My last article on red state activists hadn’t even hit the internet yet when I began kicking myself for all the remarkable activists I’d left off the list. Again, these retrospectives aren’t meant to be “Best Of Lists,” because I haven’t met everyone yet.
I’m also limiting this to places without legalization.
Not that there aren’t fantastic activists all over the country, but fighting for marijuana reform where you are severely outnumbered and culturally opposed—especially when you could just flee to a green state—takes a special kind of activist.
It’s probably not fair to characterize Angela as a “red state” activist, since, like me, she is based in Portland, Oregon. But also, like me, Angela is a productive writer and advocate who spends time focusing on red state marijuana issues.
Lately, Angela has been hot on the trail of our greatest nemesis, drug czar wannabe Kevin Sabet. She has been investigating Sabet’s continuing ploy of having state and county government taxpayer dollars pay him to come “educate” the people on marijuana. He’s been at it again, trying to play the same game in Utah that I called him out for in Oregon in 2014 before our legalization election, and Angela has been busy digging up the dirt.
Virginia – Jenn Michelle Pedini (Virginia NORML)
Now the executive director of Virginia NORML, Jenn Michelle got involved in activism because her life literally depended on it. She fought back lymphoma twice, enduring chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant. Her published account of her battle helped to raise thousands of dollars for organizations fighting cancer.
Through her work at NORML, she’s risen through the ranks to become a lobbying all-star. She regularly lobbies in Richmond to reform Virginia’s laws, as well as in Washington DC, fighting to change minds in Congress, as she also helps out with work in the NORML National Office.
Missouri – Jamie Kacz (NORML KC)
Jamie Kacz and her group, NORML KC, are part of a dynamic group of NORML chapters working together in Missouri. While folks there are disappointed at missing the ballot for statewide medical marijuana in 2016 by just 23 signatures, Jamie and NORML KC have moved forward with an initiative to decriminalize personal possession, making an ounce just a $25 city violation.
The initiative has collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Should it pass, Kansas City would join Columbia, St. Louis and other cities that have decriminalized at the local level, helping to continue improving public perception and the chances of passing a full, statewide medical initiative in the next election it’s attempted.
Montana – Kari Boiter (Facebook Friends of Kari Boiter)
I’ve known Kari since we butted heads over Washington’s I-502. I was for it, correctly predicting that passing legalization in 2012 would be a monumental improvement for recreational consumers in Washington and legalization nationwide. She was against it, correctly predicting that passing legalization without firming up the state’s medical program would be a monumental disaster for medical consumers in Washington.
Since then, she has returned to her native Montana to help fight for medical marijuana patients and legalization there. She helped with efforts to pass Initiative 182, which has restored and improved the state’s medical marijuana program. She also ran for the state legislature from Billings Heights, unopposed in the Democratic primary, only to fall to the incumbent-and-usually-unopposed Republican Dale Wilkinson, a former cop and current private investigator.
Arizona – Kathy Inman (MOMFORCE AZ)
I just met Kathy in the past year through my work with Cannabis Radio. Arizona has a particularly nasty set of law enforcement officials who publicly oppose any marijuana reform, including Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and (now former, yay!) Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
One of their anti-legalization task forces is known as MATFORCE. Kathy and her activist allies responded by forming MOMFORCE to highlight how Arizona’s draconian personal possession laws—any amount can be a felony!—destroy families. Kathy was also featured in one of the “Yes on Prop 205” legalization advertisements on TV.
(Note: I can’t be everywhere, and there are many excellent activists whose stories I’ve left out of this article simply because I have not met them personally or they don’t work in a red state. But if you have, tell me their story and maybe I’ll pass it on in my next rant—email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Previously in Radical Rant: 5 Red State Activists Making a Difference in 2016
Click here for all of Russ Belville’s columns.