10 Tips for Parents (and Others) Advocating for Medical Marijuana Law Reform
Welcome to Parent Views. This post is part of an occasional series about medical cannabis in Texas, activism and the caregiver’s role in implementing CBD treatments, written by parent Terri Carriker, whose child has intractable epilepsy. Read more of this special series here.
I’d like to share my 10 biggest takeaways from efforts to bring legal medical cannabis to Texas, to help those advocating for law reform, including parents of children diagnosed with epilepsy and other debilitating illnesses.
1. Be careful with affiliating yourself with groups that also seek recreational use, especially in conservative states. The reason: They have their own agenda, which may not always align with yours, and your message can get lost in theirs. However, because they have a broader base of support, they have been the ones able to get legislation written, filed and introduced in other states. So don’t shun them, but don’t represent them with full-throated support, either. Check their websites to see where they stand.
2. Being able to talk knowledgeably about the most recent research on medical marijuana and its effects is vital. Look for articles that cite scientific, peer-reviewed and published research, and then find those original studies. Check dates to find the most recent ones you can. Legislators (and family members and friends!) want current information.
3. Ask for written statements from supportive medical professionals, and ask them to share that information with lawmakers, as well.
4. Find parents in your area who share your goals. Write and share brief testimonies of what your children have been through, including attempts to use traditional medicine, devices, diets and side effects. Try to make sure the account fits on one page, which we were told by helpful legislative staff members would make them more appealing and easier to read. A must: Add pictures so the stories have a face. Also remember that there is strength in numbers: 10 moms sharing similar stories build a narrative that lawmakers remember. They need to understand why changing the law is necessary.
5. Research state lawmakers. Find out what their professed mind-set is on issues and capitalize on it. For example: If they often endorse states’ rights, then ask for “medical freedom.” Visit these lawmakers in twos and threes; we found that one person isn’t enough, but 10 can be overwhelming. You’ll likely talk with a staffer first—that’s OK. Ultimately, though, shoot for the policy person.
6. Start an email campaign. Get friends and family in your area to email lawmakers asking them to support legislation. Be clear and simple in the request to the lawmaker: Do you want him or her to file legislation? Or would you like them to support legislation that’s already been filed? Or lobby fellow lawmakers for support?
7. Develop a relationship with your own state representatives (Senate and House) and their staff members, including the administrative staff. If they support you, they’ll be a great resource. You can find out from them which lawmakers will easily support the initiatives, and which need to be convinced. Be genuine with them. Remember, they see a lot of schmoozers. If they remain hesitant, or even opposed, ask questions or address their issues: “Please tell me what is still a concern for you” or “Tell me what it would take for you to be fully on board with this.”
8. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. Promise to deliver additional information, and then don’t drop the ball. Get it to them as soon as possible.
9. Always follow up legislative visits with a “thank you” note. Everyone welcomes hearing that their time and energy is valued and appreciated.
10. Be patient and persistent. The legislative process takes a long time, and you will almost certainly experience setbacks.