Any semblance of unity within the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) has gone up in smoke. On February 18, five former board members sued Executive Director Richard Cowan, claiming that he misappropriated funds. Cowan, who said he was just trying to professionalize NORML, announced he would resign by year’s end. But Cowan suddenly quit last week, saying he was “burnt out” by the infighting. His exit might have been accelerated by a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of three former staffers who claim they were unfairly terminated by Cowan when they tried to professionalize the organization. “It’s not a conspiracy that the marijuana reform effort doesn’t get media attention, and it’s not an accident. It’s the direct result of [NORML’s] inability to deal with the media,” says complainant Alison Green. “Reporters would come by and the office reeked of pot—we played right into the stereotypes.” Federal labor laws protect non-unionized employees who act in concert to improve wages, hours, or working conditions. NORML board member Keith Stroup says he hopes the matter can be settled before NLRB holds a hearing.

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