NORML regrets the passing of essayist and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich. She was 81 years old.
A scholar and the author of numerous books — including Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (1989), Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001), and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream — Ms. Ehrenreich was most prominent for her longstanding commitment to economic and social justice reform. Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor, called her “inimitable. … Our abiding thanks to her for her contributions to the labor, progressive and women’s movements, her brilliant literary journalism, and her tenacious appeals to common sense. She will be sorely missed.”
Those of us at NORML were equally familiar with her commitment to ending America’s failed policy of cannabis prohibition. She once wrote in Time Magazine: “An estimated 40 million Americans have tried [cannabis] at some point, from Ivy League law professors to country-and-western singers. Yet in some states, possession of a few grams can get you put away for years. What does it do to one’s immortal soul to puff and wink and look away while … other Americans remain locked up for doing the exact same thing? Marijuana prohibition establishes a minimum baseline level of cultural dishonesty that we can never rise above.”
She joined NORML’s Board of Directors in the mid-1990s before eventually transitioning to the organization’s Advisory Board. She remained affiliated with NORML until her death last week.
“At a time when few cultural influencers were willing to speak out publicly about the injustices of cannabis prohibition in America, Barbara Ehrenreich was an exception,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “During her time working incognito at low wage jobs and sustaining on the lower end of the economic spectrum, she saw first hand the discriminatory nature of prohibition and its enforcement. Ms. Ehrenreich was an eloquent and authentic voice in the battle for civil justice in America; she will be deeply missed by all of us she touched.”
In a twitter post from her son, he honored his mother’s fighting spirit, writing: “She was never much for thoughts and prayers, but you can honor her memory by loving one another, and by fighting like hell.”
NORML offers its condolences to the friends and family of Barbara Ehrenreich.