With the midterm elections just around the corner, supporters of legal cannabis are gearing up for pitched battles in several states. Although some voters will have the opportunity to weigh in directly on cannabis legalization or increased access for medical marijuana patients, cannabis initiatives aren’t on the ballot in every state. And many cannabis patients and recreational consumers are still unable to grow, buy or consume cannabis in their communities.
Chad Rea, a longtime cannabis activist and award-winning Mendocino County-based cannabis farmer told HelloMD, “Every time a person like me becomes a medical marijuana patient, another cannabis activist is born.”
Like nearly all political movements, cannabis activism started at the grassroots level. Many cannabis-consuming citizens became involved in politics for the first time—often because of restriction to their access to medical cannabis or because a friend, parent or loved one was behind bars simply for possessing a little marijuana.
Voting is the end-result of our governmental system—an opportunity for each of us to choose laws providing safer, regulated access to cannabis. But there’s more we can do—today and every day to:
- Increase our understanding of cannabis prohibition
- Educate our families and elected officials
- Support organizations striving for smart cannabis policies
Here are six ways—besides voting—you can help support legal cannabis in the U.S.
1. Learn Your Marijuana History, Stay Informed & Share Why You Think Cannabis Should Be Legal
With the holidays coming, opportunities will abound to discuss cannabis legalization with family and friends. Being an informed advocate is the best way to talk about what can be a controversial issue.
The history of cannabis prohibition is a fascinating story that continues to have day-to-day ramifications for millions of Americans. Many people still don’t know why cannabis was made illegal in the first place. Once they’re informed, some folks are able to take a more measured stance on their opposition to marijuana.
Patients Out of Time is an organization focused on the promotion of cannabis science and education, with many links to scholarly journals, patient testimonials and archived video conferences. There are many resources and citations that will help you become a well-versed medical cannabis activist.
For over 16 years, [Americans for Safe Access (ASA)](https://www.safeaccessnow.org has focused on the goal of safe cannabis access for all. Cannabis activists regularly visit ASA’s portal to stay abreast of everything from its excellent patient resources to its certification program for medical professionals.
The Marijuana Policy Project has created an at-a-glance sheet that delineates the top 10 reasons to end cannabis prohibition. Even if you don’t memorize all 10, find two or three reasons for legalization that resonate with you.
Don’t be afraid to practice articulating your ideas with a sympathetic friend or family member. And always remember: Losing your cool is never a good way to win over someone with opposing views.
2. Find Common Ground With Those Opposed to Legal Cannabis
One of the most complex issues surrounding cannabis legalization is the understandable concern around public safety. The Law Enforcement Action Partnership comprises:
- Active and retired judges
- Police chiefs
- U.S. attorneys
- Sheriffs from the U.S. and other nations
The group is committed to ending the War on Drugs, improving relations with law enforcement and improving the criminal justice system. Pointing cannabis legalization opponents to this group can show people that you can be concerned about public safety and still support legal marijuana—and hopefully dispel the myth that those in favor of legal cannabis don’t care about the safety of the public at large.
Did you know that Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network supports cannabis being treated like alcohol? The Marijuana Majority has aggregated an impressive list of big-name supporters of medical or recreational cannabis. Though it may not be surprising to see Rihanna’s quotes on this site, have some fun quoting President Trump’s stance on medical cannabis, or conservative firebrand and musician Ted Nugent on “taking a toke.”
The list also includes pro-cannabis quotes from:
- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
- The American Medical Association
- Author Stephen King
- The International Federation of the Red Cross
- Fox News Pundit Tucker Carlson
- Syndicated conservative columnist Laura Ingraham
Though the hundreds of celebrities listed on the site don’t all share full-throated support for legalization, they agree that cannabis laws must be addressed, with many supporting the legalization of medical marijuana.
3. Tell Your Cannabis Story
Are you a medical marijuana patient? Have you told your story about how cannabis improved your life?
One of the most compelling aspects of the cannabis movement is the positive impact the plant has on people’s physical and emotional health. But sometimes it’s hard to explain medical cannabis therapy, particularly to someone who may be skeptical.
There are few things more convincing to non-cannabis consumers than someone who can clearly associate improved health with the use of medical marijuana. Pamela Hadfield, co-founder of HelloMD, is an inspiring example of a person who once dismissed medical cannabis until she discovered it helped provide tremendous relief from excruciating migraines, changing her life, her career and her health in the process.
Telling your cannabis story or the stories of others you know is one of the most effective ways to open people’s hearts and minds, and one of the best resources in an activist’s tool kit. Write letters to your local newspaper, tell your story at church, or at the office of your local congressperson or city council representative.
4. Find Your Cannabis Community
These days, you don’t have to live in a state with legal recreational marijuana to find cannabis kindred spirits. There are many organizations you can join or whose events you can attend.
- If you’re a student, check out Students for Sensible Drug Policy. It’s a grassroots, international organization dedicated to ending the War on Drugs. If there isn’t a chapter near your school, you can start your own.
- Almost every state has an organization similar to the Georgia Care Project, which provides legislative advocacy on cannabis issues at the local and state level.
*And even a music festival like Texas’ SXSW assembles impressive cannabis lecture sessions, with about two dozen cannabusiness topics on its schedule.
*The Minority Cannabis Business Association has been working to increase visibility, accessibility and representation for minorities in the cannabis community.
*Similarly, Supernova Women focuses on creating local, state and national cannabis education, skills acquisition and empowerment opportunities for women of color.
5. Track Cannabis Legalization
“I smoke pot and I vote” is the motto of the Cannabis Voter Project, which has sought to register as many cannabis-friendly voters as possible. The organization used the summer festival season to reach out to potential voters, and its website makes it simple to find out where your elected official stands on cannabis issues.
A good place to keep track of cannabis votes around the country is throughNORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. NORML is arguably the country’s most well-known cannabis legalization organization], with numerous state and regional chapters throughout the country. It has a handy state-by-state menu that outlines legalization initiatives, candidate endorsements and even an extensive section of legal briefs.
For over 20 years, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has worked to influence the political landscape and bring sensible legislation to voters. Unlike NORMAL, the MPP is based in Washington and focuses primarily on identifying supportive members of Congress and reducing punitive state marijuana laws.
Ballotpedia provides cannabis policy wonks with an extensive, state-by-state history of cannabis ballot measures. You can search ballot measures by state and by year; it’s a great resource.
6. Donate Your Time, Dollars or Skills to Local Cannabis Groups
There are so many ways to be a cannabis activist. Some people aren’t interested in attending meetings. Others are too busy to add one more thing to their complicated lives. But almost everyone can find a way to send a few dollars to an organization that aligns with their beliefs about cannabis.
Even though today’s cannabis space seems overrun with investment capital, grassroots activists, many of them medical marijuana patients, still form the foundation for cannabis change in your community.
Artists, musicians and writers are always needed to donate their skills to local cannabis organizations. Tech-types can often help a fledgling cannabis site with web-related support or upgrades. Bringing snacks to a meeting, making phone calls, driving a frail patient to a cannabis event or asking a question at a candidate forum—there are no limits on the ways you can help create a stronger cannabis community and support marijuana legalization.
Photo credit: Roberto Valdivia
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's easy, private and 100% online.