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How To Get Your Candidate To Support Cannabis Reform


Not Greg WaldenPutting Pressure On Political Candidates Is Very Important For Marijuana Reform

This year has been monumental for political candidates coming out with favorable stances regarding progressive cannabis law reform around the country. I was at a double fundraiser recently for Oregon’s current Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum and current Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. After talking with Mr. Avakian for a few minutes I quickly realized how big of an asset he is to the medical cannabis community here in Oregon.

I quickly found out that Brad not only supports Oregons the medical marijuana program, but he has been fighting to protect patients from discrimination for having a medical marijuana card for more than 15 years as a civil rights attorney. (I should mention this kind of information is not hard to find, a simple Google search allows you to start connecting the dots as to why a candidate should endorse legalization. You don’t have to have majored in public policy or political science to make the connections.) In an interview with the Daily Emerald regarding an unfortunate Oregon Supreme Court decision allowing employers to fire medical marijuana patients, Mr. Avakian stated, “As Oregonians, we have always believed strongly in our ability to determine the right public policy within our own borders…That makes today’s decision all the more troubling, because it so seriously undercuts the law that Oregonians put in place, by initiative petition, in 1998.”

In that same article, long-time Oregon cannabis activist John Sajo said, “Just because the Supreme Court gave (employers) the right to fire doesn’t mean employers are going to fire productive workers. We do think this a very unfortunate decision — it ignores state rights, ignores the voters and allows discrimination against patients who find marijuana to be the most effective medicine for treating their ailment.” This isn’t just an issue about marijuana, it’s about civil liberties inside and outside the workplace and Brad Avakian is willing to acknowledge that and stand with the will of the voters.

I also happen to have the pleasure of working with the Joyce Segers who is running against Greg Walden for congressional District 2 in Oregon. Walden is anti-marijuana, anti- women’s rights, anti-civil rights, and anti-internet privacy just to name a few. Waldens voting record is so horridly anti-Oregon I honestly can’t believe he’s still in office.

Ms. Segers, on the other hand, has been one of the few champions of marijuana reform in Oregon with her recent endorsement of Measure 80 in Oregon. “The war on drugs is failing, costing our taxpayers 100’s of millions of dollars a year and 10’s of thousands of people needlessly incarcerated. It is time to fully decriminalize marijuana usage and end the senseless harm to our citizens and society.” Joyce has told me personally several times how passionate she is about new job creation throughout the state of Oregon, so naturally she endorses the hemp production and cultivation aspects of Measure 80 as well. If you have friends that live in Bend, Medford, Ashland or any other major city in District 2, please urge them to vote for Joyce!

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian was very approachable and out-spoken about his support of Oregon’s medical marijuana law at a recent fund raiser.

The importance of getting politicians to align themselves with the will of the voters often goes unacknowledged in the months proceeding an election, which is frustrating to say the least. But things are starting to change. The problem often lies in the disconnect between voters and their representatives, however this is rapidly changing thanks to social media.

No one ever said advocating for marijuana legalization was going to be easy, and it certainly isn’t going to legalize itself. The key is to start with the local representatives like Ellen Rosenblum, Brad Avakian, and Joyce Segers. It is their job to hear you out, not to mention most of them are fairly easy to approach in public, at fundraisers and over coffee.  Somewhat surprising, they happen to be pretty fun to hang out with as well.

If you become more vocal with your local representatives, you will naturally increase your chances of having them stand up for the issues that you care about. I say this from experience. The season for politicians coming out in favor of progressive law reform is upon us. Don’t let this unique opportunity to end marijuana prohibition pass you by.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SeriouslySamuel

This article was published with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition


About Author

Sam Chapman has dedicated the last seven years of his life to leadership, activism, progressive legal reform, and social media. He has been a crucial member of the End Prohibition Again Campaign, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, as well as a strategic framer for Occupy Eugene. Beyond drug policy reform, Chapman has served as the Associated Students of the University of Oregon Campaign Manager, College Outreach Coordinator for the Measure 74 Campaign, and currently runs a social justice organization, the Interpretive Framing Group. Chapman’s expertise also includes his ability to develop diverse networks of people through the power of social media. Chapman seeks to challenge outdated status quos and policies through his public speaking, leadership, and social media skills.


  1. I totally agree!
    I think knowing the alcohol prohibition story should be mandatory for all leaders in our legalization movement. The “Wet’s” where basically a nonpartisan organization that used legalization as a wedge issue. We all know that the 21st amendment was the end result.
    Also a fascinating bit of trivia about alcohol prohibition is, they had their own form of “reefer madness” that led to prohibition in the first place.

  2. I like your article. It touched a little on how to get politicians to listen to you.. One thing I don’t really like these days is people’s overuse of the word “progressive”, When used in politics it really means the opposite of the actual meaning of the word. Marijuana was outlawed by progressives (political) in the Progressive Era (one of the most digressive times in world history) & first attempts of re-legalization was from conservatives (political).So, when trying to get marijuana legalized we also need to remember that we truly need to leave political alliance at the door & work on those that don’t necessarily agree that marijuana should be legalized. If we don’t reduce the opposition’s numbers we will only further their anti-marijuana stance & add more height to the mountain we are climbing. If you aren’t open to acceptance of others how can you expect someone to accept you & your beliefs. Find a common ground & use that to gain some acceptance of legalization. If you are only disagreeing with someone, they won’t listen to you & won’t care about your beliefs. So, let’s find that common ground & start moving in the right direction instead of a stagnating loop.

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