For an amazing example of marijuana law reform activism, I bring you Rev. Steven B. Thompson of Michigan NORML. He and eight members of the local Benzie County NORML (in NORML t-shirts) attended a meeting of the so-called “Tea Party” where three of their candidates were hosting an open forum.
The NORML volunteers were excited to read the Mission Statement of the Tea Partiers, with references to “less government involvement in our personal lives,” “defend Constitution even to death,” “defend our civil rights,” and so forth. ”We couldn’t have agreed more!” said Executive Director Thompson.
The candidates (Sen. Wayne Kuipers, Jay Riemersma, and Ted Schendel) were given 5 minutes each to speak and then the floor was opened up for questions. Rev. Thompson asked the following:
Question #1: Do you support our medical marijuana law? All three candidates said, “I voted against it, but I support the will of the people.” (Mmm mmm, sure…)
Question #2 If elected, would you support, and/or sponsor or co-sponsor a ‘regulate & tax system’ on cannabis, much like what is already in place for alcohol & tobacco? All three candidates said, ”NO!” followed by loud applause from audience.
Thompson had another question for the sitting Senator Kuipers regarding what Kuipers called “gray areas” in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Thompson’s insisted that “There are no ‘gray areas’ in our law… The only problem is that there are those in authority who don’t like it, so THEY are saying that there are ‘gray areas’.” This led the Senator to ask Thompson and the NORML activists to speak to him after the event, so others may get their questions in. What follows is a textbook example of how to appeal to our opponents within their own frame of political persuasion:
After the meeting, we talked for about 20 minutes about various things, but none of us got arrested because we were respectful and polite and got that in return.
I asked the senator and several folks standing around us how they could have such a wonderful mission statement and then consciously trample all over OUR civil rights – wasn’t that being hypocritical?
Their answer was because marijuana is against the law and we all know that drugs are bad for you. To which I replied that they, of all people, should know that it was a God-given herbal plant (they had prayer at start of meeting) and that you couldn’t grow drugs out of the ground. Sen. Kuipers said that cocaine grows out of the ground and when I corrected him (coca grows out of the ground; it must be processed by man to become the drug cocaine), he said that he saw my point.
Now here’s the most important part as I see it. He asked me if I was stoned at that moment to which I replied that I had consumed just before I came to the meeting so that I could sit in a chair pain-free for an hour an half.
I asked, “Just what do you folks picture in your minds when you think of someone being ’stoned’?”
Sen. Kuipers said, “someone falling-down drunk!”
I couldn’t believe his answer. I said, “Do I appear drunk, irrational, or a threat in any way?”
You could see the lite-bulbs go off in their heads. ”No, you don’t,” he said.
“Well, then, therein lies the problem. You folks don’t really know what we are like when using our medicine and until we start getting together and get to know one another, you’re just going to continue to think that we are bad people and fear us!”
To which he and the others replied that I had a point. I told them that I didn’t fear them, that I loved them as my fellow human-beings and just wanted them to see the light and the truth.