Politicians want your vote. They want to do what you want them to do. However most politicians believe that supporting tough drug law enforcement wins them votes, and supporting drug law reform would cost them votes (even if they privately support it).
Half of all Kiwi adults have tried cannabis, and around one-in-six continue to regularly use it. This is a huge amount of people and we could be an influential constituency, but most supporters remain silent. They need to hear from us. They need to hear from you.
One of the most effective things you can do is write to your local MP, and even better is to visit them in person.
Letter writing campaigns to the media and elected officials are a key part of NORML’s campaign, and is something everyone can do. As few as a dozen letters can alert your representatives to promote an issue or change an editor’s mind. Well-written letters also stimulate debate among politicians and the public. By devoting as little as an hour a month, you can effectively educate, lobby and forge key relationships with politicians, the media and the public.
If everyone who supported marijuana-law reform wrote to their MP, the sheer volume of mail would force politicians to change the law. Since this isn’t the case, you need to make your letters as effective as they can be.
Writing To Your Elected Officials
Ultimately, there is only one way to persuade politicians that marijuana-law reform is necessary; their constituents must demand it. A powerfully written letter (not e-mail) is one way to do so.
When writing your elected officials, follow essentially the same steps as if you were drafting a letter to the editor. Keep your letter short and to the point: let your elected officials know exactly how you feel on this issue. Appeal to common points of agreement (e.g., I agree kids shouldn’t be using drugs, however the current law does nothing to prevent it.). We advise typing your letter, and it will have more impact if you add a handwritten postscript (e.g., Thanks for giving consideration to this issue.) as well as your home address so that the recipient understands that you are a constituent.
Most importantly, be sure to close your correspondence with a strong statement telling your representative that you will weigh his or her response in the coming election. (Remember, it’s just as important to let your elected officials know when you agree with their stance as when you disagree.) A conclusion such as: “Please let me know how you would vote on this issue. Marijuana-law reform is important to me and I will take your position into consideration at the next election” is ideal. Also, if you have previously had a letter to the editor published, be sure to clip it and send it along.
Lastly, do not be discouraged by unfavorable responses. Many politicians remain uneducated or ignorant about marijuana-law reform or mistakenly believe that most people support current policies. However, the more that you and other like-minded friends, family and co-workers communicate with your public officials, the sooner they will change their positions. Try to appeal to common ideologies (e.g., opposition to wasteful government spending, concern over adolescent drug use, misuse of valuable law enforcement resources, etc.) and do not hesitate to write follow-up letters.
Visiting your MP
This can be the most effective way to change their mind or enlist their support. Again, treat it like writing a good letter:
- Plan out first what key point or points you would like to make.
- Appeal to common points of agreement – you may not like their party, but there will be some principles you can agree on.
- Use local examples or cite local statistics. Coming along armed with a print out or two of the latest research is also really effective, especially if you can give them an interesting and concise verbal summary and leave them a copy to ponder (For example, international media often run prominent stories on the failure of the drug war; print them out a copy. Or take along a printed-pdf of the latest research backing access to medicinal cannabis.)
- Dress to impress – and try to break the stereotype of a cannabis user.
- You can take along a support person or family member.
- And you can also contact your local NORML branch for advice and support both before and after visiting your MP.