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NORML Elects Budget Travel Guru Rick Steves as New Board President
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“Legendary PBS superdork” vows to fight racism in cannabis and hopes to end federal prohibition in his first year in office.
Published on February 11, 2021

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Kudos to budget travel guru Rick Steves, who has officially reached the highest level of cannabis activism as the new president of NORML’s board of directors. 

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws was founded in 1970 by attorney Keith Stroup. Ever since, it has been a major driving force behind reforming cannabis laws at the state (and hopefully soon) national level. 

The guidebook author has been on the board since 2013, and has been speaking about his support of cannabis legalization publicly since the late ‘80s.

“For me, my work with NORML is a civic duty,” Steves wrote in a blog post announcing his presidency. “I care about fighting racism; about replacing a black market that empowers and enriches gangs and organized crime with a legal one that produces good jobs and lots of tax revenue; and about defending our civil liberty to simply enjoy the recreational use of marijuana if we want to.”

Steves is a devoted evangelist of the fact that people from the United States should leave the country to learn about the world around them. (He should know — Steves tried cannabis for the first time on a trip to Afghanistan in the ‘70s.) He has been the host of TV show Rick Steves’ Europe for over 20 years, and is “one of the legendary PBS superdorks,” according to the New York Times, his work placing him “right there in the pantheon with Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Big Bird.”

Steves has a huge stoner footprint in his home state of Washington, where he speaks at Hempfest and campaigned for the 2012 ballot measure that made it one of the first states in the country to legalize marijuana, along with Colorado.

As his lauded travel guide career progressed, Steves gradually became more open about his political beliefs. Those include a marked horror over global economic inequality, a subject he explores in a PBS documentary on Ethiopia and Guatemala that was released on February 1 — and of course, the urgency of cannabis legalization.

“2021 could be the year we deliver the final blow to our nation’s decades-long failed policy of treating marijuana consumers like criminals,” he writes in his first NORML presidential statement.

Certainly, there’s no belittling the man’s dedication to the dank. 

“Getting high releases the human in me,” Steves read to a journalist from his “High Notes” diary that he’s kept for 40 years. Amen to that. 

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Caitlin Donohue
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Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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