Following are tips on how to be effective in generating change for crucial yet taboo topics such as cannabis (marijuana and hemp) reform.
For our Congress to acknowledge the proper necessity as well as our desires, a relationship with our representation needs to develop. And as with any relationship what you put in is what you get out. From breaking the ice with hand written letters, to influencing during scheduled meetings and making reaffirming phone calls to our legislative hotline, we can effectively educate and lobby our representation.
Hand writing letters to ones district Senator and Representative makes a great impression and shows ones devotion. The purpose of writing our representation may include declaring how one expects a Vote on specific issues, to help gain their Co-Sponsor on certain legislation, and to request a meeting which is a very effective way of influencing legislation.
The purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter. State your position and briefly explain why you support or oppose a particular issue. Focus on one issue and have local examples of whom the issue impacts. Stick to the point, and ask for a reply containing their position on the issue which has your concern. Follow up to their response or if a request for a meeting was made, then a week or two before your proposed meet.
Phoning legislators can also be very effective and is another way to express how you desire to be represented. It is important to not assume your legislator has prior knowledge of the issue you’re calling about. Telephone calls are often taken by staff members and not the actual Legislator, but they will relay how you feel. And if you speak to someone other than your legislator receive their name and title for future follow up calls.
You can identify yourself by name and mention that you are a member of an organization (if any). Explain why you are calling: " I am calling to support / oppose House bill (HB): ____or Senate bill (SB): ____." Focus on 1 or 2 talking points and be calm and respectful. Request a written response to your phone call if you did not speak directly to your legislator. If the legislator requires or requests further information, provide it as soon as possible and thank the person who took the phone call for their time.
Few things impress lawmakers more than citizens willing to pay them a personal visit and while letter writing may be the most direct way to communicate with our representation, effectiveness is best met with scheduled meetings. With scheduled meeting one presents two messages. The first is specific and could be a short term goal, such as: “Please Co-Sponsor this ____ bill”. The second message is broader and more political which will greatly aid ones long term goals. One displays this powerful message simply by showing you’re willing to take time from your life to present your views in person. Scheduled meetings will build a foundation with your representation and their staff which will benefit ones long term goals such as: getting certain legislation created.
When scheduling a meeting one can usually choose to meet in Frankfort or in their district. Congress members are less likely to "skip" meetings with groups and organizations rather than an individual, thus lobbying in a small group is ideal but not required. A local expert, community or business leader, members of an organization or fellow concerned citizens can reinforce your position. Always feel free to contact local relating organizations in advance of your meeting.
Fuel your confidence by knowing there is not a single correct way to be effective and that citizens are not expected to know every detail of legislation. While knowledge is power, saying "I don't know the answer to that question, but I'll get back to you" is still very effective at displaying your desired demands and commitment.
Speaking from the heart about your commitment is ones greatest strength. Remain polite and hold true to your sincerity. To avoid distracting or detracting from ones message during the meeting, embrace the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and dress similar in respect to them. Think of this as an opportunity for you to express your perspective with integrity and passion. And remember, if one has a long term goal of building a relationship with a lawmaker, they will most likely be more meetings and a probable success.
When visiting for a meeting, one should decide prior the key points to be covered and if going as a group, then who will raise which points. For more effectiveness one can prepare a brief fact sheet about the issue along with letters from your groups that you can leave with the legislator and their staff. Be sure to leave a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of all in your group.
Expect your first meeting to be brief and find out in advance from the lawmaker's staff how much time you'll have. Cover your key points early on and during the start of the meeting state your reasons for seeking the meeting. After the meeting has ended ask for the legislator or staffer’s business card so one can follow up on the meeting with a thank-you letter along with any additional information one may have promised. Take the opportunity to continue building a relationship with your representation and their staff.
We all can be successful lobbyist and change Kentucky for the better while fulfilling our duties as Citizens. To identify whom your districts Representative and Senator are visit our State Legislation page at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/ or call our State Legislation Hotline at 1-800-372-7181.
Sample letter to gain a meeting with our representation
(most effective if hand written)
The Honorable [Senator or Representatives name]
[And your address]
Dear [Senator or Representative] their last name:
I am writing to request an appointment to meet with you within the next few weeks, at your convenience. I am a member of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana which advocates for the passage of legislation granting Safe Access to effective medicine as nearly half of our Country has already done. I live in [your city], and am concerned about our laws governing cannabis for medicinal reasons.
I realize that your schedule is difficult to predict at this point, but it would be ideal if we could meet between [time] and [time].
I believe reforming our laws governing Cannabis is necessary because far too many can greatly and safely benefit from this medicine. And nearly half of our Country, including the District of Columbia, has successfully adopted similar laws to increase the quality of life for their patients with debilitating conditions, and has protected them from the ever present risk and fear of State enforcement and prosecution. Our patients are not criminals and its time our Kentucky law reflects this. Proposed legislation noted as the Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act, will aid our Cancer, HIV, ALS, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s, and PTSD patients, among those with other debilitating conditions.
I desire to gain your Co-Sponsor for this crucial legislation and possibly ease any worries you may have. My home address is ______. I can also be reached by phone at _______ or email at ________. I will contact your office during the week of ____ [1-2 weeks before your proposed visit] to confirm the details of the appointment.
Thank you for considering my request to meet with you.
Other tips to be effective in seeing certain legislation passes or fails include:
Petitioning your legislators by gathering signatures in support, from their district.
Seek to schedule meetings with your legislators and be prepared to educate their opposition, with charts, scientific reviews, stats, etc.
Inform your representation to talk to legislators on the relevant committee(s) to your concerned issues. For example the joint committee on health and welfare is who ones representation should press for progress in regard to our Medical Cannabis bill.
Call during our legislative session and leave a message for the committee responsible for the proposed legislation.
Make sure the community is aware of your concern. Letters to the editor can help to accomplish this, letters fewer than 250 words have the best luck getting published.
Get others involved.
Stay educated about the topics which have your concern.