Kevin Zeese: Tireless Activist, Former NORML Director

Former NORML Executive Director Kevin Zeese at the NORML Conference in San Francisco in 2003 (photo by Doug McVay)

Kevin Zeese died of a heart attack on September. He was 64.

Zeese played a major role in fighting the War on Drugs. The executive director of NORML from 1983-1986, he also founded the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) with Arnold Trebach in 1987.

He was also instrumental in launching the Harm Reduction Coalition in 1993 and Common Sense for Drug Policy in 1994.

Zeese in Venezuela in 2019

Zeese went on to become an anti-war crusader, opposing the U.S. incursion into Iraq and criticizing Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. He was active in Occupy Wall Street and traveled to Venezuela to protest the U.S. efforts to depose President Nicolás Maduro in 2019.

In 2004, Zeese worked for Ralph Nader's presidential campaign as press secetrary. Zeese ran unsuccessfully for Senate in Maryland as a Green in 2006.

Born in Queens, NY in 1955, Zeese attended the University of Buffalo and George Washington University Law School. He relocated to the D.C. area and lived in Maryland the rest of his life.

Zeese at the Drug Policy Alliance Conference in 2000 (photo by Doug McVay)

"Kevin was a real player, a major pioneer in drug-policy reform," says Ethan Nadelmann, who inherited Zeese and Arnold Trebach's DPF, which became the Drug Policy Alliance. "What he did at the DPF was consequential." Trebach also recently passed away.

Nadelmann tweeted:

NORML founder Keith Stroup tells CelebStoner: "Kevin was a skillful lawyer but also a dedicated activist. He will be missed."

At Twitter the tributes have been pouring in:

This was Zeese's final post at Facebook:

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.