Get Heard Above the Noise

One of the most common misconceptions that runs through politics is the idea that once we vote, our job is done. In reality, a government reflects not just those who tick the box in November, but those who continue to engage and shape how statute, rule and policy is made. 

 As any industry insider will tell you, one of the keys to remaining competitive, and helping shape how the industry evolves, is participating in various forms of lobbying. As we work with public officials to define good boundaries and harmful regulations it is important to be an active advocate in all your interactions. The quality of your advocacy, and the ability to get legislators on-side is the critical x-factor of making something happen, versus having a lot of meetings.

As business leaders, we have the opportunity to educate our elected officials and their agency partners about what good looks like for the cannabis industry. This is true for things like public safety and security planning, but it is also true for the broader social and political aims the industry has always stood for. 

In the 2019 legislative sessions there will be many questions to address and resolve: When and how will interstate commerce begin? How can we extend consumption regulations to ensure the widest patient access with the best public safety? How do we balance growth with social justice to begin to redress the harms from “The War on Drugs”?

In Oregon, we will have the opportunity to witness and participate in that exercise in the upcoming long-session of the Oregon Legislature. For the cannabis industry, there are crucial questions that will be considered, and for the first time since legalization those questions will be handled in the normal course of business, without access to a specialist committee. If you are interested in meeting with your representative, and telling them about your concerns, it can be hard to know where to start.

As any good lobbyist will tell you, it is important to start building relationships before you need them. Difficult discussions are better had with people who already share a vernacular. Trade associations are a good way to learn who to talk to, and the most effective way to present your side of the conversation. 

As organizations, trade associations are helpful to discuss and debate ideas and policy recommendations, and advocate on behalf of the membership. This helps to increase each business’ collective impact, while improving the messaging and interaction with elected officials. The staff of the organization can spend time in Salem learning about upcoming legislation and offering an informed business perspective on behalf of their members. They also have a wide perspective to understand and advocate for changes that benefit the industry, and mediate ideas to the highest benefit. 

Oregon, Washington, and California have a number of trade associations, each focused around a particular area of the industry. Craft Cannabis Alliance supports artisan industry, Oregon Sungrowers Guild has long organized in the major growing regions, and organizations are often formed dedicated to specific reform, like the New Revenue Coalition to support social consumption codification. Some organizations have a bit broader scope to their representation; Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association (ORCA), for example, actually represents a larger coalition of organizations across the supply-chain, and hosts monthly meetings to offer legislators and members the chance to interact and discuss issues. These meetings can be a good introduction to advocacy to learn about issues in the industry, and find friends to help you articulate what you want to say, based on what you think is important. 

We are living in a time of extraordinary change. It is important to make your opinions heard, but is it also important that those opinions be informed, supported, and shared. If you are interested in experiencing a meeting, and learning more about how you can advocate for your beliefs, check out upcoming events here.

Miranda Weigler