As the November Election approaches, with only 44 more days to go, marijuana has become a hot topic among mothers and women in general. Women played a crucial role in ending alcohol prohibition and are likely to play a significant role in ending prohibition of marijuana for adults as well. In the three states considering legalizing marijuana this fall, winning the support of women is critical, and both opponents and proponents for legalizing marijuana are reaching out to this important demographic.
If you asked a woman, “Do you think marijuana should be sold to minors?” she would almost certainly swiftly answer, “No.” Or, if you asked her, “Do you think potentially harmful substances should be regulated and properly labeled?” again, you would be likely to hear the response, “Of course!”
Yet, what if you ask that same woman, “Do you think marijuana should be legal for adults and regulated like alcohol?” Many polls indicate that women are unlikely to answer “yes.” This is in stark contrast to the overwhelming percentage of men that support ending the prohibition of marijuana.
The difference, surprisingly, isn’t that more women oppose prohibition; according to the recent poll by SurveyUSA in Oregon, 40% of men and 41% of women oppose Measure 80, roughly equal opposition. Instead, women are simply more undecided on the issue with 27% of women undecided compared to only 18% of men.
Proponents for marijuana legalization believe that regulating marijuana will put regulations in place that protect our children. Drug dealers don’t ask for ID, but liquor stores do. Creating a legal and regulated environment means that marijuana will be sold through licensed stores that are required to check ID’s. Further, by providing a proper legal environment for adults to buy and sell marijuana, there is far less incentive for adults to assist minors in the marijuana trade.
Prohibitionists often argue that marijuana could be dangerous because you don’t know if it is contaminated with pesticides or other potentially harmful substances, such as other more harmful drugs. Yet, if marijuana is sold through a regulated industry, it will contain labels that identify the potency of the marijuana and other information important to consumers, as well as be tested to ensure that there are no contaminants on the marijuana.
In Colorado, anti-legalization groups are reaching out to suburban moms with the message that legalizing marijuana will be harmful to youth.
“The bottom line is, if you care about young people succeeding in education and later in life in your state, then you don’t want to legalize marijuana,” said Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to Gil Kerlikowske, the Obama administration’s drug policy director.
Sabet fails to note that the “young people” are often hindered in their success due to prohibition currently; a drug charge can result in exclusion from financial aid for college, rejection from job applications and housing, and much more.
In Oregon, at least two women’s groups disagree with Sabet’s conclusion and are instead promoting legalization with Oregon’s Measure 80 as a way to improve our society and protect our children. Women for Measure 80 and Moms for Marijuana both agree that prohibition is harmful to our children and that legalizing marijuana will reduce those harms.
Women for Measure 80 is a grassroots organization “working to find the best ways to promote and pass Measure 80 this November in Oregon.” Anna Diaz, founder of Women for Measure 80 and a 11-year veteran of cannabis activism in Oregon, says:
I have been a cannabis activist for eleven years. Measure 80 would mean the end of a long battle that has been raging against our own citizens for far too long. As a Latina, I will be grateful when my people are no longer profiled and disproportionately arrested. As a Mom, I look forward to seeing cannabis regulated in a way that makes our state safer for our children. As a cannabis consumer, I look forward to being able to stop living in fear of losing my family, my home or my job.
The group is organized primarily through Facebook and face-to-face meetings and events. One event, a fundraiser to promote Measure 80, is scheduled at Plews Brews on September 29. The core beliefs of the group appear on Facebook:
We believe that it is time for common sense regulation of cannabis to protect our children and families. We believe that ending hemp and cannabis prohibition will bring much needed jobs and funding for education and social service programs that have disappeared in the wake of our bad economy.
Diaz is also on the Speaker’s Bureau for the NORML Women’s Alliance, who also endorsed Measure 80.
Moms for Marijuana also began on Facebook and has since branched out around the globe – with local autonomous chapters locally connecting moms (and some dads too!). Serra Frank, founder of the group, began the page to provide a safe place for moms to talk about a subject that is often seen as taboo. The popularity of the group and its immense spread around the globe demonstrates that she wasn’t alone in identifying the importance of this issue to moms.
She expressed her support for legalizing marijuana in Oregon, Washington and Colorado:
Legalization efforts, such as measure 80 in Oregon, 502 in Washington, and 64 in Colorado, are imperative in the progress of Cannabis reform. Having the legalization of marijuana on the ballot in three different states shows that marijuana is no longer a counter culture discussion.
Elections provide a much needed opportunity for education and debate. Ballot initiatives help to generate discussion, before and after the votes are cast and counted. More importantly, these discussions are able to happen exactly where they are needed most: at the dinner table, where the entire family gathers to reflect upon their day.
Moms are essential to providing truth and logic to discussions that are often had during the course of the evening meal. As the teachers of the household, we have the opportunity to guide and direct our families towards using critical thinking and research to make educated decisions.
Regardless of whether or not any of these measures pass in November, having them on the ballot, and finally a mainstream topic of discussion, is an extraordinary success and monumental leap towards the end of Cannabis prohibition.
Oregonians for Law Reform, a political action committee recently formed to promote Measure 80, also identifies women as an important demographic. It’s Co-Director, Sam Chapman, says they are working to create videos to be used on social media and, if funding allows, promote on television. Women and senior citizens are two groups that they have identified as critical to the passage of the measure; Chapman elaborates:
Oregonians for Law Reform finds it imperative to get mothers involved with the Measure 80 campaign in order to highlight the importance of keeping marijuana out of the hands of children. Currently kids have easier access to marijuana than any other age group due to the absence of a regulatory system.
If the success of Moms for Marijuana is any indication, when Oregonian women see a woman on television talking about marijuana, it should open the door to at least begin discussing the topic of marijuana prohibition’s effectiveness. The vote of women in Oregon will quite likely determine the outcome of Measure 80 in November.
*If you are a woman or senior citizen interested in providing testimony to Oregonians for Law Reform to be used in commercials promoting Measure 80, you can contact them by email to find out more.
As I continue to countdown to Election Day, upcoming topics will include the various uses for hemp, the controversy surrounding medical marijuana and how the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 will impact Oregonians. I will also focus on the conflicts with federal laws as well as the election process itself, including who can vote and how to register to vote.
Too many Oregonians aren’t even aware that Oregon will be voting on this crucial issue this November 6. This Election Day 2012 countdown will be full of information that is important to voters all throughout Oregon. Please subscribe to receive email alerts for future articles, including continuing coverage of Election 2012 and Measure 80!