2020 NORML Victories

Thanks to the tireless activism and support of NORML Supporters like you, the marijuana law reform movement experienced unprecedented successes and major victories in 2020 worth celebrating. Here are just a few highlights:


As 2020 came to a close, members of the House of Representatives voted to approve the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, HR 3884, which removes marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act — thereby eliminating the existing conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and providing states with the authority to establish their own cannabis laws free from undue federal interference. The vote marked the first time in 50 years that a chamber of Congress has ever revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally controlled and prohibited substance, and it marks the first time in 24 years — when California became the first state defy the federal government on the issue of marijuana prohibition — that Congress has sought to close the widening chasm between state and federal marijuana policies.

NORML prioritized lobbying for the bill’s passage and supporters like you engaged in over 190,000 communications with members of Congress on behalf of the bill. 

Commenting on the historic vote, NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altiieri said: “By going on the record with this vote, House members have set the stage for a much-needed legislative showdown in 2021 when we will have the Biden administration in office — one that has publicly expressed an appetite for advancing the restorative justice remedies outlined in the MORE Act. We are primed and ready for this legislative debate and we expect, ultimately, to win it.”


In dozens of states this spring, lawmakers and regulators designated marijuana producers and retailers to be “essential services” – explicitly permitting them to remain open during pandemic lockdowns and loosening rules so that they could expand their operations to include services like curbside pick-up and home delivery. By enacting these protections, politicians publicly acknowledged, in some cases for the first time, the significant role these establishments play in promoting the health of their communities as well as their clientele.


Voters approved a series of statewide ballot proposals on Election Day legalizing the use and distribution of marijuana for either medical or adult-use purposes. Voters legalized the possession of marijuana by adults in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and in South Dakota, while also legalizing medical marijuana access in Mississippi and South Dakota. In several states, voters passed the measures by historic margins. 

Commenting on the election results, NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “These results once again illustrate that support for legalization extends across geographic and demographic lines. The success of these initiatives proves definitively that marijuana legalization is not exclusively a ‘blue’ state issue, but an issue that is supported by a majority of all Americans — regardless of party politics.”


After years of lobbying and pressure by Virginia NORML and others, lawmakers this year abolished its strict criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses – replacing them with a $25 fine, no arrest, and no criminal record. “NORML is proud to have worked … to bring about these needed changes to Virginia law, said NORML development director, Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the executive director of Virginia NORML. “Virginians have long opposed the criminalization of personal marijuana possession, and the enactment of this legislation turns that public opinion into public policy.” 

Following this legislative victory, NORML immediately pivoted to push for the enactment of adult-use legalization in Virginia – a push that spurred the state’s Governor and Attorney General in November to publicly endorse the policy change. 


Tens of thousands of citizens previously burdened with the stigma of a lifelong marijuana conviction had those convictions finally expunged in 2020. In California alone, over 100,000 citizens had their records expunged. In several other states – including Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, and Washington – public officials granted pardons to tens of thousands of citizens with cannabis convictions. In addition, lawmakers in various states, like Michigan and Vermont, enacted legislation in 2020 explicitly facilitating the expungement of low-level marijuana records – joining over a dozen other states that have passed similar legislation.


Vermont legalizes adult-use marijuana sales

Vermont lawmakers enacted legislation this fall establishing rules and regulations overseeing the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults. Commenting on the passage of the law, NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf said: “While the law, as written, is not perfect, we are confident that lawmakers will continue to further amend these proposed rules and regulations accordingly in a manner that both prioritizes public safety as well as the needs of entrepreneurs looking to enter into this space. This is a victory for those who wish to disrupt the illicit marketplace and move forward with an above-ground, regulated cannabis marketplace.”

Prior to the passage of the law, Vermont had been the only state to depenalize marijuana possession without providing adults with legal, above-ground access to cannabis and cannabis products via state-licensed retailers.

NORML achieved several other important victories in 2020 as well, but as we wind down this year, we – like so many of you – look forward to turning the page to 2021. Looking ahead, we fully expect to keep our momentum moving forward, and we expect to win several additional battles at the state and federal level – including the enactment of several more statewide legalization measures. But ultimately, our success depends on the generosity of people like you – our supporters.

That is why we are asking you to make a generous end-of-year contribution to NORML, as well as to consider becoming a sustaining monthly donor in 2021. Your monthly pledge during these uncertain times provides NORML with the resources and stability we need to continue to successfully advance consumer-driven marijuana reforms in 2021 and beyond. So please, take a moment right now to reflect on our past accomplishments and to help position us toward a better future by making your year-end contribution today.

Thank you for all your hard work and past support.
The NORML Family