Most cannabis consumers are young adults. Most young adults do not participate in the political process. Why is that? One reason, easily overlooked, is that they haven’t learned how to make their voices heard and their votes count.
Part One of this column concerns why it is important for the voices of cannabis consumers to be heard and for them to register to vote. In summary, join the opposition and register to vote—find out how to here.
Voting is the starting point, but as such, it is just the beginning.
The next challenges is being heard. Actually, that’s pretty easy.
You can access your congressional representative’s website here, and then look for contact information, such as their email address or phone number. Contacting your senator is even easier, go here for the same information. The next step requires a little preparation—what should you say (or write) when you contact your Members of Congress (MoC)?
A little intel is helpful here.
First, it’s important to be a voter (register!).
Second, know who your MoCs are (and remember, they are YOURS). A little more information is helpful, such as a) what political party they belong to, b) what committees they serve on, and c) their positions on issues that concern you. You can learn a lot of this from their website, but you can also learn a lot by using VoteSmart—which will provide you with vital information about both federal and state officials that serve you. Just go to their home page, enter your zip code, choose an official of interest from the drop-down list and then use the tabs below the search engine to access contact, vote or policy position information.
Most advocacy groups provide lots of information about elected officials, as well as instructions and hyperlinks for contacting them. They will even suggest what you should say or write when you do. That’s fine, but here’s a secret: It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your MoCs and other officials here from you and that they know how you feel or what you think about an issue.
Furthermore, and this is the EASY part, you don’t have to make a case in favor of something. It’s just as effective—some will argue that it is even more effective—to let they them know what you are against. Go back to Part One—this is about opposition and dissent.
Recently, in response to the election of Donald Trump a group of former congressional staff members got together and wrote a manual on how to influence MOCs. Their advice is based on what happens in congressional offices, how MOCs respond to constituent contacts and perhaps of greater interest, how the Tea Party movement created effective opposition to the agenda of the Obama Administration.
The result is “Indivisible – A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda.”
“Indivisible” argues that the Tea Party was successful because they were locally focused and were purely defensive. They did not concern themselves with policy development, they rejected concessions and focused on local representations. They showed up at town halls, they showed up at MoCs’ offices and demanded meetings and they coordinated calls to congressional offices at key moments.
The key thing to remember is that for MoCs, it’s all about reelection.
What do MoCs care about?
They care about their constituents, not people from outside their district or state. They care about constituents who make an effort, and the more effort the more attention these constituents receive.
They don’t care about form letters, tweets or Facebook comments.
They care about local press, and they care about local groups more than single constituents. They care about specific requests (vote for this, vote against that), rather than a laundry list of issues. “Indivisible” explains a simple strategy of making your voice count in contacting MoCs, such as a guide to calling a congressional office, and explains further how to tap into and/or organize local groups to magnify the message back home.
The marijuana reform movement already has a well-built and effective infrastructure consisting of a number of advocacy groups and well-organized activist networks.
Dissent in the time of Trump, though, is not about what they can do for you, but what you can do to assert your own rights and advance your own interests. It’s a big help for more and more people to embrace and support the agenda of one advocacy group, or another, or several of them. But it’s a bigger help to just become engaged in the process by voting and making your voice heard.
You don’t need to become an activist or an organizer. Just be a good citizen.
Good citizens vote, and they give instructions to their elected representatives. Good citizens let their elected representative know what they, as a voter, think about important issues. Start there. More is great, but start there.
Register to vote, get the contact information for your Members of Congress and then get in touch with them. Look over the “Indivisible” guide to learn more about this process. Then, start with something simple. If you oppose federal intervention against state-level marijuana reforms, contact your Members of Congress and let them know that—and just that—and see how it goes.
It will go well.