Over 600 dedicated cannabis-law reform activists, medical-marijuana patients and legalization advocates packed the Grand Hyatt in downtown San Francisco this past September – along with every major drug-policy reform group and dozens of vendors and sponsors from all over the US and Canada – to make the 38th annual NORML conference the best-attended and most media-covered event in the organization’s storied history.


Dubbed the “Yes We Cannabis” conference, NORML’s annual confab took on a three-pronged focus: determining the best legal and business practices for cannabusinesses; promoting taxation and regulation in a post-prohibition world; and coordinating political strategies for the marijuana-law reform movement in 2010.


One sign of the movement’s growing political maturity was the spirited debate among erstwhile allies of cannabis legalization in California, who were vetting three competing legalization initiatives and seeking support from the high-level activists and grassroots supporters at the NORML conference. Unlike prior cannabis-law reform initiatives, which have largely been bankrolled by billionaires, this next crucial round of advocacy in America appears to be funded by individuals directly affiliated with cannabusiness.


Further, cannabis wellness centers appear to be leading the way to regulated cannabis distribution by complying with current California laws and focusing on the responsible, localized distribution of cannabis products. According to Harborside Health Center’s Stephen DeAngelo, this approach is currently making slow but steady progress toward the day when local law enforcement, elected officials, the media and the general public come to understand that cannabis distribution by, for and to responsible adults is commerce that should be embraced, not prohibited.


The conference also featured a keynote address by Harvard professor and Marijuana Reconsidered author Dr. Lester Grinspoon, plus forward-looking panel discussions on subjects like “Pot, Parents and Prohibition,” “Putting the Mexican Cartels Out of Business,” “Will Use Increase After Legalization?” and “Cannabis and Athleticism,” which brought together current and former professional athletes who endorse cannabis, including mixed-martial artist Toby Grear, pro wrestler Rob Van Dam and NFL All-Pro lineman

Mark Stepnoski.

Also in the vanguard (and never to be outdone), HIGH TIMES convened a very well attended cultivation seminar featuring Senior Cultivation Editor Danny Danko’s advice for growing monster-sized plants in the era of plant limits, as well as former cultivation editor Kyle Kushman’s take on growing “veganic” pot indoors.


Did you miss out on this once-a-year extrava-ganja? Check out the conference audio, videos, photos and even purchase NORML 2009 “Yes We Cannabis!” apparel at norml.org/conference.


Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML in Washington, DC. You can reach him at 888-67-NORML.