Mike Weinholtz, a candidate for governor in Utah, pressed for marijuana reform after his wife was arrested for using cannabis. She pled guilty to a misdemeanor crime for having two pounds of the Schedule I substance in their home, and act that the couple says she did in order to combat severe arthritis and degenerative spinal disease.
Stories like this one have become more and more common across the nation as people who were once hard on drugs come to realize that not only does marijuana have a plethora of benefits for various diseases and health conditions, but that the people they care about can benefit from the drug, too. Sometimes all it takes is to see how the drug can benefit someone in the community. Jack Splitt was instrumental in changing marijuana laws before the teen’s passing last year. Cyndimae Meehan, a teen with Dravet Syndrome who changed the minds of hundreds of people who knew her, also passed away last year due to a seizure.
Time and time again, it’s been proven that to make people understand an issue and support it, it has to be made personal. Weinholtz emotionally asked the press, "What would you do if the person you love most in the world was faced with that decision? Would you report them to the police? Would you insist they stop and live with pain too severe to sleep at night?”
Unfortunately too many politicians see the error of their ways too late, after they’ve ruined thousands of lives with their War on Drugs, ridiculous policies and fear campaigns. How many lives could have been improved with the inclusion of medical marijuana, or simply saved without incarceration? How many families would not have been torn apart over mere pot charges?
In order to push for decriminalization and full legalization, constituents should keep the following tips in mind.
- Keep it personal. Share your personal stories with legislators, not only in letters and phone calls, but in person. If you or a loved one has been affected by marijuana laws, show your legislator face to face.
- Debunk the myths. Use a handy fact sheet like the one at Drug Policy to show your legislators that many of the truths they cling to, as Obi Wan Kenobi said, depend greatly upon their point of view (just don’t tell them in that way). Point out that myths like pot being a gateway drug or being as bad for your health as alcohol are simply not true.
- Provide your government officials with facts about how helpful pot is in terms of health as well as in tax revenue possibilities. Some politicians will stay hardened until that almighty bottom dollar is met so appeal to those interests as well.
- Don’t let up. Staying focused on the issue and pressing for it every week (every day if you can) is the best way to keep the momentum you gain going.