By Allen St. Pierre


Let’s acknowledge and give great praise to the amazing and groundbreaking work that the so-called “baby boomer” generation has contributed to the great task of establishing the intellectual and legal underpinnings for current and future generations to effectively challenge and end marijuana prohibition, and to develop responsible and civic-minded policies guiding cannabis use.

Groups like NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Marijuana Policy Project—the four principle groups working to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis—most certainly share the same stated goals. Recently, I met with Rob Kampia of MPP and Ethan Nadelmann of DPA. Both meetings were productive; myriad like-minded projects were conceived and agreements forged between the organizations.

However, candidly speaking, at the conclusion of each of these meetings I came away with a profound realization. In my own personal view, it seems unlikely to me—having been in a leadership position at NORML and the NORML Foundation for 14 years—that deep and lasting cannabis-law reforms will occur to the degree we want without the solid commitment of citizens who’re actually aggrieved by our country’s terribly misguided cannabis policy.

There has been no successful civil-rights movement waged and won by anyone, in any country, other than organized masses of the very citizens most affected by oppressive social or governmental institutions. Liberty and freedoms are taken from governments—not given. Prime examples for cannabis-law reformers to observe are women’s suffrage, African-Americans’ struggle to achieve civil rights and the right to vote, the struggle for reproductive rights and, most recently, gay and lesbians’ social and legal challenges to achieve equal protection and rights enjoyed by their non-homosexual fellow citizens.

Marijuana users are a large (if not one the largest) identifiable social movements in the US and around the world. Vivian McPeak and Dominic Holden, who annually organize the 200,000-person Hempfest protest event in Seattle, or Steve Epstein and Keith Saunders, who attract crowds in excess of 75,000 for the Freedom Rally in Boston, are truly at the vanguard of the mass-protest and social-organizing phase in the four-decade-old effort to legalize cannabis in the US.
Cannabis will not likely become legal for responsible adult use in the US unless the percentage of citizens who disagree with the existing laws increases dramatically. I don’t see a bright and enduring future for cannabis-law reform until we reach out to the millions of closeted cannabis consumers, notably women and minorities.

If cannabis-law reform is to advance to the next level, it should do so under the banners of groups that are based upon and service the needs, wants, concerns and desires of adult cannabis consumers, medical-cannabis patients and citizens who want to cultivate, process, sell and use hemp-based foods and industrial products.

Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML. For more information on supporting NORML or playing in the NORML/Willie Nelson Benefit Golf Tournament, contact 888-67-NORML or go to