As more and more states pass laws providing for the distribution and decriminalization of marijuana, the nation's oldest and longest running advocacy group for smokers has taken on a new role and mission.
Known for defending the rights of cannabis users, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has created a business network designed to protect the rights of its newly emerging crop of corporate citizens and cannabis consumers. Allen St. Pierre, the former Executive Director of NORML, described the NORML Business Network as "an initiative seeking to bridge consumer advocacy with the cannabis industry that is developing nationally."
By collaborating with marijuana companies and ancillary businesses that are committed to using their enterprise to further corporate social responsibility, St. Pierre said "NORML will insure that new enterprises integrate the interests of their customers into the fabric of their company's DNA."
The founder of NORML back in the 1970's and its legal counsel today, Keith Stroup, noted "If we don't have to spend our days preventing citizens from getting locked up and arrested for smoking pot, we can turn our energies to consumer advocacy. We can fulfill our original mission and become the Better Business Bureau for cannabis consumers."
Added Norm Kent, NORML's Vice-Chair, and it's Business Network Co-ordinator, "We are going to do for marijuana consumers what Ralph Nader did for cars. We are going to insure product safety, and be a seat belt for the industry. We are going to offer our business partners a 'good housekeeping' seal of approval."
NORML's plan is to jealously license and lend its brand name only to start ups and new marijuana related companies which adopt "best practices" that are "fair and just for all consumers," Stroup said.
NORML's business network is guided by a mission plan and a five pronged test for companies to meet in order to be admitted. Essentially a code of responsible industry practices, NORML will ask for businesses to be 'values-driven,' accountable and transparent, benefit employees and workers, employ steady and responsible management, as well as running a company that is a tool for positive social change.
St. Pierre indicated that once businesses are vetted and accepted for admission, NORML will promote them as "preferred business partners" and promote the companies on their blog and website. With over 16 million webpage views per year, along with over 750,000 Facebook likes, the NORML endorsement is quite an incentive for emerging ganjapreneurs.
Even NORML's Twitter feed has nearly 200,000 followers. The subscribing companies, which will pay a branding fee to NORML relative to its size, will receive social media boosts and promos, along with displays and literature to showcase in their establishments and on their own websites.
Said NORML's chair, Stephen Dillon, an Indianapolis attorney, "our goal is to formulate a NORML 'Code of Responsible Industry Practices.' One of the pieces of literature that the organization will distribute is a poster allowing its business partners to advertise "We Do Business the NORML Way."