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Leading a Cannabis Revolution

Leading a Cannabis revolution

By Kip Jarvis


A cultural revolution of sorts appears to be underway for the Cannabis movement. With state-level legalization for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, Cannabis users across the nation can feel the light breeze of change brushing against their cheek. For those of us in the other forty-eight states, we’d prefer this breeze would mature into a more encompassing, mighty wind. The question is: how do we collectively accelerate this wind of change? How do we accomplish this without our actions backfiring, losing the gains already made? How should one go about leading a Cannabis revolution, help speed this process along, and eventually set our people free?


Theory and doctrine are required guidelines for any social movement. There is a vast arsenal of similar movements and revolutions to draw inspiration from. Sifting through these can help clarify what’s best for the Cannabis movement during this pivotal point in its history. Although the nuances vary widely, most of these social movements can be divided into two groups: those of a violent flavor and those of the nonviolent one. For the Cannabis movement, we can pretty much rule out violent insurrection immediately. Not only would it be quickly crushed, but of more importance, violence runs completely antithetical to the positive perceptions of Cannabis users shared by society at large. Furthermore, any violent action done in the name of ending prohibition would create a media firestorm that would surely turn back the decades of progress made.


That leaves an organizer with a ‘nonviolent model’, and the array of possibilities that fall under this umbrella term. One of the most famous and successful manifestations of this format, in recent history, was the Indian nationalist independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. India is also the nation that did much to spread Cannabis use around the world, through the emigration of Indian laborers by the British government following the end of slavery. It is also the birthplace of the first serious government study on Cannabis use: the massive 3,500-page, seven-volume findings of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission of 1894. Accordingly, it would be uncharacteristically unjust to not look toward India for inspiration in any Cannabis-related matter.


When relating Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence to the Cannabis movement, several aspects are difficult to reconcile. Noncooperation with occupying authorities through refusal of associated employment and boycotts of British products don’t translate well — quite the opposite in our movement. More Cannabis users should seek involvement in civil service and boycott foreign or unsavory sources of Cannabis. Gandhi’s prolific use of nonviolent civil disobedience is something to emulate in a possible bid to end prohibition, done with the unwavering persistence that made him famous and helped make India independent. Of course, any actions based on this model would need to be highly organized affairs, have a substantial turnout of protesters, and carry the understanding for those involved that periodic arrest is a near certainty.


Inspired by the approach of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the most famous leader of the civil rights era in the United States. MLK’s philosophy took the ideas put forth by Gandhi and used them in a way that sought not to throw off colonial oppression, but instead to highlight the disparities of human dignity that exemplified the dying decades of Jim Crow America. This theoretical approach is a strong foundation for potential civil disobedience against Cannabis prohibition. In comparison, MLK’s movement was far more imperative than our own, but  highlighting the injustices to human dignity forced upon the responsible Cannabis user by the status quo is a compelling starting point for gaining support in any sustained movement. One cannot garner empathy without first achieving sympathy. Using this strategy would also require organization, mass participation, and the anticipation of being arrested; realities that all of Dr. King’s marches had to contend with.


If you have the leadership bug and want to organize, let this serve as a starting guide in solidifying your own piece of the action. Any solid movement must be rooted in core ideas, theory, and goals. If you possess these, you’re off to a good start. Without these, your movement will invariably falter, much in the manner of the Occupy Movement. It’s sad, but true.   


If this sounds like too much work for you, or if you find yourself devoid of leadership qualities, then at the very least go out and vote. It’s far too easy and is potentially too important to pass up. Furthermore, the image of the couch-plastered stoner needs to be overcome by action. Go a step further and be educated in your voting. National elections get the most press, but have the least impact currently on the Cannabis movement. Pay closer attention to state and local elections. Just last November, I had the opportunity to vote in a local election that decriminalized the possession and sale of up to an ounce of Cannabis on private property. Although the ballot initiative passed by just over 60 percent, the voter turnout for this election was well below the already shameful national average. I know far more Cannabis users live in my fair city than those represented at the ballot-box. Had they all shown up, the initiative could have passed by over 90 percent. This would have made policy-makers rethink their current stance on Cannabis. Pay attention to what’s up for a vote and when. Be registered to vote and know where your voting location is (it’s usually within walking distance). If it’s not a simple, ‘is weed cool?’ type of question, do a bit of homework on the internet to know what you’re voting for. Then mark your calendar and on the big day make it your unwavering mission to get off your ass and vote.