A Message From Russ Belville ~ Getting on the same page…

I would like to run a proposal by our Affiliates. As marijuana legalization
is just on the horizon in California and more states are looking at decrim,
medicalization, and legalization bills and initiatives, it is more
imperative than ever for our NORML Chapters in now 42 states to all be on
the same page statewide when pushing for legislative victories.
Editor – NORML Stash Blog – http://stash.norml.org

(Also, for those who have waited forever for my
long-promised-never-delivered “Chapter Handbook”, part of the delay is that
I have virtually 42 different types of organizations in 42 states, from
subchapters in Michigan to fully-cooperating chapters in Missouri to
chapters that despise each other here in Oregon. So if and when a Handbook
is produced, I want to be sure it presents a coordinated and organized
structure we can all follow to further the National NORML mission.)

To that end, NORML Board Members Dan Viets, Dale Gieringer, and others on
the board have often suggested to me that NORML should change its
organizational structure to more closely model that of the ACLU (American
Civil Liberties Union) and the NACDL (National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers) and have “statewide affiliates” that organize “local

Now keep in mind, what’s below are just my ideas. I’m running them by you
to determine their feasibility and your approval – or disapproval – of them.
I won’t even consider acting on any of it without support from our existing
network. I would never want to do anything to take us backward and if
there’s a chance it will damage what we have now, we’ll just keep the status

In this system, a Statewide Affiliate would have to accept significantly
more responsibility than a regular Local Chapter, but in exchange get the
prestige of being the organizing and strategizing leader in the state.
(It’s always bothered me that the only difference between “State NORML” and
“City NORML” is just what name an applicant decided to use. That’s not what
the media and politicians would assume; they’d figure “State NORML” is
somehow in charge.) However, Local Chapters would still play an important
role in get-out-the-vote activities, local organizing, holding meetings and
events, etc.

Some of the Statewide Affiliate roles and responsibilities I envision:
. Must have at least one staffer who is involved in direct personal lobbying
with state government;
. Must be writing or coordinating legislative language and/or citizen
initiatives, where possible;
. Must hold regular board meetings that follow Roberts’ Rules, with minutes
typed and delivered to National in a timely manner;
. Must organize local chapters to further the state mission and deal with
those chapters*;
. Must have one representative from each Local Chapter on the State
Affiliate Board (and, so long as it doesn’t bring the board below 5 persons,
the majority of the board should be made up of Local Chapter Reps);
. Must participate in quarterly planned Regional (by time zone, perhaps)
Conference Calls via Skype with National NORML Leadership;
. Must organize an annual statewide conference or event;
. Must send representative to National NORML Conference.

*This is big on my wish list. As we grow, it becomes increasingly difficult
for us to recruit, examine, background check, and mentor chapters.
Furthermore, “boots on the ground” in your state are much better at knowing
the backstories, personalities, politics, and current activities of people
wishing to become NORML activists than I can here in Portland by email and
telephone, and the state affiliate can better recruit people who will
cooperate in the state mission.

Now, I understand that folks won’t be keen on taking on a whole bunch of
additional responsibilities with only the added benefit of being in charge
of the state. So I would propose that as the state affiliate creates its
local chapters, it receives the same benefit as national receives when folks
create chapters now: money.

Currently, to form a NORML Chapter, five people have to join NORML at $25 a
pop, so we make $125 every time a new chapter is formed (not much, but
still…) So I would consider changing the requirement so that people
forming a Local Chapter must first join the Statewide Affiliate and that
money goes to the Affiliate.

Also currently, chapters are supposed to hold annual fundraisers and donate
half the net proceeds to National. This could be changed so that every
Local Chapter holds annual fundraisers, donating half to the State
Affiliate, then the State Affiliate forwards half that and some percentage
take from their Statewide Conference/Event to National. A sort-of “trickle
up” theory, I guess.

It’s also my hope to tie this all in with an envisioned centralized web and
marketing system I’ve been working on with Garret Overstreet (check out his
redesign of SSDP’s site for an idea). The State Affiliate can set the
agenda, write the bills, speak to the media, and create the game plan that
the Local Chapters follow; the Local Chapters get input by being a majority
of the Statewide Affiliate board.

These are my ideas. Shoot ’em up. I’m just looking for ways to make NORML
a more effective and cohesive organization. Nobody forced me to do it and
there is no mandate that anything be changed.

P.S. On Friday I get to begin my annual nagging for chapters to turn in
End-of-Year Reports.

Russ Belville
NORML Outreach Coordinator


The most amazing thing about cannabis is its ability to addle the brains of
those who do not use it.

About waywardbill

Chairman, United States Marijuana Party
This entry was posted in News and politics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Message From Russ Belville ~ Getting on the same page…

  1. how do i get your blog’s rss feed?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s