_By Andrea Fasoli
May 10th was the date that officially concluded Colorado's legislative session for this year... and now what? Well I can tell you this much: Denver NORML will continue its fight to educate the public and gather even greater support from our community, to effectively reform our marijuana laws in the legislative session to come. We grant our public officials farewell... for now.
For all the freedom fighters and grassroots activist out there, they sure know the feeling when politicians divest themselves from their duties and comfortable chairs, when the general public suddenly retrieves back into its bubble and all of a sudden it seems as if all that momentum, the political energy accumulated throughout months of rallying, lobbying, endless calls and messaging quickly faded; blown away like the leaves at fall.
Often times it is discouraging and incredibly frustrating to see all the efforts you and your team put in to promoting a legislative reform you were vigorously supporting, knowing it would have improved the daily lives of the people in your community, to just see it being thrown aside. There are so many different factors that can play in favor or against a particular bill/proposition that it's hard to pin point one in particular; though we can definitely think of a few: Usually it all comes down to internal powers playing in the backdrop and emboldened by outside entities, manipulating the decision of fellow colleagues in the political realm. Usually we hear the main motif politicians have is to listen closely to their donors; nonetheless intricated and complex dealings can also be attributed to a legislator's political image to his/her constituents as well as the sheer lack of proper information and evidence to make the right decision.
Let's always remember that a legislative session is a set amount of days throughout the year; so for us grassroots activist not only are large amounts of money and political connections far from our reach, now even time itself is against us!! There will be a moment in time where you will get this depressing sensation of being one of the remaining few that really cares. One of the few out there that still values the democratic process, that is actively involved and whom does NOT fall into the slippery slope of becoming what we define as a "Keyboard Activist". It's hard to keep up a high morale for yourself as well as your peers, especially when so much of this political process can be out of your control.
Let's just take a quick look on the treacherous path that a bill has to go through to make it to the finish line:
- Passing the vote of a carefully selected committee
- Voting on the house floor
- Senate chooses its committee which will vote on the bill
- Voting on the senare floor
- Bill goes back to the house floor and is finalized
- Bill heads to governor's desk for approval
Keep in mind that throughout this long, 6-step process, you always can have countless amendments to a bill, which will force this back-and-forth tug of war between the two chambers of the state government and on top of that, any majority "no vote" at any step of the way constitutes legal grounds for killing a bill. Last but not least you also have a final filtering process where the governor has undeniably great influence over the passage of a proposed legislation. A pretty scary thought, thinking that a bill could climb the political ladder so far to then be discarded altogether by one individual!!
Throughout the incredible learning experience our chapter has gained these past 3 months, starting during the March 7th NORML Lobby Day at the State Capitol and ending a few days ago while still continuing to attend committee hearings, to maintain an open dialogue with our legislators, was for sure an eye opening process for all of us. We knew that our efforts left a significant mark in the minds of many elected officials and we truly understood the hidden potential of practicing the greatest sport of all: Democracy.
Remember the ABC of proper grassroots activism lies in creating and most importantly MAINTAINING an open discussion about the topic you feel so strongly about and make sure that the public is constantly engaged, to encourage elected officials to do the same; because even though many in our society feel like a vote doesn't count, well it sure does for the ones who are elected!! Email your respective representative once in a while (we suggest once a month will be plenty, since surprisingly enough they have a life outside of politics.. WHAT!!?), make sure to stay updated with your local grassroots organizations to know what's going on in your community, spread the word about a particular topic you care about, volunteer at events that will promote the cause and in the end always be prepared to learn from your experiences, to know what to do and what to avoid.
Being part of the democratic process can be frustrating, time consuming but often times instill your mind with an overwhelming sense of empowerement and an exhilarating feeling of pride, knowing you are practicing something that people in most places around the world would die for and indeed, our ancestors gave their lives to. This past legislative session in 2017 has left a bitter taste in our mouths because we fought so hard to make Senate Bill 184, on the Marijuana Membership Clubs, a reality for every marijuana consumer in the State of Colorado. Even though we may have lost this battle, the war is far from over and the revolution continues... always moving forward.