By Allen St. Pierre
Dear NORML members and supporters,
For all and intent purposes since the good people of California voted in the majority in 1996 to create legal access for qualified medical patients to cannabis, the pace of public advocacy work in support of cannabis law reform at NORML has been, in a word, manic-with one political victory after another piling up at the state level.
As we turned the calendar from 2012, where voters in the states of Colorado and Washington had just elected to end cannabis prohibition, to 2013, I was confident that the then coming year would be the busiest and most productive in the organization's forty-three year history.
Thankfully for cannabis law reform in America (and the world), I've been proven correct.
The Future of Marijuana Legalization is Happening Right Now, Finally!
This annual report briefly summarizes the many advances gained by NORML in 2013, and the progress made in general by the ever-increasing popularity for cannabis law reform in the country.
When NORML was founded in 1970, Gallup polling indicated less than 10% support for legalizing cannabis. Today, Gallup polling reveals that 58% of the American public favor cannabis legalization over its continued prohibition. The prestigious Brookings Institute commenced an educational policy series in 2013 on cannabis prohibition laws, and concluded that the massive change in public attitude in favor of cannabis legalization is likely irreversible as the reforms are increasingly popular with nearly all demographics.
Most of the substantive cannabis law reforms today are affected at the state level-with 21 states having medical cannabis access laws, 16 states have decriminalized cannabis possession for adults and 2 states have crossed the legalization Rubicon. This is placing terrific upward political pressure on a recalcitrant federal government, who otherwise would try to maintain the untenable status quo of cannabis prohibition.
Federal Government Says 'Uncle', More States and Countries To Soon Follow
In September, federal officials and leaders in the Senate pushed forward with memos and public hearings making it clear that the Obama Administration was not going to interfere with states adopting cannabis legalization, and were in fact publishing criteria allowing pro-reform states to move forward with implementing full legalization schemes for cannabis.
This monumental decision by the Department of Justice was historic in every sense of the word, and likely marks the death knell for cannabis prohibition in America (and around the world).
To wit, seeing American voters chuck now unwanted cannabis prohibition laws, replacing them with 'tax and control' laws that allow retail access for adult consumers, in mid-December, following America's lead, the country of Uruguay became the first country in modern history to replace prohibition laws with legalized sales of cannabis.
Today, more and more elected policy makers, as well as those ascending into politics, are contacting NORML at record levels seeking public endorsements, asking the organization to prepare reform legislation and campaign funding.
The number of actual legalization bills offered for passage demonstrates another prime example of how mainstream politicians from both major political parties are increasingly embracing cannabis law reform. In 2007, no American politician was willing to work with NORML on a cannabis legalization bill. In 2014, NORML's lobbying staff anticipates fifteen states will be debating cannabis legalization bills (up from ten states in 2013).
NORML By The Numbers
When I was hired in 1991 to work at NORML, the organization had five basic revenue streams, was in chronic financial dire straits, had numerous liens on bank accounts, rent had not been paid in over a year and the IRS was raking it over the coals in a particularly harsh financial audit.
I was asked to "help right the ship". My parents thought I'd lost all my senses forgoing opportunities to work in corporate America for a then struggling and politically-lost-in-the-woods non-profit organization.
Keeping the organization fiscally sound, compliant with non-profit regulations, and transparent (financial tax forms are posted annually to NORML's webpage) for the public have been organizational priorities for over twenty years.
In 2013, the budget for the organization is nearly four times the size of the one I inherited in the early 1990s. The organization now has over twenty five revenue streams, 150 chapters, 600 lawyers on the NORML Legal Committee, the staff conduct well over 2,000 media interviews annually and NORML's online presence, as well as size of its opt-in social network have no peer in the drug policy reform movement. Despite having larger annual budgets secured by a few billionaire donors, NORML's webpage traffic and number of Facebook and Twitter followers dwarfs most all of the other pro-drug policy reform groups' online footprint, combined.
In a recent Zogby poll, when the American public is asked 'what does the acronym N.OR.M.L stand for?', 25% percent responded with an answer like 'NORML is the marijuana lobby group.' So well known in American culture, the organization was featured as a question on the December 13, 2013 broadcast of Jeopardy! (So too in 2005 edition of Trivial Pursuit). Annually, NORML signs numerous trademark agreements with major TV networks and movie production companies who want to employ NORML's apparent cachet in their film and TV productions.
NORML's Unique Role and Vexation
For NORML, America's most recognized and respected cannabis law reform organization, these are heady days witnessing and helping to end cannabis prohibition. Especially serving as public representatives for cannabis consumers, to help shape what legalization is ultimately going to look like in our country.
Also unique to the organization is NORML's dual mission of not only advocating for policy changes to occur post haste, we provide help and legal assistance to the victims of these long misguided cannabis prohibition laws as well. We lend support to many of the millions of men and women busted, prosecuted and incarcerated for what never should have been crimes in our freedom-loving, free-market oriented democracy.
Bittersweetly, NORML's staff is viciously whipsawed between phone calls from citizens in states with legal cannabis laws seeking help on procuring a permit to sell or cultivate the herb, while the very next phone call is from a fellow cannabis consumer busted in a pot prohibition state for a minor amount, facing serious, life-altering consequences.
For forty-three years NORML has been standing loud and proud, publicly favoring cannabis law reform. The American public is now squarely in NORML's corner. We've helped change our country (and the world) for the better.
Please help us finish the job at hand.
Allen St. Pierre
NORML Executive Director