When doctors prescribe antibiotics, they always remind patients that the full course of pills must be taken for the treatment to work. Even if you start to feel better after a few days, they warn, it’s imperative to keep going to ensure the bacteria is fully eradicated. At present, the regulated cannabis landscape curiously finds itself in a similar situation.
In many states, there’s a public perception that cannabis reform has largely been achieved, which is understandable to some extent. Citizens in states with legalized recreational use now see billboards for pot, walk past dispensaries in familiar neighborhoods and may plausibly feel that the stigmas associated with cannabis are dissipating before their eyes.
Unfortunately, such perceptions pose a great risk to the movement at a moment when outcry and volume are most needed, both to pass federal cannabis reform and improve some state laws. That’s where the Cannabis Voter Project (CVP) comes in. Established in 2018 as an initiative from HeadCount.org, CVP is focused on educating, registering and turning out voters with an interest in cannabis policy.
Built on a foundation of non-partisanship, CVP has positioned itself as a neutral information repository for voters to learn about issues and candidates they may see on their ballot in 2020. The site’s “State Info” section includes a list of all elected representatives and how they’ve voted on cannabis policy thus far. An up-to-date, comprehensive summary of each state’s current cannabis situation — as well as informed speculation on where it might be heading — is included as well.
“Cannabis is one of just a few issues that cuts across party lines,” explained CVP Director Sam D’Arcangelo by email. “[It] has the potential to activate people who otherwise might not vote. It’s a truly non-partisan issue. That’s a big reason we chose to mobilize voters around it.”
One of CVP’s most compelling features is a tool that allows users to inform their elected officials that they are a “Cannabis Voter” and to request a firm stance from the official on cannabis-related issues. Underscoring the importance of this clever function is the visibility it provides to policymakers. Those in charge need to be fully aware of who they represent, but many have been justifiably terrified to connect themselves to cannabis before recent reforms.
That’s why CVP is trying to find voters at dispensaries and concerts. Plenty of pot shops now host CVP literature and volunteers have set up shop on tour with acts like funk band Lettuce and psychedelic legends Dead & Company. Before a gig in Colorado this summer, members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (all founding or early members of the Grateful Dead) shared info and support for CVP on their Twitter profiles.
Stretching back to the groundbreaking passage of the Rohrabacher–Farr (later Rohrabacher–Blumenauer) amendment in 2014, Republicans and Democrats have indeed joined in voicing support for cannabis and implementing pro-regulation policy — perhaps more so than any other issue.
Regardless of party line, Gallup reported that 66% of Americans were in support of legalizing cannabis as of October 2019. With that number all but guaranteed to keep rising as more and more individuals experience and explore pot, the time when candidates could have no opinion whatsoever on cannabis and still be taken seriously appears to be at an end.
Regardless of how you choose to make your voice heard, silence is the enemy of true cannabis policy. Be loud!
TELL US, do you vote?
Originally published in Issue 4o of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE