NORML vs Big Alcohol and Big Pharma

Hi, I’m Rick Steves, TV travel show host and a proud member of NORML’s Board of Directors. I’ve just returned from doing a barnstorming speaking tour in both Maine and Massachusetts to help build support for their legalization initiatives. It was an exhilarating week, meeting and talking with the good folks in those states, getting lots of great press, and feeling the excitement build in advance of what we expect will be victories in both states.

I’m investing my time and money in these latest state initiatives because I’ve seen first-hand the damage done to so many good, hard-working Americans because of a marijuana arrest. And we’ve got such a powerful message to share now that we have a solid legalization track record in my home state of Washington and in Colorado and Oregon: teen use does not go up, crime does not go up, and DUIs do not go up. The only thing that goes up is tax revenue and citizens exercising their civil liberty to smoke marijuana recreationally.

Rick Steves Donate to NORML

I’m doing my part to help end prohibition and all the damage it does to our society, will you stand with me in this fight?

Our political opponents and the big money special interests they represent, including both the alcohol and the pharmaceutical industries, are investing millions of dollars to stop us:

  • $3.5 million from Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson to oppose legalization in Arizona, Nevada and Massachusetts.
  • $500,000 from opioid producer Insys to fight legalization in Arizona.
  • $75,000 from the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Massachusetts to oppose legalization in Massachusetts.
  • $10,000 from the Arizona Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association to oppose legalization in Arizona.

And that’s just to name a few.

We don’t have deep pocketed special interests funding our work, but we do have something more important and powerful … YOU!

So please, match my support and make a donation to NORML today and help us ensure that we not only win these current battles, but that we continue to expand the list of legalization states all across this country in 2017 and beyond.

Together, we have the power to end marijuana prohibition once and for all.

Let’s do it. Thanks!

Donate to NORML

Who Is This Anti-Marijuana Zealot Sheldon Adelson?


I am writing today about a somewhat mysterious man who has spent tens of millions of dollars to try to prop up marijuana prohibition.

In fact, he has become the big fish in the anti-marijuana funding world. His name is Sheldon Adelson, and he is an 82-year-old Las Vegas casino owner (The Sands, The Venetian, and The Palazzo). He is reportedly worth $29 billion, making him the 12th-richest person in America.

Adelson once made the late website Gawker’s “Billionaire Shit List,” which called him “evil” for “spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get extreme right-wingers in office.” And he should be on our “sh*t list” as well for spending funds on prohibition, which as a policy has resulted in the needless arrest of more than 26 million Americans over the last 40 years.

Adelson was also the principal financial backer of Freedom Watch, a now-defunct political advocacy group founded to counter the influence of George Soros, the largest pro-legalization funder in the country, and liberal groups such as Freedom Watch spent $30 million of Adelson’s money in 2008 before fading into oblivion.

In 2014, Adelson gave $5.5 million to the Drug Free Florida campaign to help defeat the medical use initiative and has given another $1.5 million to fight the pending medical use initiative this year, with more likely to follow. He also just donated $1 million to the group opposing the legalization initiative on the ballot in Massachusetts.

In his home state of Nevada, where a full legalization initiative is on the ballot for this upcoming election, Adelson has donated $2 million to oppose the initiative. He recently purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal for $140 million, since then the paper withdrew its prior endorsement of marijuana legalization for the state.

One cannot help but wonder what would motivate an individual to want to continue a failed public policy that results in the needless arrest of so many of our fellow citizens. In Adelson’s case, it was apparently a personal family tragedy. His 48-year-old son, Mitchell, died in 2005 of a drug overdose involving cocaine and heroin. Another son, Gary, has also struggled with drug addiction and is allegedly estranged from his father altogether. Adelson has said he sees marijuana as a “gateway drug” that led to his sons’ problems.

Of course, the so-called “gateway theory” has long since been refuted by serious scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (“There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other drugs.”) and the Rand Corporation (“While the gateway theory has enjoyed popular acceptance, scientists have always had their doubts. Our study shows that these doubts are justified.”)

And the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction recently reached this same conclusion: “As for a possible switch from cannabis to hard drugs, it is clear that the pharmacological properties of cannabis are irrelevant in this respect. There is no physically determined tendency towards switching from marijuana to harder substances. Social factors, however, do appear to play a role. The more users become integrated in an environment (“subculture”) where, apart from cannabis, hard drugs can also be obtained, the greater the chance that they may switch to hard drugs. Separation of the drug markets is therefore essential.”

In addition, those drug users who do end up using heroin or other far more dangerous drugs seldom start with marijuana. Rather recent research shows it is alcohol that is the first drug used in string of drugs leading to eventual addition, not marijuana.

One can surely sympathize with the sense of loss for any parent who experiences the death of a child, regardless of the cause. But these and other scientific findings suggest that If more jurisdictions legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol — thereby allowing its sale to be governed by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other, hard drugs — even fewer marijuana users will progress to other illicit drugs.

In some ways it reminds one of former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the youngest son of longtime Sen. Ted Kennedy ( D-Mass.). Patrick Kennedy became addicted to pharmaceutical opioids, alcohol, and other illegal drugs before finally embarrassing himself and the Congress when he was arrested in 2006 after crashing his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill. At the time, he was high on OxyContin and drunk from alcohol. In Patrick Kennedy’s own words, “OxyContin was what I used for years, but I’m an addict, so it doesn’t matter what it is. I used benzodiazepines, alcohol, stimulants, Adderall, cocaine, you name it.”

In 2009 Kennedy again checked himself into a drug rehabilitation program.

Kennedy then co-founded Project SAM, the principal anti-marijuana organization working in the country to maintain marijuana prohibition. While that strategy may be therapeutically useful for the (hopefully) recovering addict, it places the burden for his problems unfairly on the rest of us.

In fact, recent studies have shown that in states in which medical marijuana have been legalized, the use of opioids has significantly declined.

It is a sad reflection on these two individuals that they use their wealth and fame to punish the rest of us, by working to slow the inevitable end of marijuana prohibition.

About 60 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization, despite the efforts of Adelson and Patrick Kennedy to try to defend prohibition. Nonetheless, there is naturally some concern that this influx of big money might sway a sufficient number of voters to defeat some of the pending legalization initiatives. The defeat of the medical use initiative in Florida in 2014 (it had the support of 58 percent of those voting, but fell short of the 60 percent required for a constitutional amendment) is attributed by many observers to the out-of-state funding from Adelson.

In the end, our nation’s marijuana policy must be based on science and common sense, not on the tragic examples of those who were unable to control their addictions. I’m confident the pro-legalization forces, with our positive message of the benefits to society from legalization, will carry the day and that we will both out-raise funds and outspend our opponents in these upcoming voter initiative campaigns, not just this year, but for as long as it takes to finally end marijuana prohibition.


This column was originally published on


NORML’s Legislative Round Up October 21, 2016

take_actionWith Election Day less than three weeks away we’re excited to share with you the latest polling information from states with pending marijuana related ballot initiatives, as well as breaking news from another state that may be setting the stage for full legalization next year. A summary of this year’s crop of marijuana-centric ballot initiatives is available online here.

NORML is also pleased to announce that next week we will be releasing our first ever, Governors Report Card. Inspired by our Congressional Scorecard, this report will provide a letter grade for the Governors of all 50 states. Which Governors have been supportive of reforms and which ones have stood in the way of progress? We’ll give your Governor a grade so you know exactly where your Governor stands. If you aren’t yet subscribed to our Newsletter, sign up today so you can be the first to receive the Governors Scorecard in your inbox!

Now, keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform!

Arizona: Half of Arizona voters intend to vote ‘yes’ in favor of Proposition 205: The Arizona Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Act, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Forty percent of voters oppose the initiative. The Act allows adults age 21 and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants) and provides regulations for a retail cannabis marketplace.

Delaware: A September poll by the University of Delaware shows that 61 percent of residents surveyed support marijuana legalization. The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on Sept. 16-28, consisted of 900 phone interviews. Last year Delaware decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, reclassifying the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.

Last week, the state’s Senate majority whip said that she would propose a bill in January to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state. We’ll have an #ActionAlert out soon so you can #TakeAction in support of this legislation.

cannabis_pillsFlorida: According to an October poll by the University of North Florida, 77 percent of respondents said they’ll vote for Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana access in the state. Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Under Florida law, 60 percent of voters must approve a constitutional amendment in order for it to become law. In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.

Massachusetts: According to a WBUR poll released this week, support for marijuana legalization is rising. Fifty-five percent of likely voters now say they favor allowing adults to use recreational marijuana, an increase of five percentage points from a similar poll performed last month. Question 4 permits adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis and to grow up to six plants for non-commercial purposes. The measure also establishes regulations overseeing the commercial production and sale of the plant.

First atomic-level image of the human ‘marijuana receptor’ unveiled

In a discovery that advances the understanding of how marijuana works in the human body, an international group of scientists has, for the first time, created a three-dimensional atomic-level image of the molecular structure activated by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana.

NORML Sues Over Missing Ballot Item in Florida

chapter_spotlightThe Florida’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has filed a civil lawsuit against the Broward County Commissioner of Elections, after media and news reports revealed that mail in ballots have been sent to voters omitting the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

The claim was just filed by NORML’s national vice chairman, Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, and his law partner, Russell Cormican, on behalf of Florida NORML and Karen Goldstein, NORML Florida’s chair, a West Park, Broward County voter.

The plaintiff’s are seeking a judicial declaration enjoining the Defendant’s from distributing any further ballots, and implementing an emergency plan to issue new ones which insure the inclusion of the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Norm Kent
954 661 3361 cel

Russell Cormican
954 803 8724

Karen Goldstein
954 303 9254

Gallup: Record High Percentage Of Americans Back Legalizing Marijuana

Legalize marijuanaSixty percent of Americans believe that “the use of marijuana should be legal,” according to nationwide polling data released today by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the polling group, and represents more than a doubling in public support over the past two decades.

The data closely follows the release of polling data compiled by the Pew Research Center showing a similar, dramatic shift in public opinion in favor of legalization.

Those ages 18 to 34 (77 percent), Independents (70 percent), and Democrats (67 percent) were most likely to endorse legalization in the Gallup poll. Support was weakest among Republicans (42 percent) and those age 55 or older (45 percent).

The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- four percentage points.

A Personal Message from NORML’s Founder

I’m writing to make sure you saw the post from our Deputy Director Paul Armentano last week. With just a few short weeks to go before the big marijuana legalization votes on Election Day, I first wanted to thank all of you who have already donated. Without support from people like you, NORML wouldn’t have been able to continue our fight for nationwide marijuana legalization for over four decades.

November 8th will be one of the most important days for us as a movement and that’s why I wanted to take a minute to send you a personal message asking you to stand with NORML during these crucial weeks leading up to the big votes:


A personal message from NORML founder Keith Stroup

In order to ensure big wins on Election Day and take our fight to city councils, state legislatures, and Congress in 2017 and beyond, we need to know you are with us.

Please consider donating $25, $50, $100, or whatever you can afford today.

Together, we WILL legalize marijuana across this great country.

Donate to NORML

URGENT: Marijuana Legalization Needs Your Help!
by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
October 14, 2016

In just a few weeks, voters in nine states will go to the polls to vote on crucial marijuana policy reforms at a time when national polling shows that the public’s support for legalization has never been greater. I’m pleased to say that NORML is playing a key role in moving public sentiment toward marijuana sanity.

From day one, NORML’s chief mission has been to move public and political opinion sufficiently so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. We do so by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And nobody does it better than we do.

NORML remains the most well-known and most trusted source of cannabis-centric information in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of the entire American public is familiar with NORML and its mission, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, and the overwhelming majority of those who identify as marijuana consumers say that they possess a favorable impression of our organization.

Read more »

Cannalytics Survey: Cannabis Consumers Most Likely To Identify As Independent Voters

ballot_box_leafAmericans who use cannabis or hold favorable views toward the plant tend to identify themselves politically as Independent rather than as a Democrat or a Republican, according to the results of a Cannalytics consumer research survey published today.

Among respondents, 46 percent defined themselves as Independent. Of this group, over 90 percent consider marijuana policy reform to be among the most important election issues, and more than 75 percent said that they are more motivated to vote this election because of pending cannabis-specific ballot measures.

Voters in nine states will decide on Election Day in favor of statewide ballot measures seeking to legalize either the medical use or the adult use of marijuana.

Cannalytics and its partners, including NORML, provided a 51-point questionnaire to over 5,800 respondents to gauge their opinions on cannabis policy, as well as their own marijuana use. Respondents typically were well educated, most did not smoke tobacco, and 53 percent suggested that they would consume less alcohol if cannabis were legally regulated for adults.

Full results of the 2016 Cannabis Voter Report are available online at:

Report: Tax Revenue From Retail Marijuana Sales Exceeds Expectations

legalization_pollTax revenue collection from retail marijuana sales in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington is exceeding initial projections, according to a new report published by the Drug Policy Alliance.

Marijuana-related tax revenue in Colorado totaled $129 million over the 12-month period ending May 31, 2016 – well exceeding initial estimates of $70 million per year, the report found. In Washington, tax revenue totaled $220 million for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2016. Regulators had initially projected that retail sales would bring in $162 million in new annual tax revenue. In Oregon, marijuana-related tax revenues are yielding about $4 million per month – about twice what regulators initially predicted. (Alaska has yet to begin collecting tax revenue from cannabis businesses.)

The report also finds that adult use marijuana legalization has not been associated with any increases in youth use of the substance, nor has it had an adverse impact on traffic safety. “In Colorado and Washington the post-legalization traffic fatality rate has remained statistically consistent with pre-legalization levels, is lower in each state than it was a decade prior, and is lower than the national rate,” it determined. A separate report published by the CATO Institute recently provided similar findings.

In addition, the new reports finds that marijuana-related arrest totals have fallen significantly in jurisdictions post-legalization. According to the DPA’s report, the total number for all annual marijuana-related arrests decreased by 59 percent in Alaska, by 46 percent in Colorado, by 85 percent in the District of Columbia, and by 50 percent in Oregon. In Washington, the number of low-level marijuana court filings fell by 98 percent.

To read the full report, please click here.

Does weed help you sleep? Probably not

Marijuana users may believe that frequent use helps them sleep, but that perception has been challenged by a new study. It found that daily marijuana users actually scored higher on the Insomnia Severity Index and on sleep-disturbance measures than those who did not use it daily.

This Election Is Too Important To Sit Out!

C1_8734_r_xIn the middle of a tumultuous presidential election, in which one candidate threatens to have the other candidate arrested should he win (as if this were a third-world country with no political institutions), it is tempting to just tune-out of politics and refuse to participate. Without a doubt, we have managed to nominate one candidate for president who, according to President Obama, “says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-Eleven” — let alone run our country.

And he has demonstrated a lack of respect for women, as evidenced by his comments that he made on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he brags he can grope women without consent due to his standing as a “star.” Since the tapes came out, his subsequent video apology, and his claim at the second presidential debate that he did not actually grope women, more than a half-dozen women have come out with stories of Trump’s alleged improper behavior. Trump has categorically denied these allegations.

It is truly an ugly political contest that has coarsened the political discussion and embarrassed the country both internally and with our foreign allies.

But the election is too important to sit out.

On November, we will be making an extraordinarily important decision whether to elect Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

And taking the easy way out – that is, by refusing to participate in the political process by not voting – is precisely the wrong response. By missing the opportunity to cast your vote against Trump, you are missing the chance to help the country make a strong statement: rejecting both Trump and all the prejudice and bigotry he has demonstrated in his campaign — from calling Mexicans rapists, to calling women “pigs” and “dogs,” to saying he would ban Muslims immigrants or establish “extreme vetting.”

And don’t forget about Congress.

And separate from the presidential race, there are 435 member of the House of Representatives up for re-election, many with challengers trying to offer a better alternative; as well as 34 (out of 100) U.S. Senators up for re-election. Those willing to take the time to learn about the voting records of your House and Senate members need only check their voting report card prepared by NORML.

Although Congress is slow to change, especially with social issues, we have seen more support for ending marijuana prohibition at the federal level during the last two years than we have ever seen, and with each new legalization state, our support in Congress increases.

Legalization on the ballot in five states.

And this November there will be full legalization voter initiatives on the ballot in five states, including most importantly California (the most populous state in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014). Should we win all of these — and the polling is currently pointing towards victory in all five — that will be the final tipping point to end marijuana prohibition in this country, and adopt legalization, leaving us with 25 percent of the country living under state marijuana legalization.

In addition, four states will have medical use voter initiatives, including the states of Florida and Arkansas, two conservative Southern states that could open far more conservative states to the possibility of adopting medical use as well in the coming years. There is simply no turning back.

So please do your part and vote. There is a lot of be embarrassed by in this current campaign, but there is also the possibility of rejecting this current climate and moving the marijuana legalization movement forward in a significant manner.

Living in a democracy, we have the incredible privilege of voting for our elected officials, and sometimes directly for our public policies. People in many parts of the world have no such power to improve their own lives. So let’s exercise our sacred right to cast our votes for people and policies that will help bring our nation together. And let’s keep marijuana legalization moving forward all across this great country.

URGENT: Marijuana Legalization Needs Your Help!

Vote Marijuana Initiatives

In just a few weeks, voters in nine states will go to the polls to vote on crucial marijuana policy reforms at a time when national polling shows that the public’s support for legalization has never been greater. I’m pleased to say that NORML is playing a key role in moving public sentiment toward marijuana sanity.


From day one, NORML’s chief mission has been to move public and political opinion sufficiently so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. We do so by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And nobody does it better than we do.

NORML remains the most well-known and most trusted source of cannabis-centric information in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of the entire American public is familiar with NORML and its mission, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, and the overwhelming majority of those who identify as marijuana consumers say that they possess a favorable impression of our organization.


The messaging put forward by NORML, its 100+ affiliates, and its staff is prominently featured almost daily in the mainstream media and in opinion-shaping publications like the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Hill – outlets that reach millions of readers and policy makers in the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, NORML reports, such as its new 2016 Congressional Report Card and its newly updated handbook, Clinical Applications for Cannabis, continue to inform the public about the latest scientific and political developments surrounding the cannabis plant. It is your donations and support that permit us to continue to do this important work and engagement.


Today, it is clear that NORML’s efforts are paying dividends. The 2016 state election season was the busiest on record with lawmakers in 25 US states enacting legislation to reform their marijuana laws – the most ever in a single year. On Election Day we anticipate even more victories, but we can’t slow down now!

There is little doubt that we are on the precipice of seismic changes in both public opinion and public policy. Help us make these changes a reality. Please consider making a contribution to NORML today of $25, $50, $100. We could not have gotten this far without your help and with your continued support we are confident that we will achieve historic victories on Election Day and beyond.

Donate to NORML

Pew Poll: Public’s Attitude Shifts Dramatically In Favor Of Marijuana Legalization

Legalize marijuanaNearly six in ten Americans now believe that marijuana use ought to be legal and only about one in three favor continuing to criminalize the plant, according to nationwide survey data published today by the Pew Research Center.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents say “The use of marijuana should be made legal,” the highest percentage of Americans ever to answer the question affirmatively in a Pew poll. Only 37 percent of respondents disagree with legalization.

The percentages mark a dramatic shift in public opinion over the past decade. In 2006, only 32 percent of Pew survey respondents favored legalization, while 60 percent opposed the idea. Much of this change is a result of shifting opinions among Millennials (those ages 18 to 35). While only 34 percent of Millennials favored legalizing marijuana in 2006, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of younger Americans support this policy change today.

Democrats (66 percent), Independents (63 percent), and men (60 percent) were also among those most likely to endorse legalization. Support was lowest among those respondents over 71 years of age (33 percent) and Republicans (41 percent).

The survey possesses a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Separate nationwide surveys conducted by Gallup, CBS, and Morning Consult, among others, show similar levels of support for marijuana legalization among voters.

Voters in five statesArizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — will be deciding on initiatives to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of cannabis on Election Day.

Cannabis excess linked to bone disease, fractures

People who regularly smoke large amounts of cannabis have reduced bone density and are more prone to fractures, research has found. The study also found that heavy cannabis users have a lower body weight and a reduced body mass index (BMI), which could contribute to thinning of their bones.

Study: Cannabis Inhalation Improves Parkinson’s Symptoms

Marijuana researchInhaling cannabis improves symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Pain.

Investigators at Tel Aviv University and the Rabin Medical Center in Israel assessed the impact of cannabis exposure on motor symptoms and pain parameters in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers reported that cannabis inhalation was associated with improved symptoms 30-minutes following exposure. “Cannabis improved motor scores and pain symptoms in PD patients,” authors concluded.

A prior Israeli trial evaluating the impact of cannabis on PD patients reported “significant improvement after treatment in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinsea (slowness of movement) … [as well as] significant improvement of sleep and pain scores.”

Over 20,000 Israeli patients receive cannabis under a federally regulated program. Over 90 percent of those participants report significant improvements in pain and function as a result of their medicinal cannabis use.

An abstract of the study, “Effect of medical cannabis on thermal quantitative measurements of pain in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” is available online here.

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