48 | Keith Stroup, Founder, NORML

“The most valuable thing we’ve done is we have encouraged responsible marijuana smokers to come out of the closet because we had to overcome this negative stereotype that marijuana smokers were losers. You know, that they were people on the fringes of society and they were dangerous.”

— Keith Stroup

For the better part of a century, cannabis was prohibited in the U.S. We know now that it has legitimate medicinal applications, and that it can help promote wellness. But that was not well-accepted in in 1970, when young lawyer Keith Stroup started NORML in an effort to destigmatize and ultimately decriminalize cannabis use. Five decades later, Keith is still fighting the good fight. Listen and learn about:

  • The origins of NORML; early wins
  • Why the decriminalization movement stalled for so long
  • How Willie Nelson, Hunter S. Thompson and others helped
  • Why descheduling cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act is still an important goal
  • What’s next for NORML
  • What you can do to help move cannabis reform forward

Follow Keith and NORML on Twitter

Find your local NORML chapter and access other resources at NORML.org

Kannaboom (00:00): Hey, it's Tom. Welcome back. This is episode 47 of the podcast. Today. We have Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He started that organization back in 1970, when marijuana was still vilified, you were seen as immoral if you did smoke it. Only 12% of the population at that time was in favor of legalization. So it's been a long struggle by Keith and he's been an important part of it for 50 years. It's about social justice, personal freedom, and there's a story about Hunter S. Thompson in here too. So enjoy this episode, I sure did be safe. Be well, be careful.

Kannaboom (00:36): Cannabis is booming and Kannaboom is on it. Welcome to the Kannaboom podcast, where we interview experts on the changing story of humans, health and hemp. From San Diego, here's your host, Tom Stacey. It's Tom. Welcome back to the podcast. This week, we're really excited to have Keith Stroup from NORML. Hey Keith, how are you?

Keith Stroup (00:56): I'm fine, Tom. Thank you for having me welcome to the podcast.

Kannaboom (01:00): What drew my attention was a series of blog posts. You wrote at the NORML blog where you were reminiscing on 50 years in this fight. That's a long, epic fight.

Keith Stroup (01:09): Yes, it has been when, you know, when I look back and think my goodness, and it's really been five decades now, obviously we didn't think it was going to take five decades or longer when we started or otherwise. I don't think we would have had the, the commitment or that are the, you know, the wherewithal to take on such a massive project. We were young and idealistic and I think sometimes that's what's required for social change. We knew it was going to be a challenge because only 12% of the public supported our position. A Gallup poll had just done a survey right before we founded NORML. We founded NORML in 1970 and Gallup did their first poll on legalization in 69. And again 88% of the country were opposed to what we were trying to achieve. So we knew it was going to be a serious project that would take some time. But, you know, we thought maybe a decade or so.

Kannaboom (02:08): Well, and as you document in your book, which I've been reading, Nixon had just commissioned the Shafer commission, I think, and their findings were very much pro cannabis.

Keith Stroup (02:19): It was far more favorable than any of us anticipated. You know, the government periodically over the last 80 years has taken a look at marijuana prohibition. And whenever they have they've usually come out with just more reefer madness, junk, you know, junk science and marijuana was essentially treated for a long time in this country as if it were a moral failure. If you smoked marijuana, you were somehow morally inferior to the rest of the people or something. So in many ways it's, it's been a nice ride to see the gradual gain. The reason we're winning it now is because way back then they finally decided in 1972, the marijuana commission to at least acknowledge that there was nothing wrong with the private use of marijuana. They didn't, it wasn't a pro pot report by any sense, but it was, it was a report that was recommended. We eliminate all penalties for the private possession and use of marijuana. And even with a little further recommendation that adult marijuana smokers be allowed to share marijuana with each other for no remuneration and it wouldn't be perfectly legal. So that was a major shift in official position. It didn't automatically get accepted by everybody in the country and certainly not by most of our elected officials, but over the first 10 years, following the release of that report, NORML managed to get marijuana what is now called decriminalized, stop arresting the smoker, even though you don't establish a legal market, we managed to get 11 states to adopt versions of marijuana decriminalization. So that report was terribly important. Unfortunately it kind of ran out of steam by the late seventies. We got our first decrim state in 1972, which was Oregon and the last of the 11 was in 1978 and that was Nebraska. And we thought at the time that we were likely to have decriminalization throughout the entire country fairly quickly within, you know, four or five years. But in fact, the mood of the country went the other direction, in the late seventies, early eighties, you had Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan 'just say no' movement, the parents groups. So we lost ground. We actually lost some public support during those years, but starting about 1996, when California, we finally got a medical marijuana initiative approved by the voters in California that really turned things around and we've been gaining support ever since. Today, basically there are five or six national polls, including Gallup, that show we enjoy the support of roughly 68% of the American public, two out of three Americans now support full legalization. That's a big swing and it's only taken 50 years. You know, if I might tell you that I, when people ask me why we're having so much more success in these last few years, I tell them in essence, our strategy has been to outlive our opponents. And I think that's largely what we've done.

Kannaboom (05:47): Well, yeah. I mean, again, you talk about Nixon and, you know, they did a good job of tying, like you said, they made cannabis youth a moral failure. Like it was a depraved activity, but they tied it to anti-war protesters and black musicians. And that still goes on today. I mean, as we tape, as we record this on June 2nd, we have to talk about social justice and cannabis being outlawed has always been a social justice issue, right?

Keith Stroup (06:16): Yes. And in fact, when marijuana first began to be used in this country, it was, its use was almost entirely limited to the black jazz community. First based in New Orleans and later worked its way to Chicago, into New York and all around the country and also Mexican migrant workers and neither group had any political power. They were both considered fringe parts of our culture. They didn't respect them. So all the way back to the beginning of prohibition it was an effort to criminalize those elements in society that we weren't sure we wanted in our society. It was racist. There's no doubt about that at all. So yes, I do think it's relevant what we're seeing today. I hope that this will be the time we finally do something about police abuse to the minority communities. We can't expect to overcome racism and, you know, in one month or you know, it just because we've suddenly had some bad times and its country, that doesn't mean that all the racists are gonna change their mind and, and stay home. But I do think that this idea that police have the right to essentially execute minority people on the street, just because they feel like it should be way past that. I hope over the next couple of days, those other police officers in Minnesota are arrested. I hope all of them spend decades in prison. That was one of the most horrible of videos I think any of us have ever seen. And there's simply no excuse for it,

Kannaboom (07:57): Right. It's never right to go out and riot and destroy personal property either. But when you're backed into a corner and you have no other means to speak, that's a systemic problem. That's just exploded in the last couple of weeks.

Keith Stroup (08:10): Well, it's surfaced again, but remember every few months there's another black man. Who's essentially murdered by law enforcement in this country. And that's been happening now a few times a year for several years. So, and you know, whenever it happens, we pay attention to it for a few months. But for some reason we can't seem to stay with it, as a countrywide movement. This time feels a little different. I, I have, I'm optimistic that there will be some honest changes made and it's going to require some changes in Congress are going to have to pass some laws to, to begin to cut back on the use of excessive force by police or hold them more responsible. But certainly we're not going to wait. You're not going to see any improvements of any consequences as long as Donald Trump is in the presidency, because he's part of the problem.

Kannaboom (09:06): And he's enabled by the majority to continue being the problem. The marijuana laws continue to be a tool though. That's used by police; it's upwards of six or 700,000 arrests a year still.

Keith Stroup (09:19): Yeah. It surprises people, but at the height of prohibition about, o don't know when we switched, turned us around, but maybe seven or eight years ago, we were up to, I believe it was 850,000 Americans were arrested on an annual basis for marijuana charges. And roughly 90% were always for personal possession use. So most of them were not traffickers. They were just marijuana smokers. So because we've made so much progress in the last decade, it's tempting to think that that arrest problem's no longer, so serious. Well, as you pointed out, roughly 650,000 Americans were arrested just last year in this country, our numbers are always a year or so behind. So there's still an enormous number of people who are paying an incredible price simply because when they go home in the evening, relax, they prefer to smoke a joint where, you know, tens of millions of other Americans will drink a beer or have a glass of wine. And the problem that continues to persist is black and Brown Americans are still somewhere between four and eight times as likely to be arrested on a marijuana charge as are white Americans. Despite the fact that we all use marijuana at roughly the same rates, there were roughly 14% of the American public adults that have smoked that acknowledge they're current marijuana smokers, roughly one out of two acknowledge a smoke that some kind in their life, the people who identified currently as marijuana smokers, it's roughly 14%. That's true. Whether you're Hispanic, black, or white, yet, as I say, with whites, we don't get arrested at anywhere near the rates blacks and browns, get arrested at least four times as frequently. And in some areas of the country, eight times as frequently. So yes, there's still an enormous amount of racism that exhibits itself in the enforcement of marijuana prohibition. And I think that simply because any time you give the police a law such as you can't possess marijuana, there's enormous amounts of discretion as to when they enforce that. And when they look the other way, when they maybe have more important work to do, and when they're in the white middle class communities, they don't pay so much attention to marijuana, but somehow when they're in the minority communities, that's truly considered a tool to keep people in their place. And so everybody gets arrested. Everybody gets patted down, everybody gets arrested for a half a joint it's time. And, and there was a nice actually blog post put up today by Eric Altieri that the executive director of NORML sort of tying some of this together, the fact that part of resolving the racial disparity and the, the racial hostility in this country we need to legalize marijuana as part of that.

Kannaboom (12:26): Right. Just federally across the board. You referenced the early prohibition days where the whole reefer madness story. And there seems to be just a very long hangover from that. I mean, we now have medical evidence that cannabis helps with epilepsy and PTSD and anxiety and insomnia and cancer and all kinds of things. There's legitimate medical uses yet our law enforcement is still operating on these assumptions that it's a moral failing.

Keith Stroup (13:00): Yesh, in large parts of the country. Now we're making progress in fairness, in most urban areas. I think the attitude towards marijuana smoking and marijuana smokers is largely relaxed, there are still a few people who think it's sinful or immoral or something, but most people, frankly, don't really care, even though most people are not current smokers. It doesn't bother most Americans if somebody else wants to smoke marijuana when they relax in the evening. But when you get out into the rural parts of the country, these contentious social issues and, you know, gay rights, marijuana legalization, there's others. There it's always been harder to make the sale in rural America. I'm not sure. I grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois. So I certainly don't mean to speak ill of those who live in the country. On the other hand, there is no doubt about it that in terms of these contentious social issues, we've kind of come to a consensus in the urban parts of the country, but not yet in the rural parts.

Kannaboom (14:05): Right. It's been made into a culture issue when it's now really recognized as a legitimate medicine.

Keith Stroup (14:11): Oh yeah. I mean,uI think the percentage of Americans who now favor of legalizing medical marijuana is something like 88%. It's almost almost 90%. So something that a decade ago it was still considered fairly controversial is now does assume that nine out of 10 Americans support that now, but that doesn't mean nine out of 10 elected officials in your state legislature. So we still have, we have, I think 33 states that have enacted fairly meaningful versions of medical marijuana, but that still means we have 17 states where patients that use marijuana to treat serious illnesses are still risking arrest and jail for doing it

Kannaboom (14:56): Well, and it's interesting that in this time of pandemic, it was one of the things that was recognized and acknowledged as essential. And there was some arm waving about that, that you know, what's going on here, but for people who do use it to relieve anxiety, this, these are anxious times.

Keith Stroup (15:15): You're right. There was initially I think it was in LA or someplace where they did not deem that the dispensaries as essential, but with some input from the public within a couple of days, that was reversed. And so in most states that have legal marijuana dispensaries, they were deemed to be essential services. And, and I think they should have been.

Kannaboom (15:40): Now you referenced that as long as Trump is in office we may have some problems with the marijuana laws, although he's a very unpredictable character. If he thought it would help him get reelected, I could imagine him making a declaration that OK, it's, it's legal everywhere. Do you think anything like that might happen?

Keith Stroup (15:59): And in fact, during the, I think it was during the campaign before he was elected, he actually made some statements at time or two, of course, a lot of his stuff is contradictory and, and hard to decipher, but he suggested that he might do make some progressive moves in this area. And there were some, I'm sorry, I'm working from my home office and you can hear my dog in the background. Yeah, there was some expectation that Trump might take a more progressive position on marijuana policy as a way to try to pick up or more support among younger voters. Now, obviously he hasn't. In fact, once he named Jeff Sessions as his first attorney general, we knew we were in trouble. Sessions always was a real reefer maniac. So I don't think you're going to see any change from Trump between now and November on that. I think he sort of made his bed. He's got to lie in it. Now I will say this. It seems to me that what we should be working for, I know at normal what we would like to see happen, we want to continue to see marijuana legalized state by state. We want the federal government to take marijuana off the Controlled Substances Act. And there's a pending bill in Congress to do that. The more act and simply get the federal government out of the way. We, when, when we ended alcohol prohibition in this country, the federal government did not require the states to legalize alcohol. They simply removed the, the federal law against it and said, the states are free to do whatever they want. If they want to maintain alcohol prohibition, they can, if they want to experiment with different models of legalization, they can, there are still counties in some states in this country that are dry counties. Cause they've been ever since alcohol prohibition, they just never chose to change. So it's a version of that, that we're looking to with marijuana. I frankly I would think just politically, I wouldn't want to see the federal government try to dictate that every state in America and every rural county had to legalize marijuana, I think there would be a fairly strong backlash against that by lots of people, even some people who might favor legalization, but they don't want the federal government dictating to the states like that. So our goal is simply to continue to roll out legalization and more and more states. We think within three, four years at most, I think that we can get marijuana removed. There was actually a Cannabis Caucus in the Congress now, if you don't know that, which is really quite extraordinary to think back just a few years ago, we hardly had anyone who would you know, attend a press conference with NORML. Today. We have a Cannabis Caucus that has more than a hundred members of the House of Representatives who belong to it. So we think we can get marijuana out of the federal law altogether within three or four years. And at that point, then it really will be, we'll be totally free to experiment with more innovative versions of legalization on the state level.

Kannaboom (19:11): We've been close in the past. I think I was reading in your book in 1986 or so there was a movement to remove it from Schedule One, which was preposterous anyway to ever have it on Schedule One. But that makes sense.

Keith Stroup (19:21): But if I might let me just explain the federal Controlled Substances Act, which is where marijuana is scheduled and most other drugs, not alcohol and tobacco, but most other drugs are listed. There are five schedules and Schedule One is considered the most dangerous drugs that have no medical use. And the Congress has placed marijuana in that now, even drugs like cocaine, because they can be used by nose and throat doctors as a medicine, as a painkiller, it's a Schedule Two drug, it's scheduled lower than marijuana. Now I will say this during the seventies, eighties, NORML spent a lot of our time and effort in administrative petitions and in court trying to force the federal government to lower marijuana, at least to a lower schedule. So it could be prescribed under federal law, et cetera. Today, enjoying the level of political support we have nationwide. We no longer support scheduling it lower. We want it taken totally off the schedule. Take it out of the Controlled Substances Act. Alcohol and tobacco are not in the Controlled Substances Act and neither should marijuana be. So in the end, descheduling is obviously lowering the schedule. It's a short term goal, but the real goal is to get it totally out of the Controlled Substances Act.

Kannaboom (20:41): That makes sense. So it's legally treated more like alcohol or tobacco.

Keith Stroup (20:47): Yeah. In the sense that states are free to do what they want with it, they can tax it. They can not. And by the way, the states that are more conservative, as long as they want, they'd be free to maintain probation. But you can imagine that once the states near next door to you are beginning to legalize marijuana and you get to see their benefits where the police are not wasting their resources chasing marijuana smokers. So states raising hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. You're creating jobs. We have, I think right now the estimate is 240,000 American jobs in the legal cannabis industry. That's more than the coal mining industry. For example, that seems to have a great deal of political power, certainly in states like West Virginia and a few others, but we actually create more jobs than they do now.

Keith Stroup (21:39): So there, I think what will happen is very quickly after the states. For example, if you're in the Midwest, you now can see how legalization is working in Michigan and in Illinois, two very big prosperous industrial states and they love it. It's working great. So the other states in the Midwest are gonna have a hard time, not doing the same thing over the next two, three, four years. And eventually we'll get to the South. Now, I think the southern states will almost certainly be the last holdouts in the legalization battle, but they'll come around just as well.

Kannaboom (22:15): When this scenario unfolds, and there is a legalized structure, maybe patchwork somewhat across the states; NORML's role has always been the reform of marijuana laws. So if those laws are reformed, how does NORML's mission pivot a little bit, if I may, is it about corporate dollars coming in? Is it about protecting smaller farmers and businesses? What will the role be?

Keith Stroup (22:39): Well, the short answer is yes. We certainly are, are now and will continue to increase our focus on making sure that our industry reflects, something like the craft beer industry or the wine industry. We don't want to see major international corporations come in and take over the marijuana industry. There will certainly be some large corporations eventually I'm sure, but at least as long as we can, I think we want to encourage the craft beer model and the small and midsize growers and retailers. But let me tell you just to go back to our initial roots, when we started NORML, it was an outgrowth of some work I had done with consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, I had, in order to stay out of the Vietnam war, I was what was then called a draft resistor and a draft dodger. One way you could do it is if you manage to convince your draft board that the work you were doing domestically was so important, they could give you what they considered a critical skills deferment. Now, most people got deferments when they went to college, but once you got, you know, you graduated college or graduated law school, I got out of law school in 68. I was still young enough that I was subject to the draft. So I was trying to figure out how in the world I could avoid going to Vietnam. It wasn't a war I understood. And I didn't like the idea of coming home in a body bag. I ended up getting hired by a presidential commission. I graduated Georgetown law school in 68 and there was a new commission that had just been created called the National Commission on Product Safety. And it was a result of the work of consumer advocate, Ralph Nader. So they hired me as one of their, I think we had four lawyers and the legal staff and my draft board based on the, the important sounding National Commission on Product Safety. Even though I don't think it was so important, they gave me a critical skills deferment. So instead of being in Vietnam for between 68 and 70, I was downtown Washington, D.C. Working around consumer advocate, Ralph Nader. So I came through that experience with a real appreciation for the work of consumer advocates. A lot of us are, if you're a public interest lawyer, you use your legal skills and your law degree to try to impact public policy rather than to represent individual clients. So by the time the commission ended, I was then too old to be drafted. And I knew I wanted to do public interest law, but I'd started smoking marijuana when I was a freshman at Georgetown Law School, 1965. So I said, I think I want to start a project to try to legalize marijuana. Now, the reason I wanted to go back to that is to reference that we have always tried to be a consumer lobby. We weren't representing the industry, we were representing smokers, but as long as smokers were defined as criminals and arrested in jail, we obviously had to focus primarily on that. But as we have gradually made more progress, decriminalized marijuana and roughly 30 states and legalized it in 11 and District of Columbia, we can now begin to look at some of the consumer issues that we would have liked to have dealt with a long time ago. For example, at adequate labeling, we want to make sure that the marijuana we buy has been tested in a state-certified laboratory, and that we know there's no heavy metals. There's no dangerous pesticides. There's no molds. We want to make sure the THC level and the CBD level are accurately labeled on the product. We want to make sure that right now, if you're a parent of a young child and a nosy neighbor smells marijuana coming out of your apartment, if they call the child welfare agency, the state will presume that you're an unfit parent because you smoked marijuana. The first thing they do is they send someone out to do a home inspection on the basis that marijuana smokers, I guess, are filthy people. Once you pass the home inspection, then they require you to take a parenting course and the drug education course in order to maintain custody of your own child. Well, it's time we move beyond that. Being a marijuana smoker does not suggest absent other evidence that you're an unfit parent, nor does it, nor should your employer be able to fire you because you test positive for THC, unless they can demonstrate that you came to work in an impaired condition, marijuana smokers. If you smoke on a Saturday night, you're still going to test positive on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday the next week, if you're drug tested, but it doesn't mean you're impaired. So we need to fix those problems. DUI-Ds, there are several states where they have what they like to call DUI-D per se laws. If you have any THC in your system and you're involved in a traffic offense, you are automatically considered guilty of driving under the influence of drugs without any indication that you were actually impaired. So I'm listing some of the major areas where NORML is now beginning to focus our attention. Our ultimate goal is we think we're responsible. Marijuana smokers should be treated fairly in all aspects of their lives. And we're now being able to work on some of those areas that we really couldn't do as long as marijuana was still considered a crime.

Kannaboom (28:29): That makes sense. It's still an extension of your original mission with roots in sort of a Ralph Nader style consumer protection lobby. And it has evolved. We've come a long way in 50 years, but there's still a long way to go.

Keith Stroup (28:42): Yeah. People sometimes say to me, 'Well, you know, basically, what are you guys going to do? Are you going to work yourself out of a job?' I wish that were the case. I'm 76 years old. And I assure you that there will still be a need for NORML to be around for a long time after I'm gone. And it's just, you know, there's a lot of work to do in this country. As I say, we still have 450,000 people being arrested every year. So I'm not worried about running out of work to do. I just hope it doesn't take too much longer to accomplish our ultimate goal.

Kannaboom (29:17): It's been very interesting to read your book. And as you cited in the beginning, it was about 12% of people who were in favor of reforming the laws. And now it's at 68%. So in the intervening years, there has been discoveries of the endocannabinoid system. The medicinal aspects have been legitimized and we've come a long way. I don't know if there's a question in that statement, but I want to thank you for doing that important work over those decades because it had to be lonely in the beginning, I would think.

Keith Stroup (29:46): Well it certainly was a lot lonelier in the beginning than it is now. You're right about that. I think if I reduced the work NORML has done for the last five decades down to the simplest form, I would say, I think the most valuable thing we've done is we have encouraged responsible marijuana smokers to come out of the closet because we had to overcome this negative stereotype that marijuana smokers were losers. You know, that they were people on the fringes of society and they were dangerous. There were all kinds of misconceptions, but as with the gay rights movement the easiest way to change people's negative stereotypes is for them to get to see and get to know more gay people, if it's gay rights. And in our case, more marijuana smokers. Now a lot of smokers couldn't come out of the closet cause they'd lose their job. And that wouldn't help our political movement if, if everybody was unemployed, but we've always argued that for those people who can do it. And because I was a public interest lawyer working for NORML, I certainly could we've always been very open about our marijuana smoking and you know, I tell people, even now, I don't get up in the morning and smoke, wake and bake as it's sometimes called in the culture. I'm a lawyer. I have work to do, I don't go to work stoned, but when I get home in the evening to watch the news I roll a joint and pour myself a glass of wine. I'm by drug-al. I like both,

Kannaboom (31:20): You know, when I started this website, it was Kannaboomers. Similarly. I mean, we all went through a college years where maybe we did wake and bake, but for decades I didn't touch it at all. But then I came back to it and like a lot of us, maybe I was concerned about my liver after, you know, a few decades of social drinking. So yeah, here's another way to relax and you don't have to get planetary. You can microdose. It's very versatile that way. So yeah, I think it's important to talk about the stigma and for so long, the stigma was such a big thing and it's great that NORML was able to sort of roll that back.

Keith Stroup (31:54): Yeah, I think that's been our most significant contribution to improve the general impression of a responsible marijuana smoker as being just an average citizen who works hard and pays taxes and raises his family and contributes in a positive way. There are communities that, that was certainly not the perspective most people had of marijuana smokers when we started in 1970.

Kannaboom (32:21): Well, I have to ask you about one of the friendships that you mentioned in the book, and it might be paradoxical as we're talking about responsible models. You probably know where I'm going. Hunter S. Thompson was a good friend of yours. If there was ever a guy who was probably not a model of a responsibility, it might've been him.

Keith Stroup (32:37): No, in fact, I couldn't agree with you more. He was a dear friend. I, I knew him for, I think 34 years till his death a few years ago. And I really thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him. I love his writing, the best book he ever wrote, I think, is Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail about the 1972 campaign. But I very much enjoyed hanging out with Hunter for a couple of days every year, but generally the drug use model is not the model we would recommend for you know, and, and even in his case, I mean, it, it he paid a price for it over time. He was not as productive in his later years. And I think a lot of that was because of the enormous amounts of drugs he'd use to be honest. But, but nonetheless, he was a fascinating guy. And now we've got other celebrities that we've dealt with Willie Nelson. Willie's been with us essentially since the early seventies as well. And while Willie's not an ordinary middle-class marijuana smoker, he is a very much beloved marijuana smoker. I used to sometimes when I'd be hanging out with Willie, I would tease him that he was American's most loved marijuana smoker, but then he was the only loved marijuana. They all seem to be willing to forgive Willie. He was such a nice country boy, that they'd forgive as a marijuana smoking. I think today, by the way, one of the celebrities that's most effective for us is travel editor, Rick Steves, out of Seattle. He's got a, you know, PBS programs and he's got those travel books to Europe. He's such a clean cut guy. And he really is a very clean cut guy and a very religious guy and active in his church, et cetera. But he's also a committed marijuana smoker and he works very hard for NORML. He goes out and testifies before state legislatures on our behalf. So again, celebrities, you know, if you're trying to change public policy in today's world, celebrities can be very helpful. But of course, most of them, I wouldn't start off reaching for a Hunter Thompson model. I'd probably go for Rick Steves.

Kannaboom (34:53): Yeah. Just demonstrating that there's no contradiction there. You can be a prolific and productive person and still at the end of the day, relax with a joint and it's not, shouldn't be a crime.

Keith Stroup (35:03): Yeah, no, absolutely. He's a, I, as I say, I think right now Rick is maybe as effective as any of our spokespeople.

Kannaboom (35:11): Is he on the board at NORML?

Keith Stroup (35:13): Oh, yes. Has been now for, I think eight or eight or 10 years. Very active on it too.

Kannaboom (35:17): That's great. Yeah. As you mentioned, everyone knows Willie's been involved. He's been involved with the organization, right?

Keith Stroup (35:26): Oh yeah. I think I first met Willie in about 74 or something like that, and then got to know him much better during Jimmy Carter's time as president because Jimmy, Jimmy Carter, his two sons, both were marijuana smokers and it wasn't that much of a secret. And we used to spend time when Willie would come to town, a concert. I sometimes go out with the White House staff, the young staff. And we end up after the concert hanging out with Willie. And as I got to know Willie better than we got him on our advisory board, he's been the chair of our advisory board for decades now. And he's held golf tournaments down at his private golf course outside of Austin. And it, you know, he's done other things to help us. He's you know, he lives on the road. He travels almost year round. And if he's off for a few days, he goes to his place in Maui, Hawaii, usually. So it's not easy to get Willie for events, but occasionally you get him when he's got a break in the schedule. And he, the two issues he really cares about are helping assisting family farmers. They own the farm and legalizing marijuana, and he's always thought the two of those should work together. And I couldn't agree with them more.

Kannaboom (36:40): What can our listeners do to help move cannabis reform forward?

Keith Stroup (36:44): Well, the first thing is to realize that most change is now occurring at the state and local level. There is, there are things you can do to help us federally. And if you go to the NORML website, which of course where you've expected to www.norml.org, we're a nonprofit you'll see the federal bills that are pending and we make it easy for you to, to register, to send a letter to them and support. But what's most important is to get in touch with your state and local NORML groups, because that's where the real action is today. And that's where we can, we can really put you to work almost immediately. We have some terrific groups working around in the various states. And again, you can go to the website for that information, or you can simply call 202-483-5500. But we would be delighted to have more people working on the state and local level. It's almost all volunteer work and it's very, very satisfying.

Kannaboom (37:48): Right. Meet people who are involved in help at a grassroots level. And I think that's a good recommendation.

Keith Stroup (37:53): Well, and you'll see the change over, you know, in most areas, if you got in touch with your local or state NORML group, but then the next two, three, four years, you're going to see some significant improvements in the marijuana policy. So I think you'll be delighted that you chose to spend some time helping us.

Kannaboom (38:11): Is there anything else that we should cover that we haven't yet?

Keith Stroup (38:14): You know, I always liked to try to end up by reminding people that while I enjoy smoking marijuana and I've been smoking now for 55 years or something, I'm an old man. In the end, this is only incidentally about marijuana. It's really about personal freedom. And if we keep that in mind over the next few years, we have the potential now to, to return a measure of personal freedom, to the lives of tens of millions, of responsible marijuana smokers out there. And we intend to do it.

Kannaboom (38:50): I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us and just thank you for the decades of work you've put in fighting the good fight for this cause that many times looked like a lost cause, but you hung with it and you, you made a major difference. And I want to thank you personally. And on behalf of all our listeners.

Keith Stroup (39:05): You're very kind. Thank you.

Kannaboom (39:08): You've been listening to the Kannaboom podcast with host Tom Stacey, if you like the show and want to know more, please check us out at Kannaboom.com and please leave us a review at Apple podcasts or wherever you listen, see you next week.