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National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

NORML (pronounced nɔrməl) is a Washington, D.C. based non-profit organization in the United States whose aim is to "move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of cannabis prohibition so that the responsible use of this drug by adults is no longer subject to penalty." According to their website, NORML "supports the removal of all criminal penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including the cultivation for personal use and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts" and "supports the development of a legally controlled market for cannabis." NORML and the NORML Foundation support both those fighting prosecution under marijuana laws and those working to legalize marijuana.

In the 2006 United States midterm elections NORML promoted several successful local initiatives that declared marijuana enforcement to be the lowest priority for local law enforcement. NORML claims that this frees up police resources to combat violent and serious crime.

NORML plans to support efforts now underway in states such as California and Washington to legalize and tax marijuana which it claims is a means of coping with growing federal and state deficits without having to raise other taxes.

NORML Foundation

The NORML Foundation (the organization's tax-exempt unit) conducts educational and research activities. Examples of the NORML Foundation's advocacy work is a detailed 2006 report, Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis. A comprehensive report with county-by-county marijuana arrest data, Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrest in America was published in 2005.

In October 1998 NORML Foundation published the NORML Report on U.S. Domestic Marijuana Production that was widely cited in the mainstream media. The report methodically estimated the value and number of cannabis plants grown in 1997 finding that Drug Enforcement Administration's state and local law enforcement agencies seized 32% of domestic cannabis plants planted that year. According to the report, "Marijuana remains the fourth largest cash crop in America despite law enforcement spending an estimated $10 billion annually to pursue efforts to outlaw the plant." Recent studies show that marijuana is larger than all other cash crops combined. In 2002 the organization used ads containing New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg quoted on his past use of pot saying "You bet I did and I enjoyed it." The mayor said "I’m not thrilled they’re using my name. I suppose there’s that First Amendment that gets in the way of me stopping it," but he maintained that the NYPD will continue to vigorously enforce the laws.

NORML Administration

Board of Directors

  • Steve Dillon, Esq. (Chair)
  • Dale Gieringer, Ph.D. (Vice Chair)
  • Rick Doblin, Ph.D.
  • Dominic Holden
  • Norman Elliott Kent, Esq.
  • Paul Kuhn
  • Madeline Martinez
  • William Panzer, Esq.
  • George Rohrbacher
  • Jeffrey Steinborn
  • Allen St. Pierre
  • R. Keith Stroup, Esq.
  • Richard M. Wolfe
  • Dan Viets, J.D.
  • Peter Vilkelis

Advisory Board

  • Willie Nelson, Co-Chair (singer, songwriter, actor, author, guitarist, music producer and session musician)
  • Nadine Strossen, Esq., Co-Chair (President, American Civil Liberties Union)
  • David Boaz (Executive Vice-President, Cato Institute)
  • Valerie Corral (WAMM)
  • Tommy Chong (comedian, actor, director, author)
  • Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Psychology)
  • Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Lester Grinspoon, M.D. (Harvard Medical School (emeritus))
  • Terence Hallinan, Esq. (former San Francisco District Attorney)
  • Woody Harrelson (actor)
  • Bill Maher (comedian and social satirist)
  • Ron Mann (documentary filmmaker)
  • Kary Mullis, Ph.D. (1993 Nobel Laureate (Chemistry))
  • Mark Stepnoski (former NFL star)
  • Daniel Stern (actor, writer and director)
  • Rick Steves (travel writer, television host)
  • Clifford W. Thornton, Jr. (Efficacy & Co-Chair Green Party of the United States)

Executive Directors

  • Keith Stroup (1979, 1995-2004)
  • George Farnham (1982)
  • Kevin Zeese (1982-1986)
  • Jon Gettman (1986-1989)
  • Donald Fiedler (1989-1991)
  • Richard Cowan (1992-1995)
  • Allen St. Pierre (2005-present); Founding Director of the NORML Foundation, 1996-present)

Past Associates

  • Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist
  • Robert Altman, film director
  • John P. Morgan, M.D., Physician and Professor of Pharmacology

The History of NORML

NORML was founded in 1970 by Keith Stroup; funded by $5,000 from the Playboy Foundation. Since then the organization has played a central role in the cannabis decriminalization movement. The organization has a large grassroots network with 135 chapters and over 550 lawyers. NORML holds both annual conferences and Continuing Legal Education (CLE)-accredited seminars. Its board of directors has at times included such prominent political figures as Senators Philip Hart and Jacob K. Javits.

Media and Activism

As an advocacy group NORML has been active in spreading its message to the public.

In early 2009 a petition to President Barack Obama was written asking that he appoints a "Drug Czar" who will treat drug abuse as a health issue rather than a criminal issue and will move away from a "War on Drugs" paradigm. NORML's goal for this petition is 100,000 signatures.

Also in early 2009 when the Kellogg Company dropped its contract with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps after pictures of him using a bong surfaced in the media. Head members of NORML began boycotting Kellogg products and urging all members and supporters of NORML to boycott Kellogg until the company reversed the decision. NORML also suggested that supporters of the cause send emails or letters to Kellogg explaining the boycott and the reasons behind it, even providing a template for emails and letters.

Although Kellogg's profits did not suffer in the first quarter of 2009, consumer ratings polls at Vanno have been cited as indicating that Kellogg's reputation has suffered. Specifically, a small poll of Kellogg's brand reputation at Vanno showed a drop from its previous rank of 9 to 83 after Kellogg decided not to renew its contract with Michael Phelps. It is not clear whether or not NORML's boycott played a significant role in this decline.

On April 20, 2009 NORML released the first national pro-marijuana television advertisement. The PSA; which overtly promotes the legalization of marijuana use, was created by Philadelphia filmmaker Jason Druss as an entry into NORML's annual video contest.

The commercial was discussed in the April 20, 2009 edition of The New York Times, CBS News, as well as hundreds of blogging and news websites.

On Feb 15, 2010 a 15 second Flash animation from NORML discussing the potential economic and financial benefit of legalized marijuana was deemed by CBS to be "too political" to display on billboards in New York City's Times Square. This drew criticism in the blogosphere and accusations of hypocrisy on Twitter, since CBS had recently aired a pro-life anti-abortion television spot during the 2010 Super Bowl.

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