Frank Discussion Cannabis Facts for Canadians Oh Cannabis!

Strategy Ideas
Ending Cannabis Prohibition in Canada

Main Objectives

1. Mainstreaming our message.
Customize our message to more effectively reach a mainstream audience

2. Stronger presence in the media & combating misinformation.
More press releases, coordinated talking points, LTE & PR teams

3. Grow and strengthen our support base.
Attract new activists, get more organized and work cooperatively.

4. Make an example of the worst prohibitionists.
Bring attention to the people and organizations that are the worst offenders; who misinform and confuse the public about the cannabis issue.

 
Objective 1: Mainstreaming our message
Utilizing a demographically-appropriate message. Customize the message to more effectively reach a mainstream audience.

There is much more potential for the mainstream to find the harms-of-prohibition message more relevant to their lives than a "pro pot" message.

Keeping the message on prohibition helps keep the conversation from getting bogged down in the "is pot harmful/addictive/stronger/gateway-drug" arguments that continue to used as reasons why cannabis prohibition should continue.

We need our message to focus at the heart of the problem... prohibition. The harms, failure and costs of prohibition are reason enough to end it. Touting the safety or benefits of cannabis, as a reason why prohibition should end, will "convince" only a small percentage of population.

The "unintended consequences" of prohibition are degrading and corrupting Canadian society. That is what we need to educate the public about. Whether or not cannabis is addictive, stronger or is a gateway drug are secondary issues.

We really need a lot of informed public on our side to make gains politically. For that, our messages need to address how prohibition affects THEM.

A key goal should be finding comfortable ways for the general public to acknowledge their support for cannabis law reform. Getting our message about cannabis prohibition to the public is possible if we come up with interesting and creative ways to get our message across.

As always, I refer back to what I think is the most important Senate Report quote for the general public to hear:

"The continued PROHIBITION of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians MUCH MORE than does the substance itself."

- Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, 2002
"Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy"
http://www.SenateReport.ca

Public opinion polls show there is considerable support for reducing penalties for cannabis possession, and a slight majority of Canadian (53% in 2008) already want cannabis legalized. And this level of support is without the majority of Canadians understanding the ways cannabis prohibition is causing harm to society. The more informed the public becomes the higher those support levels will be.

Ways to mainstream our message...

Promote the 2002 Senate Report
Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs SenateReport.ca

Solicit help from businesses - A majority of Canadians want the cannabis laws reformed. There is support out there. It may just be a matter of asking enough of them till you find one that is willing to help support cannabis law reform efforts by way of low cost, or no cost services, sponsorship of events, etc. Offer to place their names/logos on promo materials if they are comfortable with being public about their support.

Example businesses that could be a good fit:
• print shops
• sign printers
• sticker printers
• t-shirt printers
• marketing/ad agencies
• event organizers
• musicians
• audio-equipment rentals
• tent rentals
• food vendors

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Objective 2: Stronger presence in the media & combating misinformation.
• form teams to work on letters-to-the-editor and press releases
• coordinated talking points for media activists
• emphasize harms/costs of prohibition
• show that we take this issue very seriously
Ways to have a stronger presence in the media...
Form a Media Education Team to quickly and efficiently create letters-to-the-editor, press releases, talking points, etc. in a timely manner.)

Educate the media by sending them a friendly informational emails correcting inaccurate reporting and including links to further information. The easier we make it for journalists to research about cannabis the more truth will be reported. Form relationships with journalists and keep them informed/educated about the cannabis issue.

Form a network of respected experts who can be called on to counter government BS with fact-based evidence that can be quoted in the press releases.
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Objective 3: Grow and strengthen our support base.
Attracting new activists, getting more organized and working cooperatively.
Ways to grow and strengthen our support base...

Rallies - rallies can be helpful in community building efforts and showing public support for cannabis law reform, but they are often underutilized in their potential to send an effective message. Smoke-outs, especially those with young attendees, have the potential of showing us in a negative light.

Some ideas on how to more effectively utilize rallies to build our support base:
• collect emails for letting people know of upcoming rallies/events
• provide cannabis information literature
• give out info on how to get more involved
• give away "activist kits" to get people started quickly/easily
• solicit feedback on how it could be improved for next time
• make more effort to improve the optics of the rally and its attendees to encourage more mainstream participation at future rallies

Solicit feedback from activists to monitor the pulse of the activist community and adapt support and resources to evolving needs.

Provide new activists with tools and guidance so they don't get frustrated from not being able to find a way to help out. Reduce the learning curve for new activists. Experienced activists need to help guide new activists towards the best use of their efforts, with advice and assistance.

Form sub-groups to work on specific tasks (more efficient, less duplication of effort, able to quickly respond to important events, and a more focused message)
Possible sub-groups:
• Media Group (LTE writers, press releases, talking points)
• Education Group
• Legal Group
• Web Communication Groups (information distribution network, posting to web sites, forums, e-lists, blogs, social networks, etc.)

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Objective 4: Monitor the efforts of those who act as an impediment to ending cannabis prohibition.

Make an example of the worst prohibitionists.

Pay attention to the people and organizations that are the worst offenders who misinform and confused the public about the cannabis issue. Make them aware we are closely monitoring what they are saying and might call them on it.
Who are those who are vocal about their opposition to ending cannabis prohibition?
• police unions
• some politicians
• some journalists
• anti-drug lobby groups
What other factors are hindering our efforts?

• apathy on the part of the public about the CLR issue
(CLR = Cannabis Law Reform)
• not enough of the public understands that current laws are causing harm to society (see quote from the 2002 Senate Report)
• ignorance on the part of politicians about how to create a legal environment for cannabis
• the U.S. reacts with threats of border slowdowns whenever there is talk of reforming Canada's cannabis laws.
Ways to monitor and address the worst prohibitionists...
Analyze techniques that prohibitionists use to distort the truth, confuse, and mislead:

1. They confuse the issue by switching back and forth from talking about cannabis to talking about illegal drugs in general
2. They confuse the issue by switching back and forth from talking about decrim and legalization
Create a "Hall of Shame" for public figures and journalists who are the worst offenders in their statements about cannabis or cannabis policy
(present them with a "dinosaur of the year" or a "tin foil hat" award.)
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Other Strategy-related Thoughts:

GUIDING PRINCIPLES:
Formulate and use guiding principles to influence all subsequent decision-making so the outcome is effective and remains on-message.

STARTING SMALL
It will require a small group of people to work cooperatively and set a direction, leading by example, showing results and progress. Once other activists see the results of a more cooperative and organized effort more people will get involved.

SURVEYS / MARKET RESEARCH:
It's very important to collect information from the public to find out what people's perceptions of cannabis laws and cannabis activists, cannabis events, etc. Find out what type of event they would be comfortable attending or ways that we could more effectively reach them with our message.

MEASURING PROGRESS
It's important to be able to gauge a project's effectiveness in order to leaarn from it. How do we measure progress? What indications can we look for to verify progress?


• We will advance much faster working together as a cooperative. There needs to be more structure in place so our time is used more effectively and there is less duplication of effort. Becoming better organized will result in more effective activism and tangible results.

• We need to evolve faster as a movement by evaluating efforts and determining how we could improved upon tacticsfor the next effort.
Evaluate... learn... improve.

• We need more people making a small effort instead of a few people trying to do too much.

• If you want to get involved, find an activist that's already making efforts and offer to assist them with their efforts.

Summary...

We need much more public support to affect political change in cannabis laws.

Educating the general public (voters) about cannabis prohibition is a top priority.

We need to market our message to the general public using an approach that is engaging to them; designing the message specifically for a more basic level of understanding of the issue.

An anti-prohibition message is more effective at reaching the mainstream than a pro-pot message. Focus on the human and dollar costs asscociated with prohibition. We need to show them that ALL Canadians have a vested interest in ending cannabis prohibition; that it's in Canada's best interest.

 

Have some feedback on these strategy ideas?

What the future might look like...

 

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