North Carolina does not have a ballot initiative process to pass laws. Instead of being able to gather enough signatures from registered voters in the state to put a referendum on the November ballot, we must persuade our legislators to pass the bills we want.
Reaching out to your representative is not difficult or time consuming, but it is extremely important to do so. It is the ONLY way the cannabis laws will change in North Carolina.
Below are guidelines to follow to make your contact with the state legislature effective and to persuade them into a new way of thinking. Unfortunately most of North Carolina’s General Assembly are against cannabis legislation because “marijuana is a drug, and drugs are bad.” They do not understand that cannabis is not a gateway drug. They do not know that it is impossible to die from overdose and chronic use of cannabis. They do not realize it is less addictive than alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. They do not know that the National Cancer Institute (Cancer.gov) recognizes cannabinoids have cancer cell killing properties. The list of benefits is long, and the list of risks is short. Cannabis support continues to grow with registered voters, but North Carolina political officers remain loyal to an old anti-marijuana propaganda. Still, we need to have compassion for our legislators’ ignorance. Anger at them hurts our cause. We must be respectful and find a way to have a reasonable conversation with them.
Step 1 – Who are my state representatives and senators ?
The first step is to know who represents you in state congress and find the ways to reach out to them (phone, email, mailing address, etc). If you don’t know who represents you, read the article “Who Represents Me in North Carolina’s State Congress“.
Step 2 – Decide if you want to call their office or send a letter
Either one will work well. Email works too, but because sending email is so easy it doesn’t have the same effect as a conversation or printed letter. Decide if you are more comfortable talking on the phone or sending a letter in the mail. If you decide to call, be prepared to maintain a calm, respectful demeanor while asking specific questions. Be prepared to listen politely, even if you don’t like the answer you’re hearing.
Step 3 (Phone Option) – Call Your Representative
Have a pen and paper handy, pick up the phone and dial the office number.
Politely ask to speak with your Representative or Senator. If asked, explain that you would like to know more about his/her stance on cannabis and industrial hemp legislation. You may be asked to call back at a certain time. If so, that’s a good sign. You’re closer to getting your conversation…
When you are patched through to the representative, thank them for their time and say you’d like to ask 3 questions. Simply ask how (s)he feels about cannabis topics that interest you. Some examples include…
1) Allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to qualifying patients
2) Decriminalizing marijuana so possession of small, personal amounts is an infraction (like a parking ticket) instead of a misdemeanor on your record
3) Legalizing industrial hemp (marijuana’s cousin plant that is used to make textiles, but can’t get you high) like Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia recently have done.
If you get a positive response from these questions, you can ask about full legalization like what’s been done in Colorado and Washington. Based on the representative’s answers to the first two questions, you’ll know if this one is worth asking.
Step 3 (letter writing option) – Write Your Representative
Writing a letter is also very effective. It should be in your own words so it doesn’t look like we’re overwhelming them with a form letter. Don’t worry too much about punctuation and grammar. Just ask these some basic questions in the letter, include facts about the plant’s safety and efficacy. Conclude that you would really appreciate their time and a response on this issue.
The letter supporting medical cannabis might read something like this…
Dear Rep. xxxxxxx
Thank you for your time reading this letter and your service to our community. I would like to know how you stand on marijuana and industrial hemp. Specifically, do you believe doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana to qualifying patients?
Did you know that already 23 states already offer similar patients protections? Additionally Washington DC recently made it completely legal to grow and possess marijuana. Moreover, in December Congress and the President signed off on language barring the Justice Department from interfering in the implementation of statewide medical marijuana programs.
Clinical trials acknowledge that marijuana possesses therapeutic efficacy. A recent review of several of these clinical trials assessing cannabis, published in The Open Neurology Journal concludes, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification (for cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
According to 2015 statewide polling, nearly 7 out of 10 residents favor allowing physicians to authorize cannabis therapy. In addition, existing law proposing for the allowance of cannabidiol (but providing no in-state supply source) for only an extremely limited number of patients has proven to be unworkable. Patients deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.
Please support HB 78 – North Carolina’s Medical Cannabis Act.
Your letter might conclude with some facts about how marijuana is non-toxic and no one has ever died from chronic use or acute overdose (compared to alcohol which kills 40,000 people every year according to the Center for Disease Control). Another nice factoid is that marijuana is less addictive than tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. You might also point out that the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) recognizes that marijuana has cancer cell killing properties.
Put the article in your own words. Stick to the facts and be respectful. The rest will come in time.
Step 4 – Tell NC NORML when you receive a response
Let us know how the representative responded. If you received a letter, it would be excellent if you could scan it and email it to us. This type of official record is great to keep on file. If you made a phone call or wrote a letter, email NC NORML a summary of the answers to the questions you asked.
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do not agree with the prohibition of cannabis and current laws, we ask that you do your part to change them.
The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. ~Mahatma Gandhi