Action Works When Action Is Taken

As an American citizen, it is easy to become cynical about citizen participation in democracy.  Even the most basic form of participation, voting, can be difficult in the United States. Unlike most nations, who hold elections on a holiday or have mandatory voting requirements, the US holds elections on Tuesdays. When many people cannot vote, whether for time reasons or restrictive state laws, it is a struggle, for those of us enthused about participating in democracy, to watch less than 60 percent of the electorate turnout for a presidential election. One of the proposed reasons for the problem is a lack of voter efficacy. Voters don’t feel as if their voice is being heard. But stories of voters successfully influencing lawmakers are common, if not always reported.

Recently, House Republicans revealed a plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The new body proposed by the GOP would have been a blow to anyone in support of governmental transparency. Unable to report its findings to the public, the proposed Office of Congressional Complaint Review would have even further clouded general understanding of what occurs behind closed doors in the legislative branch. However, congressional offices were subsequently flooded with calls and messages from angry constituents. Less than 24 hours later, the GOP changed course and backpedaled. After tremendous public pressure, the government radically changed its course in a short span of time.

Simply making a phone call, sending an email or Facebook message to a representative, or retweeting a congress member’s phone number (which occurred thousands of times because of the ethics committee plan) can make a difference on the national level. However, many success stories about citizen participation can be found among the lower levels of the federal system. State and local governments are, at least in theory, designed to be more supportive of and responsive to individual citizens. Examples to support this theory is strong. States are known as “laboratories of democracy” and are often ahead of the federal government in terms of cutting edge policy.

One only has to look at success stories like gay marriage or marijuana legislation in several states to see the effect of citizen participation on policy outcomes. We can see with both cases that state policy often follows national public opinion trends. When the tipping point came in regards to gay marriage, it was state judges and lawmakers that first instituted protections for the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union penned action alerts to their members day after day pleading with them to contact their state representatives. And when the people spoke, politicians listened, and change happened.

Marijuana legislation is following a similar path with organizations including NORML are creating a similar avalanche effect of states legalizing that will ultimately culminate in national legalization if sustained.

To speed up the process one only has to get involved. It is easy to sit back and watch while progress occurs, but it is rewarding to be a part of such a movement. Emailing, calling, and having meetings with your representatives in a constructive way is simple and effective to push change.

If the government is doing something that we as a citizenry do not approve of, we have the right to be heard. Although the mechanisms of government are far from perfect, it our duty as a dedicated and informed public is to try the best we can, in every way we can.

Sign up for our email list to get our action alerts, keep checking the NORML action page for federal legislation and in your home state at, talk to your friends and neighbors about getting involved, join a NORML chapter or start your own at, and never, ever, stop fighting.


25 thoughts

  1. Excellent post! Keith? This style of writing smacks of our founder-in-hiding. (Ever since that post prior to the Presidential election mysteriously disappeared in a shower of ignorant hate-filled posts from the Orange Micro-Digital Bots). I don’t blame you for doing so: For those of us like NORML Advisory Board member Bill Maher who have spoken out aggressively against our President elect, it would be a better strategy to “lay low” from the public voice and wait until inauguration distracts the orange distractor from exacting sociopathic revenge on anyone who defied him publicly.
    Still, when so many are ready to type when it comes to criticize but not so ready to call a Congressman and respectfully identify themselves and stand up for their rights, it’s good to see a familiar voice of reason on this old blog. Lord knows we need it.

  2. However, and I say this to all who are reading and to Americans beyond this blog, even hiding from the scrutiny of the “public voice” or the hounds of Hell who troll our freedom does not mean we can’t reach our Congressman by phone or in person. (Hell, I’ve never even posted a Tweet or used Facebook more than once, and that was just to do the recent Thunderclap NORML promoted; but I still contact my Congressman regularly)… To be fair, I don’t offer my last name on this blog, though I post here religiously, because it marks up on my Google history where I’m trying to keep my profile business related.

    Yet I always contact my Congressman.

    It’s important for those of us who have called and met with our state and federal officials to remember what it was like that first time we write or visit our Congressman’s office; remember the fear of giving our name away, our address… our phone number. My state Senator’s log book (A book we should REALLY sign when we visit out legislators so at least they KNOW we were there), actually asked for the license plate of the vehicle I was parked in. Of course, no one fills that out, but we really shouldn’t be intimidated by giving our personal information to our Congressman. After all, they should be intimidated by US. They aren’t COPS. (Now that’s a group you don’t need to give ANY information to save the questions “Am I being arrested?” and “Can I leave?”)
    (To be continued…)

  3. The truth is that meeting with your legislators, state and federal, in their office, during the legislative session, even if it’s just a staff member, (…and your Congressman can usually hear you as the room goes silent at the words “marijuana,”) …it’s an empowering feeling.
    If we don’t make that human connection to MEET with our legislators and see that REAL PEOPLE work for our government… we’ll never make that adjustment to participate in what’s left of our Democratic Republic. It’s just complaints and rants.
    Reps often have local offices closer to your home. And it doesn’t mean we have to visit them in expensive fund raisers, (although that certainly gets their attention). They don’t have to be Democrat or Republican or whatever we are. They just have to be campaigning or elected American Congressman. Keep your partisanship vote as leverage to persuade your legislators. Remember, we can vote for Democrats or Republicans down the same ballot.
    We just have to go their offices, pick a specific topic, make our story personal and be respectful. And dress professionally. People take you seriously that way. (Some staffers will want to know if you are a registered lobbyist. You can tell them you represent your local NORML chapter… we don’t have to be registered lobbyists to perform our civic duty and citizen lobby our Congressman).

    Visiting a Rep and offering them a personal reason to help the sick, create jobs and legalize marijuana is like giving an apple to a homeless person. If they eat it, they needed the nutrition. If they throw it away, they weren’t worth a dollar in the first place. Either way, you’ll feel better and more satisfied planting the seed of knowledge and nourishing someone’s mind or buying them dinner than throwing dollars at someone you’ve never met before. Besides, they’ll probably just spend it all on getting high anyway. 😉

  4. The Regan Family Bible to be used on Friday at the inauguration is the King James Version. On Genesis page 1 of the bible it reads:

    29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
    30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
    31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

    If God saw everything that he made and said it was very good then what the hell went wrong?

    Our new VP will have that same bible open to 2 Chronicles 7-14 which reads:
    14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (KJV)

    1. Former Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal was once quoted as saying “We know Trump has never read the bible because he’s not in it.”

      Nonetheless, the quote I use frequently when writing my Christian Reps and Senators is Mathew 25:47:

      “Lord, when did we see you sick or hungry or in prison and bring you food, clothing or medicine?” And the Lord said “Even what you did for the least of these, my Brethren, you did it for Me.”

  5. Why is when ever a good Sen or Rep is debating The Dea or the other oppisition they never make the agurement that the Fed goverment Has prescribed to 15 ppl cannabis for medical conditions yet they say there is no nedical value and are still saying it or bring up real scientific evedince abput the indocannabinoid system that Cannibus cures and heals and make your system work they want too say things like do you thinks its less dangerus than this or that and only bring up the broken record effect why dont they speak up for ppl thats dieng and have no good quality of life that the FDA passed laws to protect the Souless Profit Zombies the same thing they done to Dr brazinsky cause they cant paten a plant and make a monpoly for there selves when they could create a whole new ecconamy 100 of 1000s of jobs bring ppl out of poverty make ppl well happy is that not there duty to protect or freedom to pursue happyness Have they even Read the decloration of indapendance its time they Stop there profit base genaside and actualy give a damn about ppl life liberty and happyness and well being Why? $$$$$ is more important than life hell How much $$$$$ is a life worth Why dont they ask them that

    1. For healthy human beings, the purpose of dialogue is to promote communication and understanding. But for many people, particularly marijuana prohibitionists, dialogue is a weapon used purely to mislead and distract. Be advised! For them, MISCOMMUNICATION is the goal!

      Have you ever tried explaining something to someone (a boss or supervisor, maybe) who appears to be listening — they’re looking you in the eye, they’re nodding their head, they’re replying at the appropriate points in the conversation — but at some point you realize, they’re just toying with you? And, you suddenly realize, they never had any intention of taking you seriously?

      There’s a name for this: it’s called “jawing it to death.” It’s a technique for dissipating political effort and energy. Republicans use it as a standard operating procedure. It wastes your time, and misdirects your efforts. And, if you actually bought into their bullshit, feeds you lies as well.

      Marijuana prohibitionists don’t care about facts or truth or justice or anything else you might say to them — they only care about protecting marijuana prohibition. They will continue to bullshit you in dialogue, for ever as long as you are prepared to sit there and listen to the bullshit. (Naive as I am, it took me a very long time to figure this out. Years. Save time, learn from me.)

      But you can, with some straight facts and a clarity of purpose, destroy their arguments — expose their bullshit as such until they have nothing left to say. Why do this, if it won’t convince them? Answer: to convince others. To help other see through their lies.

      And so, Jeff Sessions ain’t gonna change; and nothing anyone says to him is going to make him change. But in questioning him, if done properly, we expose his agenda: a racist, traitorous assault on American citizens!

  6. I am considering becoming a spokesman for the use of cannibus. In 2010, I suffered a severe injury to my knee and lumbar spine. I had 13 surgeries in 5 years. I have used cannabis to reduce my opiate use and am down from 3 to 4 pills a day, to 1\2 pill twice a day. Without cannabis I wouldn’t have ever come close to accomplishing this. As a now retired Hospice nurse, I need some guidance as to where to begin. Any additional information is greatly appreciated.


    Under pressure from Senate Democrats to recuse himself of all Confirmation votes, Senator Sessions has agreed to recuse himself from his own vote to USAG. Senator Sessions is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that confirms USAG.
    Hubris? Or are enough Dems making deals with Big Pharma that Sessions feels safe to recuse himself? Watch a few Dem. Senators defect for Sessions for contribution$. Wouldnt be surprised if they blame their misguided vote on Russia.
    Click the Take Action link. CALL your Senator:

  8. Keith Stroup is quoted here: Its regarding a case in Texas where an administrative Judge decided that “eating a medible” in Colorado where marijuana is legal and in Texas it is not is about as worthy of punishment as someone who “traveled to Vegas where gambling is legal” and then was punished for it in Texas.

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