By Allen St. Pierre
Dear NORML Supporter:
It is not often that I feel compelled to write to NORML’s membership and supporters regarding the day-to-day operations of America’s leading marijuana lobby group. Then again, in my tenure as Executive Director of NORML and the NORML Foundation, there’s never been a time like right now.
Over the past several months NORML’s public prominence and political influence has grown by leaps and bounds. As I write you today I’m reflecting upon two of the most significant – and productive – weeks in NORML history. As we close the year 2009 I am proud to say that NORML has galvanized its position as the leading marijuana law reform organization. Why do I say this? Take a look at the events of these two weeks late this fall, and decide for yourself:
-- Marijuana legalization in Massachusetts? NORML testifies ‘Yes!’
On Wednesday, October 14, NORML’s Legal Counsel Keith Stroup and NORML Advisory Board Member Dr. Lester Grinspoon testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Revenue in favor of House Bill 2929, ‘An Act to Regulate and Tax the Cannabis Industry.’ Members of NORML’s state affiliate, MassCann, also spoke on behalf of the measure, which was drafted by former NORML Board Member Richard Evans. The well-attended legislative hearing marked the first time that Massachusetts state legislators had ever publicly discussed legalizing marijuana, and the debate earned prominent media coverage throughout the state.
-- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requests marijuana legalization debate
In May Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly called for a debate on the merits of marijuana regulation. This October NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano and CalNORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer obliged the Governor’s request, and provided his office with a comprehensive action plan for regulating marijuana production and distribution in California.
-- Obama to Justice Department: Back off on medi-pot prosecutions
On Monday, October 19, U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a historic memorandum to federal prosecutors advising them to no longer "focus federal resources … [on those] whose actions are in … compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." The directive upheld a campaign promise by President Obama, who had pledged that he would not use "Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws." Ever since the President took office NORML and other drug policy reform groups had lobbied the administration to follow through, in writing, with this sensible policy. Tellingly, the administration’s decision was hailed by the mainstream media as a major step toward the enactment of marijuana liberalization in America. Not surprisingly, NORML representatives spent the days immediately following the administration’s announcement speaking with dozens of mainstream media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, The Associated Press, and The Christian Science Monitor, urging Congress to move expeditiously to make the administration’s policy changes into permanent law.
-- Mainstream media just can’t get enough pot
Over the past month NORML has fielded multiple requests from producers at mainstream media, radio, and television outlets throughout the nation and the world. Notably, NORML’s staff participated in the production of Fox Business News weeklong series on the cannabis industry (air date October 19-23), Newsweek’s five-part series on present and past marijuana policy (published October 16), and the October 14 edition of PBS’ News Hour with Jim Leher. NORML has also recently received prominent coverage in periodicals such as the BBC, The Wall Street Journal, and Fortune Magazine. Unlike in past years – or even past months – the overall tone of all of these high profile features was favorable to marijuana law reform. The underlying media message: marijuana is a commodity, not a moral threat, and it’s about time for America’s laws to start treating it that way.
-- The Drug Czar’s office comes calling
On Monday, October 24 – at the request of the White House – I participated in a strategic conference call with Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske to discuss the drafting of the administration’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. You read that right: the Office of National Drug Control Policy reached out to NORML and requested NORML’s participation in crafting the administration’s future drug reform strategies. Yes, the same office that just one year ago inflicted the cannabis community with John Walters is now making house calls to NORML.
My friends, the times are most definitely changing.
-- NORML testifies at California Assembly hearings on legalization
Finally, to conclude two of my busiest weeks ever as NORML and NORML Foundation Director, on Wednesday, October 28, NORML’s Paul Armentano and Dale Gieringer traveled to Sacramento to testify before the California Assembly on Public Safety to urge legislators to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers. "The criminal prohibition of marijuana has not dissuaded anyone from using marijuana or reduced its availability; however, the strict enforcement of this policy has adversely impacted the lives and careers of millions of people who simply elected to use a substance to relax that is objectively safer than alcohol," Armentano told the Committee. "NORML believes that the state of California ought to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education." Like in Massachusetts two weeks earlier, the day-long hearing and was the first of its kind to take place before the California legislature.
So there you have it: two weeks in the life of NORML and the NORML Foundation. Thank you for being there for us – so we can be there for you.
As we conclude this momentous year I rest assured knowing that with your continued financial contributions, NORML and the NORML Foundation will be able to maintain its position as the most trusted and respected marijuana law reform organizations in the United States. That remains our commitment to you – the cannabis consumer – as we look ahead to the success and victories that await us in 2010.
Allen St. Pierre
P.S. Please make your tax-deductible donation to the NORML Foundation in support of our national outreach and educational programs.
If you’d rather your donation be employed for state and federal lobbying purposes, please make sure that the donation is directed to ‘NORML‘, where donations are not tax deductible.
P.P.S. Donate $50 or more to either NORML Foundation (or NORML) and receive a copy of the new book ‘Marijuana is Safer, so why are we driving people to drink?‘ co-authored by NORML deputy director Paul Armentano.