legalization. It was the kind
of pipe dream that floated through the heads of countless pot smokers
during long nights of deep inhaling, but Stroup actually did it — hustling
$5,000 in seed money from the Playboy Foundation and opening an office in
his basement near Dupont Circle.
‘Keith was a rebel, and he resented the idea that his government treated
him as a criminal because of a drug that he and millions of other people
used,’ says Patrick Anderson, author of ‘High in America,’ a 1981 book on
Stroup and NORML.
Stroup didn’t dress like a rebel, though. He wore a suit and tie, like
every other Washington lawyer-lobbyist.
‘He was consciously trying to be an alternative to the freak approach,
which he knew wasn’t going to work,’ Anderson says.
Courting respectability, Stroup assembled a board of directors that
included Harvard professors, former attorney general Ramsey Clark and,
later, Sens. Phil Hart and Jacob Javits. Pumped with zeal, Stroup went
anywhere to make his pitch, appearing on TV, lecturing at colleges,
testifying before Congress and state legislatures.
In 1972, Stroup got unexpected help from an unlikely source: The National
Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by President Nixon,
issued its final report, concluding that marijuana is relatively harmless
and that possession of less than an ounce should be legal. Nixon rejected
the report, but Stroup used it as a lobbying tool in his increasingly
successful campaign to reduce penalties for pot.
In 1975, five states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Ohio —
removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of the weed. In
1976, Jimmy Carter, who during his campaign had advocated decriminalizing
pot, was elected president. In 1977, Stroup visited the White House to meet
with Carter’s drug policy adviser, Peter Bourne. Soon NORML
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