Marijuana Policy Project
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NORML Controversy in Wisconsin Over Chapter Director

Alan Robinson (image via Isthmus)

In October, we wrote about a controversy roiling the Wisconsin NORML chapter. A member had charged executive director Alan Robinson with sexual assault and a complaint was sent to NORML's national office in Washington, D.C.

Nearly four months later, Eric Marsch went public with his complaint, contending he was forced to have oral sex with Thompson on two occasions and branded Robinson "a rapist."

"Apparently saying 'no' a dozen times isn't a clear enough cue that I'm refusing consent," Marsch wrote.

In phone correspondence posted by Marsch at Facebook, Robinson apologized: "I'm very sorry that I misuderstood the context and the cues between us on a sexual level... because you feel that our interactions were wrong, then I feel I owe you an apology."

Marsch also slammed NORML for rejecting his complaint. In an February 12 email, NORML development director Jenn Michelle Perdini informed Marsch "the Wisconsin NORML Board of Directors conducted a thorough investigation and NORML is satisfied with both their effort and resolution." The resolution was to not penalize Robinson.

NORML also dissolved Southeastern Wisconsin NORML, which Marsch was affiliated with. The website has been taken down.

This issue came to light as Robinson was about to receive NORML's Outstanding Cannabis Advocate Award at their virtual conference on October 22. Things were going well until it was time to announce NORML's Activist Awards. Four awards were given, but the prestigious Outstanding Cannabis Advocate Award, usually reserved for a chapter leader, was omitted.

The day before, Robinson had posted news of the award at Facebook:

Robinson added: "Having my efforts recognized humbles me and fills me with gratitude at the same time. Being rejuvenated with that sort of energy at this stage of the game is a blessing, but the game isn’t over and we haven’t won."

A Wisconsin NORML member told CelebStoner that Robinson had "a very checkered past, several OUIs, fleeng an officer, disorderly conduct, lawsuits, etc. He's appeared to be drunk on livestreams."

Robinson, who grow up in Madison, has had several OWIs, according to a 2019 article in Isthmus:

"Robinson’s last OWI landed him in the Dane County Jail for six months, followed by six months of treatment. He knew he couldn’t start drinking again, so he started using marijuana more frequently. 'I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember,' he says. 'I needed something. It wasn’t pills. It certainly wasn’t alcohol. Cannabis makes me feel okay.'"

NORML executive director Erik Alteri told CelebStoner in October:

"NORML chapters are independent non-profits with their own governing board of directors who are authorized to operate under the NORML name given they follow a specific set of rules, guidelines and regulations. That includes abiding by NORML's Ethics Agreement and Code of Conduct. The national office takes any complaint or allegation against a chapter or affiliate with the utmost seriousness and has a detailed process in place for receiving, evaluating and acting on any received complaints. Any complaint received first goes through a chapter's board of directors (unless the allegation isn't specifically made that implicates the board itself). They then have a set time to act on the complaint in a way that is satisfactory to addressing its seriousness and evaluating it in a fair and thorough process and then acting on it. If the chapter fails to meet those guidelines in a satisfactory manner in the time outlined, national NORML reserves the right to act which includes revoking the chapter's charter to operate as an affiliate of the organization."

NORML's Code of Conduct states: "Members shall not engage in sexual harassment or other conduct that can be considered harassing, coercive or disruptive, or which creates a hostile or offensive environment."

Robinson appeared on a NORML conference "Allyship in Activism" panel on October 23. He could not be reached for a comment and did not make a statement about Marsch's charges at his Facebook page,

Last July, NORML stripped MassCann of its chapter designation after a board member was accused of organizing an anti-Black Lives Matter event.

This article was originally posted on October 27, 2020. It was updated on February 18, 2021.

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

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