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Advocacy Partnership: Introducing New GrassRoots

New GrassRoots, every voice counts. Photo: Priscilla Du Preez
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Kathryn Blume 1 Mar 2018

The Need

As many of our readers, members, partners and followers know, robust cannabis advocacy is a significant part of Heady Vermont’s mission. While we’re glad to have a medical marijuana system in place and happy that the legislature finally passed legalization for personal use, the story hardly ends there.

All of our current legislation can be improved, we don’t yet have a tax and regulate system in place for a commercial cannabis market and there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done to ensure that Vermont’s entire legal cannabis framework is socially, environmentally and economically just. After all, when we say Elevate The State, we really do mean for everyone.

While we don’t have a team of highly paid lobbyists roaming the statehouse on a daily basis, what we do have is People Power, and access to a broad cross section of Vermonters who share our love and respect for cannabis, and who have similar goals when it comes to making sure that all our legislation reflect the Vermont spirit.

The Challenge

The tricky part — as anyone who’s ever done political organizing knows — is that translating mass interest into collective action is no simple feat. Many people will tell you they care about an issue, but it’s often a colossal lift to get them to actually pick up the phone and call their legislators.

Some folks are shy, some folks fear not being expert enough in the issue, some fear the person on the other end of the line will get mad or challenge them, and for some, making phone calls just isn’t, you know, sexy.

Unfortunately, the alternatives to calling — petitions and emails — are mostly digital noise for legislators. However, when they hear your actual voice, you become human, your emotions connect with theirs and influence happens.

So, calls are absolutely necessary and calls are totally intimidating. However shall we bridge the gap?

The Solution

Enter our friend Ben Brown and NewGrassRoots. Ben has spent the last few years developing a platform that’s kind of like a cross between Change.org and Kickstarter, and is designed to make the process of calling your legislator as easy and painless as possible. Fortunately, he’s done a bang-up job.

The secret sauce here is that when we ask you to make a call, and you go to the NGR website, you’ll be able to record a voice message which gets sent to your legislator.

Bottom line: you can take meaningful action and never have to talk to a live human being! Seriously. How many problems does that wipe off the map? Pretty much all of them!

We’ll be able to keep track of how many calls get made on a particular bill or issue, and hold legislators accountable if their votes don’t reflect the will of the people they’re representing.

We’re increasing transparency in the political process as well as increasing public participation, and we’re excited to have the citizens of Heady Nation on board!

What’s Next?

If you’re feeling adventurous and techno-savvy and want to go sign up on the NGR website this very moment, go right ahead! It’s a simple process. If you can Facebook, you can NGR.

If you feel like you need a little more information, hand-holding, and/or detailed instructions, check out our NGR tutorial below. It’ll give you all the support you need to sign up and feel ready to participate.

The Campaigns

We’re starting with two different campaigns for you to call about. You can pick the one you care about the most or do them both. The campaigns are:

Oppose Amendment to S.216

Currently, medical patients can grow four mature and fourteen immature plants. There’s an amendment being considered which would restrict medical patients to what Vermont’s recreational users will be allowed come July 2018: two mature and four immature plants.

This wouldn’t be enough for most medical patients, who’d be forced to buy the expensive and more limited varieties of cannabis products at the dispensaries, or turn back to allopathic remedies like opioid pain medications, which they have already found to be far less effective – and frequently addictive.

Oppose H.237 Saliva Testing

A new bill, H.237, would establish saliva testing — an unproven and unreliable determinant of real-time impairment — as a legitimate and legal method of determining driver impairment.

The collection of saliva (and therefore genetic material) from Vermont motorists represents a direct violation of civil liberties, and we oppose it.

Because we think volunteering and advocacy are so important, we’re launching a whole program (more on that soon) to track everyone’s volunteer activities and assign them point values. Amass enough points, we’ll send you all kinds of great swag, and you’ll get a free Heady Vermont membership.

In the case of NewGrassRoots advocacy, point values work out to:

  • Sign up for NewGrassRoots: 2 points
  • Call legislators through NewGrassRoots: 3 calls/month for 6 points
  • Share NewGrassRoots campaign on social/email: 1 share/month for 2 points
  • You’ll even be able to post the audio file of your voicemail to your legislator.
  • Join a phone bank session at Heady Vermont HQ: 1 phone bank/month for 5 points

The Future

We anticipate that NGR will be a powerful tool for giving you a powerful tool for helping our civic leaders craft cannabis legislation which does the greatest good for the greatest number of Vermonters.

Thanks so much for joining us on the journey!

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