“EXHALE, STAGE LEFT
At 61, Longtime Marijuana Lobby Leader Keith Stroup Is Finally Leaving the
Keith Stroup’s mouth is dry. His brain is foggy. America’s most famous
marijuana lobbyist admits that a powerful drug has messed up his mind.
The drug isn’t marijuana, although he smokes that nearly every night. It’s
Tylenol cold medicine. He took some this morning, he says, and it made him
feel goofy, spacey, stoned. ‘I hate taking it,’ he says. ‘But my nose was
running and I kept sneezing and I thought, ‘I gotta take something.’ ‘
Wearing a bright white shirt and dark blue suit, Stroup is sitting at his
impeccably neat desk in the tidy K Street offices of NORML, the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He founded NORML back in
1970 and now, 34 years later, he’s retiring at 61 as the pot lobby’s
‘When I turned 60, I looked in the mirror and I saw this gray-haired old
man and I said, ‘I think we need younger leadership,’ ‘ he explains. ‘It
has to do with more energy, fresh perspectives, new ideas. It’s not like
I’m ready for the old folks’ home. I just think we need somebody younger
running the organization.’
That somebody is Allen St. Pierre, 39, who has served as NORML’s
second-in-command for the past decade. St. Pierre took over yesterday,
while Stroup, who recently got married for the third time, headed off to
his Falls Church home to become a consultant and lecturer.
But now, Stroup, stoned on cold medicine and nostalgia, starts showing off
the strange souvenirs of his strange lobbying career.
He pulls a black-and-white photo off the wall. It shows him in jeans and a
jacket addressing a crowd of hippies in front of the White House in the ’70s.
‘We used to have a July 4 smoke-in every year in Lafayette Park,’ he says.
‘I like this just as a period piece. Look at those
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