Marijuana Reform – Women, Power & Politics
Throughout history women have played a major role in shaping politics and policy, a major role in changing the world. Our Executive Director, Les Stark has been doing some pretty intensive and fascinating research into the history of marijuana prohibition. I’ve listened with interest as he’s read me articles from throughout the decades . It truly is revealing and fascinating to see how the bigger picture fits together and how we ended up in this nonsensical place. That complete story is his to tell, but one little piece he shared with me has been rolling around my head for a while. And as things usually happen, other pieces of synchronicity with other people and their experiences have made me look at it even closer.
Back in the late 30’s women played a very large role in prohibition and the over-all demonization of cannabis and those associated with it. The Pennsylvania Federation of Womens Clubs claimed responsibility for the introduction and lobbying for pieces of legislation to help eradicate the ‘evil’ marihuana curse.
No doubt these were well meaning women that truly believed that they were doing the right thing. Hearing all of the propaganda and fear mongering going around at the time it is relatively easy to understand why they felt motivated to unite to protect society. But right, wrong or indifferent, the inescapable truth is that women have power. Men know it. And when women can be corralled and organized to promote whatever is on the male dominated political agenda, these women are upheld as pillars of virtue and an important voice that needs to be heard and acted upon.
Yet when women come together to voice an opinion that is contrary to what is currently politically acceptable, what happens? We are labeled feminists, radicals, demeaned and basically told to ‘shut the ____ up’.
This is evident in all manner of causes that women have fought for over the years, but especially pronounced in the issue of cannabis reform. And the pressures and backlash that all activists face seems to be compounded if you are a woman. Especially if you are a woman that believes in full legalization.
The other sense that I’ve had in hearing the history is an incredible sense of déjà vu. This debate was raging 40 years ago and yet here in PA there has been little progress in those 4 decades. There was a push for at least a reduction in the penalties for possession, but there was no ground swelling of public support to help push it through. Again understandable when after all they didn’t have social media, instant communications and little way to unite and inform people of what is going on.
So finally now in PA with medical cannabis we have some real progress and some real hope. And while many people have fought for this, and that includes many good men, where we are now unquestionably can be boiled down to one word. Moms.
Even the staunchest prohibitionist has a hard time looking a mom with a suffering child in the eye and condemning her. But unfortunately, even that is not unheard of. I’ve heard of several ignorant politicians accusing these women of ‘parading’ their kids around and using them to further their own secret agenda of just wanting to ‘get high’. Luckily those clueless, uneducable people are in the minority and most do have compassion. But as fate would have it, those few lacking compassion also seem to be the ones that wield the most power. That has not stopped these amazing women from organizing, educating, persevering and bringing about some real hope for some real change right here in PA where everyone said change is impossible.
But what happens if you are a woman advocating for complete reform? If you don’t have a sick child or a compelling personal health issue to justify your advocacy? Upholding the age old tradition, you are told in very strong terms to simply ‘shut the ____ up’. Too often it’s not just the politicians trying to silence us, it’s also society as a whole and even friends and family. This is compounded if you also happen to be a mother. Ex’s use it as an open to attempt to manipulate and control using fear of loss of custody, the guilt trip that somehow we are harming our children by advocating and teaching the truth, that we are selfish and bad parents setting bad examples.
As I talked about in another blog, fear is a funny thing and is arguably the most powerful tool of control there is. Governments have been using it against the people since the dawn of time. And governments and men have used it against women to keep them bound in abusive relationships, keep them silent, keep them dependent and believing that they need protection from both themselves and the outside world.
Fear begets more fear and little rational thought or policies can come from blind fear. It becomes a round robin of insanity. Governments fear change so they use fear to stop change.
What I find so personally gratifying about this cause, aside from the obvious, is how it touches on so many larger social issues. Everything from justice, freedom, prejudice, morality, environmental concerns, jobs and really almost anything else you can think of is somehow touched by this issue. And again, while this particular rant is about how women are implored to shut up and maintain the staus quo, I do have huge respect for, and have been inspired by, the men who stand on the right side of history and are fighting valiantly for much needed change.
But to all the women out there – I personally know how challenging it is through my own experiences of others attempting to use fear to silence me. No matter what issue it is that you are passionate about, and even though it’s not always easy, please dig deep within yourself. Know that you have power. Know that you have a voice. Never let fear or social stigma silence that voice. Never let anyone or anything deter you from making a stand for what you know to be right.