Considered by many to be the Godfather of the American cannabis movement, Keith Stroup founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 1970. His new project, “The Keith Stroup Show” features weekly updates on cannabis policy in Washington and across America.
Keith Stroup bio
Having founded NORML 47 years ago, Stroup is still slugging it out at our nation’s capital, fighting the drug war up close and personal. And the stakes have never been higher. Pun intended.
In addition to leading the fight at the legislative level and the ballot box, Stroup has tirelessly traveled the globe as cannabis goodwill ambassador for almost 50 years since growing up rural in Southern Illinois. A graduate of the University of Illinois and Georgetown University Law School in the late 60s, Stroup worked with Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen and later with Ralph Nader.
Inspired to create a consumer advocacy organization for cannabis users, Stroup famously launched NORML on a grant from Playboy Magazine and built the organization into the powerhouse network behind America’s 40-year marijuana legalization movement.
With his long hair, quick wit and cannabis lifestyle, Stroup became a celebrity himself. His exploits were later captured in his well-received 2013 autobiographical prohibition polemic, It’s NORML to smoke pot. Keith served as the executive director of NORML from 1970-1978, igniting the public imagination on cannabis and exemplifying celebrity highlife with pals like Willie Nelson and Hunter S. Thompson. After a rare misstep of getting caught in the powder room with cocaine and a White House staffer, Stroup spent more than a dozen years as the executive director of National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), before returning to lead NORML again from 1994-2005.
Following their impressive string of decriminalization victories in the 70s and with Stroup back at the helm, NORML refined their multi-pronged approach to marijuana reform. Among other things, NORML led the fight with the medical marijuana movement of the 90s and litigated some of the most important cannabis court cases of the past several decades. NORML lawyers filed hundreds of amicus briefs and advocates lobbied thousands of state legislators.
In the process, the organization formed the nationally renowned NORML Legal Committee, which has helped shape much of American cannabis law for the past twenty plus years. Along the way, the organization developed a network of hundreds of state and local chapters where thousands of cannabis activists create their own local movements. Lastly, thanks to researcher Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director, the organization has become one of the world leading authorities on the clinical applications of the herb.
Also during the 90s, Rob Kampia would cut his teeth on DC marijuana politics as a staffer for NORML before launching MPP in 1995. In this way, Stroup’s work with NORML would lead to MPP’s later ballot box successes around the country. NORML activists across the country typically become the true believers in any legalization campaign, often providing critical money and manpower. And all of it started with Stroup. Indeed, following last November’s decisive pro-cannabis vote, New Yorker Magazine declared, “Pot smokers owe last night’s historic ballot wins to this man.”
“When you’re that young, there’s a certain idealism that most of us had at that age, and a certain naïveté, I think both of which were crucial. If I would have realized what a large undertaking this really was, I doubt that I would have had the courage to start down that path” – Keith Stroup
Now in his 70s, Stroup currently serves as NORML national legal counsel and is a tireless supporter of legalization campaigns and cannabis consumer rights in America. With hundreds of NORML chapters in dozens of nations around the world, especially in the US advocating in statehouses and city council chambers, the organization has grown to be a powerhouse for political change. After gaining amazing strides with the Obama administration, the age of Trump has gotten off to a rocky start to say the least.
Topics of discussion
Last week, The Congressional Cannabis Caucus announced a set of legislative principles, and filed a package of bills known as the “Path to Marijuana Reform,” which could end federal prohibition as we know it. Cannabis activists and industry leaders are packing the Congressional calendar with hearings and rallies to press for the reform. This year, NORML chapters will converge on the Capitol for their own national conference, aka “National Lobby Days,” in the fall on September 11th through the 13th. Keith will be our voice inside the Beltway, bringing us a glimpse of what just happened, what’s ahead, and what we can do about it.
Stroup’s weekly podcasts will bring you the latest cannabis news from DC and across the country. Find out what the insiders are talking about, learn about what’s trending before it’s yesterday’s news. Each week, we will recap the latest headlines, predict what lies ahead, and bring you the play-by-play as America fights its way to the end of the drug war.
Cohosted by Arizona NORML state director and Cannabiz News staff writer, Mikel Weisser, this weekly half hour should be fun and informative. Send your questions for Keith to email@example.com and we may answer them on the air.