Understand where your state or community is in terms of legalizing marijuana for adult nonmedical use. If your state is debating whether to legalize or has recently legalized, you’ll want to advocate for youth protection provisions to be included in any new legislation. In many cases, the youth protection provisions may be more specifically defined in the regulation, rather than the law. It usually takes several months after the law is enacted for the agency to put out regulations that offer more specifics about how the law is to be enacted, but there will be an opportunity for public comment on any proposed regulations.
Pay close attention to announcements about new regulations and take advantage of public comment opportunities to make your voice heard! You can likely find announcements about proposed regulations on the website of the agency that regulates cannabis in your state.
If your state or community has already legalized marijuana and issued regulations, learn whether your state’s laws or regulations include youth protection provisions. While it is important to have strong protections on the books, they are largely meaningless if not well enforced. It is important to flag violations of existing requirements/protections and advocate for stronger enforcement if needed.
Here are some examples of the various youth protection provisions you’ll want to be sure are included in your state’s marijuana law.
There are many different ways that you can advocate, from using social media to attending a meeting with a lawmaker. You can post on social media, write a letter or op-ed to your local newspaper, send a letter, email or call a policymaker. You can also attend a town hall meeting or an individual meeting with a lawmaker or staff. These meetings offer great opportunities for individual community members to voice their opinions and concerns, and local government officials are frequently interested in learning more from members of the community who are well informed about the research and relevant issues. Our Advocacy Toolkit includes quick tips for each tactic.
If meeting with a policymaker, identify any relationships or connections you may have with your lawmakers and use those connections to set up an introductory meeting with the lawmaker or their staff. Staffers serve as channels to the policymakers and are critical to getting work done and persuading legislators on important issues.
Since policymakers can’t be experts in every policy area, it is important to avail yourself as a resource by sharing information, data and resources on marijuana commercialization and the importance of protecting youth. In your meeting, keep your remarks short, clear and respectful. Follow through on any requests for additional information and follow up to show persistence, convey your passion and build the relationship further.
The recipe for changing policy is data plus stories. Data includes statistics, research studies and evidence-based recommendations. You can find information and resources on our marijuana webpage. If possible, use statistics that are specific to your state and/or community and provide information about the impact of these protections on your state or community. You can find statistics on youth marijuana use from your local or state health department as well as national surveys such as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) or the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), each of which offers state-level data.
While data is essential, it’s the individual stories that bring an issue to life and change hearts and minds. If you have a personal experience with a child or other family member who has been harmed by marijuana, the commercialization of an addictive substance, or have been otherwise affected by addiction and you are comfortable and willing to share, your story can help make a difference. Learn more about tips for sharing your story.
Engage others in your community who care about this issue. There is strength in numbers and the more that policymakers hear from you and your fellow constituents about a problem, the more likely they are to make that issue a priority. For an issue like this, the goal to protect young people from marijuana exposure and use is not especially controversial and there will be many parents who would be likely to appreciate a forum in which to voice their concerns and promote sensible measures. Find and mobilize experts in your community who can lend their knowledge and expertise about the issue to join your effort. These can be members of your local drug prevention coalition or task force on alcohol and drugs, a school mental health counselor, a lawyer with experience in government or policymaking, or a local pediatrician. The more the advocacy efforts are guided by facts and conducted professionally, the more persuasive they will be to lawmakers in your community.