NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Memphis has operated in some form or another since the founding of the original University of Memphis NORML chapter in late 2006. Our citywide chapter and the University chapter were both co-founded by attorney John Marek, who served as Executive Director on our board of directors three years.
It all started in 2006 at the University of Memphis “Heads vs. Feds” event. The editor of High Times, Steve Haggard, and a former DEA agent went across the country debating marijuana legalization.
After the event ended at the University of Memphis, Steve Haggard stood up and called for a local NORML Chapter in Memphis. Immediately, signatures were collected, and our group’s lobbying efforts in Nashville led to the University of Memphis being named one of the “Top 10 Cannabis Colleges” by High Times Magazine in 2008. The University of Memphis NORML continued to be active for several more years before leadership graduated.
In 2014, TN NORML was formed by former prosecutor Doak Patton, national NORML Board member Paul Kuhn, and Francis Perry in Nashville. Seeing such a strong group form in Nashville inspired the founding of NORML Memphis, and we established ourselves under the TN chapter.
After helping pass Substitute Ordinance No. 5626 through the Memphis city council, the possession of cannabis up to a half ounce was decriminalized by a Council vote of seven to six. What this ordinance accomplished aside from that was allowing for an officer ‘s discretion to give a person a ticket with a civil fine of $50 with a chance to serve ten hours of community service if you can’t afford the fine. The ordinance also allows for expungement of a person’s record and includes wording regarding paraphernalia.
Because of our success locally and because of our efforts with TN NORML, we were officially granted regional chapter status from national NORML in October of 2016.