Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris: Power Couple of Pot
A brief biography
Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris met in Los Angeles at Solidarity Day, a 1981 rally against Reagan’s policies, when Chris handed Mikki a community newspaper that he edited. Their enduring activist spirits led them to turn their attention to the hemp issue seven years later, when a DARE-trained niece asked them, “If marijuana really isn’t so bad, why did they make it illegal in the first place?” The answer to that question changed the trajectory of their lives and led to where they are today.
At the end of 1988, Chris’ research led to the many uses of hemp and he devised a strategy to legalize cannabis. He started producing and disseminating literature under the names Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp or “BACH” (e.g. The Many Uses of Hemp) and the Family Council on Drug Awareness (e.g.10 Things Every Parent, Teenager and Teacher should know about Marijuana and Marijuana and the Bible). They formed the American Hemp Council, hosting monthly meetings at their LA apartment that launched the modern hemp movement and soon thereafter Chris joined forces with Jack Herer to design and edit the landmark best-seller, The Emperor Wears No Clothes (1990) and write the California Hemp Initiative. He was mentioned twice in the Wall Street Journal and appeared as Johnny Marijuanaseed in the PBS program, the Nineties.
After marrying in 1991, Chris and Mikki set out on their first of several speaking tours across the US, networking with activists and BACH reps, and flew to Europe for a year. While living in Granada, Spain, in 1992, Chris wrote his first book, Hemp: Lifeline to the Future. They returned to the US, published the book, and went back to Europe six months later in 1993 to work with Ben and Alan Dronkers at the Sensi Seed Bank and to design and curate Amsterdam’s Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum (updated in 2000). Despite their dreams to live in Europe, they got sucked back into the American hemp movement and relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1994, the same year Chris became a founding member and first president of the Hemp Industries Association in 1994.
In 1996, Chris and Mikki shifted their focus to medical marijuana and the Compassionate Use Act as grassroots coordinators for the Prop 215 signature drive. The next year Chris wrote his groundbreaking, second book, Hemp for Health, which has been translated into six languages and published in Argentina under the title Cannabis para la Salud.
In 1995, Chris and Mikki created the eye-opening Human Rights and the Drug War photo exhibit, with the late Virginia Resner, to put a human face on the prisoners and victims of drug prohibition. The three of them schlepped the exhibit around for years and created displays for activists around the US and in Europe before publishing it as the book, Shattered Lives: Portraits from America’s Drug War. This project activated many people into the reform movement. Their next book, Human Rights and the US Drug War, drew international attention to the issue, illustrating the violations of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights committed in the name the Drug War, culminating in their trip to attend the 2009 High Level meetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria.
After years of telling the stories of Drug War victims, in 2002 Mikki formed the Cannabis Consumers Campaign to help people come out of the closet and stand up for equal rights. She launched cannabisconsumers.org to show the faces and tell the success stories in an effort to change the image of cannabis consumers, banish the stigma and end marijuana prohibition.
The couple has been active in many political campaigns since Prop. 215. Serving on the board of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, they helped pass Measure Z in 2004, making cannabis offenses law enforcement’s lowest priority (LLEP). Mikki worked as a consultant with the Next Generation political consulting group in 2006 to pass LLEP initiatives in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz and ordinances in San Francisco and West Hollywood. They joined Richard Lee in 2010 to work for the Prop 19 legalization initiative, which opened up the debate on the international stage to the concept of legalization. They plug on, gearing up for a hopefully winning initiative in 2016.
Chris is an internationally recognized expert and consultant on industrial hemp, commercial, religious, personal and medical cannabis use, compliance, cultivation, etc. He has consulted on over 2500 legal cases and testified more than 325 times in state, military and federal courts, mostly in California, but also in other states and a few other countries, as well. He teaches Politics and History for Oaksterdam University, at CLE’s for attorneys and CME’s for medical professionals and at the International Pharmaceutical Academy. His research monograph, Cannabis Yields and Dosage, uses federal medical marijuana and cultivation research to explain the fundamental principles of producing and consuming medical marijuana, as well as the legal issues. Chris was also an editor and contributor at HempWorld Magazine, and later the Oaksterdam News.
From 2008 to 2013, Chris and Mikki published the West Coast Leaf, “the cannabis newspaper of record,” widely distributed at dispensaries throughout California and various other states. They co-founded theLeafOnline.com.bIn recent years, they have done speaking tours in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Canada to spread their message about cannabis and human rights.
They have been recognized for their activism and leadership in the cannabis reform movement with awards from NORML, Lindesmith/Drug Policy Foundation, The HIA, Seattle Hempfest, Best of the Bay (SF Bay Guardian), Oaksterdam University, and by prisoners of the Drug War.
Chris is now on the board of the 420 Archive. His next book, due out in time for Christmas, is the Newbies Guide to Cannabis and the Industry (with Jeremy Daw, published by Whitman Publishing).