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National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the legalization of marijuana. Founded in 1970, NORML remains the leading national advocate for legalization. NORML, which believes adult private use of marijuana should be legal, seeks the repeal of federal anti-marijuana laws. Repeal would allow states to experiment with different models of legalization. During the 1970s, NORML led the successful efforts to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses in 11 states and significantly lower penalties in all others. During the 1980s, however, the decriminalization movement lost political appeal when presidents RONALD REAGAN and GEORGE H.W. BUSH committed their administrations to the "war on drugs."

NORML has a five-person staff at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is governed by a board of directors that includes prominent attorneys, scientists, and researchers. NORML provides information to the national news media for marijuana-related stories and lobbies state and federal legislators to permit the medical use of marijuana and to reject attempts to treat minor marijuana offenses more harshly. NORML also functions as the umbrella group for a national network of activists committed to ending marijuana prohibition.

NORML also assists those who are arrested on marijuana charges through a legal committee (NLC) comprised of 350 criminal defense attorneys. The NLC also sponsors NORML legal seminars, notifies NORML of important judicial decisions and law enforcement trends, and provides NORML with copies of briefs and other legal documents. These lawyers regularly defend victims of marijuana prohibition and sometimes set important legal precedents.

The NORML AMICUS CURIAE committee files amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in important or novel marijuana-related legal actions at the appellate court level. This committee, which is comprised of experienced NORML criminal defense attorneys from around the country, gives NORML the opportunity to contribute its point of view in cases that may have national importance.

In 1997, NORML established the NORML Foundation, a nonprofit organization that sponsors public advertising campaigns to educate the public about the costs of marijuana prohibition and the benefits of alternative policies. In 1999, the organization adopted a mission statement that advocated the repeal of the prohibition of responsible marijuana use by adults.

NORML has actively supported efforts to legalize the medical use of marijuana for those patients suffering from serious illnesses and medical conditions, including glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia and paraplegia, and the side effects of chemotherapy, despite the fact that federal law still prohibits such use. As of 2003, nine states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) still had laws in effect that legalized the medical use of marijuana.


National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Available online at <www.norml.org> (accessed July 28, 2003).

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