Allen St. Pierre Tenders His Resignation

After 14 years serving as Deputy Director of NORML under three different Executive Directors, followed by 11 years as Executive Director, Allen F. St. Pierre has tendered his resignation to the NORML board of directors, effective July 15th. St. Pierre, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, had come to Washington, DC a quarter of a century ago with the intent of going to law school, but he found a job with NORML and never left. We are all indebted to St. Pierre for his long and valuable service to the organization, helping lead the organization and the legalization movement through some difficult times to the glorious days of legalization we are currently experiencing.

NORML was founded in late 1970 to represent the interests of consumers, and today the NORML brand is clearly the best-known brand, along with High Times, in the legalization movement. And St. Pierre’s leadership has contributed greatly to that exceptional reputation. He is a tireless worker who has been the public face of NORML since 2005, having given thousands of media interviews, both large and small.

As Leafly deputy editor Bruce Barcott said of St. Pierre’s value to the legalization movement, “During his quarter-century at NORML, St. Pierre would gladly return anybody’s phone call, no matter if you were a rookie reporter, expert grower, angry NORML chapter head, or confused member of Congress. Despite the thrashing cannabis took on Capitol Hill, he always remained upbeat. His wry sense of humor and his ability to laugh at the absurdity of America’s cannabis laws and taboos weren’t just an unexpected balm; they were a model of sanity for advocates around the country.”

A Little NORML History

I first met St. Pierre in 1994, when the NORML board was going through a periodic crisis and Dr. Lester Grinspoon at Harvard, the board Chair, had been asked to establish a new board of directors, and Dr. Grinspoon invited me to rejoin the board. I had founded the organization in 1970 and headed the organization through the 1970s. I had managed first to befriend the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who favored decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses (the recommendation of the Marijuana Commission), and then to burn those bridges over the issue of the government’s spraying of paraquat (a deadly pesticide) on marijuana along the US/Mexican border, a practice we feared was poisoning unwitting marijuana smokers. In the end, I became embroiled in a scandal involving the president’s drug advisor, Dr. Peter Bourne, that cost Dr. Bourne his job, and I was forced to step aside from NORML.

I did other public-interest work for several years, including lobbying for family farmers on Capitol Hill and serving as Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDL). Those were all exciting challenges, but eventually, when that call came from Dr. Grinspoon inviting me back on the NORML board, I was delighted to return to my old organization. And shortly thereafter I was asked to once again serve as Executive Director of the organization for another decade.

During that decade, Allen St. Pierre, who had played a major role in keeping NORML alive as an organization during the difficult political phase when public support for legalization was sagging, served as my deputy and was an integral part of every major decision and project NORML undertook during those years.

St. Pierre Takes Over in 2005

When the time came for me to step aside (again) at the end of 2004, I had no doubt that St. Pierre was the individual best equipped to take over the reins of the organization, which he assumed on Jan. 1, 2005, a position he held for the last 11-plus years. And during that time he oversaw all sorts of conflicts over priorities and strategies for the legalization movement, including most importantly the inevitable tension between those who use marijuana as a medicine, and those of us who smoke recreationally. Like all other drug law reform organizations, NORML had some supporters who preferred we focus primarily on the medical side of the issue, as well as those of us who felt out goal should always remain the full legalization of marijuana for all adults, regardless of why one smokes.

When we win a medical use bill, we win only the right to smoke marijuana for specific ailments if a physician says we are sick. That is crucial for many seriously ill patients, but the vast majority of marijuana smokers are not sick. We smoke because we enjoy it. And medical use laws do nothing to protect recreational users from arrest and jail. When we win full legalization, we expand personal freedom — the right to smoke marijuana free from government interference, regardless of why we smoke.

The success we have had by fully legalizing marijuana in four states and the district of Columbia since 2012, and the likelihood that we will add four or five additional states to the list of fully legalized jurisdictions this November, confirms the feasibility of the strategy that St. Pierre and NORML have pursued all these years. We are gradually restoring a measure of personal freedom to millions of responsible marijuana smokers all across this land.

St. Pierre, who at 50 is a new father, now begins a new phase of his life, and we all wish him well and much success. He will remain on the NORML board of directors, continuing to share his insight and experience, and help keep the organization moving forward in an effective manner.

And for now, all of us at NORML, and those millions of smokers out there who look to NORML to lead the charge to legalization in their states, owe a debt of gratitude to Allen St. Pierre for his dedication and leadership for the last 25 years at NORML.

Thanks Allen for being a valued friend and colleague for all these years.

17 thoughts

  1. Thank you, Allen! Everything Kieth says is true. I would just like to add the fact that marijuana is medicine is not making it more difficult to legalize it for non-medical use. If anything, it has made it easier. So, there is no justification for picking one over the other.

  2. Thank you Allen for all you do and have done.
    Enjoy the next phase of your journey!
    Very Best,

  3. Thank you so much for all of your hard work! Glad you are staying on the board to assist thru this crucial year for legalization !

  4. Allen St. Pierre is truly an amazing marijuana policy reform advocate and a good friend. The time I spent in the 90s during my time as Legal Director for NORML were great years, and were especially enjoyable because of Allen’s “wry sense of humor”, as Keith put it. Although Allen has no shortage of positive traits, if I had to sum up his character in only three words, I would say: Devoted, brilliant, and generous. I feel fortunate to have worked with Allen both as Legal Director and since then as a lifetime member of the NLC. He has always been there to lend a hand. Thank you for your tireless service, Allen. God speed in your future endeavors.

  5. Thanks for all your hard work and professionalism at NORML, Allen. You did a great job and I’m sorry to see you go. I wish you continued success in the future.

  6. Wishing Mr. St. Pierre happiness while he prepares to hold hands with the (future) White House. He deserves to be there as a policy maker, as he’s seen what so many others can do for legalization, without actually doing anything himself! Well rested, well prepared! Don’t continue to let us down!

  7. Thank you for your dedication, leadership and service, Allen. And congratulations most of all on your new joy in life, and all the new and wonderful things you are about to experience. Well done!

  8. Allen allowed this novice reporter to interview him once the spring before last, with my wife and kids standing in the lobby, and I’ll never forget when a phone call came in and he didn’t hesitate to answer… And answer he did. He was whipsawed between making statements to individual activists, educating Congressman and giving legal advice to victims of the drug war. Then as quickly as he hung up the phone he picked up where he left off, as if his train of thought was trained in suspension, eagerly waiting for the place where he left off.. That’s skill, I thought.
    Allen grew NORML into our potential. He opened up new revenue streams like Amazon Smile’s NORML Foundation charity and was always diversifying the way NORML could support legalization-friendly Congressman. For that, America owes him a great debt of gratitude.
    As one man’s activism turns its attention to raising children, another man will raise his children in a better world and turn to activism. May we always remember who were doing this for. Thank you Allen, and God Bless.

  9. So long, Allen, thank you for everything you have done to bring us this far! Legalization WILL succeed, and it is thanks in great part to your outstanding leadership and team-building. We shall carry on the fight, and best to you and yours and your future goals!

  10. i was thinking about you and other drug law reform
    activists efforts to legalize marijuana in the face
    of dealing with that DEA thing. i do not know how anyone could could possible have put more effort into overturning these predatory and unethical
    laws then you have.

  11. Thanks, Allen – you’ve always been a Class Act. You’ve steered and protected our ship through some rough seas. We forever appreciate you.

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