Activism

How to Become a Cannabis Advocate

Colorado has become ground zero for legal cannabis issues in America.
Colorado has become ground zero for legal cannabis issues in America. Brandon Marshall

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click to enlarge Events like the Minority Cannabis Business Association's Cannabis Opportunity Summit are great for networking and policy education. - JACQUELINE COLLINS
Events like the Minority Cannabis Business Association's Cannabis Opportunity Summit are great for networking and policy education.
Jacqueline Collins
Or Start Your Own
Just because there's a lot of something doesn't mean you can't have more. The thought of legal cannabis is still very new, even in Colorado, and there's a good chance that you're not wholly represented — or maybe the group that's currently representing your category isn't pushing the interests you'd prefer. Either way, the opportunity is there to motivate like-minded cannabis consumers to come out of the closet. If you're scared of starting a nonprofit to support a federally illegal substance, then start small with a Facebook group or weekly get-togethers through Eventbrite or Meetup.com. After all, national groups like NORML and Women Grow had to start somewhere.

Attend Events — All Kinds
Our weekly Cannabis Calendar lists pot-infused yoga sessions and art classes, but it's also stocked with
industry shindigs and advocacy events in the metro area — and even we can't keep up with all of them. Support groups and networking parties are hosted weekly for everything from the hemp-derived-CBD industry to parents with children who use medical marijuana. They're often attended by some of the Denver cannabis scene's movers and shakers, many of whom are happy to give advice or lend their support to the right cause. Recreational classes, parties and events are frequented by many of the same faces, and they often get into policy discussions, too.  Figure out potential allies and ask them for advice — but also learn who to avoid.

Don't Settle
Obtaining the right to consume cannabis seems like a huge victory, and rightly so. It took years of lobbying by groups like Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to even get Amendment 64 on the ballot, but there are plenty of people who don't think it went far enough. Whether you agree with their stances or not, activists like Miguel Lopez or Larisa Bolivar continue to piss off authority as they try to protect minorities from industry consolidation and consumers and caregivers from law enforcement persecution. Recent retail legalization efforts in Arizona and Ohio were both opposed by large factions of cannabis advocates, largely because both catered to a small network of pot-business licenses that limited market access. Don't let the rush for legalization result in an unwelcome compromise.

But Don't Be Afraid to Talk to the Other Side
As with any political issue, you have to be prepared for the reality that not everyone will agree with you. In fact, some will oppose you to the point of boiling anger — but you'll have to get over that. Even if you completely disagree with everything they say, it's still beneficial to engage your opposition in dialogue. On top of learning about their biggest disputes with what you're pushing, you might even reach a compromise. Both Denver and Colorado officials routinely force all sides of cannabis stakeholder issues to sit in the same room until something close to a consensus is reached. Even if you can't get on that exclusive list of stakeholders, the meetings are public and allow comment from the audience. Attend those meetings to make sure you're heard, but remember to listen to other voices, too.
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Herbert Fuego is the resident stoner at Westword, ready to answer all your marijuana questions.
Contact: Herbert Fuego