This campaign is designed to engage Members of Parliament in a conversation about the future of Canadian marijuana policy. We urge all Canadians, cannabis users or not, to take part in demonstrating against the Conservative government’s proposed mandatory minimum prison sentences in Bill C-26. This Americanized policy will be costly, ineffective, and will not make anyone safer. Here are some talking point and easy planning steps for anyone who can pick up a phone or speak to another person! (Check the CC Calendar for more information about this December 17th Canada-wide event)
Put an email together to your MP, to the key figures in your party and to the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice (that will debate C-26) explaining your opposition to Bill C-26. Use the information in the “calling scripts” section, below, or put your own template together.
The Government web site www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo is very useful for contacting your elected officials. Find your Member of Parliament by going to this web page and entering your postal code, and contact current Party Officers and Officials through this page. Finally, clicking [email protected] will send an email to the Clerk of the Standing Committee on Justice — the Committee that will presumably debate the Bill. Send them an email explaining your opposition and ask in your email to have the clerk forward it to all members of the Committee.
Before the Rally
1) Call or write to your MP. Introduce yourself, say you are one of their constituents and that you are very interested in drug policy issues and particularly Bill C-26. Explain that you oppose Bill C-26 and that you support ending marijuana prohibition. Tell them you are participating in a national day of action on December 17, 2007 and ask them to meet with you at noon on that day to discuss their position on Bill C-26 and on marijuana prohibition. If they are not available, try to set up an appointment at another time (because even if they won’t meet during the day of action, you should still try to meet them and explain your position at another time). If you write, send a copy to your local newspaper (attn: news editor). Be sure to be clear about the nature of the day of action — don’t ambush your MP into expecting a one-on-one meeting and then surprise them with a bigger event. You are trying to win them over, not alienate them. Tell them you just want them to spend a few minutes explaining the basis of their support for Bill C-26 and continuing to prohibit marijuana.
2) If you do book the appointment, send a confirming letter also copying your local newspaper (attn: news editor).
3) Get as many people as possible in your area to also call. Use the calling scripts if needed.
4) Write a letter to your MP telling them of your opposition to Bill C-26 and your desire that they support an end to marijuana prohibition. (Look for letter scripts to be issued on the CC forums.)
5) Memorize two or three of the key talking points (see below, underneath the “calling scripts” section) so that you can easily spit them out when in front of a camera or microphone. We need to keep the messaging tight and simple. The same theme, repeated throughout the country, is very powerful. It reinforces a message and also shows our political opponents that we are capable of running a tight political campaign.
6) Encourage participants (except medical users, perhaps) to refrain from smoking during the event. The cameras love to show people smoking and will show it over anything else if we give them the chance. Plus it puts your MP in a tough position if he or she comes out to meet and people are openly breaking the law. Remember, as much as many of these folks are currently our political opponents, we will need at least half of them to vote with us in order to change the law.
7) Find the following phone numbers and write them down: (1) the newsroom at your local paper; (2) the newsroom at any local radio stations, particularly news only stations, (3) the newsroom at whatever major newspaper is predominant in your area.
8) Prepare a short package of information (check the CC forums for this material as the day approaches) to give to your MP the day of the event.
The Day Of The Demonstration, Monday December 17th
1) First thing in the morning, call all three of the numbers you got in step 7, above. Tell whomever answers that there is a newsworthy event going on at noon. Tell them the event is a grass-roots day of action opposing the Conservative Party’s attempt to bring in an American war-on-drugs policy. Tell them you have (a) booked an appointment to speak with your MP about it or, (b) tried to book an appointment and were unsuccessful, so you are going over to talk to him or her anyway. Give the address of the MPs office and offer to speak with their reporter if they send one. If you want to provide your cell phone number to make that type of contact happen more readily, please do so. Then thank them for their time and interest in the story.
2) Get to the event on time. If you managed to get your MP to agree to meet you, get there early. Be polite and respectful. If you see any media types, go up and introduce yourself. Offer to speak to them on the record or on camera. Have your talking points memorized. Don’t worry if what you say doesn’t exactly match the particular question asked — if they run a soundbite the question doesn’t get run anyway. Or just start your answer by saying “That’s interesting but what I really think we need to focus on is…” then into the talking point.
3) During the event, try to have a dialogue. Listen to your MP. Politely indicate areas where their facts don’t match the evidence. Ask if the issue is important to them and to Canadians. If they say yes, ask them if they’ve read the entire Senate report. If not, suggest they do it. Politely suggest that the commitment of just a few hours to reading the most recent and comprehensive government study on the issue is probably appropriate, particularly since they’ve acknowledge it is an important issue. Give your MP the information you brought and ask them to at least read it.
4) Hand out information to people going by. Engage people in conversation and tell them the only way things will change is if they add their voices.
5) At the end of the event, clean up the area. Leave a good impression and a tidy space.
Aftermath: Keep the Campaign Going
Keep sending letters and calling, and encouraging as many other people as possible to do the same thing until the Bill either dies or goes to a vote. Then drop the material about the Bill and keep writing and calling about prohibition.
Calling Scripts: Members of Parliament
These scripts are designed to be used when calling your MP. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on the phone. Don’t rant or be impolite. The point of the call is to register your position and to ask them to vote a certain way, nothing more. They are very busy and in any case will not be convinced by you in one telephone call. What will convince them is to get a lot of calls from people all saying the same things. Remember your MP represents you. Tell them what you believe, why you believe it and ask them to take action on your behalf. Then find five friends and dial the number for them and stand there until they finish the call.
Theme: Economics – Drugs
“I hadn’t realized that we spend 36 times more money each year on law enforcement than we do on preventing drug use. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, in 2004 the Canadian taxpayers spent $5.4 Billion on drug prohibition but only $147 Million on prevention and research. And despite spending all that money on police, courts and jails, we don’t seem to have made any dent in the drug trade or stopped people from using drugs. In the meantime, prevention and treatment actually work to stop people from doing drugs and to help them with their addictions. What does that say about our priorities? As a hardworking Canadian taxpayer, I’m asking you to say no to Bill C-26 and, instead, to support a public health approach to drugs starting with the immediate repeal of marijuana prohibition.”
–Source: “Comparing the Perceived Seriousness and Actual Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada” Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, March 2007 available online as a PDF here from the CCSA site
Theme: Economics – Marijuana
“I find it amazing that so many expert reports say we need to end marijuana prohibition in order to make our society safer, to stop turning our kids into criminals for harmless experimentation and to take away a major source of organized crime’s profits. The Fraser Institute studied marijuana prohibition and concluded that it was a ‘gift of revenue’ to organized crime. I don’t want to be giving criminals gifts. We should take control of the market by regulating it, imposing age restrictions and taxing the producers and distributors, just like we do with alcohol and tobacco.”
– Source: “Marihuana Growth in British Columbia” Fraser Institute, May 2004 available online here
Theme: Prohibition Dangers – Marijuana
“The issue of marijuana prohibition has been studied repeatedly by the Canadian government. In 1972 the Le Dain Commission recommended reforming our laws and decriminalizing. And thirty years later, in 2002, the Senate concluded after two years of study and hundreds of witnesses, that we should end prohibition entirely and replace it with a regulated and taxed marketplace. In fact, the Senate Committee unanimously said that marijuana prohibition was more harmful to Canadians than marijuana use itself. With all this evidence, why haven’t you done something about repealing marijuana prohibition? I want you to vote no on Bill C-26, stop the Americanization of Canadian policy, and begin to work on legislation repealing marijuana prohibition.”
– Sources: “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy” Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs 2002; Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, 1972, available here at the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy website
Theme: Marijuana Prohibition – Public Support for Change
“A 2006 Macleans poll showed that 63% of the country supports ending marijuana prohibition. And 93% support people having access to medical marijuana. I think that Parliament is lagging behind the public on this. As my representative, I want you to vote no on Bill C-26, which Americanizes our drug policy. I also want you to begin working on a way to end marijuana prohibition, tax and regulate the business and take the profits away from organized crime.”
– Source: “Maclean’s Poll 2006: What we believe” Maclean’s Magazine, 2006, available online here at Macleans.ca
Talking Points For People & Media
You can memorize these short blurbs for use in response to questions from the media. Remember that you don’t really need to directly answer their questions; most anything can be used to lead into what you want to say. Print media may quote the whole talking point. TV is more likely to give you a sentence, so I include some one-sentence points at the end.
1) I support an end to marijuana prohibition because it is a waste of my tax dollars. We let people do lots of things a lot more risky than smoking a little marijuana, so why should we spent billions per year turning ordinary Canadians into criminals? I want my MP to vote no on Bill C-26. An American War on Drugs approach is the wrong way to go for Canada.
2) Right now we let criminals control the marijuana markets. I can’t understand why we refuse to take back control. I’m here to ask my MP why s/he support the failed and dangerous policy of marijuana prohibition, and to tell him/her to vote no on Bill C-26.
3) I’m concerned that the government isn’t listening to the people on this issue. Only 8% of Canadians support criminal sanctions for marijuana, yet the Conservative drug war plan will jail a lot more people, including a lot of non-violent marijuana offenders. It’s a mistake, and a bad one.
4) The government’s own experts say that mandatory minimum sentences don’t work. I think it is a shame the Conservative Party is not listening to the evidence. Instead of a drug war, we need to say no to Bill C-26 and yes to taxing and regulating marijuana.
5) Bill C-26 would send people to jail for 6 months minimum for growing a few marijuana plants. That doesn’t make any sense, especially since the law won’t do anything to reduce the supply of, and demand for, marijuana. The drug war doesn’t work in the US and it won’t work here. We should be doing things differently.
6) Marijuana prohibition does more damage to society than marijuana use.
7) I want to take control of the marijuana industry, not leave it in the hands of criminals.
8) Instead of wasting money on police, we should be taxing marijuana and using the revenues for education.
9) It’s wrong to saddle young people with life-long criminal records for having a bit of marijuana.
10) I want the government to listen to the 63% of the public that wants to end the criminalization of marijuana users.
Find more information and resources at the CC forums! Discussions and planning for this event are going on here in the Activists & Activism area, and here in the Cannabis News, Media, and Current Events area.