice to this issue. Cannabis is not truly legal until it is decriminalized.

Leave a Reply