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, Co-Founder of Freedom Leaf, Inc. and editor in chief of Freedom Leaf Magazine.
Cowan was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1940 where he graduated from a local high school in 1958. In 1962 he graduated with a B.A. in Economics, from Yale University, where he had served as president of the Yale Young Republicans and as Chairman of the Party of the Right in the Yale Political Union. He was also a founding member of Young Americans for Freedom, the Conservative student group launched in 1960 by the late William F. Buckley, Jr. Buckley's friendship became a lifelong influence on Cowan's life.
After graduating, Cowan held various management positions in his family’s companies working in manufacturing and natural resources. Later, Cowan worked as an independent investor. In 1972, after volunteering with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Cowan wrote a cover article for Buckley's National Review. In it he called for Conservatives to support the legalization of marijuana, one of the first positions against prohibition in a major opinion journal. Buckley agreed with Cowan, and became a regular critic of marijuana prohibition.
In 1986, Cowan wrote another National Review cover article, "How the Narcs Created Crack", in which he introduced the concept of the Iron Law of Prohibition. Cowan argued that prohibition is actually counterproductive because the economics of contraband creates incentives for selling stronger drugs. It was the basis of a book on the subject by economist Mark Thornton.
From August 1992 to August 1995 Cowan served as executive director of NORML. In 1994, following a dispute with the NORML Board of Directors, Cowan resigned, but then agreed to stay on after marijuana research pioneer and author, Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon, MD, organized a new board of notable academics. This new NORML Board included Professors John P. Morgan MD and Lynn Zimmer Ph.D (the authors of "Marijuana Myths", "Marijuana Facts"), Craig Reinarman, Ph.D, an expert on Dutch drugs policies, Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis Ph.D, Ann Druyan, co-producer of Cosmos, (with her husband, the late Carl Sagan), Cato Institutes'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 spent most of 1996 in Amsterdam studying Dutch marijuana policies.
In 1997 Cowan helped the late Peter McWilliams launch his website, MarijuanaMagazine.com. Later in 1997 he began MarijuanaNews.com, which has been called the original marijuana blog, documenting what he called “the best two-word explanation of marijuana prohibition: "bad journalism.” MarijuanaNews is offline as its archives are being edited to make them more useful for researchers.
Cowan also pioneered video blogging in 2001 on Marc Emery's Pot TV.
In 2008, Cowan co-founded Cannabis Science, the second publicly owned medical marijuana company, but retired as an officer and director at the end of 2012.
Cowan now lives in Europe where he works with marijuana legalization activists.
Cowan is a co-founder of Freedom Leaf, a new "movement marketing" company devoted to supporting marijuana legalization globally.