In states where it’s legal — including Colorado, Michigan and Pennsylvania — medical and retail cannabis stores are being considered “essential businesses” and allowed to stay open. When you consider that cannabis just a decade ago was overall completely illegal, that’s some serious progress. That progress is because of the Cannabis Voter.
A majority of Americans now live in states with some access to cannabis, and they are taking advantage of it. It’s no longer a partisan issue. Oklahoma, a Midwestern red state, has had unprecedented success with its nascent medical program. Heartland states like Illinois and Michigan now allow retail sales. A recent Pew Center Research study found two-thirds of Americans say cannabis use should be legal, including 55 percent of Republicans. We’ve come a long way.
Despite all that positive movement, cannabis businesses, and even others tangentially associated with cannabis companies, are still not eligible for government relief or small-business loans during the coronavirus crisis. Why? On a federal level, cannabis users and businesses are still considered second-class citizens. Cannabis is a Schedule One drug, defined as having no legitimate medical value, and the government tells us, among other things, that cannabis is bad for growing teenage brains. On the other hand, it gives patents for drugs with cannabis to relieve symptoms for children with seizures. So, is it good, or is it bad?
The stigma around cannabis’s evils continues, and the battle to “treat cannabis like alcohol,” as Amendment 64 states, is still far from being won. Nothing you can do? Au contraire. One of the main ways people can get involved and make a difference, if you haven’t already, is by registering to vote, and even more importantly, participating in the coming election. Think you can’t make a difference? Think again. In the United States, less than 60 percent of voting-eligible Americans will even bother to vote.
One place to find out more about the situation is at Headcount, an organization that for more than a decade has been working to get voters registered, engaged and involved. Headcount uses a large number of volunteers and ambassadors to sign up thousands of voters at concerts and live music gatherings, with participation from more than 100 touring artists, Ariana Grande, Dead & Company and Dave Matthews to Denver’s Lumineers. The idea is to get people involved in the process by finding out how and where to vote, how to register and where elections are held. Naturally, those efforts are complicated by stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates in the wake of COVID-19, which make it impossible to reach voters at places like concerts and festivals. That’s where Headcount’s Cannabis Voter Project can fill the gap.
“What’s beautiful is that it’s a volunteer-based, huge network of volunteers,” says Elise Grosso, managing director of Cannabis Voter Project. “Ariana Grande has signed up more than 30,000 people just at her shows.” The goal is to get at least 1 million self-identified cannabis voters to the polls in November. With all the intrigue building about this election, including how people will be allowed to vote, it’s imperative to get as many involved as possible.”
And while the concert industry is relegated to Zoom events for the time being, Grosso says HeadCount and Cannabis Voter Project are using digital tactics to promote the message.
“For Cannabis Voter Project, our plan has always included online voter registration at dispensaries,” she says. “We find cannabis voters where they are, so we are in dispensaries and across social media with brands.”
Terrapin Care Station piloted the program, offering customers access to the Cannabis Voter Project and voter registration through its loyalty program. By declaring yourself a cannabis voter at a Terrapin Care Station or other participating dispensary, voters can remain engaged in the democratic process, utilizing essential dispensaries allowed to remain open as a point of contact to Cannabis Voter Project. By connecting with the organization, voters can stay up to date on cannabis legalization efforts, as well as glean information about candidates’ and elected officials’ stances on drug reform.
If you use cannabis, you should be interested in finding out where legislators stand on cannabis reform and vote accordingly. Registering is not difficult. You can do it when concerts return, or right now at participating retail outlets.
“With coronavirus, we have some key messaging around cannabis businesses,” Grosso says. “The message is broad, basically, ‘I’m your constituent, how do you stand on cannabis? What’s being done to help halt non-violent drug offenses?’ We have to use the tools we have.”
“We’ve registered hundreds of people to vote and connected them with valuable information on candidates and where they stand on cannabis,” says Peter Marcus, Terrapin Care Station’s communications director. “Efforts like this are important, as it keeps cannabis voters engaged, because our work isn’t over yet.”
Support those who have your interests in mind. Register to vote and get involved. That is the power of the cannabis voter.
To register to vote in this year’s elections, go to Headcount (headcount.org) or Cannabis Voter Project (cannabisvoter.info), text CANNA to 40649 or sign up at a Terrapin Care Station or any dispensary that supports these organizations.