From the Archives: The Steps to Legalization (1989)

By Ed Rosenthal

For a very long time, activists have been ready for NORML to begin a political legalization drive. Years in the past, California NORML had a useful group. Nonetheless, presently it’s within the palms of a Board of Administrators who mix the worst qualities; uncreative amateurs who’ve solely a marginal curiosity within the challenge. Activists equivalent to Dennis Peron, Jack Herer and Dr. Todd Mikuriya are constantly barred from any policy-making position. The president of the native, Dale Gerringer, complains in regards to the Board, however for essentially the most half appreciates their hands-off strategy to his administration.

In March and April, a number of items of regressive laws have been proposed to the California State Senate and Meeting. One invoice would have made it a separate felony offense to own any quantity of marijuana in three separate packages appropriate on the market. As an illustration, three joints or three containers of seeds. One other invoice would have made it against the law to solicit to purchase pot.

The third invoice, which had variations in each legislative homes, would have restricted diversion to growers captured with ten vegetation or much less. In California, diversion is a judicial course of for folks caught possessing or cultivating marijuana for their very own use. As an alternative of going by means of the court docket course of, the costs are waived so long as the individual stays out of bother for 2 years. The court docket decides eligibility primarily based on a preponderance of proof. This regulation has saved California’s taxpayers tens of millions of {dollars} since its enactment, and has saved hundreds of Californians the heartache of judicial proceedings and their aftermath.

Because the Senate payments started developing for a vote, Dale grew to become determined. He couldn’t get to the capital due to medical causes, and the Board members who have been appropriate for legislative obligation have been both busy or uninterested. Consequently, Dale requested me to see what I may do.

First I referred to as up the legislative analyst of the invoice and spoke with him at size. (A legislative analyst describes a invoice and guesses at its results on authorities and society.)

He requested me to jot down an announcement in regards to the proposals and let me know tips on how to register to talk earlier than the legislature. He additionally gave me recommendation on process.

The analyst requested me to jot down an announcement in regards to the measure and my opinion of its results. I despatched this out to him promptly. Then, looking the again of my closet, I discovered a serviceable swimsuit, tie, white shirt, and sneakers, and made the drive to Sacramento.

The payments have been scheduled to come back to committee at 1 P.M. I arrived within the hallowed halls at 9 A.M. and instantly began lobbying. I by no means bought to see any legislators, however talked at size with plenty of their aides. The primary ones I went to see have been those that I believed can be against the payments. They have been courteous, involved in regards to the points, and really useful of their feedback.

Subsequent I went to see the aides of legislators prone to be in favor of the payments. They too have been courteous and engaged in frank discussions of the payments and the marijuana challenge generally. I used to be stunned by their willingness to take part in give-and-take conversations.

The discussions with the aides have been good apply for talking earlier than the Senators. First the proponent of the invoice spoke. Then got here representatives of the police, lawyer normal’s workplace, and the CAMP folks. Representatives of the California Prison Attorneys Affiliation and the ACLU spoke towards the invoice. A involved NORML lawyer, Bob Cogan, additionally opposed them.

The payments have been fatally flawed and because the audio system mentioned them, it grew to become obvious that they might not make it out of committee. All have been withdrawn. Three weeks later, the identical factor occurred in Meeting.

For essentially the most half, I discovered the legislators abysmally ignorant in regards to the topic of marijuana. Often they’re led round by the state lawyer normal, the police, and “mum or dad’s teams” as a result of no one else speaks up on the difficulty. As soon as legislators turn out to be extra knowledgeable, their attitudes loosen up a bit. With concerted work, their votes will be modified.

These experiences have satisfied me that continuous lobbying efforts within the state legislatures may change the marijuana legal guidelines very quickly. Prohibition is a mannequin. Within the spring of 1932, Roosevelt was against a “moist” plank as a result of he thought it could lose him votes. Inside a couple of months, public opinion had turned. The corruption, killings, and lack of liquor made the general public disgusted. Roosevelt received not solely on anti-Hoover melancholy votes, but additionally due to the promise to repeal the 18th Modification. If that historical past is simply too historical, do not forget that in 1980 Reagan received partly on an anti-Commie plank. Now the Russians are our greatest mates.

The anti-pot teams have had a discipline day for years. They’ve confronted no opposition within the authorities and media and have been capable of deal in hysterics. Now you possibly can assist minimize quick their non-joyride. We’d like hundreds of individuals to speak till their throats are dry.

I envision a military of lobbyists first descending on the state governments then the federal authorities. And I imply YOU. Everybody can do it. Just by studying Excessive Occasions, you will be an efficient citizen-lobbyist.

With the intention to strategy the federal government most successfully, you must type of play their recreation. Listed here are some guidelines and pointers for speaking with elected authorities officers and their aides.

1) Everybody on the legislature is wearing enterprise garments. In most legislatures, this implies fits or work clothes. Making an attempt to strategy these folks in denims makes their eyes glaze over. I do know that that is going to show lots of people off, however costume and grooming are vital. It’s a sign to them that you’re prepared to speak the identical language.

However, legislators often have workplace days of their native workplace. You possibly can go go to them there to voice your issues. These conferences are often extra casual than those within the capital. Nonetheless, going as much as the capital emphasizes the “significance” of the difficulty.

2) Rehearse your arguments in order that you realize them by coronary heart, and do not need to consider them if you find yourself speaking with the representatives.

3) Take heed to what they should say and don’t interrupt. As soon as they’ve made their argument or requested their query, then reply it or make your rebuttal.

4) Attempt to de-polarize the difficulty by first speaking about what you agree on. After I was speaking to conservatives, I began the dialogue by mentioning some areas on which I knew we’d see eye to eye: “There’s a large drug drawback that’s uncontrolled”; “Cocaine, particularly crack, is essentially the most harmful drug round to each society and the individuals who use it,” or “The federal government has restricted assets, and they need to be used the place they are going to do essentially the most good.”

5) Discuss in sound bytes. Legislators have a restricted consideration span. As an alternative of listening to the entire build-up of an argument, they would like a bit, ideally now not than 18 seconds.

6) Don’t make an ass out of your self by blowing up or getting mad if issues don’t go your method. The marijuana legal guidelines weren’t made in a day, they usually received’t go away in a day. Combating marijuana legal guidelines is a long-term effort.

7) Any feedback made about your fashion must be taken to coronary heart if they’re well-intended.

There are six main explanation why marijuana must be legalized—they’re felony, financial, sociological, constitutional, nationwide safety and well being. In future problems with the journal, we are going to cowl every of them completely. We may even make room for feedback about your experiences preventing these unjust legal guidelines within the legislature.

So prepare and get your swimsuit and tie pressed. We’re going to the capital in September and October.

One final expertise. I used to be strolling down the corridor with the Particular Assistant to the Legal professional Normal. He had simply given a speak about medication. He had been speaking about rehabilitating drug customers and I stated to him, “There’s one distinction between marijuana and nearly another drug, together with the authorized ones, alcohol and tobacco. Should you ask a nicotine addict, alcoholic, junkie, crack freak, or nearly another drug consumer, ‘Should you may get up tomorrow unaddicted and with out cravings, would you are taking the choice?’, for essentially the most half these folks would say sure. Nonetheless, in case you ask a marijuana consumer the identical query, s/he’ll say no thanks, as a result of marijuana customers, for essentially the most half, don’t suppose the substance is hurting them.”

He stated, “I by no means considered that, however most of my mates who smoke it do really feel the identical method.” A little bit little bit of progress was made at that second.

Excessive Occasions Journal, September 1989

Learn the total challenge right here.

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