A Cry For Help

Dear NORMLTN:

Man Writing LetterI am writing on behalf of Seth Green’s Petition in East Tn. People are working very hard to get Medical Marijuana Legalized in Tn. from our side of the state. It would help VERY much if you all could help us out. Myself I have Crohn’s & getting my Cannabis off the street & would LOVE to get it Legally, because without the Cannabis I can’t eat don’t feel like doing anything. It is amazing what a difference it makes in so many people’s lives. IF there is any way you can help us out we would be VERY grateful.!~!~!~! Thank You for taking the time to read this.!~!~!~!~!~!~!

Rita.

Dear Rita,

You are not alone.  Many people across the State of Tennessee are in the same position.  We need to band together to solve this problem. One of the most effective things you can do at this time is to write a letter to your state representative and tell him or her just exactly what you said in your email. This is our best and most powerful tool in changing minds and hearts in the legislature. It will take LOTS of letters, LOTS of visits and LOTS of us getting off our rears to actually DO something about it.

Please read the info below on letting our legislature HOW important this is to us. I have reposted an earlier blog from Scott (below) with a link on who your state legislator is, and how to write about this issue in a respectful way. But PLEASE, don’t just stop there.

 Once you written and sent your letter, now send it to an many of your friends as you can and ask them to send their version to their state representative. Then  ask them to give the same instructions to THEIR friends.   This way we can build a ground swell of public opinion and make the changes we want. Together we can change the laws in TN!

Please do continue to write to us, and let us know how it’s going.  Our hearts are with you and everyone who suffers with illness that medical cannabis helps. Our hearts are with those in prison because of unjust and unfair drug laws. The internet is a powerfully ally in our fight and we must get the word out. Get our letters and emails out and support medical cannabis in TN. Your letter is the first step and we thank you deeply for writing to us and to your representative.

THAT is medical cannabis activism!

Sincerely,

Dan Jones,

NORMLTN, Nashville.

Activist Training Guide

Tennessee NORML – A Preparation for the 2013 Legislative Session

By Tennessee NORML

(Thanks to Texas NORML for lots of these ideas)

Click here to download this in a printable form (Microsoft Word).

The only way to change marijuana laws in Tennessee is through the legislature. The Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate meet every two years.

It is an intense process. A bill must first be sponsored and introduced by a House Member and/or Senate Member with as many co-sponsors as possible. Next, the bill will be assigned to a committee; then brought up for a vote and approved by that committee; then calendared for a vote on the floor, and finally approved by a majority of the House and/or Senate members. That process must happen in both the House and Senate before it moves on to the governor’s desk to be signed, not signed and enacted by default or vetoed.

Tennessee’ constitution does not allow for voter initiatives such as the one that made Prop 215 (California’s Medical Marijuana Law), possible.

The Keys to Change in Tennessee Are:

  1. VOTE for who is most likely to support a positive change in marijuana law. This means doing your homework about each candidate to see how they stand on other personal and social rights and how progressive they are. It is also an excellent idea to call their office (existing or campaign) and ask the question directly, “Do you support a change in marijuana law that will enable it to be regulated and available for adult/medical use?”, as an example.
  2. CALL and WRITE to your current legislature to tell them you are educated, interested and active. Call or write them as often as you’d like but stay on topic and professional.
  3. VISIT your current legislators. It may sound like a big step (and it is) but regular people do it all the time. It is how laws get changed!

The following three pages contain a strategy for: writing your representative/senator, making a phone call to your representative/senator’s office, and visiting the capitol to meet with your representative/senator or his/her senior staff. The first step is finding the contact information for your representatives!

Locate your Senator/Representative’s Contact Info:

Visit This Website: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/legislators/

Enter your address and click the button that says Search. It will list your Tennessee US Senator/Representative,

Tennessee State Senator, Tennessee State Representative, and Tennessee State Board of Education member. Click on your Tennessee State Representative’s and/or Senator’s name. This will take you to their respective website. This page will give you the address, phone number, website, etc.

Write Your Representative and Senator

Once you have located your Representative’s address information, look below the Representative’s name and there is also a button that says Email. You can choose to mail a hard copy letter or to email your letter to your Representative. Simply fill in requested information and paste in the body of the letter. It is very important to write your Representative from your District. You elect this person and they are interested to hear what you think.

Etiquette Guidelines:

Always

  1. Be courteous and respectful without gushing.
  2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly.
  3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
  4. Keep your letter short — one page is best.
  5. Represent yourself as an individual voter, not as a representative of NORML or any other organization.
  6. You want your message to count individually.
  7. Use specific examples, a personal story, and evidence to support your position.
  8. State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
  9. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.
  10. When addressing your envelope, please address it to The Honorable (full name of Representative), followed by their address.

Never (ever)

  1. Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point.
  2. Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
  3. Demand a response.

Next is an example of a letter you can fill in and send to your Representative.

Your Name
Your Address Line 1
Your Address Line 2
Letter Date

To Honorable (Representative/Senator’s Name)
Address Line 1
Address Line 2

To The Honorable (Full Name),

I am contacting you concerning the legalization of prescribing Medical Marijuana and/or the decriminalization of Marijuana and industrial hemp. This is the most important issue to me and I reside in your District.

Medicinal Marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C. enabling doctors to legally prescribe relief to patients suffering from cancer, MS, diabetes, arthritis, and AIDS and a variety of other ailments, depending on the laws enacted. There have been over 17,000 published papers on the scientific and medicinal value of this plant. It is unquestionably the safest drug known to man.

Hemp (a non-psychoactive variety) produces a much higher yield per acre than its competitors and is of superior quality for making textiles, rope and paper. Hemp requires few pesticides, and no herbicides, making it a more environmentally friendly choice. Scientists estimate hemp can produce 80 to 130 gallons of biodiesel per ton of biomass. Based on the appearance, growth, method of harvesting and chemical makeup of hemp, it cannot be confused with its psychoactive cousin, even from a great distance.

In 2007, the state of Tennessee arrested nearly 23,000 individuals for marijuana offenses, with 82% of those for possession only, a non-violent offense. Imagine the funds that could be saved if these citizens were not being caged on our taxpayer dollars!

I am asking you to introduce and support Medical Marijuana, marijuana decriminalization, or marijuana legalization legislation. It is what is right for our District, our State and most importantly the individuals you represent.

Thank you for your representation and taking the time to consider my letter.

Sincerely,

Your name

(Include email and phone number if desired)

Call Your Representative and Senator

Follow the instructions on page 1, Locate your Senator/Representative’s Contact Info, for locating your Representative/Senator’s phone number and biography. It is important to make notes prior to your call. Do some research and be prepared with the points you want to make. Some ideas and examples are provided below to get you started and help you plan your call. Please remember during your phone call to represent yourself as an individual voter, not as a representative of NORML or any other organization. You want your message to count individually and to pile up with all the other individual voters who contact this representative, not to be lumped in as the opinions of one group who they’ve already heard from.

You want to represent yourself as a voter, in the elected officials’ District. If you would like to learn more about your Senator/Representative prior to contacting their office, click on their name, which will link you to their website and you can find their biography, research the Bills they have authored, co-authored, or been supportive of in the past, as well as other relevant information. This will give you a good idea ahead of time regarding where they stand on a variety of issues (even if marijuana or drug issues are not covered; look for freedom, environmental, even economic issues). This is also a good place to look when researching candidates before voting.

Think ahead and tailor your phone call to be relevant to any issues which may be recent or pending in Tennessee, your community, or those that you feel would strike a chord with the official you are contacting, based on your research. For example, 2013 is a legislative session in Tennessee, there is sure to be at least one proposed medical marijuana Bill come across your representatives’ desk looking for support. You will almost certainly be speaking to a staff member, and not your Representative/Senator personally, but your message will be delivered. Make sure they know that you are a voter, in their District, that you are informed and concerned about this issue. You know that there will be an opportunity for them to show their support and you would like to see them do so, if they do not, you will not support them when they seek re-election.

You can also use some information from your research of your Senator/Representative’s history. I noticed that my Representative has been involved in supporting a variety of Bills with regard to wind and solar energy, which would indicate to me that he’s environmentally conscious. I would consider using that information in my phone call by mentioning the potential benefits to our environment through the multiple uses of hemp as an alternative resource.

Whatever approach you take, keep your message clear and concise, don’t get emotional or discourteous. The person you speak to will be listening and taking your message down. That is their job; they are not going to debate you. The staff member taking your message is an employee who needs to advise their boss of the wants and needs of the voters who put him/her in office. You have legitimate reasons to bring a stop to prohibition. Consider your own personal feelings and motivations for marijuana law reform and remember to reference specific instances in your life, such an ill family member who may have benefited/or could have benefited from medical marijuana, as an example.

Visit Your Representative and Senator’s Office

Follow the instructions on page 1, Locate your Senator/Representative’s Contact Info, for locating your Representative/Senator’s phone number. Call their office and make an appointment, with their staff, to meet. They will ask you what you’d like to discuss and for your complete contact information. Be prepared with this information.

Basics:

  1. Dress professionally as though you were going to a job interview for a business position.
  2. Arrive 5-10 minutes early.
  3. Have your talking points and notes prepared.
  4. Consider some of the concerns your legislator may have regarding the specific type of marijuana legalization you are going to discuss with them. Have a few counter points to common misconceptions, in your back pocket in case they are brought forth.

Etiquette Guidelines:

Always

  1. Be courteous and respectful without gushing.
  2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your visit. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly.
  3. Use specific examples, a personal story, and evidence to support your position.
  4. Represent yourself as an individual voter, not as a representative of NORML or any other organization. You want your message to count individually.
  5. State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
  6. Thank the member for taking the time to meet with you.
  7. When addressing your representative, address them as Representative  Last Name.

Never (ever)

  1. Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point.

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