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Here's How to Help Advance Cannabis Reform in Your State

With much to fight for, marijuana advocates give advice on ways you can help the cause.

This story originally appeared on The Fresh Toast

Cannabis reform continues to make progress in America. But with several states passing legislation on Election Day, and several more on the verge of doing the same soon, some may think that the fight is winding down. That isn’t the case when talking to those involved in the movement.

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While much of the decades-long heavy lifting to earn back the public’s support for cannabis is already complete, there is much more to get done. Be it legalization or other policy reforms, advocates across the U.S. can and should still get involved in the fight. Even the most progressive of states continue to suffer pain points that advocates hope to address in a bid to create a fair and equal market for patients, consumers, marginalized communities and everyone else in the space. 

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Jordan Isenstadt is the senior vice president of New York-based PR firm Marino. Isenstadt, who has worked in the administration of several New York State Senators and the Governor, spoke about the importance of advocacy in the community. He calls cannabis reform “one of the great social challenges of our time.”

Isenstadt described the previous century of cannabis policy as failed and racist. “Being an advocate for cannabis today is about righting the wrongs of a century of failed policymaking,” said Isenstadt. He added, “Cannabis advocates have an opportunity to make history over the next few years.”

Wanda James, a career advocate, and entrepreneur in and out of cannabis, said that advocacy remains essential because the goal has not been reached–particularly inclusion efforts.

James, CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary and president of the Cannabis Global Initiative, points to the ongoing racial disparity that spans American life, affecting Black and other minority groups at staggering rates. “The only way that we’re going to change how people talk about cannabis is when we fully legalize it,” added James. 

Sources say that advocates are needed in other areas as well, including patient rights. Marijuana Policy Project Director of Government Relations Chris Lindsey noted that medical patients often face steeper challenges as states legalize adult use.

Lindsey elaborated, saying that advocates help keep the moral compass oriented. “With the huge amount of attention legalization gets from many different groups and agencies, the voice for individuals who rely on these programs for access to medicine shouldn’t be drowned out,” said Lindsey. 

With much to fight for, advocates say that people can and should do their part however possible.

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How to get involved in cannabis advocacy (even if you don’t have the time)

Cannabis advocacy can become a large component of someone’s life just as much as it can become a small part of their day. Either way, sources say these efforts can amount to continued progress.

There appears to be no clear-cut first steps a person should take to become an advocate–mostly because anyone can do their part at just about anytime. 

Simply Pure’s James said the first step a person should do is normalize cannabis conversations and use, as long as the person isn’t risking their job in the process. Essentially, work the plant into everyday conversations and continue with daily practices, like swapping out an end-of-night glass of wine with your partner to a joint.

The cannabis leader then recommends contacting local officials as another quick and effective step. James said advocates could leave a message stating their support for specific measures, giving a brief reason why to back their claim. 

“These conversations and these actions are so simple that we can do,” said James.

Marino’s Isenstadt said education is paramount–suggesting people learn about key stakeholders, regulators, elected officials and other prominent members in the space as a first step.

From there, would-be advocates can get involved with various advocacy groups. He noted that groups typically consist of various central issues, including pro-business groups that represent large multi-state operators and grassroots advocates for small businesses, farmers, healthcare, social justice and other pressing matters.

“Figure out which organization(s) speaks most to you and look for ways to get engaged,” said Isenstadt. 

James highlighted groups like NORMLMinorities for Medical Marijuana and Women Grow as three organizations advocates should look into.

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Isenstadt added that scores of organizations have volunteer and advocacy activities, including virtual events, fundraisers, letter writing and phone to action campaigns. Currently, these events are all virtual. When in-person meetings become the norm again, advocacy events can also help advocates become further ingrained in the fight and the cannabis community by making face-to-face connections.

Isenstadt added that those short on time could make cash donations if they are in the financial position to do so. “It only takes a few minutes to give money, and many of the advocates, especially those fighting for social justice reform, could use the funds.”