Mikki Norris has been an activist for drug policy reform since 1989 when she formed the American Hemp Council along with her husband Chris Conrad. Over the years, they have traveled extensively to educate the public on the many uses of hemp, and to network and strategize with activists and businesspeople on how to advance the movement. In 1993, the couple moved to Amsterdam to design exhibits for and curate the Hash Marijuana Hemp Museum, which they updated in 2000. As community action co-coordinator along for Californians for Medical Rights, she helped organize petitioners to qualify the medical marijuana initiative (Prop. 215) for the 1996 California ballot, with Chris.

In 1995, shortly after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, Norris decided
to take on broader Drug War issues and felt compelled to put a human face on
its prisoners’ and their families’ plights, through the creation and
development of the photo exhibit project, Human Rights and the Drug War
(HRDW, originally known as Human Rights 95) with Chris Conrad and Virginia
Resner. The exhibit debuted on the 50th anniversary of the UN to bring
attention to US human rights violations in the name of the Drug War, and
since has been shown in various forms at events, conferences, universities,
government buildings and libraries throughout the US and Europe. She has
been a speaker/presenter on this topic at numerous events and before local
governments. She has produced over 30 display sets, along with slide shows
for organizations and individuals across the country. To make the powerful
exhibit material even more accessible, the three co-authored two books,
Shattered Lives: Portraits from America’s Drug War and Human Rights and the
US Drug War and sponsor the website, http://www.hr95.org/.

Their work has moved and inspired activists to take action and get involved
with the drug policy reform movement everywhere, while influencing media
(with subject matter used in local and national media, political ads,
documentaries, etc.) and public perception of the negative impact of the
Drug War on the American people. HRDW played a role in passing a resolution
by Amnesty International USA at its annual convention in 2002. The exhibit
project and Shattered Lives has given hope to many prisoners and their
families by making “injustice visible” and played an important role in
gaining clemency for a few. For this work, they were presented with the
Robert C. Randall Award in the Field of Citizen Action at the Lindesmith
Center/Drug Policy Foundation’s 2001 conference, and the Outstanding Citizen
Activism Award at the 2004 national NORML conference.

Norris’ latest project is the Cannabis Consumers Campaign. As director of
this exciting project, she focuses on dispelling the negative myths and
stereotypes associated with cannabis use, upgrading the image of marijuana
users, ending discrimination, and advocating for their equal rights by
encouraging people “to come out of the cannabis closet.” Via her web site,
http://www.cannabisconsumers.org/, she is gathering surveys (over 1,000 so
far) and posting profiles/photos completed by admitted cannabis consumers.
Her research yields information related to various demographic and
sociological topics about cannabis consumers (e.g. occupations, educational
levels, interests, accomplishments, ethnic and religious backgrounds,
political affiliation, frequency of use, age of first use, use patterns, how
cannabis enhances their lives, discrimination they experience, etc. See web
site for survey form.). In addition, she produced a video project,
From the Soapbox (2003) with Ken Slusher, where they taped testimonials from
people coming out of the closet. To compare the unequal, harsh treatment meted out to
cannabis consumers and offenders versus people who use alcohol and tobacco,
she has created a PowerPoint presentation entitled, No More Shattered Lives.

To bring her ideas from the idea phase to reality, Norris is a board member
of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, which recently sponsored campaign
to pass the Oakland Cannabis Regulation and Revenue Ordinance (Oakland’s
Measure Z). This initiative would put the City of Oakland on record as
working towards implementing a system to tax and regulate cannabis sales to
adults through licensed businesses as soon as possible under state law and
make enforcement of private, adult marijuana offenses the lowest priority
for law enforcement, effective immediately. It won with 64.6% of the vote
this past election.

In 2006, she was a consultant on the California Cities Campaign, working with the Next Generation, political consulting group, (with backing from the Marijuana Policy Project), which successfully ran three initiative campaigns in Santa Barbara (66%), Santa Monica (65%), and Santa Cruz (64%), and two city ordinances in West Hollywood and San Francisco. They all make adult, marijuana offenses law enforcement’s lowest priority. (See taxandregulate.org.) She won the Pauline Sabin Award “in honor and recognition of the crucial need for and importance of women leadership in ending marijuana prohibition” at the 2006 National NORML conference.

Norris and Conrad are publishers of the quarterly newspaper, the West Coast Leaf, launched in 2008. See www.westcoastleaf.com. She is the managing editor of this paper serving the cannabis community with distribution throughout California and selected places in Oregon and Washington.

Norris obtained a BA degree in sociology from the University of California,
Los Angeles in 1974 and a Master’s Degree in Special Education along with
multiple subjects and communication-handicapped teaching credentials from
the California State University, Los Angeles in 1979. She is a former
teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles
Community College, and is now a full-time drug policy reformer, writer, and
public speaker.

To get in touch with Mikki: mikki@hr95.org

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