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Dissent in the Time of Trump, Pt. 1

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The inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States on January 20 marks the beginning of a new era in American politics, and one that will have tremendous bearing on both the scope and nature of marijuana’s legalization.

Who will have access to legal cannabis and under what conditions are just two of the important issues that will be influenced by the new political dynamics created by Trump’s ascension to power. Other issues, some related to cannabis and many others which are not, are also of great importance to cannabis consumers—but the potential impact of Trump’s political coalition on marijuana legalization should be enough to call attention to the need to re-examine and re-vitalize the marijuana reform movement.

Advocacy groups and their agendas are not the issue here—they know what they’re doing, and they are made up of smart, talented and experienced professionals.

But what about you, dear reader, and what about the people you know who care about marijuana’s legalization? What can and should you do to protect the gains of recent years and accelerate the pace of reform? More importantly, how does Trump’s election to the presidency change the political environment in which legalization takes place?

This is an important strategic consideration. Crafting strategy involves assessing the external environment as well as one’s own capabilities.

No one really knows how Trump, as president, will respond to state-level marijuana legalization policies. But the opposition of many, if not most, if not mostly all of Trump’s political allies to legalization is well-known. If they can slow down the pace of legalization, they will.

Beyond that, Trump’s allies are now in a position of seemingly unchallenged political authority to determine not just how quickly legalization can continue but also just what kind of legalization will take place. This is, after all, a coalition of pro-law enforcement and pro-business politicians. This is not a marijuana-consumer friendly community.

In the emerging political environment, marijuana consumers are part of the opposition. And what does the opposition do? They oppose the administration in power, as well as oppose the activities of the administration’s allies. The opposition dissents, it dissents with a purpose, and it dissents with effectiveness.

Dissent, in the time of Trump, is needed to advance the issue of marijuana’s legalization in the United States.

Dissent requires action, action with a purpose. It is more than having an opinion and sharing it with friends and colleagues. That’s easy to do, but it has minimal impact in terms of meaningful action. It’s not enough to be right, ideologically pure or rhetorically interesting. All those things feel good and can be immensely satisfying. None of them have any power when it comes to mounting effective opposition.

Dissent has requirements. Dissent means, at a minimum, that you have to register to vote and vote in future elections. The next stages are to speak truth to power, organize others to take these steps and mobilize resources to mount effective opposition in both social and political arenas. Part two of this column will address learning more about these next important steps.

The purpose of marijuana prohibition is to make marijuana consumers outlaws and outcasts. Many marijuana uses have rejected those labels. Have you?

There are powerful forces aligning to fight marijuana’s legalization, and if that fails, to hamper and restrict i;, and if that fails, profit from it. Whatever these forces achieve, it will be at the expense of the marijuana consumer. In other words, they win and you lose.

The purpose of marijuana prohibition is to keep marijuana consumers from using their rights as American citizens. The only legitimate response to that effort is opposition and dissent. That has always been the case. It’s the reason High Times exists and the reason you are reading it.

Listen to Trump’s people, their supporters and congressional leadership. They’re not talking about cannabis now, but they have made it clear in the past that they are not friends of legalization. They have plans. They think it’s going to be easy because they think they have all the power. They’re wrong.

Join the opposition. Register to vote—find out how to here. Part two of this column will explain in more detail what else you can do to speak truth to power and make your dissent an effective tool to advance marijuana’s legalization.

Jon Gettman is the Cannabis Policy Director for High Times. Jon has a Ph.D. in public policy, teaching undergraduate criminal justice and graduate level management courses. A long-time contributor to High Times, his research and analytical work has been used by NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, American’s for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Jon’s research contributions to the topic of marijuana law reform have included findings on the economic value of domestic marijuana cultivation, attempts to have marijuana rescheduled under federal law and racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Serving as NORML’s National Director in the late 1980s, he was instrumental in creating NORML’s activist program.

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