A Cannabis For the Advocacy Rest of Us

Pot Cannabis has never really been my thing, a public admission I notice is much easier to make now that its recreational use is about to be legalized in New Mexico. Never had anything against it, never really been that interested in it.

Yet as one who enjoys observing things socio-political, it’s been much fun to follow this issue over recent years without personally “having a dog in this hunt.” Here’s a botanical that’s been (and is still is, actually) shunted to the black market, medical cannabis aside, a “gateway drug” vilified until very recently with prison sentences, ongoing job discrimination, and arguably unfunny comedies all the way back to Cheech & Chong and, unintentionally, “Reefer Madness.”

And now the kind herb has just about completed the long socio-political journey from “jazz cigarette” to, depending on newly created statute, something I can pick up along with my Brussel sprouts and milk at the grocery store (actually I don’t think that’s possible, yet). As the stoner says as punchline in so, so many stoner movies: “How did we get here?”

Finding answers to that question should be good for a few thousand Ph.D. dissertations and successful non-profit grant applications in the next few years, but one instantly apparent reason for why marijuana cannabis will soon be legal in New Mexico is the change of political leadership, both executive and legislative, through which champions of this issue came into power and exercised that power effectively.

Full disclosure: I’m finally reading that 1970s Robert Caro biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, and I’m now all about using the term “power” and don’t mind that the term includes connotations of force and wiliness generally not in favor, particularly by those against whom power is used. If you don’t like “power” because it’s dirty or immoral, get over it.

Is wacky tabacky cannabis legal if Michelle Lujan Grisham is not Governor? Of course not, but also critical, and so very apparent in the just-completed Special Session as noted in today’s Albuquerque Journal piece by Dan Boyd, new champions of sticky icky cannabis and other issues (e.g., reproductive rights) have come to the fore and powerfully (there’s that word again), effectively turned a fully oil/gas/booze-dependent Democratic old guard into champions for a range of social justice issues, as well as issues which resonate more with younger voters (e.g., climate change).

It is also very interesting to observe all this socio-political change at the state level as someone whose personal advocacy is now most tied to an issue NOT included in the sweep of progress which has included mota cannabis. I’m not envious or anything, absolutely not, but MAN wouldn’t it be great if this new guard of New Mexico Democratic leadership wielded some of its power to paradigmatically change our roadways and make it safer to travel them regardless of how one chooses to do so?

Wow. That’d be cool.

While it’s true that tangentially, extremely so, there now awaits Governor Lujan Grisham’s signature a passed bill to create a “Sustainable Economy Task Force,” which could, eventually, lead to sweeping changes which could, maybe, possibly, include significantly more emphasis on transit and non-motorized transportation, a “Task Force” is the very definition of “baby step” in the socio-political parlance. We got a long, long way to go here people.

Yet, us oldsters can remember a time, one that doesn’t seem that far back, in which the possibility of legalizing ganja cannabis seemed absolutely unthinkable. As in level of possibility subtly made fun of in that famous speech in Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” about George Washington, weed cannabis and the one-dollar bill (and aliens). That movie came out in 1993, and now, in 2021, we’ve gone all the way from the extreme political outsider in Ron Slater (see the clip if you don’t know who he is) to Senator Katy Duhigg and her INCREDIBLE job of political legwork and leadership in maneuvering passage of legalized reefer cannabis through the New Mexico Senate.

Ron Slater passionately expressing his viewpoints on grass cannabis in “Dazed and Confused”

Better understanding this evolution of socio-political change is very helpful when it comes to advocating for other issues, including transportation safety. One currently sees it at work at a very different point in that evolutionary journey with new U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and President Biden’s new $2 trillion infrastructure initiative.

Early in its advocacy, the President and Secretary Buttigieg are talking up aspects of the initiative that include money/references to expanded Amtrak service, transit, bike lanes, and pedestrian improvements. Of course, some are already opposed to these “green” aspects of the idea, while others think proposed funding for cycling/walking/transit “sustainable transportation” (terms matter, don’t they?) doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Such will be the political dance of this ambitious (another word for “largely unlikely”) initiative, and I guess proof of how far it has socio-politically evolved vis-a-vis Mary Jane cannabis will be played out over the coming months. Is the idea of sufficiently funding, for example, fully separated multi-use paths along much of our major roads and highways throughout the country still a Ron Slater idea, or is it soon to become federal law and practice?

As one who has observed this issue for some time now, I’m definitely betting it’s more Slater than law, but look what’s happened with cheeba cannabis?

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