Our first annual Women Grow Lobby Days event was an overwhelming success and we’re already preparing to go back to Washington to lobby with the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) at the end of April. There are several cannabis events happening simultaneously April 28-May 1st in DC. I hope you’ll join Women Grow’s leadership team as we continue to make our voices heard at the Federal level.
Read these tips on being an effective lobbyist for your cause and then register to join us at the NCIA Policy Symposium & Member Lobby Days (April 28-30). Along with the other top cannabis companies, Women Grow is an NCIA member and we recommend you become one too. The NCIA is the only national organization with full-time lobbying staff on behalf of cannabis business owners. You must be an NCIA member and register for the symposium to participate in NCIA’s Lobby Days on April 29 & 30.
Learn About Your Issue
These are busy offices with tons of demands on their time across hundreds of issues. Lobbying is most effective when you are prepared with a specific ask for that office. Typically this means that there is a specific bill you’d like to gain their support on. Find out what cannabis-related legislation is currently being considered by checking with NCIA, MPP, and DPA.
You’ll need succinct literature that includes what bills you would like your congressperson to support and why. (Planned Lobby Day events will have literature for you.) Make sure you have a professional business card so the office can follow-up with you.
How to Setup a Meeting
You don’t need any special permission to schedule a meeting with your legislator. (Not sure who your legislator is? You can search by zip code or use the Congress App.) Their offices are setup to honor short meetings with their constitutes pretty much every day Congress is in session. The easiest way to start lobbying is to join a pre-planned lobbying day, where the meetings will be setup for you, but you can also call your Representative’s office and request a meeting at any time. You can even drop by an office and just see if someone is available (but planning in advance is best).
Who to Meet
Politicians will tell you that if you get stuck talking to a Congressperson, just be nice and get it over with as quickly as possible. Although facetime with your Representative can be interesting, it is actually their staff that makes the majority of the decisions on how they vote. If your Congressperson is not available, ask to speak to their Policy Director or the staff member that handles drug or business policy.
Politicians will also tell you that what bills get passed in Washington have little to do with the merits of the bill and everything to do with politics. You should understand the voting history of your representative on your issue and what committees they serve on. A meeting with the Chairperson of the Financial Services committee is more likely to help with banking access than the Science, Space & Technology committee.
What to Wear
Wear a business outfit with comfortable shoes. We took over 10,000 steps on our Lobby Day, so make sure your shoes are up for the job. You’ll see many groups wearing pins or other identification pieces as well. Appearing coordinated and well put together can only help with your credibility.
What to Bring (and What to Leave in Your Hotel)
You’ll be going through metal detectors throughout the day so leave all your metal jewelry, belts, and boot buckles at home. Needless to say, do not bring any federally illegal products into these federal buildings. Your bag will be x-ray scanned as you enter the building.
What to Do (and NOT to Do) During Your Meeting
- Show up 5 minutes early. Offices are harder to find than you think and take longer to get there than you think.
- Address your Senator or Representative as “Senator Last Name” or “Representative Last Name”. You probably will never use their first name in conversation. Even if your congressperson is no longer serving, you should continue to address them formally.
- Introduce yourself immediately, establish your credibility on the subject and if you live in their district. “Hello, I’m Jazmin Hupp, Executive Director of Women Grow, the largest network of female entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana industry. I am your constitute in New York State.”
- Ask an opening question like “I’m here to ask for your help in safely operating my cannabis business without access to banking, have you heard anything about this issue yet?”
- Talk from your own experience about the problems you face and how legislation can help. Tell a short memorable story if possible.
- Give the legislator succinct literature with your position clearly stated and supporting evidence.
- Answer questions to the best of your knowledge. If you’re not sure, ask to follow-up with them with an answer.
- Thank your legislator and staff genuinely. Don’t apologize for taking up their time.
- Take a picture with your legislator (with their permission) or at their office and share it.
- Don’t be visibly medicated unless you are talking from your experience of being a medical patient. Smelling like you just smoked a joint on the Capitol steps will undermine your credibility.
- Don’t mention campaign contributions in any way. Congressional offices cannot be used for fundraising activities so even if you are seeing that legislator at a fundraiser that very night, you do not mention that during your meeting.
- Don’t be arrogant or condescending towards the legislator or staff. You may disagree with a position but anger will not help make your point.
During your meeting get the cards of everyone you meet with and any pertinent staffers. Write a personalized thank you note for each staffer who took a meeting with you. Include your contact information so they can follow-up with any questions.
Join Women Grow in DC
We’ll be lobbying with the National Cannabis Industry Association, April 29th & 30th. Become an NCIA Member and register to join us.