Richard Cowan (cannabis activist)
Richard Cowan (b. June 26, 1940), former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is editor of The Marijuana News.
Cowan graduated from high school in Fort Worth, Texas and in 1962 earned a B.A. in Economics from Yale University, where he had served as president of the Yale Young Republicans and a Chairman of the Party of the Right. He held various management positions in manufacturing and natural resources and wrote several articles for publications such as National Review and Atlantic Monthly.
From August 1992 to August 1995, Cowan served as executive director of NORML. On July 23, 1994, several NORML office staffers advised the Board of Directors of irregularities in Cowan's expenditures, including about $30,000 in organizational checks payable to cash . The Board responded by requiring that all checks be countersigned by the treasurer. Cowan tendered his resignation, and then "unresigned". He attempted to get the Board to dissolve itself, so that it could be replaced by a new Board, reconstituted by marijuana research pioneer, author, Harvard Medical School's Lester Grinspoon, MD. On September 11, 1994, a telephone conference call/Board meeting ended with an 8-6 vote to dissolve the Board. However, letters were later produced showing that some of the Board members had already resigned, and thus were ineligible to vote. Both sides spent over $100,000 in the legal wrangling that ensued. Ultimately, Cowan (and a majority of the board) prevailed and notable individuals began to populate NORML's Board of Directors including Grinspoon, John P. Morgan, MD, Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D, Craig Reinarman, Ph.D, Kary Mullis, Ph.D, Cato Institute's David Boaz and others. Cowan resigned from NORML in 1995 and NORML's Board of Directors appointed NORML founder Keith Stroup to replace Cowan as executive director.
Cowan is perhaps best known now for his rivalry with Marijuana Policy Project founder Rob Kampia. Cowan fired Kampia from his position at NORML after a failed coup by Kampia. Cowan accuses Kampia of stealing NORML's email list to start his own organisation the Marijuana Policy Project. Cowan remains a vocal critic of MPP, penning scathing rebukes of the organization for its support of a Nevada initiative to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over (Since about 50% of U.S. marijuana arrestees are under 21, Cowan had favored a cannabis smoking age limit of 18 at the oldest).
Cowan's Marijuananews archives also represent one of the most comprehensive resources for scholars studying the marijuana reform movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Cowan recently quit from Marc Emery's Pot TV, citing recent events i.e.: The DEA extradition bid against Emery in late 2005, for selling cannabis seeds to Americans over the internet.
- Richard Cowan Resigns from Board of NORML Foundation, The Marijuana News, 25 August 2003. (dead link)
- Biographical Data on Richard Cowan, The Marijuana News (dead link)
- Low in America: The Story of the NORML Civil War. (dead link)
- Their Liars Beat Our Liars. Freedom Has Nothing to Fear from the Truth, But Much To Fear From Those Who Think That the End Justifies The Means, Analysis By Richard Cowan, 6 November 2002. (dead link)