Saturday, September 3, 2011

6 Persona-Types Against Legalization, and How to Win Them Over

From conversation, browsing blogs, reading comments, listening to politicians, and watching debates on news channels over the past year, I've grouped all prohibitionists into six major groups that distinctly stand apart from each other and can be taken on, one-by-one, to win the conversation for rational policy:

The Cynical Stoner, The Thumper, The MADDer, The Politician, The Prioritizer, and The Hater

Cynical Stoner
Marijuana brings people together, and these people are our friends, our toking buddies. Even while blowing on the relatively-harmless herb, they believe the flood of rhetoric that has been preached at them from childhood. We need to win them first, as self-doubt can kill any cause.
1) "If it becomes legal, it will be taxed so high that it won't be worth buying."
2) "Yeah, I do it, but I don't think it has helped me at all. I don't really think it should be legal."
1) The illegality & severe punishments for growth & distribution of marijuana keep it's supply ever-low, while demand will never go away, and is increasing, with growing awareness in this information age. It's economics 101: when demand is high and supply is limited, normal goods see enormously inflated prices. Along with increasing the supply, legalization would eliminate many costs associated with security and high-risk wage. I give a better model in another blog post, but the tax percentage would have to be over 1000% to match the pricing we see now once equilibrium market values are reached.
2) I shouldn't have to go too far into personal responsibility here, nor do you want to lecture your friends that it's more them and not the herb contributing to their misfortunes. Cannabis can be abused like anything can be abused. Often this abuse pales in comparison to other substances, and unlike many of these substances, Cannabis can have minor positive effects with responsible use. We shouldn't be jailing people over it, regardless.

This is the Christian majority. They virtually control the morality legislated out of the right wing, and finally making them see that there is so much more wrong in prohibition than in use would be a big win for our cause.
"I don't care if we're spending a lot of money, can earn tax revenues, or if it might have medical benefits for the sick, drug use is WRONG, and is a sin, and shouldn't be allowed."
There are so many jabs one can take right here... So popping a Tylenol should see the same ramifications; that's a drug? We should lock-up all the white-coats? So funding a Mexican drug war which has killed 40,000 in five years is okay because at least we're sending the message to those damn pot-heads that it's wrong and we WILL get them? 
These little quips expose a little of my anger at this irrationality, but sarcasm only stirs anger and doesn't win arguments. 
The wrongs in prohibition need to be exposed. Even Pat Robertson, nationally renowned televangelist for the 700 Club has said, 
"We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes and that's one of them," Robertson added. "I'm not exactly for the use of drugs. Don't get me wrong. But I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot and that kind of thing, it's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people."
They go into prison "as youths and they come out as hardened criminals, and that's not a good thing."
Aside from this point, stick to the fact that prohibition all started with lies in the 1930s during the Reefer Madness campaign. That before then, nowhere in the Bible or the history of the church does anyone allude to Cannabis consumption being wrong, though it's consumed as an unaltered herb that has seen thousands of years of human use. Also, that when the legislation was passed, the American Medical Association was opposed, as it was used in over 50% of remedies at the time, but their representative was shut down during the hearings.
All-in-all, the twisted history, ongoing lies, and current failures of the Drug War should win them over, and that thing they value so strongly, Truth, shall prevail.

This is one of the more blameless groups, just looking out for their kids. A dose of well-organised information should be all it takes to win over the majority of them.
"I don't want it near my kids."
The pro-Prop 19 (to legalize in California) campaign summed this up pretty well with their slogan, "Drug dealers don't ID." I have heard a statistic cited by Allen St. Pierre, head of NORML, that for each of the last 19 years, students in national surveys have reported that it's easier to get their hands on pot than it is alcohol. When a shop-owner or parent has everything to lose in handing over a controlled-substance to a minor, they tend to think twice about it. However, drug dealers are already participating in illegal activity regardless, and don't tend to discriminate.
Aside from keeping it away from kids, legalization contributes to everyone's safety. Anything is much safer bought behind store counters than in alleyways. I've alluded again and again to the huge crime-funding black market created by the prohibition. Also, I would argue that it will lead to less high working, driving, and public appearance. I will admit that I have been high in the past in inappropriate situations because many people are naive enough to expect a food-hounding, red-eyed, zombie.  But just as alcohol regulation exposes its effects for real, marijuana regulation would give even non-users a better idea of what a high person looks and acts like, and lead to less usage at inappropriate times. Lastly, legalization would completely stomp out the already faintly-existent "gateway effect". While marijuana is still grouped with hard drugs--the law is already broken with that first puff, and dealers are dealers--more likely to carry both pot and hard drugs.
When speaking to MADDers (concerned parents in general), keep child & public safety at the forefront of your conversation.

Not literally. This is anyone who cares about what others may think about their support for a previously in-the-shadows cause.
1) "Public support for this is miniscule. I don't to be part of that minority an labeled as 'out in left field'."
2) "Supporting this issue is risky. I don't want to be labeled a pothead."
1) Simply not true. It's recently reported that 78% are for medical marijuana, and a growing minority for legalization is nearing 50%. Prop 19 lost in Californial by a margin of only 47/53 during a midterm election year. Thousands of groups are appearing on social networking sites (Join Toking Points on Facebook), Obama's town-halls are being flooded with marijuana policy questions (and ignored), and marijuana-related news articles are seeing top hits & comments on news orgs' pages.
2) It is a shame that supporting any cause can be seen as incriminating, but there is a growing group of non-users who see that the Drug War is not in their best interests either. (Check out Non Smokers for the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana and hemp) Also, anonymous letters aren't incriminating.

Okay, they kind of see your point. But they don't really care.
"With everything else going on, why does this matter? We should be worried about jobs, gas-prices, and the global economy."
An old boss of mine always said that people take action for two reasons: to avoid pain, or in pursuit of pleasure. These people don't care enough about the good that could come from legalizing; they see it as relatively small. In fact, you're talking about saving billions when we're spending trillions. This is where you need to point out the pain:
  • 800,000 non-violent offenders arrested every year. If this was them or a loved-one, it would suddenly seem pretty serious.
  • Estimated $1 Trillion in costs and lost revenues since the beginning of the Drug War 40 years ago, project this back with inflation in account, and you're looking at a significant chunk of our national debt.
  • With jobs as the central issue, why are we ignoring that a domestic industrial hemp industry could flourish, but is disallowed. (Read more about why we need to demand hemp.)
  • Healthcare costs are enormous. We spend more than any other country and have the 17th best healthcare nationally. Why not at least publicly recognize and look into the medicinal benefits of an herb that could grow in any patient's backyard? The government maintains that it has zero medicinal value, yet owns patent 6630507 on it's antioxidant & neuroprotective effects.
Give these people enough reason to act, and they will. They're not necessarily against, they just need enough reason to move.

These are the, "Lock them up, let them rot," people. You only need a majority, and many of these folks aren't worth your time to try and convert when there are plenty of others out there to win over. They'll probably see the light about 2 years after legalization happens, or just always be stuck in their ways.
I'm not too concerned about them as their numbers are shrinking; and most people on the other side don't listen to them either.

Most people fall into one of these categories or are a combination of a few. If you think there is a group that I starkly left out, feel free to add their entry in the comments.