Cannabis News NORML - It's Time for a Change!
††Marijuana Lobby Grows in Sophistication
Posted by CN Staff on January 26, 2005 at 19:25:25 PT
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos †
Source: Fox News Network

cannabis Washington -- Pot. Cannabis. Hemp. Weed. Grass.

The herb takes many names. But in the nationís capital, where the marijuana lobby was once the recreational diversion of Playboy Magazine's Hugh Hefner, pro-pot special interest groups have crystallized the divergent issues behind the plant and gained a seemingly unified voice.

Part of the newfound credibility comes from the tack pro-marijuana groups have taken. Medical marijuana has become a signpost for groups seeking to decriminalize or legalize pot, and they have a growing pool of scientific studies to back them up. Some studies show the drug is useful in easing chronic pain and glaucoma, reducing nausea from chemotherapy treatments and helping AIDS patients gain weight.

"Itís a no-brainer. It makes no sense putting old and sick folks in jail for an herb that makes them feel better," said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project , which was established in 1995 by Rob Kampia, a former mainstay at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the first pro-pot lobby in Washington, D.C.

The Project has received big support from billionaire Peter Lewis. With the cashflow, the group's message has gained traction. A December 2003 Gallup Poll showed nearly 75 percent of older Americans polled said they believed doctors should be able to prescribe pot to patients. Eleven states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996, and last fall the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether state medical marijuana laws increases illegal use by others.

MPP isn't the only group out there pushing for reforms. The Drug Policy Alliance ó also funded by a billionaire, liberal philanthropist George Soros pursues a wider public health-based approach to drugs, including supporting treatment over incarceration for all drug offenses.

Relations between the two groups have been tense over the years, but both seem willing to put aside their differences, for the most part, for the greater good.

"I think it's a healthy sign that in drug policy forum that there are different groups coming in with different backgrounds and point of view," said Mirken.

Of course, the groups aren't beloved by some in Washington, who call the efforts by these groups to pass medical marijuana laws a "Trojan horse" designed to exploit Americans' compassion in order to pursue relaxed laws for all drugs, not just pot.

"The fact theyíve been touting medical marijuana initiatives shows what a failure they have had in the legalization movement," said Tom Riley, spokesman for the Office of Drug Control Policy.

Riley said the pro-marijuana forces fail because Americans just don't agree with their agenda. The failure of decriminalization referenda in Arizona, Nevada and, most recently, Alaska, prove that most Americans donít support relaxing the rules on pot.

"The reason why they are still in business is they have these eccentric billionaires funding them," he said. "Or else they would dry up and float away."

The Drug Policy Alliance counters that 46 states passed drug policy reform legislation between 1996 and 2002. MPP adds to that the argument that 17 of 20 marijuana initiatives passed on the ballots in November, including Montana's measure to permit patients to use, possess and grow their own medical marijuana without fear of arrest or jail. MPP spent $2.5 million to support the initiatives in the eight states where local and statewide votes were held.

Long History of Pot as Pet Cause

None of the successes of these two groups would likely have occurred without the seeds being planted by Keith Stroup, the virtual Sisyphus of the pot world. Running NORML for the last 34 years, Stroup pushed the pot issue up the fickle hill of political success, sometimes losing more ground than he gained.

Stroup, who retired at the end of 2004, helped co-found NORML in 1970 with seed money from Hefner. He said his goal was to infuse "new ideas, new energy, new perspective" into Washington's no-budge politicians and break down the cultural bias that prevents public sympathy from becoming public mandate.

"The challenge we face, and I would have to say is the most frustrating failure, is we were never able to take that public support we know we enjoy and turn it into public policy," Stroup, 61, said, referring to the effort to legalize pot for adult consumption.

"This issue carries with it so much baggage and it would be foolish for us not to recognize that," he said.

Without the billionaire backing and hefty private grants, NORML survives on a $750,000 annual budget and a staff of five. It has not been able to bankroll or sponsor state campaigns for medical marijuana laws and decriminalization efforts, and survives primarily on charitable donations. To keep the dream alive, Stroup said he recognized the need for fresh blood.

"I think we need a younger person running this organization," said Stroup, who handed the reins to Allen St. Pierre, NORMLís chief policy director. Stroup will continue to work part-time and sit on the board of directors.

Despite the grassroots approach, observers say NORML is a staple in the orbit of drug policy reformers and not likely to go anywhere soon. Furthermore, it's message has remained the same over the last three decades ó NORML wants to make pot legal and available, much the same way alcohol is currently regulated.

Sympathizers also note that as the only consumer-based group, NORML is the go-to organization for marijuana smokers, making it clear the issue is a citizens' rights one.

"They continue to play an important role in this struggle. NORML remains relevant ó and if they are able to raise additional funds they will be even more relevant," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director and founder of the Drug Policy Alliance.

St. Pierre said that despite its limited budget, NORML has a full plate and plans to keep very busy. It is focused on a decriminalization movement in Texas and fights brewing against mandatory random drug testing for middle school students and roadside pot tests for motorists.

Admittedly, though, St. Pierre, who like Stroup describes himself as more libertarian conservative than liberal Democrat, says the fight on the national level will be tough. An aggressive anti-drug stance has come from Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration, which has often stepped in to criticize state efforts.

"The last four years have been decidedly harder than the previous four years ó we havenít even been able to get a hearing (in Congress)," said St. Pierre.

"This is now a civil rights movement in the United States. And the only way we can change it is through those who are aggrieved by the law."

Source: Fox News Network (US)
Author: Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Fox News Network


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Comment #13 posted by FoM on January 30, 2005 at 13:49:16 PT
Taylor121 A Question
What is a counter culture stigma? I don't know. I know that that time was a wonderful time of awakening for many people ( and people wore pretty clothes full of color and some wore flowers in their hair ) but I don't know anyone that was a part of a counter culture. Todays youth have their own identity too. Tattoos, piercings etc.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by FoM on January 30, 2005 at 13:32:57 PT
I never thought about the counter culture between the two organization. I look at NORML as the primary organization that changed laws way back when I was in my late 20s. It was really appreciated since my state benefited from what NORML did. Ohio went from a 20 to 40 year sentence to any amount under 100 grams just a $100 fine.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by Taylor121 on January 30, 2005 at 13:26:32 PT
Good man
Allen F. St. Pierre, Executive Director

Nice. I hope NORML picks up some more members. I think last I heard 12,000 vs 18,000 of the MPP +1 billionaire.

I like both organizations, but I admit I like the MPP more since I sincerely believe it doesn't carry any counter culture stigma (besides Kampia's arrest maybe) and seems to just have a more clear plan of action. But I sincerely hope NORML's membership goes up.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by FoM on January 28, 2005 at 18:42:46 PT
A Little Info on Allen F. St. Pierre
I was really happy when I read that he is from Kerry's state. They are so cool up there. I think he should be good for marijuana reform. I wish him and NORML the best of luck.

Allen F. St. Pierre, Executive Director

NORML and The NORML Foundation

Education: University of Massachusetts/Amherst, BA in Legal Studies, 1989

Complete Bio:

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by Hope on January 27, 2005 at 12:54:27 PT
"libertarian conservative"
I like that.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by FoM on January 27, 2005 at 09:43:09 PT
My Wish
For as long as I've been doing CNews I have wanted the major organizations to make peace with each other. These 3 organizations have much to offer. We need organizations in D.C. They are the ones that are visible. I hope these organizations will ask us what is important to the cyber communities and not just read what we have to say but try to help us out with listening seriously to all of us. The wonders of the Internet brings people together from every state and Canada too. I hope that NORML Canada becomes a big success and follows the principles of NORML in the states. One step at a time and one day at a time.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by afterburner on January 27, 2005 at 06:17:59 PT
Riley Underestimates the ''Grass'' *Roots*
"The reason why they are still in business is they have these eccentric billionaires funding them," [Riley] said. "Or else they would dry up and float away."

It's nice to have a couple of billionaire sugar-daddies, and all, but the cannabis community is "grass" *roots*. We are connected to the earth, we are tradition, we are not some "fly-by-night" "fast-buck Freddy." We are being hunted, hounded, persecuted, demonized by federally-funded lies, money stolen from the American taxpayer to encourage law enforcement to run amok, courts to be cruel and prisons to be full. In spite of all that, we have an over 80% approval rating with the general public for medical cannabis. Those billionaires are a nice counter-weight to Uncle's bottomless tax-grab, which is bankrupting the country throughout in the *name* of "justice," which is really superstitious bigotry against all things cannabis.

Some call it genocide! We are the people and we will survive. We will grow and raise families. We will overcome. We will overgrow. We will build a better society on the bones of our martyrs and we will honor them and we will never forget them and their courage, compassion and honesty. The new land will rise out of the ashes of the dying carbon-fuelled society/technology.

"I'm from a new land. I come to you and see all this ruin. What are you doin' [America] you've got the rest of the [nations] to help you along. What's goin' wrong? ... [America], you got the weight on your shoulders That's breaking your back. Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track!" --paraphrased "Alabama," I don't think Neil would mind.

We will keep planting the seeds of freedom, burning the torch of freedom, loving each other and living, dwelling in the spirit of the *New* America and the mind of the universe as we meditate on seeing the dominator culture "dry up and float away."

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by goneposthole on January 27, 2005 at 05:43:05 PT
send a joint to a soldier in Iraq
R.J. Reynolds has donated 477,000 dollars to give phone cards to enlisted personnel serving in Iraq.

American cannabis growers could send millions joints to a the soldiers over there to help their stay over there become a bit less harried.

It would help the lobby and maybe the soldiers would realize all of the stupid war effort is all in vain.

It might help end the war. Maybe it's worth a try.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by mayan on January 27, 2005 at 04:36:25 PT
Tom Riley*
*A paid liar.

I guess the author had to have someone with an opposing view. I Remember Riley on Jesse Ventura's show. I have never seen anyone ripped to shreds like that except Andrea Barfwell on Montel! Not a bad article for FAUX News!


9/11 Truth Movement Only Just Beginning:

9/11 - The Media Cowers:


[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Robbie on January 26, 2005 at 23:10:08 PT
A fairly balanced article from Fox News
Amazing lack of detail about Bush's position on the whole subject.

If St. Pierre is a libertarian conservative, maybe that was the inroad for the author to get it past the editors.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 26, 2005 at 20:59:17 PT
I thought it was very good too.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Taylor121 on January 26, 2005 at 20:48:32 PT
Good Article
This is a good article. Hope thousands upon thousands read. They need to talk about the pot lobbies more on tv as well.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 26, 2005 at 19:26:47 PT
I Like The Title of the Article
Very interesting and from Fox News too!

[ Post Comment ]

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