The ABCs of CITIZEN ADVOCACY by Americans For Safe Access for You.
Citizen lobbying is an essential part of being a medical cannabis advocate and it is the only way elected officials will know how to represent you. It is true that the issues surrounding medical cannabis are politically polarizing and may not be the number one issue for elected officials. But buying into defeatist attitudes concerning representation or conspiracy theories about our opposition has paralyzed our movement for years. Most elected officials have never met a medical cannabis advocate and have formed opinions about the issue based on media reports or our opposition. It is easier for elected officials to fall into intellectual or ethical stances against medical cannabis if they do not have a face to put with the issue. That is where you come in! In the truest definition of democracy, our elected officials represent their constituency in government. Their constituents have thousands of needs. If you are not asking them to add medical cannabis to the list there is no need for them to advocate for you.
WHY CITIZEN LOBBY?
It is natural to feel intimidated about contacting your elected officials. But the strength and power politicians have is derived directly from the constituents who elected them into office. Legislators are elected to represent your views and they want to hear from their constituents.
More than ever, elected officials are focused on learning about how a particular piece of legislation will impact their constituents. And there are more ways than ever for constituents to express their viewpoints to elected officials, including but not limited to: letters, phone calls, email, YouTube, Facebook, Town Hall forums, Twitter, campaign events, visits to the member's office, and more.
As a voter, you possess the most effective tool to influence change: your vote. As a constituent, you have the power to hold each representative accountable on the issues that affect you. But our democracy is not a spectator sport! If you want change, then you have to talk to the people elected to make our laws.
As a medical cannabis advocate, it is important that you understand your power and know how to use it! You Have the Power—Not Lobbyists According to a survey of congressional staffers conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation in 2015, members of Congress are more likely to be swayed on an issue by concerned citizens who visit, write, or call their offices than by the efforts of paid lobbyists. As it turns out, citizens have more power than they realize!
The survey report, Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill, provides valuable insight about how crucial the work of grassroots advocacy is to manifest change and about which tactics work best. For instance, nearly the entire sample of respondents, 97 percent, agreed that personal visits from constituents had "some" or "a lot" of influence on an undecided Member—more than any other influence group or strategy.
In fact, visits from constituent representatives, like lobbyists, came in second. Close examination of the survey reveals that even personalized letters, e-mails, phone calls, and questions or comments at town hall meetings by constituents were more likely to change a member's mind than the efforts of a lobbyist.
The study also explored the type of advocacy that staffers believe is most effective. Turns out that content matters more than medium. Specifically, staffers indicated that handwritten or personalized notes— even when they are fewer in number—have a bigger impact than form letters and emails crafted by influence groups.
The point is, your lawmakers want to hear from Y-O-U! They want to know how the growing divide between state and federal medical cannabis laws is affecting you and your family. They want to know what legislation would help their constituents and why. They want to know why changing federal law is important to you!
Medical cannabis advocates are not the only people talking with legislators about medical cannabis law and policy. Elected officials are hearing from police organization, medical cannabis opponents, Chamber of Commerce, and members of special interest groups opposed to the use of cannabis even for medical purposes.
It is important for all medical cannabis advocates to think about the following questions:
" Without hearing from you, how will your legislator know what is important to you?
" Do you want to trust decisions about access to medical cannabis solely to lobbyists and policymakers?
Each one of us and every individual who holds a state license that authorizes the use or provision of cannabis for medical purposes is breaking federal law.
The point is that YOU ARE the patient, the physician, the caregiver, the provider, the lawyer, the nurse, or family member who is affected by medical cannabis laws and policy. You are THE VOTER with the power to hold elected officials accountable for their positions on policy matters. And you are the expert about how these laws and policies affect your daily life.
So if you are not talking with you elected officials about medical cannabis, then ask yourself, "Who is?"
HOW TO FIND AND CONTACT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES IN THE NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE.
Where is the Roundhouse?
Physical Address: 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Parking is FREE and is available Monday through Friday at 420 Galisteo St.
Click here for a map.
New Mexico Legislature Website Video Tutorials
Video on How To Find Your Legislator:
Video on How To Find Legislation:
Links To Find Your Legislator Contact Information
Call and email your Senator in your district and call the Roundhouse for your voice to be heard. Senate Chamber main phone 505-986-4714 and general email: email@example.com
Call and email your House of Representative member in your district and call the Roundhouse for your voice to be heard. House of Representatives main phone number 505-986-4751 and general email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the Legislative Council Service for general questions about the Legislature.
Contact the Governor
“Dear New Mexicans and Visitors, I am committed to listening to your concerns and working to answer your questions. Therefore, the Constituent Services division within my office has been directed to professionally and efficiently assist in answering your questions and responding to your requests of state government.
My staff is here to serve you and will do everything they can to address your concerns.
Please do not hesitate to call my office at 505-476-2200 to speak with a Constituent Services representative or fill out the form below and we will contact you in a timely manner.
Sincerely, Governor Susana Martinez”
TIPS FOR CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATOR - THE BASICS
Medical cannabis is just one of many issues your legislator is concerned with at any given time. Make certain that the information you are providing is direct and accurate. Never lie or provide inaccurate information. If you don't know something, be honest about it. You can always locate the correct information after the meeting and use that as an excuse to follow up in the future.
In most cases, you will have a limited amount of time to make your pitch. Keep it short, and keep it simple! It is extremely difficult to relay ten pieces of information in three minutes. It is even more difficult to comprehend ten pieces of information in three minutes. Thus, it is vital that you think carefully about two or three main talking points you hope to communicate—and stick to these points throughout your advocacy.
Whether you agree or disagree with your legislator it is important that you maintain some level of respect. Your goal as an advocate is to create a safe space for your legislator so that tough choices can be made with confidence. It is important that you go out of your way to be a positive resource for your legislator. Be punctual and patient. Don't lie or exaggerate. Don't argue or raise your voice. Don't be rude or obnoxious.
Be proactive and responsive. Follow up your meeting with a thank-you letter that outlines the various topics covered during the meeting, reiterates any commitments your legislator made, and includes any additional information or materials requested during the meeting. Also, you should use this opportunity to accurately communicate any information you didn't readily have available or didn't know during the course of your meeting. When communicating with your legislators, do not feel that it is your responsibility to be a "know-it-all.” A few short position statements about why you support or oppose a specific piece of legislation will suffice. Always give your legislator your name, address, and telephone number so that they know you are one of their constituents. Be sure to include this information whether you visit in person, call, or write. Most importantly, be accurate, brief and courteous when communicating with your legislators. Remember, legislators are people, too!
Timing is very important.
If the legislation you are concerned about is imminent, contacting your legislator quickly by phone or email can be very effective. However, if you have time, take advantage of other influential tactics, such as writing a letter, attending a city or county council meeting, calling your legislator's office or meeting directly with your elected leaders. The key is to use timing to your advantage with each tactic you use.
Voice Your Position and Ask for Action!
Legislators frequently act on behalf of their constituency. Even if your legislator does not currently support your position it can be extremely helpful to contact them on a regular basis. Make your concerns vocal, and always ask for your legislator for an action.
Know the Issue.
Legislators have several issues they are concerned with at any given time. Make certain that you are relaying concise and accurate information. Prepare and distribute information based on sound, scientific research. Ask questions about your legislator's feelings toward a particular issue, and be ready for your legislator to ask you questions about your position.
Listen & Share Information.
It is very important to listen to your legislators. Really understand what their positions are and why. Relay any information you receive from your legislator to the members of your organization, community, family and friends. Information helps to shape future talking points and also helps to broaden the audience.
Dos and Don’ts
• Lie or exaggerate
• Waste time
• Be a know-it-all
• Make promises you can't deliver
• Be argumentative
• Burn bridges
• Relay accurate information
• Make your arguments brief
• Be courteous, punctual and patient
• Make yourself a resource
• Choose 2 or 3 main talking points, and stick to them!
• Ask for a specific action
• Use time wisely
• Listen & share information
• Follow up: always write a thank-you note
Writing Your Legislators, Governor, Or US Congressional Members
A letter to your lawmaker is next most effective and the most common form of communication. Writing letters helps create a paper trail. Most letters are noted and answered by legislators or their staff. The amount of mail received by a legislator ("mail count") sometimes helps to determine his or her approach to an issue. Here are some tips to get started.
Be clear and concise.
The purpose for writing the letter should be stated in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly.
Be specific. Ask for action.
Tell your legislator exactly what action you want taken, and give the reasons for your position. Do not hesitate to cite your own experiences or how the proposed legislation will directly impact you. If you are an expert in a particular field (i.e. a doctor, lawyer, patient, etc.) mentioning that can help to build credibility.
Include supplemental information.
Enclosed with the letter you can include related editorials, news articles, research studies, letters to the editor, or other supplemental materials that support your position or generally relate to the issue you are concerned with.
One issue at a time.
Address only one issue in each letter, and, if possible, keep the letter to one page. Also, thank your legislator in advance for the consideration s/he will give to the issue.
Knowledge And Awareness
Knowledge can be equated with the contents of consciousness, in the present, future or past. It consists of elements of the phenomenal world and their interrelationships. As such it can be fully described and communicated and also explained within the current scientific paradigm, at least potentially.
Awareness, on the other hand, is a label we use to refer to the subjective nature of consciousness. What is called the hard problem of consciousness. The fact that there is something that it is like to be conscious. This aspect of consciousness cannot be explained within the current scientific paradigm, the best that science can do is to assume that it will be fully explained in the future as an illusion of the self-referential information processing in the brain. This is called eliminative materialism.
Other people believe that awareness is a fundamental aspect of reality, rather than produced by any process of matter or energy, noting that all phenomena of matter are inferred from conscious experiences.
Phoning Your Legislator
Contacting your legislator by phone is an effective way to show your support or opposition on a particular issue. Phone calling is most effective when you can mobilize "phone-ins" - when lots people call their legislator's office(s) regarding a specific issue within a few days or even a few hours of one another.
Be aware of timing. The most effective time to place a call to your lawmaker is close to a vote or legislative hearing. It is not required that you write a letter or have made an attempt to contact your lawmaker prior to a phone call, but it is helpful. If you have written or visited with your legislator in the past remind them or their staff of this previous contact when you call.
Write a script. Before you make the call, think thoroughly about the reason for your call. Your phone call will be short, so you really need to have an action for your legislator to make and one or two concise statements prepared to support the action. The goal is to make absolutely clear what action you want your legislator to take.
Identify yourself, make sure they understand that you are a concerned voter and tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message, for example: "Please tell Supervisor/Councilman (Name) that I support/oppose (name legislation or ordinance).
Ask to speak to the right person. Generally, a staff member, not the lawmaker, will take your telephone calls. It is important that you ask to speak with the aide who handles your issue. Make clear your position and the action you think your member should take. Feel free to ask questions and share information about your issue, however be concise and considerate.
The ABCs of CITIZEN ADVOCACY by Americans For Safe Access for You.
If you begin or renew your membership between now and January 1st(2018), we will give you an additional membership for you to share with someone else. You can think of it as a buy one get one or as half price, but the important thing is that you can take this opportunity to give the gift of ASA membership(and avoid a trip to the mall)!