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Recent History & Victories for NORML Canada.

A Brief History of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada, and the U.S. (NORML)

N.O.R.M.L., as an organization, originated in North America in 1970, in the U. S. The name and "meaning" were spread through popular culture. Groups in Canada, England, and Australia also chose to use the same name. N.O.R.M.L. Canada has the consent of NORML (US) to use the name and abbreviation.

The first chapter in Canada was formed by George Brandt soon after the infamous gastown riot (later referred to as "grasstown") in downtown Vancouver which occurred during a pro-legalization rally in late 1971. Former president of N.O.R.M.L. Canada, Umberto Iorfida (pronounced "i-ra-fee-dah") says that there were reports of "NORML" leaflets being handed out in the crowd just prior to the riot, despite the fact that there was no organization with the name "NORML" operating in Canada at that time. The name "NORML" had really caught on in popular culture, and was becoming an almost generic term for "marijuana legalization". Large circulation magazines such as Rolling Stone, Playboy, Penthouse, and others, had given free advertizing space to NORML U.S., and popular support enused.

The international press had not ignored this popular move to make marijuana as acceptable in society as beer or cigarettes ; and the verb "normalize", and the acronym-noun "NORML" were grasped by the masses as the appropriate label. A few months later in 1972, persons in Vancouver contacted U.S. NORML headquarters in Washington, D.C, and proceeded to open a chapter of the U.S. organization.

This scenario continued for a few years until it became apparent that new chapters in Canada were not feasible. New chapters in Canada were satellites of the Vancouver "headquarters", which made new Canadian chapters a sort of "sub-chapter" to the U.S. headquarters. This meant that well over half of all membership fee's collected from new chapters was going to Washington, D.C. leaving practically no funds. The other problem was that U. S. headquarters had no lobbying presence whatsoever in Ottawa, nor was it considered appropriate for a U.S. chartered organization to lobby Canadian lawmakers from Washington.

Most of the founders of the Vancouver chapter felt it would be much more effective to start a "home" organization, chartered in Canada. It was also felt that the name "NORML", due to widespread name recognition, should be retained , if possible. Groups in England and Australia also choose to use the same name.

(Umberto Iorfida, pres. NORML Canada)

"The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada, had broken from the original NORML (of which it had been an authorized chapter) in the USA, and had taken root and established Canadian Corporate Status, run and operated entirely by Canadians for Canadians. Members included various political, legal, educational and medical advocates of cannabis. During these times in the '70's, the Le Dain Commission Inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs in Canada and the Liberal party of Canada had recommended and promised decriminalization.

"With the onset of the U.S. based, Nancy Reagan "just say No campaign" came a new low in Canada : the passing of section 462.2 of the Criminal Code (banning drug literature which "promotes" illicit drug use).

"The Era of Cold Silence began. With fear in the atmosphere in an unprecedented degree, N.O.R.M.L. Canada all but disappeared and so had open public participation by individuals ready to face the issues of cannabis prohibition. During this period of "the literature and education ban", police and prosecutors viewed any legalization activity or discussion as a crime.

Talks between NORML in the U.S. and the Canadians operating the B.C. chapter, resulted in the decision by the Canadians to start an independent organization, which would have permission to use the name "National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws", and the acronym "NORML" as well. In 1976, the original Vancouver chapter became chartered under the authority of the province of British Columbia. Then in 1978, NORML Canada was chartered at the Crown (federal) level. A "letter of consent" allowing the new NORML Canada to use the name was signed by Keith Stroup and Larry Schott, Directors of NORML (U S) on August 31, 1978 . This agreement is still in effect. ( consent agreement).

.By the early 80's, President Reagan had initiated the "war on drugs". Studies were released claiming that marijuana damaged the brain and reproductive system. A severe economic recession was taking place as well after many years of "high roller" speculation, inflation, and growth. The conservatives in power were blaming the "excesses" of illegal drug consumption for America's supposed economic and "moral" decline. Marijuana legalization was no longer "politically correct". Rather than reasoned discussion guiding policy, a general "taboo" was implemented. Nancy Reagan's "just say no" campaign, along with certain questionable "studies", had the desired effect.

The prohibitionist attitude began to dominate the media in Canada as well. NORML Canada had become an inactive shell by 1984. In 1986, parliament began debating the bills which were to become section 462.2, which later became law in 1988. 462.2 was the final "nail in the coffin" of marijuana law reform for quite a few years. It was now illegal in Canada, for all practical purposes, to even discuss changing marijuana policy.

In 1986, the current president of NORML Canada, Umberto Iorfida, with the help of former assistant national director, Terry Parker, began researching the possibility of starting a local chapter near Toronto. He discovered that the organization was no longer functioning at all, although the charter was still valid. That year, NORML Canada was reactivated as an organization by Iorfida and Parker.

For various details of NORML Canada's activities during the period 1971-2002, see our milestones page.

Recent History & Victories for NORML Canada.

Board of Advisors

Many of the founders of NORML Canada now occupy positions in government and in private practice, in the legal profession, and other related fields, at the highest levels of competence and respect. The Canadian Bar Association is well staffed with some of the founders of NORML Canada.

NORML would like to call upon any capable persons who believe they can be of assistance to the goals of NORML, to offer to serve on the Board of Advisors. You will be joining prominent leaders.

Board of Advisors ; incomplete list of curent members :

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Recent History & Victories for NORML Canada.