While some of today’s drug-policy-reform groups hold fund-raisers and self-congratulatory soirees, NORML continues to meet with, listen to and learn from the stakeholders who are actively seeking an end to nearly 70 years of marijuana prohibition. And so, if you’re a citizen who genuinely cares about marijuana-law reform, NORML’s national (and the Drug Policy Alliance’s biannual) conferences are without question the best public venues for citizens to get together with other like-minded, fully motivated marijuana-law-reform activists.

The NORML conference’s theme for 2006 was “Marijuana Law Reform: From Grassroots to Grasstops,” and nearly 500 cannabis aficionados packed into a tower hotel in downtown San Francisco to absorb a terrific amount of pro-marijuana-law-reform information, including local and state strategies from effective and proven leaders and up-to-date health and medical-marijuana information, as well as cultivation and hash-making procedures from master gardeners and alchemists. The overall message: Grassroots activists make up the base in any meaningful and sustainable movement for change in marijuana laws; however, few substantive changes are possible if grassroots activists don’t try to work with established institutions, both in and out of government.

Also, one of the world’s most famous marijuana smokers dropped in on NORML 2006: Tommy Chong! Fresh off his nine-month federal incarceration and restrictive probation for selling bongs on the Internet, Chong fired up the crowd as the conference’s keynote speaker and recipient of a special award from NORML. Tommy was funny, lighthearted, gracious with his time and signature, and publicly committed to working with law-reform groups like NORML now that he and his family have been victimized by the absurdity of marijuana’s continued and unjustifiable prohibition.

HIGH TIMES readers can check out highlights from NORML’s 2006 conference, including Tommy Chong’s hilarious keynote speech, at norml.org/speeches/.

Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML, norml.org or 888-67-NORML. NORML’s popular podcast, AudioStash, is found at norml.org/audiostash/.