I’ve always voted in presidential elections. And that, my friends, was the extent of my political involvement until about a year and a half ago. In the last several months I’ve refreshed all my fifth-grade civics knowledge, figured out how to track a bill, testified at hearings in Washington’s capitol, written more emails than I can count to legislators, attended town meetings, developed relationships with elected officials and encouraged “calls to action” on several occasions.
With everything involved in the cannabis industry, it’s easy to solely focus on the fire in front of you. We barely have time for anything else! However, being involved in creating policy is just as important as figuring out how we are going to comply with current laws. Take for example, a bill introduced last session stating all cannabis facilities had to be at least 1,000 feet from drug treatment centers. I understand why someone thought this was a good idea, but our business is in the industrial zone of the city and directly across the street from a correctional facility and methadone clinic. The bill would have been retroactive and all the work we’ve done would have been compromised; we would have to move! By not being involved in creating policy, well intentioned ideas can turn our entrepreneurial endeavors upside down. The bill didn’t pass, but this is just one of more than dozens of bills that were introduced to the Washington Legislature in 2015.
If we don’t have a voice and opinion, then someone else will influence cannabis policy. And from everything I’ve seen we don’t want that.
Now, don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t feel like our voices matter when the Legislature votes exactly the opposite of what we’ve been petitioning; It’s tough to sit by and watch a council member change their vote at the last minute because of their future political ambitions. We’re not going to win them all, but we have to continue to try.
Even if all you’re doing to influence policy is writing emails to legislators, sharing “call to action” posts on social media or via email, or using the age-old technique of picking up the phone and talking to someone, know that your voice and commitment to changing policy is important to your cannabis business as well as the movement.
Or maybe all you can do is vote. At the very least, vote.
Someone told me in early 2014, “If you’re not at the table, you’ll get eaten.” We all have too much riding to sit idly by and see what elected officials decide. So I ask you, are you coming and what’s for dinner?
Danielle Rosellison is part of the team at Trail Blazin’ Productions, a licensed producer/processor. She is a board member for the Washington Federation of Marijuana Businesses and the creator of the 502Cannabis Google Group.