NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) started back in 1970 as a grassroots hippie group but it’s grown into a non-profit organization full of sound and fury. With 150 chapters, it has become an institute working on all levels to educate people and lobby against the prohibition of marijuana for adults.
A survey done in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on “drug use and health” shows more than 100 million Americans (41 percent of the U.S. population) have used marijuana during their lifetime, 26 million (10 percent of the U.S. population) had used it in the past year and 15 million (6 percent of the U.S. population) admitted to being regular users. As far as the most-used drugs in the nation, weed ranks No. 3, falling behind two legal vices – tobacco at No. 2 and booze at No. 1.
No need to figure in the tendency for people to lie on these types of surveys about drug use, these are astronomical amounts of people admitting to illicit drug use. This may mean NORML’s task of education and decriminalizing has helped in marijuana’s normalization and acceptance by a growing number of residents.
So what happened to our chapter?
Once upon a time, last year, Myrtle Beach had a NORML chapter. It was making strides in the community with membership climbing to 300 strong. This year, as April 20, otherwise known as the counter culture holiday 4:20, nears it appears our chapter is nowhere in sight, disappeared like a bong hit in outer space.
As we indicated in our cover story, Brandon Plumley was the executive director of Myrtle Beach’s NORML from 2010 until September. Turns out, the rise and fall of a local NORML chapter is determined by one man. Plumley is an Army veteran and returned home to West Virginia to attend school on the G.I. Bill. His deputy director went with him and he handed over the NORML operations to the already functioning Columbia chapter. “It was an experience that I didn’t want to leave behind. It was my baby,” Plumley says over the phone from Nitro, W.V.
Plumley is only 24-years-old, young to be the executive director of anything. He started smoking marijuana after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and numerous negative effects from prescribed medications. “A lot of people looked at me like I was too young, but when they learned I was a veteran with PTSD, I was well-received,” he says. “I gained a lot of support from the public.”
That’s not to say Plumley didn’t get his share of harassment. “We’d throw parking lot parties where a band would play a set and then I gave a rally speech. The police and DEA came to watch every party. They found out what kind of car I drove and they’d stop me, hassle me. And I’d tell them just because I’m the head of NORML doesn’t mean I carry pot with me everywhere I go.”
Since returning to West Virginia, Plumley is running for the state chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty, a Libertarian activist group doing a lot of work for the legalization of marijuana. He says, “I’m not sure if the Columbia chapter of NORML is planning on doing anything at the beach.”
And if members of the Columbia chapter packed a van and headed east until they hit the horizon, how many of the 300 defunct members of our local NORML would show up? If you do an Internet search, you’ll find Charleston and Greenville recently started chapters. How hard could it be to get a new chapter here? “You just need a five-person board of due-paying members,” Plumley says.
It’s actually a little more complicated than that. In fact, it’s a six step process.
First, gather a group of five current NORML members and apply for affiliation. Next, the group must register as a non-profit organization with the appropriate state office or if it’s a student group, seek official recognition with the college or university. Next, conduct business including board meetings and whatnot. Next, make a plan, get your ass off the couch and educate the public. Next, be professional; don’t do anything stupid like getting busted selling weed. The final step is, throw a party or a concert as a fundraising event, at least one a year after the inaugural year.
For more information or specific details, visit www.norml.org.But no matter what, whether you smoke marijuana or just believe the nearly 80-year prohibition of a flowering plant is travesty, let your voice be heard in whatever way you can, because politicians have to hear a sea of change before they make a change.
- Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge