It’s hard to get many Americans to vote, but marijuana has proven to be a great motivator. That’s why cannabis advocates are using National Voter Registration Day – which is this Tuesday, September 22 – to help try and rally support from the nation’s unofficial green party.
“Cannabis policy can be a gateway issue for people,” explains Sam D’Arcangelo, the project manager for HeadCount’s Cannabis Voter Project. “They do believe it should be reformed in some way. Things pass because people have voted. Reform is happening at the ballot box. Marijuana reform is a clear-cut example of how voting does have an effect.”
Social media has intensified political discourse – or the lack thereof – but many still feel locked out of the political process. So when it comes to actually voting Americans are dismally behind the rest of the world. In the 2016 election, less than six in 10 eligible voters actually cast ballots.
“One thing you see in this line of work is that people are apathetic about the process,” says D’Arcangelo, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s voter registration drive.
Voters in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult use though voter-led initiatives and several in other states are on the 2020 ballot. A majority of Americans support federal legalization. If voters hadn’t stepped up, none of that would have happened.
“They just feel that their vote doesn’t matter. Marijuana reform is a clear-cut example of how voting does have an effect,” D’Arcangelo says.
National Voter Registration Day is a nationwide campaign by dozens of nonprofits, and private companies to get more people registered ahead of November. It’s not the only effort. The American Civil Liberties Union announced this week it launched “Let People Vote” to encourage people to vote by mail. They’re asking its 1.8 million members to pledge publicly that they will vote in November.
But you can’t vote unless you register. D’Arcangelo calls Tuesday’s event “a final ‘Hail Mary’” to get as many people signed up as possible before Nov. 3rd. It’s being sponsored by social media outlets Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as established businesses like Wal-Mart and CBS.
If you’re not registered, you can’t vote. When trying to convince people to do that, D’Arcangelo says the main thing he tries to remember is to never act superior.
“Don’t shame people, but give them a clear reason to vote,” he says. “We’re trying to mobilize people who wouldn’t really care.”
More information about National Voter Registration Day and how you can register or get involved here.