In response to Joshua Lee's article "Worst in Show: Legalize it, you dopes” (V.25 No.26 | June 30-July 6, 2016), he offers many valid points in the form of statistics and comparisons but falls way short on solutions. Actually, he didn't offer any. The article is useful in pointing out how great Colorado is for legalizing weed and how backward and hick-like New Mexico is for not.
I recently was turned down for a job with a federal contractor because of medical cannabis. Not that I was currently using it but that I had in my past. The job for which I was applying required a security clearance and included an in-depth background investigation. I admitted to my prospective employer that I had, in the past, used medical cannabis and asked if this might disqualify me. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which conducts and approves the investigations is a federal organization and has pretty much a zero tolerance in regards to cannabis in any form. I ratted myself out to spare the company any expense it would incur when requesting the background investigation. If I were to be denied, they would have to eat the cost. The company researched the matter with OPM and the issue turned out to be a deal breaker.
Out of frustration, I wrote up a letter and emailed it to every US congressperson in New Mexico. Just for kicks, I sent the letter off to every state legislator in New Mexico as well. In my email to our state politicians, I explained that if the State of New Mexico is going to have a medical cannabis program, then they should offer protection to those who are licensed users from being turned down for employment because of it. I specifically asked the New Mexico politicians to consider protection for state employees who are licensed to use medical cannabis. I know, through research, that it will be almost impossible to require private companies not to discriminate when it comes to any drugs. The main consensus across the country is that if a company wants to maintain a drug-free workplace, then that is their choice.
I also sent an email to the governor.
I had absolutely no hope of receiving a reply. I was ranting much like Mr. Lee. To my surprise, several emails popped up in my inbox. A few, “I'm sorry but medical cannabis is a schedule one drug and did you contact your US rep, blah, blah, blah,” but there were two representatives who were interested in my dilemma. They even expressed interest in possibly sponsoring a bill offering protection for state workers, but each offered the caveat that the governor was sure to veto any such bills.
I was surprised, again, when I received a call from one of the governor's aides. The woman politely thanked me for contacting the governor's office but the governor was not interested in my proposition (no surprise there).
The next call came from the house majority office in Santa Fe. The gentleman I spoke with told me I had a valid point and he was very interested in pursuing the matter. He advised me that he was going to refer the possibility of giving protection to state workers to the house legal office for further research. I was blown away. I sent emails into the void expecting nothing, and here I was receiving a call from the house majority office. Run by Republicans!
So back to Mr. Lee's article. Yes, many of us know of the benefits to legalization, but the problem is that few of us know what to do about it. What I learned from my issue was that if we want to make a change, we need to take action. One of the state reps who emailed me encouraged me (and others in a similar situation) to get involved in the electoral process. Valid point. We all cry about change, but many times we are too discouraged to do anything about it. It made me realize that if the citizens of New Mexico want legalized cannabis then we have to do much more than complain to one another. We need to become thorns in the sides of those who make the laws. We need to vote those out of office who are not sympathetic to our causes (Susana), and we need to make ourselves be heard. Sure, an article helps, but politicians need something more concrete. They need to hear personally from their constituents (that's us, by the way) in the form of emails, phone calls, letters or even visits to their offices.
I'm not an activist. I don't know anything about grass roots or mobilization or press releases or organizing large groups of people. But what I have learned is that my tiny voice, shouting into the void, was heard, and maybe there is hope for these politicians (or as Mr. Lee refers to them, “scaly bastards”). Sure, some of them may be akin to used-car salesmen, but some actually care. Those are the ones we need to call into action.