[NOTE: This is not a typical blog post inasmuch as it documents NORML of North Carolina's strategy to legalize cannabis in the state. We aim to be transparent in our approach to law reform. More people are joining the cause every day, and the establishment's 77 year argument is crumbling. Secrecy has no value. We hope you will reach out and offer to join NORML's mission to reform cannabis laws in North Carolina today.]
By Jon Kennedy
An effective strategy is comprised of goals and campaigns. The following are the ones NC NORML strove for in 2013. Each year we will revisit the previous year’s goals and revise as necessary
Involving the Public Locally
1 – Increase the number of active, dependable chapters and volunteers with NC NORML
2 – Increase revenue coming in to NC NORML
3 – Partner with sympathetic businesses and appropriate charities
4 – Obtain signatures from registered voters to pass Lowest Law Enforcement Priority (LLEP) initiatives at the city/county/campus levels
Involving the Public at a State Level
5 – Create and fuel a public discussion about legalization across North Carolina and the South
6 – Conduct a Statewide Public Opinion Poll
Addressing the General Assembly
7 – Inform legislators of the benefits of legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalization
8 – Persuade legislators to support any bills that move North Carolina closer to legalized marijuana
Addressing NC NORML
9 – Constant Improvement of NC NORML
Campaign #1 – Increase the number of active and dependable volunteers with NC NORML
For NORML to have a chance at legalizing marijuana in North Carolina and the region, thousands of people are going to have to show support. There are various levels of activism with increasing effectiveness that each NC NORML supporter can participate at. Each level is necessary and helpful.
To really thrive, NC NORML estimates it will need a core, statewide team of about 20 or 30 dedicated individuals. These volunteers will set themselves apart from the other NC NORML activists, because they will commit to working a couple of hours every week in their role within NC NORML.
[See NORML’s “Snowflake” model of organizing local and state chapters]
Our task will be to accurately and efficiently determine the level of participation new volunteers are available and willing to commit. This goal includes an active search for well-spoken individuals with a legitimate use of medical marijuana and no record of violent crimes. Personal anecdotes are valuable when engaging legislators.
Campaign #2 – Increase revenue coming in to NC NORML
NC NORML is a member and donation driven organization. In order to support our efforts to create a statewide discussion about the benefits of marijuana legalization, we will coordinate (at least) one large event in each urban area with an active local chapter across the state in 2013. We will also have a presence at multiple like-minded events across the state. The purpose will be to increase revenue, gain new active volunteers and increase awareness about the need for a rational discussion regarding marijuana in the North Carolina.
During the fund-raising, we will be transparent with regard to where the money is going. We will provide clear cost estimates for billboard educational campaigns, statewide polls, educational and training material, radio time, and video production to explain exactly how money is spent.
As membership increases, we will be persistently looking for people to fill core and supporting roles.
There are several ways NC NORML can increase its revenue. Primarily through selling merchandise/memberships and receiving donations at…
local/campus chapter Open House
Campaign #3 – Partner with sympathetic businesses and appropriate charities
Many local business owners are supportive of the work NORML is doing in North Carolina. There are ways for these businesses to help with NORML’s legalization efforts and increase their revenue at the same time.
Also there are several charities that a significant number of NORML members support and hold dear. For instance, now that the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) recognizes that cannabis has cancer cell killing properties, cancer charities are natural organizations for NORML members to donate their time to.
We anticipate that partnerships with the right businesses and charities will help accomplish the other NC NORML goals.
With local businesses, NC NORML can…
sell NC NORML merchandise
offer % discounts at the business for NC NORML card carrying members, promoting both the supportive business and NC NORML
With charities (local, state and national), NC NORML will…
volunteer time to support charity fund raising events
donate any money raised specifically to help that charity
Campaign #4 – Pass Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Initiatives at the city/county/campus level
The number of signatures required to put a LLEP initiative on the ballot varies by city. The amount of signatures that are required in every major urban area differ. Finding this information is our first task towards accomplishing this goal.
We also will need the advice of lawyers familiar with election law. With clear direction, NORML’s team assigned to canvassing neighborhoods and petition signing will be able to clearly state our goals to inform the public, solicit donations and persuade opinion where possible.
We recognize that LLEP initiatives are largely symbolic as they do not bind a police department’s actual responsibilities. However, as North Carolina cities pass these resolutions, the legislators in Raleigh will understand marijuana reform is an issue North Carolinians support.
Campaign #5 – Create and fuel a public discussion across North Carolina and the Southeast
There are many ways to create and fuel a public discussion across the state.
Some of these include:
Blogging and guest blogging at online publications addressing all audience types
Social Media Outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
YouTube (video creation: How to… not get caught, handle police interactions, know your rights, canvass neighborhoods, talk to your friends & family about marijuana, write your legislator, persuade government officials, etc)
Mass Media (Billboards; Radio Ads; Television; Guerilla Marketing – tracts, flyers & stickers; Adopt-A-Highway)
Voters’ Guide and Tutorial on the Legislative Process
Tabling at Events and Fundraisers (Creating a visible public presence)
Canvassing and Signature Gathering
Speaking at local groups (like Rotary Club, Political Party meetings, etc)
Visibly support local businesses and charities [See Campaign #4]
Our first task (for this goal) is to design and fund one billboard in the state in a well-traveled section of highway.
Campaign #6 – Conduct a Statewide Public Opinion Poll
To better persuade the members of the NC General Assembly and Governor’s Office, a survey of how North Carolinians stand on issues regarding marijuana and industrial hemp will be required. There are various polling agencies to pull from. A statewide poll will inform NORML and government officials as to where this issue stands in North Carolina.
Update January 2013 – We organized a PPP Poll that showed 58% of North Carolinians support medical marijuana. We intend to extend our list of questions and fund new polls every few months.
Legislators are more likely to support passage of bills if NORML can refer to recent public opinion studies/surveys regarding marijuana. Our hope is that North Carolina’s support of marijuana matches the nation as a whole (i.e. a majority support marijuana legal reform).
This type of poll requires funding and proper coordination. Public Policy Polling will conduct “public” polls for $100 per question. They will conduct “private” polls at the rate of $2000 for 5 questions or $2500 for 10 questions. This polling agency was recently praised in the New York Times as being the most accurate predictor of the 2012 Presidential Election. We want our poll questions to match the same ones used in the national polls.
Campaign #7 – Inform Legislators of the benefits of MMJ legalization and Decriminalization
(This approach is adapted from the 2012 Goals of Texas NORML)
North Carolina NORML intends to send a copy of Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids <<http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana>> to North Carolina legislators. Along with this booklet, we will send customized packages with targeted facts about
Industrial Hemp (and how it can help North Carolina fill the textile industry’s void and provide other economic boosts to the state).
Medical Marijuana (its many treatments, non-toxicity and cancer cell killing properties are now recognized by the peer reviewed scientific publications and the National Cancer Institute).
The benefits of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana by adults (money and jail space saved and successes in other states).
Update Feb. 2013 – NC NORML and volunteers hand delivered legislative packets at the NC Medical Cannabis Act Legislative Day in Raleigh, Feb 12, 2013. We will be mailing the packets that weren’t delivered.
The packages will also contain a letter that lets all legislators know that we have a positive, focused, and never-ending goal to change the marijuana laws in this state, and that ALL of the other legislators in North Carolina have these educational packages on their desks. We plan for this to encourage discussion between legislative colleagues and more understanding of the concerns of their constituents.
NC NORML will need volunteer help to get as many of these packets hand delivered to the members of the General Assembly as quickly as possible.
Campaign #8 – Persuade legislators to support any bills that move North Carolina closer to legalized marijuana
NORML will have a lobbying presence at the NC General Assembly. Some of NORML’s volunteers have expressed interest in scheduling meetings with their representatives. About 30% of the members of the NC General Assembly responded to a questionnaire asking about their stance on marijuana and industrial hemp. The responders and non-responders will be contacted for in-person interviews. NC NORML will also ask if they will allow the interview to be recorded (video and/or audio).
People wanting to help NORML in North Carolina will be given a list of ways they can become involved. Writing and contacting their state legislator is one of the most basic and powerful ways for citizens to influence government action.
NC NORML will also update its existing Voter’s Guide. This guide will show readers how each Representative and Senator stands on the marijuana and hemp legalization issue.
Along those lines, at a recent rally at the General Assembly, one representative commented that the most letters he had ever received regarding any issue was 30. If all the North Carolinians who like NC NORML on Facebook wrote a letter to their House and Senate members, we would break that record in each district (on average).
In 2013 we will begin a new letter writing campaign to support passage of medical marijuana and decriminalization bills. Rather than hoping people take the few minutes to print, sign and mail a letter to their members of congress, NORML will actively guide people’s efforts start to finish.
Campaign #9 – Constant Improvement of NC NORML
Since NC NORML is a non-profit, the law requires a board of directors. Also this board provides the necessary guidance (focus and energy) of the non-profit. The NC NORML board of directors should be made up of people who
have a sincere passion to legalize marijuana and industrial hemp
are willing to be active with weekly practical work
have strong ties to the community
are diverse demographically with varying backgrounds of experience
have experience in lobbying, marketing, public relations, accounting and finance, fundraising and human relations.
A preferred board member is one that brings unique ability and perspective while taking an active role in the organization. The majority of the current board is comprised of people who are new to activism and not well-known or respected in the larger community. To be effective, NC NORML’s board should have experience with influencing local politicians and state legislators; drawing in large portions of the public charismatically; raising funds; and orchestrating multi-year strategic plans.
The current board is tasked with organizing itself effectively and finding its eventual replacements to ensure the constant improvement and growth of NC NORML.
To begin improving the NC NORML board’s effectiveness and participation, the current board will…
Develop and Abide by rules of running an effective board
For example, the current board must
develop a schedule of meetings determined six months in advance
distribute information material, including an agenda, two weeks prior to the meeting
keep meetings brief and focused
maintain thorough and accurate meeting minutes
make a clear distinction between the roles of the board and responsibilities of the volunteers
prepare a job description for individual board members
Business Plan committee
Nominating committee (for future board members)
Voter and Legislator committee
Local Chapter Outreach committee
Constantly Be on the Lookout for Ways to Improve
Good judgment comes from experience; Experience comes from bad judgment.
Have the courage to fail miserably
Learn, Commit, Do