One of the most important aspects of being a cannabis advocate is contacting lawmakers to educate them about cannabis reform and urge them to support sensible cannabis policies.
Lawmakers exist at all levels of government, and they are all important when it comes to pushing for cannabis reform.
Cannabis is prohibited at the federal level, so lobbying members of Congress is vital to achieving national reform. And it’s also critical to be in contact with lawmakers at the state level, as well as at the local level.
This is true even in legal states because rules and policies are evolving constantly, and cannabis advocates need to help ensure that they are evolving in a good way.
Talking to lawmakers requires tact and purpose.
Below are some tips that the Green Flower team suggests advocates keep in mind when talking to lawmakers.
#1) Not all forms of communication are created equal
Most lawmakers track all communications to their offices and keep tallies of how many communications they receive for and against a particular issue. This is done to gauge the level of support for an issue among constituents.
The offices of lawmakers usually weight the various forms of communication differently. Written letters are taken more seriously than calls, and calls are taken more seriously than e-mails.
One communication method that really carries weight is when constituents show up to a lawmakers office in person, or at an event in person. If cannabis advocates do all of the above, it will make a big difference.
#2) Offer up polling data
Lawmakers love polling data, whether they want to admit it or not. They want to see that a particular issue has strong support among constituents so that supporting the issue is not seen as a political gamble.
You will be hardpressed to find a political issue that has as much public support as cannabis reform.
Gallup‘s most recent poll found 64% support for legalization, including majority support among Republicans. Look for state-specific polls where you live.
#3) Provide cannabis industry job creation statistics
Another talking point that really gets traction with lawmakers is job creation. Elected officials want to be able to tell voters that they have created jobs and that more are on the way.
The cannabis industry is creating jobs at an enormous rate. As of June 2017, it was estimated that the cannabis industry employed as many as 230,000 people. That figure has only grown since the stat was released.
Point out that the labor force for the cannabis industry has surpassed other long-standing industries, such as dental hygienists and massage therapists, to help put the cannabis industry job growth into perspective.
#4) Discuss cannabis industry tax revenue generation
Just as elected officials love to tout job creation, they also like to be able to brag to their constituents about increasing government revenues, especially when the revenues are created out of thin air.
Colorado alone generated $247,368,473 in just 2017. That’s one state in one year. Colorado is just one of many states with a legal cannabis industry.
6 states now allow adult-use cannabis sales, and a number of other states allow legal medical cannabis sales. The taxes and fees those industries generate are substantial and are something that every lawmaker should be interested in hearing about.
#5) Point out that youth consumption rates have not increased in legal cannabis states
One of the biggest fears of elected officials when it comes to cannabis reform is the perceived threat that youth consumption rates will skyrocket after reform is passed.
Multiple federal studies have found that cannabis consumption rates among youth in legal states have not gone up, and in many cases, has actually gone down.
Regulation works, which is something that is much easier to convey to politicians via results of federal studies than it is with anecdotal stories and opinions.
#6) Highlight campaign contributions made by the cannabis community
In the world of politics, money is a really, really big deal for better or worse. Campaigns cost money, and elected officials’ ears always perk up when they hear of potential campaign contribution sources.
The cannabis community has been stepping up more and more over the years when it comes to campaign contributions.
#7) Tailor your talking points to your audience
Do your homework before you talk to an elected official to see which issues they champion and why. Not every talking point is going to work with every elected official.
If they are big on social issues, talk about the social harms that are caused by cannabis prohibition. If they are fiscally conservative, point out how much cannabis prohibition costs to enforce.
Most elected officials make it very clear on their websites and social media channels what their priorities are. Unlike many other political issues, cannabis is a dynamic enough issue that there’s a way to relate just about everything to cannabis reform in one way or another.
#8) Be respectful
No matter what you are talking about, or who you are discussing cannabis reform with, always be respectful. Cannabis reform is a very passion-driven movement, and it can be hard to not let your emotions get the best of you.
Do your best to stay on message because once you lose the attention of an elected official it’s extremely difficult to get it back.
This is not to say that you cannot outright oppose an elected official because of their anti-cannabis stance because that is absolutely warranted if an elected official is a staunch prohibitionist.
But when an elected official appears to be open to a constructive conversation about cannabis, always remember that you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar!