Throw Back Thursday – Growing a Marijuana Movement

In the beginning there was N.O.R.M.L


Throw Back Thursday – In 1987 James Bell (current director of Georgia C.A.R.E. Project) launched a campaign he hoped would radically change society and the criminal justice system of Georgia. He came out of the Cannabis Closet and told the world he wants to legalize marijuana. (See photos below)

James established a local chapter of N.O.R.M.L. (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). In 1987 there was no world wide web, no Facebook, no email. He knew no one in Georgia who had the desire to reform the laws. He used the resources available to him.

James turned to the Atlanta Journal Constitution for help. The AJC invited him to their headquarters for a photo shoot and interview. In a suit and tie and a NORML banner in hand, James posed for photos and talked to the reporter about his vision to have legal marijuana and ending marijuana arrests.

The next day the story made the front page of the metro section and the phone began to ring. People from all over Georgia were reaching out to him offering to get involved and help the cause. From that day on James knew a movement was at hand.

James continued to work for reform and hosted one of the largest legalization rallies in the world, the Great Atlanta Pot Festival. In 1992, with the help of Paul Cornwell (C.A.M.P.), the pot fest grew to over 50,000 attendees, thanks to the counter culture rock band the Black Crowes.

Due to some legal issues (marijuana arrest and sentence of 8 to serve 2 years in state prison) James turned the organization over to his lieutenants.

It took a couple of decades before James felt a calling to return to the movement. He had been active in local politics, fighting excessive taxation and human rights projects.

Then in 2012 the state of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize cannabis. James took this as a sign that the attitude of the nation had shifted toward reform. In consultation with his long time friend and fellow activist Ron Williams the Georgia C.A.R.E. Project was formed in November 2012.

Can legalization happen in Georgia? Many say Georgia will be the last to legalize. Whether Georgia is next in line or the last state to legalize, James felt a movement was needed to advocate for reform in Georgia.

“If Georgia is the last state to legalize we will have 49 other states backing our efforts”, James proclaimed. “Marijuana is not a crime…we are not criminals, stop the madness!”

By planting the seeds in 1987, James’ involvement in the marijuana reform movement has had a big impact on engaging the public and becoming the face and voice of reform in Georgia.

Today, the Georgia C.A.R.E Project needs your help. Get involved… Get Active!

Visit the website at


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