Every September the folks at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the nation’s oldest cannabis legalization group, bring lobbyists, political scientists, reporters, organizers, state lawmakers, and members of Congress together in Washington, DC, to talk shop. Wins and losses are tallied, strategies are debated, the year ahead is forecast. The three-day event always offers a bracing, concentrated blast of both hope and cold reality.
Here’s a report from the front—or, what you need to know as Congress winds down its long summer vacation.
Change, Fast and Slow
Some things are changing quickly. Justin Strekal, NORML’s rumpled and brilliant political director, noted that “when I started doing this three years ago, there were six paid industry lobbyists working marijuana policy on the Hill. Now there are over 60.”
Other things move glacially—which isn’t all bad. Glaciers move slowly, but