THE abcs of CITIZEN ADVOCACY by sanmelody


									       The Medical Cannabis Advocate’s Handbook

                THE ABCs of

Politics in America is not a spectator sport.
You have to get involved.
                   —Congressman Sam Farr
Citizen lobbying is an essential part of being a                   More than ever, elected officials are focused
medical cannabis advocate and it is the only                       on learning about how a particular piece of
way elected officials will know how to repre-                      legislation will impact their constituents. And
sent you. It is true that the issues surrounding                   there are more ways than ever for con-
medical cannabis are politically polarizing and                    stituents to express their viewpoints to elected
may not be the number one issue for elected                        officials, including but not limited to: letters,
officials. But buying into defeatist attitudes                     phone calls, email, YouTube, Facebook, Town
concerning representation or conspiracy theo-                      Hall forums, Twitter, campaign events, visits to
ries about our opposition has paralyzed our                        the member's office, and more.
movement for years. Most elected officials
have never met a medical cannabis advocate                         As a voter, you possess the most effective tool
and have formed opinions about the issue                           to influence change: your vote. As a con-
based on media reports or our opposition. It is                    stituent, you have the power to hold each
easier for elected officials to fall into intellec-                representative accountable on the issues that
tual or ethical stances against medical                            affect you. But our democracy is not a specta-
cannabis if they do not have a face to put                         tor sport! If you want change, then you have
with the issue. That is where you come in!                         to talk to the people elected to make our
                                                                   laws. As a medical cannabis advocate, it is
In the truest definition of democracy, our                         important that you understand your power
elected officials represent their constituency in                  and know how to use it!
government. Their constituents have thou-
sands of needs. If you are not asking them to                      You Have the Power—Not Lobbyists
add medical cannabis to the list there is no                       According to a survey of congressional staffers
need for them to advocate for you.                                 conducted by the Congressional Management
This section has been designed to help you                         Foundation in 2010, members of Congress are
understand your role in developing medical                         more likely to be swayed on an issue by con-
cannabis polices and to give you the tools you                     cerned citizens who visit, write, or call their
need to incorporate citizen lobbying into your                     offices than by the efforts of paid lobbyists.
strategic plan. Just like any other skill it takes                 As it turns out, citizens have more power than
practice. If you need help setting up meet-                        they realize!
ings, putting together lobbying materials, or                      The survey report, Communicating with
help getting up the courage to citizen lobby                       Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on
give ASA a call, that's why we are here!                           Capitol Hill, provides valuable insight about
                                                                   how crucial the work of grassroots advocacy is
WHY CITIZEN LOBBY?                                                 to manifest change and about which tactics
It is natural to feel intimidated about contact-                   work best. For instance, nearly the entire
ing your elected officials. But the strength                       sample of respondents, 97 percent, agreed
and power politicians have is derived directly                     that personal visits from constituents had
from the constituents who elected them into                        "some" or "a lot" of influence on an undecid-
office. Legislators are elected to represent                       ed Member—more than any other influence
your views and they want to hear from their                        group or strategy.
                                                                   In fact, visits from constituent representatives,
Technology has impacted the way members                            like lobbyists, came in second. Close examina-
of Congress represent their constituents.                          tion of the survey reveals that even personal-

      For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

      ized letters, e-mails, phone calls, and ques-                   ing to your Members of Congress about it.
      tions or comments at town hall meetings by                      That is sort of like chaining yourself to the
      constituents were more likely to change a                       White House gate without telling anyone
      member's mind than the efforts of a lobbyist.                   why you are participating in the action!
      The study also explored the type of advocacy                    The point is that you are the patient, the
      that staffers believe is most effective. Turns                  physician, the caregiver, the provider, the
      out that content matters                                                             lawyer, the nurse, or fami-
      more than medium.                                                                    ly member who is affect-
      Specifically, staffers indi-                                                         ed by medical cannabis
      cated that hand-written                                                              laws and policy. You are
      or personalized notes—                                                               the voter with the power
      even when they are fewer                                                             to hold elected officials
      in number—have a bigger                                                              accountable for their
      impact than form letters                                                             positions on policy mat-
      and emails crafted by                                                                ters. And you are the
      influence groups.                                                                    expert about how these
                                                                                           laws and policies affect
      The point is, your lawmak-
                                                                                          your daily life. So if you
      ers want to hear from Y-O-U! They want to
                                                                      are not talking with you elected officials
      know how the growing divide between state
                                                                      about medical cannabis, then ask yourself,
      and federal medical cannabis laws is affecting
                                                                      "Who is?"
      you and your family. They want to know
      what legislation would help their constituents                  From Opponent to Champion
      and why. They want to know why changing
                                                                      The goal of grassroots lobbying is to develop
      federal law is important to you!
                                                                      a relationship over time in order to move an
      If Not You, Then Who?                                           elected official along a range of positions. If
                                                                      you think about Congressional support as a
      Medical cannabis advocates are not the only
                                                                      continuum or scale that ranges from, on one
      people talking with legislators about medical
                                                                      end, Hardcore Opponent to, on the other
      cannabis law and policy. Elected officials are
                                                                      end, Champion, then you can begin to under-
      hearing from police organization, medical
                                                                      stand your goal as a citizen lobbyist. And,
      cannabis opponents, Chamber of Commerce,
                                                                      perhaps you can begin to realize the impor-
      and members of special interest groups
                                                                      tance of developing a relationship with your
      opposed to the use of cannabis even for med-
                                                                      elected officials.
      ical purposes.
                                                                      Elected officials are human and, like you, they
      It is important for all medical cannabis advo-
                                                                      are not easily swayed on some issues. Rarely
      cates to think about the following questions:
                                                                      do policymakers change their opinions on a
       " Without hearing from you, how will your                      matter overnight. Instead, it is a gradual
          legislator know what is important to you?                   process. It may take as many as a dozen visits
       " Do you want to trust decisions about                         or so before you've convinced your elected
          access to medical cannabis solely to                        official to move his or her position. But I
          lobbyists and policymakers?                                 promise that your chances to affect changes
      Each and every individual who holds a state                     will be greater if your elected officials know
      license that authorizes the use or provision of                 you and trust that the information you are
      cannabis for medical purposes is breaking fed-                  providing is accurate, fair, and balanced.
      eral law. Hundreds of thousands of you are
      committing an act of civil disobedience                         1. Champions All issues need a group of
      against federal law, but few of you are talk-                   lawmakers dedicated to being tireless, com-
                                                                      mitted advocates for your cause. What they

                For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

can do for you is make the case to their col-                     about two or three main talking points you
leagues, help develop a strong "inside" strate-                   hope to communicate—and stick to these
gy, and be visible public spokespeople. What                      points throughout your advocacy.
they need is good information and visible
                                                                  Courteous. Whether you agree or disagree
support outside the Capitol.
                                                                  with your legislator it is important that you
2. Allies Another group of legislators will be                    maintain some level of respect. Your goal as
on your side but can be pushed to do more,                        an advocate is to create a safe space for your
such as speak up in party caucuses or on the                      legislator so that tough choices can be made
floor.                                                            with confidence. It is important that you go
                                                                  out of your way to be a positive resource for
3. Fence Sitters Some legislators will be
                                                                  your legislator. Be punctual and patient.
uncommitted on the issues, potentially able to
                                                                  Don't lie or exaggerate. Don't argue or raise
vote either way. These are your key targets
                                                                  your voice. Don't be rude or obnoxious.
and lobbying strategy is about putting togeth-
er the right mix on "inside" persuasion and                       Do Follow-Up. Be proactive and responsive.
"outside" pressure to sway them your way.                         Follow up your meeting with a thank-you let-
                                                                  ter that outlines the various topics covered
4. Mellow Opponents Another group of
                                                                  during the meeting, reiterates any commit-
legislators will be clear votes against you, but
                                                                  ments your legislator made, and includes any
they are not inclined to be active on the issue.
                                                                  additional information or materials requested
With this group what's key is to keep them
                                                                  during the meeting. Also, you should use
from becoming more active, lobbying them
                                                                  this opportunity to accurately communicate
enough to give them pause but not enough
                                                                  any information you didn't readily have avail-
to make them angry.
                                                                  able or didn't know during the course of your
5. Hard Core Opponents Finally, there are                         meeting.
those lawmakers who are leading your oppo-
                                                                  When communicating with your legislators,
sition. What is important here is to isolate
                                                                  do not feel that it is your responsibility to be
them, to highlight the extremes of their posi-
                                                                  a "know-it-all.” A few short position state-
tions, rhetoric, and alliances and to give other
                                                                  ments about why you support or oppose a
lawmakers pause about joining with them.
                                                                  specific piece of legislation will suffice. Always
                                                                  give your legislator your name, address, and
THE BASICS                                                        telephone number so that they know you are
Accurate. Medical marijuana is just one of                        one of their constituents. Be sure to include
many issues your legislator is concerned with                     this information whether you visit in person,
at any given time. Make certain that the                          call, or write. Most importantly, be accurate,
information you are providing is direct and                       brief and courteous when communicating
accurate. Never lie or provide inaccurate                         with your legislators. Remember, legislators
information. If you don't know something,                         are people, too!
be honest about it. You can always locate the
                                                                  Timing is very important. If the legislation
correct information after the meeting and use
                                                                  you are concerned about is imminent, con-
that as an excuse to follow up in the future.
                                                                  tacting your legislator quickly by phone or e-
Brief. In most cases, you will have a limited                     mail can be very effective. However, if you
amount of time to make your pitch. Keep it                        have time, take advantage of other influen-
short, and keep it simple! It is extremely diffi-                 tial tactics, such as writing a letter, attending
cult to relay ten pieces of information in three                  a city or county council meeting, calling your
minutes. It is even more difficult to compre-                     legislator's office or meeting directly with
hend ten pieces of information in three min-                      your elected leaders. The key is to use timing
utes. Thus, it is vital that you think carefully                  to your advantage with each tactic you use.

     For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

      Develop a Relationship. Relationships are                         Know the Issue. Legislators have several
      necessary in order to influence change.                           issues they are concerned with at any given
      Advocacy is the development and mainte-                           time. Make certain that you are relaying con-
      nance of an on-going conversation to pro-                         cise and accurate information. Prepare and
      mote your position. An advocate's job is to                       distribute information based on sound, scien-
      develop a working relationship with your                          tific research. Ask questions about your legis-
      elected officials and the staffers who are                        lator's feelings toward a particular issue, and
      assigned to work on your issue. When it                           be ready for your legislator to ask you ques-
      comes time for action, knowing someone to                         tions about your position.
      call will pay off. The key is to develop a net-
                                                                        Listen & Share Information. It is very impor-
      work that can make your position heard.
                                                                        tant to listen to your legislators. Really under-
      Voice Your Position and Ask for Action!                           stand what their positions are and why. Relay
      Legislators frequently act on behalf of their                     any information you receive from your legisla-
      constituency. Even if your legislator does not                    tor to the members of your organization, com-
      currently support your position it can be                         munity, family and friends. Information helps
      extremely helpful to contact them on a regu-                      to shape future talking points and also helps
      lar basis. Make your concerns vocal, and                          to broaden the audience.
      always ask for your legislator for an action.

      Dos and Don’ts
      THE DON’Ts                                THE DOs                                        • Choose 2 or 3 main
       • Lie or exaggerate                       • Relay accurate                                  talking points, and stick
       • Waste time                                  information                                   to them!
       • Be a know-it-all                         • Make your arguments                        •   Ask for a specific action
       • Make promises you can't                     brief                                     •   Use time wisely
          deliver                                 • Be courteous, punctual                     •   Listen & share
        • Be argumentative                           and patient                                   information
        • Burn bridges                            • Make yourself a resource                   •   Follow up: always write
                                                                                                   a thank-you note

      Visiting Your Legislator
      PLAN YOUR MEETING                                                scheduling an appointment will help gain
                                                                       your legislator's full and undivided attention.
      Create a detailed plan. Decide who is
                                                                       Simply call your legislator's office and ask to
      going to be present at the meeting. For exam-
                                                                       schedule a meeting. Make certain you identify
      ple: just yourself; or, you and a few other con-
                                                                       yourself, note the purpose of the meeting,
      stituents; or, you and representatives from a
                                                                       and whether other individuals will be in
      particular organization. Also, decide who,
                                                                       attendance. Even if you can't meet directly
      apart from your legislator might be present at
                                                                       with your legislator, you can schedule an
      the meeting, like a staff person.
                                                                       appointment to meet with their staff.
      Schedule an appointment. It is much easier
                                                                       Confirm the appointment. You should call
      for legislators to arrange a meeting if they
                                                                       to confirm your meeting. Sometimes legisla-
      know who you are, what you wish to discuss,
                                                                       tors have important, last minute meetings
      and what your relationship is to the area or
                                                                       that can't be avoided. Calling to confirm will
      interests represented by your legislator. And,
                                                                       save you a trip to the office and will give you

             For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

the opportunity to reschedule.                                     keep it short and simple. It is important to
                                                                   restate the purpose of the meeting, outline
Know your issue. It is helpful to research
                                                                   the major concerns and present supporting
relevant information including any recent
                                                                   documentation. Finally, thank your legislator
studies or news articles relating to your issue
                                                                   for taking time to meet with you. It is impor-
prior to meeting with your legislator. You
                                                                   tant that your lawmaker understand how the
should develop a comprehensive understand-
                                                                   proposed legislation will personally impact
ing about the pros and cons of your issue and
know the current status of legislation. In addi-
tion, it is important to know your lawmakers                       Be punctual. It's easy to get lost in govern-
past voting record and priorities are.                             ment buildings. Make certain that you know
                                                                   where the meeting place is and that you
Be prepared. If you are planning a group
                                                                   arrive a few minutes early. If you have some
meeting, it is a good idea to have a meeting
                                                                   extra time, use it to relax and review your
with the group before you meet with the leg-
                                                                   talking points.
islators. It can be effective for your group to
select a spokesperson and maybe one or two                         Be patient and flexible. Due to crowded
others who can act as supporting roles—pro-                        schedules, it is not uncommon for a legislator
viding statistics or other anecdotes. Practice                     to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted.
your advocacy in front of the group, or have                       If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When
someone play "devil’s advocate" and ask                            the opportunity presents itself, continue your
tough questions of the spokespersons.                              meeting with a member of the staff.
Select a scribe. It is a good idea for the                         Be political. Your legislator wants to repre-
group to select a scribe, someone who will                         sent the best interests of the district. Keep
take notes throughout the meeting. It is                           your pitch short and to the point. Begin your
especially important to write down any posi-                       meeting by informing your legislator what
tion statements, questions or special requests                     action you want done. Wherever possible
made by the legislator. The scribe can also be                     demonstrate the connection between what
assigned to write the follow-up response and                       you are requesting and the interests of the
thank-you note.                                                    legislator's constituency. Ask questions to clar-
                                                                   ify any position statements made by the legis-
Outline your concerns. You represent a
                                                                   lator and be prepared to answer questions
unified front, and should present your posi-
                                                                   from your lawmaker.
tions as such. Make certain that you spend
some time before the meeting outlining your                        Leave Your Contact Info. Be sure to leave
two or three major talking points and sup-                         your personal contact information with your
porting statements. Keep in mind you will                          lawmaker or their staff. At a minimum, you
have limited time, so your arguments need to                       should include the names, addresses, and
be clear and concise. Outlining your concerns                      phone numbers of each person attending
will help you—and the group—stay focused.                          the meeting. Leaving your contact info
                                                                   allows your legislator to follow-up with you
Provide accurate information. Make cer-
                                                                   Do Follow-Up. Finally, be responsive, fol-
tain you begin the meeting by introducing
                                                                   low up the meeting with a thank you letter
yourself and anyone else participating in the
                                                                   that outlines the different points covered
meeting. Also, say again why you requested
                                                                   during the meeting, reiterating any commit-
the meeting and what you are asking your
                                                                   ments he or she has made to you and send
legislator to do.
                                                                   along any additional information and mate-
Briefly make your pitch. Remember to                               rials requested.

  For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

      Writing Your Legislator
      A letter to your lawmaker is next most effec-                     Include supplemental information.
      tive and the most common form of communi-                         Enclosed with the letter you can include relat-
      cation. Writing letters helps create a paper                      ed editorials, news articles, research studies,
      trail. Most letters are noted and answered by                     letters to the editor, or other supplemental
      legislators or their staff. The amount of mail                    materials that support your position or gener-
      received by a legislator ("mail count") some-                     ally relate to the issue you are concerned with.
      times helps to determine his or her approach
                                                                        One issue at a time. Address only one issue
      to an issue. Here are some tips to get started.
                                                                        in each letter, and, if possible, keep the letter
      Be clear and concise. The purpose for writ-                       to one page. Also, thank your legislator in
      ing the letter should be stated in the first                      advance for the consideration s/he will give to
      paragraph. If your letter pertains to a specific                  the issue.
      piece of legislation, identify it accordingly.
                                                                              Mail to a U.S. Representative
      Be specific. Ask for action. Tell your legisla-                                The Honorable (Full Name)
      tor exactly what action you want taken, and                                    House of Representatives
      give the reasons for your position. Do not hesi-                               Washington, DC 20515
      tate to cite your own experiences or how the
      proposed legislation will directly impact you.                          Mail to a U.S Senator
      If you are an expert in a particular field (i.e. a                             The Honorable (Full Name)
      doctor, lawyer, patient, etc.) mentioning that                                 United States Senate
      can help to build credibility.                                                 Washington, DC 20510

      Phoning Your Legislator
      PLAN YOUR MEETING                                                 call. Your phone call will be short, so you real-
                                                                        ly need to have an action for your legislator
      Contacting your legislator by phone is an
                                                                        to make and one or two concise statements
      effective way to show your support or opposi-
                                                                        prepared to support the action. The goal is
      tion on a particular issue. Phone calling is
                                                                        to make absolutely clear what action you
      most effective when you can mobilize
                                                                        want your legislator to take.
      "phone-ins"—when lots people call their leg-
      islator's office(s) regarding a specific issue                    Identify yourself. Make sure whoever
      within a few days or even a few hours of one                      answers understands that you are a con-
      another.                                                          cerned voter and tell the aide you would like
                                                                        to leave a brief message, for example: "Please
      Be aware of timing. The most effective
                                                                        tell Supervisor/Councilman (Name) that I sup-
      time to place a call to your lawmaker is close
                                                                        port/oppose (name legislation or ordinance).
      to a vote or legislative hearing. It is not
      required that you write a letter or have made                     Ask to speak to the right person.
      an attempt to contact your lawmaker prior to                      Generally, a staff member, not the lawmaker,
      a phone call, but it is helpful. If you have writ-                will take your telephone calls. It is important
      ten or visited with your legislator in the past                   that you ask to speak with the aide who han-
      remind them or their staff of this previous                       dles your issue. Make clear your position and
      contact when you call.                                            the action you think your member should
                                                                        take. Feel free to ask questions and share
      Write a script. Before you make the call,
                                                                        information about your issue, however be
      think thoroughly about the reason for your
                                                                        concise and considerate.

              For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

                         POLICYMAKER VISIT FEEDBACK FORM
We need your help to ensure that ASA is communicating strategically with legislative supporters, providing information to undecided
policymakers, and aware of the concerns expressed by our opposition. Please use this form to record notes for each and every visit
you have with your elected officials – it will help our National Office conduct the appropriate follow-up calls, email, and visits.
Please return these forms to: Americans for Safe Access at 510-251-2036 or email to:

Senator/Rep’s name:       ___________________________                    Member’s State: ___________
Your full name:           ___________________________

I met with (check all that apply):
         Member’s staff person
             What was the staff person’s name?                  ________________________________
             What was the staff person’s email?                 ________________________________
             What was his/her title?                            ________________________________

    Therapeutic Use of Cannabis: Do you support                      Yes           No     If no, why? (or other comments):
    the therapeutic use of cannabis as recommended by
    a licensed physician to control symptoms of serious
    and chronic illness?

    End federal raids: Do you think the DOJ’s limited                Yes           No     If no, why? (or other comments):
    resources are best utilized conducting enforcement
    raids on the individuals and non-profit collectives
    authorized to use or provide cannabis in accordance
    with state laws that?
    Truth in Trials: Would you support legislation to                Yes           No     If no, why? (or other comments):
    permit individuals facing federal prosecution for
    marijuana-related violations of the Controlled
    Substances Act to provide evidence demonstrating
    that the activities for which they stand accused were
    performed in accordance with a state law that
    authorizes the use, possession, or distribution of
    cannabis for therapeutic use?
    Medical cannabis research: Do you support                        Yes           No     If no, why? (or other comments):
    elimination of the federal government’s monopoly on
    the supply of cannabis available for FDA approved
    clinical trials in accordance with ALJ Bittner’s
    February 2007 ruling?
    Remove Cannabis from Schedule I: Do you                          Yes           No     If no, why? (or other comments):
    support removing cannabis from the list of
    Schedule I controlled substances in light of the
    growing body of research which supports the
    therapeutic use of cannabis?
    Creation of a National Strategy: Would you                       Yes           No     If no, why? (or other comments):
    support the creation of a commission or advisory
    council to provide advice, information, and
    recommendations about programs and policies to
    support safe and legal access to cannabis for
    therapeutic use and research?


         For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.

                                 POLICY SHOP ASSISTANCE FORM
      DATE: _________________ NAME:__________________________________________________________
      CITY/STATE: _____________________________________________________________________________
                                                           CONTACT INFO
      Address ______________________________________________ Phone __________________________
      Email ___________________________________________________ Cell___________________________
           (___YES, sign me up for updates)                                                   (___YES, sign me up for text alerts)

      BEST WAY TO MAKE CONTACT (please check all appropriate)

             TYPE:                                TIME:
             ___Phone                             ___Weekday Mornings
             ___Cell phone                        ___Weekday Afternoon
             ___Email                             ___Weekday Evenings
      ASA AFFILIATION (please check one):

             ___Member                            ___Ambassador
             ___Chapter                          ___Sponsor
             ___Affiliate                        ___Other

      NAME OF ORGANIZATION or GROUP (if any):______________________________________________
      # OF PEOPLE IN GROUP:________
      REASON FOR CONTACT:__________________________________________________________________
      TYPE OF SUPPORT NEEDED: (please check all that apply)

         ___drafting legislation                    ___analyzing and amending                     ___media support
         ___analyzing and amending                                                                ___field outreach
            legislation                             ___supportive materials
         ___drafting regulations                    ___strategic planning
      WHAT IS THE TIMELINE/IMPORTANT DATES: _______________________________________________
      WHO ELSE IS WORKING IN YOUR COMMUNITY: ___________________________________________
      OTHER COMMENTS: ____________________________________________________________________

             For more information, see or contact the ASA office at 1-888-929-4367 or 510-251-1856.


To top