The Many Faces of Marijuana Advocacy

In the simplest terms, an advocate is a champion for a cause—a person or a group of people with the goal of influencing a larger population, be it on an economic scale, political scale or just to sway public opinion. Groups advocating for marijuana legalization seem to be making headway, though the current state of marijuana’s legality is anything but a sure thing.

Despite recreational cannabis now being legal in four states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana now being legal in 23 states, there is still considerable resistance. Politicians such as Gov. Chris Christie, a presidential hopeful, has stated his wish to reinstate federal laws to states that have overturned them, despite public opinion having swayed towards favoring marijuana legalization.

In fact, in a March 2015 study done by the Pew Research Center, the support of marijuana legalization is shown to have become the popular opinion. The Pew Research Center came to this conclusion by using its own research in addition to historical data from both Gallup and the General Social Survey, going back as far as 1969. The numbers presented have drastically changed since 1969, when 84 percent of those polled held that marijuana should be illegal. There was steady decline in opposition during the late 1970s and 1980s, but opposition jumped up to 81 percent by the early 1990s.

However, the sharpest change in numbers happened between 2010 and 2015. Around 2010, 63 percent polled thought marijuana should be illegal, where as 32 percent thought it should be legal. By 2015, however, 44 percent were in favor of marijuana’s illegal status and 53 percent were in favor of legalization.

Advocacy groups have helped sway this opinion, the largest of which is the Marijuana Policy Project. The MPP has been active since 1995 and its goal is to end federal marijuana prohibition in favor of allowing individual states to establish their own marijuana policies and regulations much the same as laws regarding alcohol. The MPP has helped states like Colorado and Alaska reform their laws, and has been able to reach some of its goals by lobbying politicians and appearing at events like The Cannabis Business Summit and Expo. The National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade association advocating a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry, hosts this event.

There is also an alternative side to advocacy that does not necessarily complement the professional organizations that are attempting to legitimize the industry. In Washington state, Jonah Tacoma runs a company called Dab Star, which sells products that promote dabbing, a consumption method for a highly concentrated form of hash oil made using butane. While some experts consider this a dangerous practice because the THC levels can reach upwards of 80 percent, the process of making it is highly volatile and can lead to severe burns, fires and even explosions.

Tacoma recently made the news when he filmed himself going through the drive thru of a fast food restaurant in Washington and offering payment in the form of a dab. After Tacoma posted the video a month later and it went viral, both workers that accepted the trade were fired.

Tacoma’s approach to advocacy will leave most viewers shaking their heads because of the negative issues raised by his actions as opposed to the positive. The attitudes portrayed encourage the irresponsible use of marijuana. While it is true that the employees who were terminated were not forced to do the drug, it is more concerning that an “advocate” of marijuana proudly filmed himself smoking while driving—an act illegal in all states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

The important thing to be aware of as an American voter is that there are many aspects to every argument, some good and some bad, and it is everyone’s duty to be educated on the issues. With such a vast change in public opinion in the past few years, marijuana is proving to be a cause worth taking seriously.

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