White House Opens Its Doors To Cannabis Activists

This past Monday April 25th, at the direction of President Obama, White House officials directed two low-level staffers from the ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) to meet with members of DCMJ (DC Marijuana Justice) to discuss the group’s viewpoints and agenda. This meeting is a result of the group’s members effectively working as citizen lobbyists to shine the spotlight on the issue of cannabis de-scheduling. The group earned the listening ear of the Government in part by writing letters to the White House, but mainly by organizing a recent 4/2/16 smoke-out right on the front lawn of the White House. The highlight of the event was a 51-foot-long inflatable fake joint painted with the phrase “Obama, Deschedule Cannabis Now!” This epic gesture was surely hard for POTUS’s eye to miss when gazing out across the White House lawn from inside the Oval Office. The Washington Post wrote an article describing the event and the outcome eloquently in “Turns out, smoking pot outside the White House gets you invited inside.”

DCMJ is led by Adam Eidinger and Nikolas Schiller, and the group was instrumental in helping the people of Washington D.C. pass Ballot Initiative 71, which legalized personal possession and non-profit cannabis cultivation. Eidinger recently tweeted on 4/24/2016 an article about which he commented “I feel like @POTUS is talking to cannabis activists too.” In this article the President is directly speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement, but Eidinger believes that the President’s words also could apply to the movement to de-schedule cannabis. In the article Obama is quoted saying “The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room, and then to start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved.” He goes on to describe how the process of change can be a show and laborious process, harping on the idea of compromise in good politics. There are more than a few metaphors about compromise in politics, mostly circling around baked goods like pies (or loaves in Obama’s case), stating that it is better to have half the item than none of the item. It is this positive perspective on incremental change which can help keep the heart of a cannabis activist going strong. Even small successes are still successes.

In the case of DCMJ, it is better to have a meeting with someone official-ish willing to listen, than no meeting at all. As High Times put it, “It’s a step in the right direction, at least.” In this case the meeting came about through a means which should inspire us all. Isaac Newton described to us the laws of physics, including the idea that an object at rest stays at rest. This law holds true not just in the physical world, but in the political world. The cannabis de-scheduling movement is a large complex issue with tremendous inertia, but as the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” It is only with the support of motivated individuals that the movement will gain forward motion.

During the meeting, observers noted that the Governmental Officials did not respond to questions or speak at all, but did take notes and offer smiling faces. While this may be disappointing to some, it is critical to stay positive and acknowledge that listening is the first step in a balanced discussion. Eidinger was interviewed by Leafly after the meeting and described the Governmental Officials himself by saying, “they both displayed thoughtful, sincere body language during the entire meeting[…] We got a lot of nods, a lot of smiles.” While this meeting may not be the monumental policy flip-flop event some hoped for, it is a far cry from the cold-shoulder countless cannabis activists have received from the Federal Government in the past. Unshaken in their concrete resolution, the DCMJ has sparked activists to keep pushing for the next meeting with the hashtag #WeNeedaHigherLevelMeeting. We all hope the Federal Government will continue the conversation with activists, and schedule another meeting with members from a higher level inside the Government, hopefully with POTUS himself (or herself, depending on the next election). Eidinger is hopeful for a large scale summit-like discussion in which, “they would invite people to the White House in a high-profile way and let the President just listen. He doesn’t even have to say anything, he just needs to listen. Because it’s going to take a year of dialogue at the federal level to figure out federal legalization.”

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I recently found myself choosing to linger on a friend’s couch, watching a rerun of The Shawshank Redemption on cable, the soul-touching honesty of the movie making it difficult for me to tear myself away. In this great movie there is a character named Andy Dufresne, who single-handedly earns his prison a library by writing weekly letters to the state for six long years. It is a powerful moment in the movie, when Andy reads their reply which notes his persistence, saying that they hope the books and money the state will provide will “shut him up.” We could all learn a valuable life-lesson from Andy Dufresne: that persistence is the cornerstone of success. It is this same personal accountability that drives Eidinger, and hopefully you the reader of this blog post, to be inspired to take personal action to help move the cause of cannabis reform forward. When asked what his next steps were after the meeting yesterday, Eiginger stated simply “I’m going to write more letters.” Much like the patiently persistent Dufresne, Eidinger understands that one single person can make a difference in this world. All they have to do to succeed is to make the conscious choice to hope in the idea that their success is possible. After all, as they saying goes, “you can’t hit a home run, without swinging the bat.” A true activist, regardless of the cause, would view themselves not as a home run hitter, but as a professional bat swinger.

Do you think DCMJ and other cannabis activists will be able to influence the Obama administration to de-schedule cannabis before leaving office? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!

 

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