Cannabis marijuana and the ACLU
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American Civil Liberties Union Overview

American Civil Liberties Union

By C.J. Eno

“The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”


The American Civil Liberties Union is the largest public-interest law firm in the United States and one of nation’s most iconic non-profit groups. Formed in the aftermath of WWI, the ACLU initially protected American communists from a wave of unconstitutional persecutions and abuses at the hands of authorities. They soon won national attention through their involvement as catalyst for the famed Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, which fought a Tennessee ban on the teaching of evolution in public schools. Brown v. Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in public schools in 1954; you may thank the ACLU for that. Roe v. Wade, that assures a woman’s right of choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy; also ACLU. Have you ever used indecent language online or looked at porn on the world-wide web since 1996? Didn’t face prosecution as a result? Again, thank the ACLU. The stalwart organization has also begun standing up for the rights of Cannabis users. In 2011, the ACLU fought in two cases on behalf of medical Cannabis patients against two powerful sovereignties, Arizona and Walmart, and has already succeeded in the former. The group has also recently encouraged legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of Cannabis.    


While continuing its traditional courtroom battles, since 9/11 the ACLU has kept busy fighting civil and human rights violations resulting from the Patriot Act and policies put in place under the Bush Administration. Many of these issues, like rendition, torture, and drone strikes, have pushed the ACLU into the international arena, although their primary focus remains on domestic problems.     
For funding, the ACLU relies most heavily on grants and contributions, which makes up 57 percent on their $100-million budget. The rest of the budget comes from membership contributions, bequests, and legal fees awarded from court victories. With half a million members, 2,000 volunteer lawyers, and 100 attorneys on staff, the ACLU is able to organize community outreach and assemble effective legal action on multiple issues at any given time.