BY JEN HUDYMA – Last week, I joined a group of 22 women and 3 men to meet in the Oregon state capitol of Salem for a Women Grow Lobby Day. This event was organized by Portland Chapter Co-Chair Leah Maurer, and Bend Chapter Co-Chair Lizette Coppinger was a group leader. Attendees drove in from all over the state to participate in a jam packed day of meetings with Oregon representatives, and our group was able to meet with over 23 legislators. Our goal was to stress the preservation of the Oregon medical marijuana patients’ rights as we craft our adult-use industry, ask for the passage of legislation in support of fair access to banking for cannabis businesses in the state, and to remind legislators that we would love for them to use both Oregon Women Grow Chapters as a resource in the future.
Lobbying is an activity I didn’t really understand until recently, and I was a bit nervous to go in the beginning. I was relieved to find out we would split into small groups, each with a group leader to facilitate the meetings, and I would also have the opportunity to present my own story. One of the Senators that my group scheduled a meeting with, Senator Chip Shields, had his aid pull him out of a legislative session to meet with us briefly in the hallway, where we had a really constructive conversation; I later found out that many legislators are not so receptive, and that was a bit of an anomaly. Another group of ladies from Central Oregon met with a legislator from their area who admitted he did not personally support legalization of cannabis, but still expressed his commitment to uphold the wishes of his constituents who had voted in favor of it. It was really inspirational to see this rapport being created, and the feedback that each group received was overwhelmingly encouraging. I asked Lori Duckworth, an attendee and group leader who has been going to the Oregon capital to lobby for cannabis reform for years, if she had noticed anything different about this lobby day, and she had some great insight. “I really felt like people were listening to us more than they have in the past” said Lori. “Coming in as a unified group of strong, professional women really made an impression on the legislators. Overall, we presented well, and in the long session coming up I think we’ll have even more of an impact.”
Participating in the legislative process felt intimidating to me at first, but I’m so happy that I went. There were a few women in our group who had lobbied before, and it was great to have them as leaders for my first time participating. If you’ve ever been interested in getting involved in cannabis reform in your area, I suggest you find your closest Women Grow Chapter, or start a chapter in your city, and see how many women you can get interested in joining you. Bringing a group of unified, informed, and professional women (and men) into a meeting with a legislator shows that the issue you’re asking your representative to endorse are also supported by other constituents. These are the types of activities that will inspire confidence in the cannabis industry among legislators that are not yet convinced it will have a positive impact on their community. “We had great feedback from legislators, attendees, and team leaders. We certainly plan to do another Lobby Day during the next legislative session, hopefully with even more people, and more impact,” Leah told me. I know I left my first Women Grow Lobby Day feeling like I had genuinely connected with the legislators we met, and excited for the next one!
As both a medical marijuana patient and an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, I’ve come to realize that it’s imperative for me to be involved in the process of structuring the regulations that will govern our community. Crafting rules for an industry that is moving as quickly as the cannabis industry will be a bumpy road, and participating in that process can be intimidating to say the least. Right now is a crucial time when Oregon medical marijuana patients are working to preserve their rights, cannabis business owners are struggling to gain access to banking services, and we’re all trying to create an industry that sets the standard for legalization in other states. I want to be sure that I’m along for this ride, and take every opportunity to ensure that my voice is heard in the process of crafting this newly legalized industry.
Find me on Twitter and Instagram as @chronictravels, and my cultivation company Urban Fields on Twitter and Instagram as @urbanfieldspdx