We cannot resist coming out with our own year-end list of the top ten Marijuana Mavericks who took real action in 2014 to advance the ball for marijuana legalization and legitimization.This was a difficult list to compile as so many dynamic people and businesses helped over the past year to legalize and normalize marijuana and we are not going to claim a scientific basis for our picks.

With those provisos, here is our top ten list, in alphabetical order:

1. Earl Blumenauer (U.S. Congress, Oregon). Earl Blumenauer has been the U.S. Congressional Representative for Oregon’s 3rd Congressional district since 1996. Though it is becoming less rare to see members of Congress endorse states’ rights to enact their own marijuana regulatory scheme, Representative Blumenauer has been a front line proponent of legalization from the beginning. In 2014, he continued endorsing and signing bills favoring the repeal of prohibition and supporting marijuana businesses, but his biggest contribution was his unending support for Oregon’s Measure 91 which legalized cannabis and cannabis businesses throughout the state, making it the third state to do so.

2. Jennifer Calvery (FinCEN). Jennifer Calvery is Director of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and though she is not an advocate for marijuana, her Department’s 2014 memorandum to banks wanting to do business in the marijuana industry has definitely helped make marijuana banking easier. Before FinCEN’s memo providing guidance to financial institutions, there was little room to argue that banks could participate in the marijuana industry despite federal prohibition. The FinCEN memo looms large in legitimatizing marijuana banking and, with that, the marijuana industry as a whole.

3. The Cannabist (Colorado).  A special edition to The Denver Post, The Cannabist covers all things marijuana. In 2014, The Cannabist picked up tremendous speed as a leading reporter of cannabis activity, developments, and news in Colorado. The Cannabist makes our list for doing an amazing job of acclimating its readers to the very normalcy of marijuana. For example, the “Culture” tab on its homepage covers everything from sports and “Pot and Parenting” to Colorado culture and entertainment, all with an eye to how these subjects interact with marijuana. Publications like The Cannabist advance the legalization and legitimization of marijuana simply by letting society know that states like Colorado are really not all that different after legalization than before it.

4. Alison Holcomb (Washington). Alison Holcomb was one of the lead authors of Washington’s Initiative 502 which legalized marijuana and marijuana businesses in Washington State in 2012. After passage of I-502, she worked with the state’s Liquor Control Board to ensure proper implementation of the law. In 2014, Holcomb was named director of the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration “to reform state-level criminal justice policies that have increased incarceration rates dramatically during a period of declining crime and have exacerbated racial disparities.”

5. Representative Lou Lang (Illinois). State Representative Lou Lang was instrumental in getting Illinois to pass its Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. He sponsored the bill to get it done after a five-year fight. He championed the medical marijuana issue for Illinois and he helped create one of the strictest marijuana programs in the nation, leading the way for “robust regulation” models for other states. We thank Representative Lang for helping to conquer marijuana regulation in the generally more conservative Midwest, which is a victory for legalization in and of itself.

6. Ethan Nadelmann (Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance). Ethan Nadelmann is a drug policy reformer heavy weight. He co-founded the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to ending the failed War on Drugs, “grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.” Nadelmann has been key in persuading policy makers, government authorities, and society as a whole that cannabis should be treated as a public health concern and not a criminal justice issue. The Drug Policy Alliance has secured many, many victories for both recreational and medical marijuana in the courts and at the ballot box, but Nadelmann’s persuasive public speaking and individual authorship throughout 2014 has undoubtedly helped advance the legalization of regulated cannabis for recreational and medical use.

7. Senator Tick Segerblom (Nevada). Along with Illinois, Nevada is now probably one of the most well regulated marijuana states in the union. Without such regulation (which came to fruition this year), there is no doubt that Nevada could not have convened a transparent system by which patients can access their medicine safely and reliably. Thanks need to go to State Senator Segerblom, who in 2013 authored and successfully pushed the bill to regulate Nevada’s medical marijuana industry (specifically, starting with its dispensaries) after a fourteen-year battle for such regulation. Nevada is now looking to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2016 with Senator Segerblom’s help and we are confident that will happen by 2016, if not sooner.

8. Aaron Smith (NCIA). Aaron Smith is the c0-founder and the Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. The NCIA is the leading national trade association for the marijuana industry with most of its support going directly to marijuana businesses and reforming federal tax and banking laws for those businesses. Aaron has led the NCIA in coordinating effective national campaigns to ensure that the marijuana industry is treated like other legitimate businesses under federal law.

9. Keith Stroup (NORML). Keith Stroup founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in the early 70s with the goal of ending the war on marijuana. With Stroup at the helm, NORML has become one of the leading advocates for significant drug policy reform. Stroup still acts as legal counsel for NORML and he continues to educate attorneys (and others) regarding state and federal marijuana laws.

10. Jacob Sullum. Jacob Sullum is a nationally syndicated columnist and a Senior Editor at Reason magazine. Sullum’s influential reporting and advocacy for the end of marijuana prohibition has helped change minds about marijuana in 2014. Sullum’s thorough and fact-based reporting consistently and eloquently demonstrates the inconsistencies and unfairness posed by the federal government’s current position on marijuana. Though Sullum’s witty prose attracts readers to the issue, it is his self-proclaimed “conscientious objection” to the war on drugs that has so helped with this political, cultural, and public health struggle.

We must also give a special mention to marijuana business owners everywhere. Without these brave men and women, there would have been far less social, legal, and political change for marijuana in 2014. These business owners show both our governments and our citizens on a daily basis that marijuana can and should be treated responsibly and when that happens, communities and the economy benefit. These entrepreneurs are on the front lines everyday taking risks that advance the industry. We are proud to represent these people as our clients.

Here’s to 2015 and to another year of advancing legalization!

  • PatrickMonkRn

    “Legalization” is like putting lipstick on the pig of prohibition.
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/patrick-monk-rn/dont-call-it-marijuana/10152722904038468

  • Weedbay Guy

    Only a lawyer could applaud a legislator that passes a bill requiring patients to be finger printed and call it cannabis freedom. I’m looking at you Illinois.

    • hilarybricken

      We certainly are not in love with the laws in Illinois, but by the same token, it would be unfair to blame those who got it enacted. They did what they
      could and it’s a start, and we need to start somewhere. The trend in
      virtually all states is to start small and then liberalize, and we’re really hoping that Illinois will relax some (if not all) of its over regulation.