9 Strategies for Legalizing Marijuana in North Carolina

NORML is implementing its statewide strategy for legalizing marijuana in North Carolina. Our strategy is similar to the paths Colorado and Washington recently took. These states’ efforts were successful, so we intend to build on what works. Our task is to adapt these approaches to North Carolina’s culture.

Because law reform takes time, we need to know where we are, where we’re going and how we plan to get there. Here’s the gist of North Carolina NORML’s approach to organizing a Peace Movement in the War on Drugs….

Include all the players who have an interest
During the negotiating process, NORML will include all the attorneys, legislators, medical patients, other pro-cannabis organizations and related groups. The idea is that by soliciting feedback early, we will reduce internal conflicts and allow us to build a strong coalition across the state.

Lay the Local Groundwork
NORML is organized as a grass-roots effort. That means we start at the local level to coordinate city and campus campaigns to push ballot initiatives that will make marijuana the lowest priority for police. These Lowest Law Enforcement Priorities (LLEP) are largely symbolic as state law still says marijuana possession is a crime. However, once enough cities pass these resolutions in North Carolina, that will send a message to the legislators in the General Assembly.

Stay on Message
There are many reasons to support the legalization of marijuana. The following four can be agreed upon by all demographics: Police are too valuable to spend their time arresting otherwise non-violent people; Taxing marijuana would increase state revenue instead of spending taxpayer dollars enforcing prohibition; Veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder should have access to marijuana if it helps them; and that Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

Early and Consistent Fundraising
Most of the money raised will eventually go to push legislation across the finish line with a statewide publicity campaign. However, to get to that point, early money will go to support local initiatives and build coordinated momentum across the state. Oregon’s measure to legalize marijuana failed because there was no campaign to promote the measure. Getting the right wording on the right bills is necessary, but money is needed to get NORML’s campaigns off the ground. Consistent and dedicated fundraising is required.

The key to changing marijuana laws lies in our ability to raise public awareness about why this issue matters. Having a street and online presence is important, but to reach the necessary 7 million registered voters in North Carolina requires much media exposure, billboard advertising, radio and television ad space.

Targeted Advertising
The majority of Americans support marijuana law reform (according to polls conducted by Gallup, Rasmussen, CBS News, Angus Reid, Public Policy and USA Today). There are still many demographics who are largely not in favor of ending marijuana prohibition. These include self-described Republicans, Hispanics, women, religious fundamentalists, Asian-Americans, and Senior Citizens.

Right Spokespeople
Mason Tvert recently won High Times Freedom Fighter of the Year due to his work in Colorado’s legalization campaign. Mason and several other professional speakers knew the issue, stayed on topic and spoke with authenticity. North Carolina will have to take the same approach if it is going to be successful. Being enthusiastic and passionate is necessary, but to be persuasive to millions requires a special type of universal charisma.

Disarming the Opposition
As we gain a foothold in the North Carolina legalization effort, those in favor of continuing prohibition will begin their own advertising campaigns. They will be well funded. Instead of competing with their media dollars, NORML will weaken their arguments by attending their events in ensure both sides of the story are heard by the audience (in a calm, coherent manner).

We will urge legislators to push these bills as quickly as possible. If registered voters must go to the polls to pass laws ending prohibition, we will be mindful of voter turnout rates. Drafting the right bill takes time. But if it’s not passed due to poor voter turnout, our efforts will be for naught. NORML will urge its initiatives to be placed on the ballot when large portions of supporting voters are most likely to go to the polls.

So now you know NORML’s plan. We intend to be transparent with our work in North Carolina. A majority of voters support our efforts, so there’s no need to be covert with our intentions.

If you want to see marijuana laws change in North Carolina, please take the time to understand the strategy. Give feedback where you see fit. This is a line-in-the-sand that is developing organically. We need everyone’s help to see it through.

When it’s time for you to participate, we want you to join NORML of North Carolina as your first step to ending marijuana prohibition.

Related Links
- MPP's Strategy that worked