Cannabis Organizations and Associations

An in-depth overview of the cannabis organization and associations industry, including the different types and main players within various sectors.
Author: John White

While the use of medical marijuana is being legalized around the world, recreational use is still restricted or totally illegal. Change is happening, but not soon enough for those who believe they should have the right to choose.

Marijuana organizations and associations are institutions that are in some form supporting, advocating, researching or educating in regards to marijuana in industry and/or for medicinal and recreational purposes. These groups are advocating for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana locally, nationally and internationally in one way or another, be it legally, medically, economically or politically.

Overview of the Different Types of Cannabis Organizations

Cannabis organizations and associations are driving change around the globe and playing a major part in the future of marijuana.

Whether it be in the medical field, recreationally, within industry or politically, cannabis associations and organizations are vital to advancing the cause of marijuana globally – from advocating for policy reforms and medical research to professional support for the legal marijuana industry, here’s how cannabis associations and organizations are working in all realms of society to advance the marijuana cause.

Legal Cannabis Organizations

Unfortunately, there won’t be any change if laws aren’t updated. Although the changes need to come from the top down, the pressure generally comes from below in the form of passionate individuals and groups who are advocating for change. Groups that are working in this space want to see change in laws, policy and rights so marijuana is legalized and decriminalized. They want to effect change from a legal stand point with the ultimate goal of marijuana being fully legal and decriminalized around the globe

Classed as a prohibited drug in most countries, being in possession of marijuana will most likely lead to arrest and prosecution. Most legal issues surround the cultivation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana. While the legality of marijuana for medical purpose has made leaps and bounds, there’s still a very long way to go in this sphere. Many countries around the globe are changing laws to incorporate legal medical cannabis use, however it’s not across the board.

Many marijuana organizations and associations around the world are campaigning and advocating for the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis for any type of use, whether it be medical, personal or industrial. Their philosophy is that people should have the right to choose as to whether they want to use it recreationally or not, and that it shouldn’t be classed as a dangerous drug. Those who do choose to use it face prosecution in many countries, which these groups believe is a breach of human rights. Cannabis organizations and associations, whether they be for profit or not-for-profit, are offering victims of current laws the support they so desperately need.

As the research further develops, more and more benefits of marijuana are appearing. And as society further evolves with help from these groups, more people will have the right to choose whether they use cannabis or not, for whatever purpose they prefer.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

Founded in 1970 by Keith Stroup, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is an American organization whose main objective is to fight for the legalization of non-medical marijuana in the United States. It works by trying to reshape public opinion towards supporting the responsible use of non-medical marijuana, without the imposed fines and attached criminalization.

NORML wants the use of marijuana completely decriminalized nationwide, as well as penalties related to the offense formally scrapped altogether. Currently headquartered in D.C, the modus operandi of NORML is to engage in advocacy, education and awareness. It promotes local and national initiatives that focus on the legislation of Marijuana as a state and federal priority.

It’s charity arm, the NORML foundation was founded as an educational and support not-for-profit organization that educates the public about marijuana and its use, as well as marijuana policy. It also assists victims of the current marijuana legislation.

NORML as a marijuana organization is actively engaged in the media, often being approached as an industry authority and quoted in publications. Activism is a core part of what NORMAL does. They not only talk the talk; they walk the walk, shining a light on the injustices and failings of the system in its current form. It’s presented various petitions decrying the current state of marijuana criminalization. In 2009, NORML was part of a petition that was pushing for president Obama to support the legalization of marijuana, as well as its taxing in California. Calling supporters and those actively wanting to see change to act, rather than sit back.

Working in conjunction with other marijuana associations and organizations around the US, NORML works to ensure that marijuana is no longer classified as a prohibited drug. As well as trying to change the perception of the population by educating them in regards to the responsible use of marijuana.

Industry Cannabis Organizations

There are countless legally operating marijuana businesses that operate around the globe, and what they need is industry support for growth and development.

Marijuana production for medical and industrial purposes is increasing due to reforms, however the industry is often not as developed as ones that have freely existed without legal limitations. Having industry bodies that new and existing companies can reach out to is critical to the industry’s growth.

Many cannabis associations and organizations in this space are completely not-for-profit so all of their proceeds are invested directly into the cause of advancing the legal and responsible marijuana industry.

Professionalizing cannabis organizations is what these groups do best, they act as a catalyst for growth but providing skilled support. They also keep on top of on any policy changes that will negatively affect marijuana organizations, and advocate for policy changes, like tax reductions that are in the best interest of the companies.

As the demand and therefore the production of marijuana increases, so will the amount of cannabis organizations increase. This means that greater support will be needed in the future to ensure that everyone from the grower to the manufacturer is conducting business in a professional and ethical way.

There is huge potential in this space as laws and policies change in favor of the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. Industry cannabis associations and organizations are at the forefront of this change, having the ability to giving everyone in the supply chain access to professional support.

National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)

NCIA’s main objectives are to protect the legal cannabis industry, defend state laws, and develop policy reforms within the US. Its membership consists of an ever-growing base of businesses who operate within the legal cannabis industry, as well as cannabis professionals who work within the industry.

A philosophy of working together to create a stronger and more prosperous industry for all, is what drives NCIA and its members. Being the industry’s national trade association means working hard to ensure that the industry is professionally represented around the country, in an organized way.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is a nonprofit trade association so all proceeds from donations, membership fees, event sponsorships and tickets donations are used to advance their cause of further developing the legal and responsible cannabis industry.

NCIA remains the largest marijuana association which solely represents the businesses that have been sanctioned by the state, and those that participate in the legal sale and distribution of marijuana. It was formed in 2010 by marijuana policy reform leaders Aaron Smith and Steve Fox, and is now led by a board of industry professionals.

This industry association is crucial to protecting the interests of these organizations from an economic stand point, ensuring that the industry thrives without any unnecessary policy restrictions. The cannabis association advocates on behalf of these organizations with an aim of reducing the taxes related to marijuana production and sale, and to ensure their economic stability and prosperity.

The NCIA promotes the positive virtues that relate to marijuana, like the medicinal value of the plant and the economic benefits that communities get from the production and sale of marijuana, with an aim to positively effect change within the industry.

It works by lobbying congress to review the tax levied on cannabis the products, and well as current legislation that’s detrimental to its economic success. A recent win for the marijuana association occurred in June 2011 when Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 (H.R. 2306) with support from NCIA.

Medical Marijuana Organizations 

As scientific research develops, there more and more data that leans towards the health benefits of marijuana. From managing chronic pain to improving certain health conditions, marijuana can be used for a range of conditions.

Research and medical marijuana organizations and associations use their resources to study the effects of marijuana, and distribute their findings to medical professionals around the globe. Many are not-for-profit organizations or associations that direct all of their funds towards furthering dtheir cause. Using science to debunk myths is the main way these groups operate in order to bring cannabis to the forefront of the medical agenda.

Educating the public, as well as medical practitioners, using research-based data is a way that these groups positively affect perceptions and change. The data doesn’t lie, so they use their research as a basis for them working towards the legalization of medical marijuana.

Their ultimate goal is the legalization of medical marijuana around the globe, while at the same time educating as many people as possible, whether it be someone with chronic pain or a doctor treating a patient.

The legalization of the medicinal use of marijuana has come in leaps and bounds, with many countries legalizing it. However, there are numerous that haven’t yet done so which means there’s still a lot of work yet to be done.

International Association for Cannabinoid Medicine (IACM)

IACM (International Association for Cannabinoid Medicine) was founded in 2000 as a non-profit association with the main objective of researching and promoting the use of cannabis, through science, for medicinal use. This scientific society has declared that doctors have the right to discuss the medicinal use of marijuana in their practice, bringing the medicinal use of cannabis into the mainstream medical community.

The marijuana association aims to advance the medical knowledge that’s available for cannabis, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system in terms of their therapeutic possibilities.

The society conducts research on the advantages of marijuana from a medical perspective, as well as the varying effects it has on different individual’s health. It conducts studies and releases publications related to how cannabis should be used, including how it should be administered.

The reasoning behind the formation of the group was to conduct studies on the use of cannabis, and its medicinal benefits, and educate both the public and the medical community on its profound benefits. Led by a board of industry professionals, the IACM is making significant ground in gathering research that support the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in medicine.

Critically, the organization is important in ensuring that the studies reveal the importance of marijuana in the management of pain and its role in illness. The association works by promoting education, ensuring that as many people have access to the critical information as possible. In working towards achieving the objectives, it aims to inform and alter public opinion by educating them in regards to the positive benefits cannabis has, and developing a philosophy in regards to the use of cannabis in pain management.

Since its formation, the cannabis organization has been central in disseminating information relating to the medical importance of marijuana, and the therapies that use marijuana to improve the health and wellbeing of those suffering from chronic pain and disease.

Politically Inclined Cannabis Organizations

The legalization political movement is gaining traction around the globe. One of the reasons for the increased advocacy is due to the fact that marijuana has medicinal value. Another reason is that these political groups believe that individuals should have the right to choose whether to use marijuana or not, which they believe is a basic human right.

Different cannabis associations and organizations are pushing their agenda of legalization and decriminalization to governments around the globe. They act as a force for putting pressure on government through their voter base or through advocating for policy reforms. They are essentially not-for-profit organizations so they don’t have huge financial or economic influence, but what they do they is the power of the people.

Politically inclined cannabis organizations simply want governments to reconsider the laws that have been preventing the use of marijuana, which they believe should be everyone’s right. They engage as many people as possible through their political influence to get their agenda to the top of the pile, which can be challenging when misinformation and a misunderstanding of cannabis is rife among everyone from the general public to senior government officials.

Politicians and other pressure groups are pushing governments to decriminalize the use of marijuana. In countries like South Africa, the pressure mounted and the laws eventually changed. These groups do have an impact if they have enough support and consistently put pressure on those in power.

The issue of legalization of marijuana and its subsequent use is certainly a political issue with different movements and organizations working towards ensuring that the agenda of marijuana is redefined.

US Marijuana Party

The US Marijuana Party is a political party in the United States that was formed in the 2002 by Loretta Nall, subsequent to her misdemeanor arrest for marijuana possession. It’s aims of ending the wars on drugs and legalizing the use of cannabis is at the core of what the party stands for.

Although it may be considered far left by some, the party conducts its activities similar to other political parties by recruiting members in different chapters spread across the US. From its base in Kentucky, the party participates in elections and campaigns for their political seats, both in congress and other seats. Like other well-established political parties in the US, the Marijuana Political Party plays its politics in the context of ensuring that it carves a niche for itself, while engaging in political issues to attract a party base.

In 2012, the party endorsed Gary Johnson who was a Libertarian candidate running for presidency. Before running he was the CEO of a marijuana marketing company; he inherently expressed his support for the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use.

The party’s main philosophies of anti-prohibitionist ideology and civil libertarianism are at the forefront of what it aims to achieve in the political landscape. They may not have had any major wins in the political arena to date, or have a huge financial or economical influence due to essentially having a not-for-profit structure, however they are rallying the people to join them in the fight for freedom of choice. Legalization of the use of marijuana and decriminalizing the marijuana are central to what the party is tirelessly advocating for.

Hemp Focused Organizations

Hemp is a non-psychoactive strain of cannabis that’s used for an array of industrial purposes. The use of cannabis as hemp has gained popularity across the globe due to its advantages over other types of source crops. Hemp is not only a sustainable option but a hugely beneficial one too; it’s durability, health benefits and economic advantages make it so desirable across an array of industries.

The hemp industry can be considered fairly recent in the scheme of modern-day industry, so there are challenges involved when it comes to hemp products. A misunderstanding of the product, as well as the industry, leads to a hinderance in the development of the industry as a whole.

Marijuana associations and organizations in this space work as a support and development tool for those in the industry. They focus on educating the public, government and industry in regards to the benefits to hemp. They also support the development of the industry and promote its growth through various actions and initiatives.

Hemp focused organizations facilitate and encourage the exchange of information and technology within the industry, further professionalizing it and aiding its development. They act as a tool for maintaining the integrity of hemp products, as well as promoting environmental and social business practices that support everyone from growers to retailers.

Often set up as charitable organizations, their board members are hugely passionate about advancing the hemp industry around the globe. With all the natural benefits that hemp offers both people and planet, you can understand why these organizations and associations work tirelessly to further the cause.

Hemp Industry Association (HIA)

HIA (Hemp Industry Association) was formed in 1994 with the objective of supporting farmers and businesses within the hemp industry. Its mission is to better educate, further develop the industry and support growth. It stands by the fair and equal treatment of industrial hemp, as well as the opportunities that present themselves in agriculture and industry.

Founded by a group of hemp business owners and activists, the HIA is a membership-based non-profit trade association that works to defend the integrity of hemp products globally, as well as educate the public about the exceptional characteristics of hemp and hemp products.

Although the HIA is US based, it has affiliations across the world in the bid to ensure that there is a worldwide collaboration between industry and marijuana associations. It engages in global advocacy for socially and environmentally responsible business practices within the hemp industry.

The HIA can be linked to the large-scale production of hemp through its members. It’s critical to managing the flow of information between growers and industry including processors, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Connecting all parts of the industry and ensuring that every step in the supply chain has the information they need to operate ethically, professionally and efficiently.

Today, HIA is one of the most important hemp associations across the globe and has been recognized for the critical work that it continues to do. From campaigning and strategic alliances to policy and education, the HIA is working hard to change the way the US and the world views hemp.


The legalization and decriminalization of marijuana for both medical purposes and for recreational use is on the global agenda, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, it’s gaining more and more momentum. Different organizations and associations have sprung up as a result of the need to drastically and quickly affect change. The legalization of marijuana has taken several forms with many different approaches being applied, to ensure that there is a proper framework for global legalization and decriminalization.

If legalized, there’s no doubt that cannabis will provide endless benefits to both people and planet. The medicinal, economic, social and environmental impact of cannabis is profound, hence so many people around the world are working so hard to get it legalized and decriminalized.

John White - CNBS Author: John White
John is the founder and CEO of CNBS and is in charge of our brand relations, website management, media and press inquiries, industry overviews, B2B guides, and more. Passionate about educating on its benefits – John has been using cannabis to relief and manage his chronic pain for almost 12 years, working as an external consultant in the private cannabis sector for more than five years, and growing cannabis for personal use for almost eight years.
About | Facebook | Twitter | Contact

Category Pages:
  • The Cannabis Industry - A cannabis industry overview: its past, factors that have made it grow, and its potential future.
  • Cannabis Apps - The rise of cannabis apps; including the different types and uses, best cannabis apps, and industry overview.
  • Cannabis Clinics - 101 guide to cannabis clinics and the important role they play for patients and the medical marijuana industry.
  • Cannabis Consulting - CNBS' exclusive guide to cannabis consultancy; including different types of cannabis consulting agencies, and how to choose the right one for your business.
  • Cannabis Dispensaries - A guide to the essential role of dispensaries, how to prepare for your first visit, and where to find the best cannabis dispensaries in the US.
  • Cannabis Events - A guide to cannabis conferences, conventions, expos, trade shows, and festivals. Revealing the most prestigious events to attend this year.
  • Cannabis Lawyers - The indispensable role of cannabis lawyers in protecting cannabis consumers and business owners - and how to find the best cannabis attorney for your needs.
  • Organizations & Associations - (CURRENT PAGE)

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeanette L Fraser
Jeanette L Fraser
2 years ago

You missed several organizations that support medical marijuana. They include the American Cannabis Nurses Association, Patients Out of Time, Cannabis Nurse Network, and Americans for Safe Access.