Some of you may have seen in social media that a Board Member on the MassCann/ NORML chapter was found to be connected directly to group's that promotes messages of hate and prejudice. Immediately upon discovery our chapter took swift action and sent communication to the National office notifying them and demanding that action be taken. National NORML responded by contacting all chapters to remind them of their absolute zero tolerance policy on racism, bigotry and hate speech and required MassCann to hold an Emergency Board meeting. At the conclusion of the Board Meeting their chapter affiliate staus was revoaked. You can read our message and a message from OC NORML and National NORML Director Erik Altieri below.
Dear National NORML:
I write to you today as the Executive Director of Orange County NORML in response to the situation with Samson Racioppi, Board Member of MassCann NORML. We appreciate NORML's response in your email to the chapter list but are still deeply troubled by a continued affiliation between NORML and MassCann and believe that more can be done. As you know, Samson Racioppi serves on the Board of Directors of MassCann, after he was removed by the former Board in 2018 only to be re-elected in 2019. The harm done to NORML by MassCann’s Board as a result of this action cannot be understated.
As an organization whose sole purpose is to advance the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis, we are astounded that this was allowed to happen. The War on Drugs is and continues to be a race war, incarcerating people of color at a rate of nearly four (4) times that of their white counterparts. How can we as an organization say that we stand with our brothers and sisters of color in an endless battle for equality, while at the same time allowing an openly vocal white supremacist to rise through the ranks of one of the state chapters? The same is true of the homophobic ideals Mr. Racioppi and his organization Super Happy Fun America promotes through their Straight Pride Parade. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say we stand in solidarity with those fighting for equality, and at the same time place an individual who stands in complete opposition to these values on the Board of Directors of MassCann, a NORML affiliate and chapter.
As a chapter affiliated with National NORML, we demand an explanation and call for the immediate resignation of Samson Racioppi. We have received reports that his behavior was known by other board members of MassCann NORML and previously reported. We request that NORML national investigate the allegations and immediately suspend MassCann's chapter status until these important issues are addressed and the bad actors removed.
We here in California, and in Orange County specifically, have been pouring our efforts into educating the public and elected officials about the harms of systemic racism and the racists' failed war on drugs, and more importantly, what we can do to correct these historical issues. Social Equity and opportunities for those disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs are among the pillars of our foundation. We cannot risk our hard work and all the work that remains to be done in this important historical moment. Our name is tarnished and our credibility diminished as a result of this affiliation with MassCann and Mr. Racioppi.
We strongly believe the time is now to examine the policies and practices that take place within NORML on a national level. The time is now to root out systemic racism. There is no excuse for re-electing Mr. Racioppi to the Board of MassCann. As soon as that happened, NORML should have immediately informed its other chapter affiliates and severed all ties with MassCann.
We have several suggestions on how NORML national can ensure that such incidents do not happen in the future. First, NORML should review and update all guidelines for all leadership outlining a strict zero-tolerance policy on racism, biogotry and hateful speech. Second, those serving in leadership roles in NORML affiliates and chapters should be required to list all organizations and groups that are affiliated in their annual reporting. Lastly, NORML must address this issue publicly. Samson Racioppi and his connection to NORML was discussed on a popular podcast and word is spreading throughout the community, we need to take accountability.
Orange County NORML has also learned from this incident. We are going to revisit our policies for those in a leadership role and develop an application, leadership agreement, guidelines for behavior, and possibly offer diversity and inclusion training. We are also going to discuss setting in place a SOP for handling information and complaints we receive. One lesson learned from this incident is that it is critical to take quick action, and that no response is a response.
I have proudly served as a NORML chapter director for seventeen (17) years. I know that as an organization this is not the type of messaging or individuals that we stand by. I know that we can do better and ask you to take swift action.
Executive Director, Orange County NORML
Thanks for reaching out and your very thoughtful email and suggestions.
Upon receipt of this information, MassCann NORML's chapter status was suspended (you may notice that their chapter is no longer listed on the website in the chapter directory) and they were required to hold an emergency board meeting to address the situation (which is scheduled for tomorrow). Their options are to remove him from the organization and further address this glaring unacceptable issue or lose their charter to be a NORML chapter entirely. MassCann/NORML (as all chapters) are independently filed non-profits with their own board of directors and national's main tool for oversight is the issuance and revocation of their affiliation charter. They will go from a suspended charter to losing their charter with NORML entirely if this situation isn't adequately addressed at their meeting tomorrow. As I stated in my chapter email, this type of racism and bigotry within NORML is not something that will be tolerated.
We have also spent the last two days drafting and updating our NORML rules for affiliation and guidelines to more directly and strongly address hate speech/groups. While we will be issuing these to chapters soon and scheduling chapter calls/meetings to further explain these new guidelines and empower chapters to take swift action should they find these individuals in their own organizations, it will also be an ongoing process to better our affiliate system and network with more additions and revisions continuing in the future.
As one of our longest serving and most active chapter leaders, thank you for all that you do on a daily basis and for reaching out to us on this incredibly important issue. Please keep me in the loop as you begin to institute new policies at the local level within OC NORML as many of these new systems may warrant replication throughout the affiliates and I'd love to see what OC puts into practice and what we might be able to template out to better equip all affiliates.
NORML Executive Director
Hello Chapter Affiliates,
This evening MassCann/NORML voted to remove a member from their board of directors. This member and other individuals were engaged in other groups and organizations that espoused beliefs that run contrary to the very core of what NORML stands for. There is no place in the organization for bigotry of any kind, from racism to sexism to homophobia to transphobia and any form of discrimination and hatred. Their charter will be formally revoked, as we did not see tangible steps to address these flaws in their organization nor movement in the right direction to address these issues within their ranks. We will accept a new charter for a group in Massachusetts, one that represents NORML’s firmly held values and stands up to the type of bigotry we’ve seen given shelter. If you are interested in helping form that group please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
NORML is focused on not just ending cannabis prohibition, a policy that was founded on racist ideology and that serves as a tool to perpetuate systemic racism, but on ensuring that the developing legal cannabis industry is diverse and inclusive. We must be united in that fight and united against bigotry. It is largely antithetical to fight for justice while perpetuating injustice through hatred be it against our black and brown allies, our LGBTQ+ allies, or anyone. There is a zero tolerance policy towards this bigotry within NORML and we will continue to improve organizational structures to ensure that is the case."
NORML Executive Director