Marijuana has enjoyed considerable political success recently.
In November, Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana use, and since then multiple states have begun to look at decriminalization and legalization efforts with momentum that the movement has never seen before.
While the movement to reform drug policy is comprised of thousands of activists and donors, several individuals have been leading the fight to pass new laws and ballot initiatives that legalize pot.
We spoke to several people in the reform movement, and these five individuals came up as some of the most influential in the marijuana reform movement:
1. Allen St. Pierre
St. Pierre is the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the oldest and largest advocacy group working to legalize marijuana in the U.S.
Under St. Pierre, NORML has become the leading lobbying group for marijuana legalization, decriminalization and medical use.
NORML under St. Pierre is also a major messaging arm for reformers, serving as an information clearinghouse for media and another prospective for policymakers. Currently, NORML is working with forces on the hill to develop federal marijuana legalization.
NORML's foundation arm also provides legal support to some people charged with marijuana crimes and undertakes relevant research initiatives.
2. Ethan Nadelmann
Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
DPA serves as one of the clearinghouses for marijuana policy in the U.S. They work extensively to push legislation that decriminalizes marijuana offenses at the state level, and also provide grants to smaller, local organizations.
DPA and their electoral arm, Drug Policy Action, were behind the November 2012 ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington that legalized marijuana in those states. Nadelmann's group also helped fund-raise and build political support for the ballot initiatives.
St. Pierre, director of NORML, called Nadelmann "the most dialed-in drug policy reform advocate in the country."
3. Peter B. Lewis
Lewis is the former chairman and CEO of Progressive Insurance.
With a net worth of roughly $1.2 billion, Lewis is a prominent philanthropist, and a top financial backer of the drug reform movement in the U.S. One prominent advocate estimates that he has given roughly $40 million to the cause since 1996.
One recent contribution to the Brookings Institute enabled the organization to fund a new 18-24 month serial review of marijuana law and alternative policies, a project that has huge potential for marijuana reform advocacy.
Justin Hartfield4. Justin Ross Hartfield
Hartfield is one of the new breed of "ganjapreneurs" who are bringing legitimate business sensibilities to the newly-legal marijuana market.
A 28-year old serial entrepreneur, Hartfield and his partner Doug Francis run Ghost Group, a venture capital fund with holdings in several businesses that Hartfield started, including Weedmaps — a site with revenues of $1.5 million per month already — as well as Cannabinoid Science Systems, a research firm that develops marijuana products.
Because his businesses don't require him to actually come in contact with the drug, Hartfield is able to make a fortune off of marijuana reform without running afoul of federal law. He also sits on the boards of NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project.
As the campaign director of New Approach Washington, Holcomb led the political action committee behind the successful passage of State Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in the state of Washington.
She managed to raise $3 million for the initiative — much of it provided by Peter Lewis — which dwarfed the opposition's spending.
Holcomb has worked for years on marijuana law through the ACLU Washington, and currently serves as the Drug Policy Director there. Prior to running New Approach Washington, she extensively lobbied the Washington legislature about reforming their medical marijuana policy. She recently flew to Uruguay to consult with officials about marijuana legalization there.
Following her win in Washington, there has been speculation that Holcomb may make a run for mayor or city council in Seattle.
Holcomb is unique in the movement in that she claims to have not used marijuana personally.
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