A Brief Overview Of NORML - And How It Has Shaped Cannabis Reform

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A Brief Overview Of NORML - And How It Has Shaped Cannabis Reform

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has changed the face of the cannabis debate. Insisting that the cannabis user be treated as a consumer instead of a criminal, this framework has radically altered public opinion on cannabis and has helped usher in legalization in California, and around the world.


There is no other advocacy organisation that has championed cannabis use and legalization like NORML. It is the most diversely represented cannabis reform group in the world, with over 150 chapters in the US and throughout the world in places like Ireland, Britain, and Australia.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws was founded in the United States in 1970, with a mission to sufficiently influence public opinion to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. Using numerous creative methods and savvy legal wrangling, NORML has opposed prohibition on behalf of the common cannabis consumer ever since. It defends individuals persecuted by outdated prohibition laws and supports test challenges to the laws themselves.

Today, NORML is active on a number of different pro-cannabis fronts. It is a well-researched and invaluable source of information, it lobbies state and federal legislators, and supports an international network of advocates. From the head office in New York, NORML coordinates forums, hosts conferences, and undertakes targeted and relevant research.

NORML has been at the forefront of cannabis legalization victories from the very start. From the original decriminalisation triumphs of the ‘70s to spearheading contemporary campaigns that reach the executive office, NORML has been instrumental in formulating the model for the modern legalization platform. Their tireless efforts are slowly but surely ushering in the era of legal cannabis in the US and around the world.


NORML was founded during the tumultuous social changes of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Keith Stroup founded NORML as a legitimate voice for and about cannabis, cannabis use, and cannabis consumers. Inspired by the consumer campaigns organised by **Ralph Nader, NORML treated the cannabis user like any other consumer.

This novel and revolutionary approach to the cannabis conversation secured a grant from the Playboy Foundation. Early financial support from the late Hugh Hefner guaranteed the longevity of the organisation. It soon became at the forefront of the cannabis lobbying movement in the US, combating the notorious Controlled Substances Act, which lists cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. By 1972, a presidential commission was established to investigate the possible legal status of cannabis.

The accumulation of legal coups during the ensuing years have laid the foundation for current legalization frameworks. No other organisation is armed with as much knowledge and information, community support, and legal experience. They are the go-to group by the media at large for up-to-date cannabis information.


In the decades leading up to the looming global decriminalisation of cannabis, there have been numerous successes. It would take an hour of speed-scrolling to get through the list. Lobbyists who intern with NORML go on to lead their own successful initiatives. The effect is cumulative like the proverbial snowball.

At the very beginning, NORML was influential in the first instance of decriminalisation for medical use. In 1976, they sued the US government on behalf of glaucoma patient Robert Randall. As a result, this Washington DC resident became the first patient allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

During the ‘80s and ‘90s, NORML was a pivotal voice in the vote for decriminalisation in California. Their involvement is at the heart of the legalization movement. With resounding success in California, they have been a loud voice in every state battle for reform up until this day.

A Brief Overview Of NORML - And How It Has Shaped Cannabis Reform


NORML defines its mission as advocating for the responsible use of cannabis by adults. This means:

• Adult use only. Cannabis should be restricted to adults only. It should never be used by or sold to children.

• No driving. Responsible cannabis use means no driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of cannabis.

• Set & Setting. NORML places particular emphasis on creating a unique time, place, and mood for cannabis use.

• Resist abuse. Responsible cannabis use means not letting overindulgence get in the way of a productive and healthy life. Abuse means harm, and any cannabis use that has a negative impact is not responsible.

• Respect the rights of others. Consumers observe similar protocols as tobacco smokers in respect to the personal rights of others.


Many individuals and organisations are involved in the decriminalisation of cannabis around the globe. NORML is largely responsible for how governments, media, and the average voter view the cannabis debate. They have provided a patient and sane voice over the years that is slowly erasing the hysteria surrounding cannabis. They still spearhead campaigns, challenge current legislation, and provide legal advice to thousands.

Cannabis users are consumers too, and deserve to have their rights protected as such. They should have access to a legal and safe supply of cannabis for their own responsible use as adults. Viewing the cannabis user as a consumer and not as a criminal has reframed the cannabis debate in a particular way.

Cannabis is big, big, big business. Ultimately, it will be rare to see a country not give into the lure of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. In the near future, rather than fight battles against prohibition, it is likely NORML will become legalization consultants for governments soon to be falling all over themselves to implement legal cannabis reform.