Advocacy through Education
In recent years, cannabis reforms in Illinois have seen progress through legislation, referendums and political advocacy. But the best way to advocate, and what is sorely missing in much of the political discussion, is simply education on the topic of cannabis. This doesn’t just mean education on physical effects or medical benefits of cannabis, though that is important in a state that has a growing medical program. Communities also need to be educated on the legal cannabis industry, how it might affect them and how they can represent their own interests. And it is necessary for legislators, private cannabis companies, and police departments to have an understanding of the unjust, racialized history of cannabis prohibition and the harm it has caused. That is why grassroots organizations like Chicago NORML are dedicated to engaging community leaders and political representatives alike when it comes to cannabis reform.
As a small, non-profit advocacy group, Chicago NORML is close to the ground and run by leaders in their own communities. From advocates, to business owners, to volunteers, Chicago NORML members are well equipped for running education campaigns and trustworthy when it comes to engaging communities and small businesses on what constructive cannabis reforms look like. That is why we want an education campaign that is is more than flyers and phone calls, but face to face discussions between our own members and people who genuinely want to learn about cannabis and drug policy reform.
This summer our organization will be launching House Calls. They are education sessions that will include the history of cannabis prohibition, current cannabis laws, medical science and representation in legal cannabis. Through these personal interactions, in familiar spaces, we hope not only to educate people on all aspects of cannabis, but also learn what legalization, and our organization, can do for them and their communities.
While many politicians looking for liberal support, or private companies looking to capitalize on an emerging industry are racing towards legalization, too few people are stopping to ask what legalization will look like. To answer that question we must engage communities on what their priorities or concerns are regarding legal cannabis. More than an educational campaign, we want to lead dialogues for community members to ask questions and voice concerns, and use that to advocate for specific policies.
If small business owners are concerned about equity in cannabis, we want to discuss access and programs that can be implemented along with legalization. For example, if communities are concerned about child safety, we want to discuss regulations and restrictions on dispensaries that might make them more comfortable with the idea of legal cannabis. Chicago NORML is dedicated to putting people and communities before politics. We want to inform our communities about current policies and engage them on what policies best serve their interests. Further, we are engaging with our lawmakers to ensure that the needs and concerns of communities are being considered.
For this collaborative form of education to work, community members need to get involved in advocacy and education. Chicago NORML is made up of everyday citizens, and we rely on those citizens to be involved and informed in order to further our mission. We want these House Calls to be presented by people to their own peers in their own neighborhoods or businesses. Our Education Committee will train anyone interested in leading these intimate learning sessions so that they are knowledgeable and up to date on all things regarding cannabis, so they can amplify that information in their own circles.
This Sunday, June 24th, Chicago NORML will be holding a Train the Trainer session to teach and prepare members to run their own GoNORML HOUSE CALL. If you are interested in supporting the mission of advocacy through education please reach out and sign up through the link below.