“Pick a few monkeys…and kill them.”
I sit before a victorious Adam Eidinger at a table bearing the spoils of that victory. Fliers and stickers and a few information cards that double as joint tips are strewn about the long workspace, along with the material for hats he’s sewing for his next project. It’s been snowing all morning, it’ll be the last meaningful snowfall of the season, and Adam is in the final breakdown stage of his successful campaign to legalize cannabis in the District of Columbia, something he’s been working on for almost two decades. Unless you have a medical card you can’t actually buy it anywhere, but you can grow it yourself and you can give it away, because lawmakers hate capitalism.
“It’s legalization without commercialization,” he boasts.
But back to the monkeys. I’ve come to Adam Eidinger looking for answers. Through sheer force of will, and as many people as he could fit around this war table, Adam Eidinger orchestrated the passing of Ballot Initiative 71 in Washington DC, essentially legalizing home cultivation and use. It’s the same tactic used in every state that has legalized any form of non-medical cannabis possession. People like Adam Eidinger, along with the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, tired of waiting for the politicians to evolve, decided to jump start their evolution.
“If you had a ballot initiative process you could bypass the politicians, put it on the ballot, and then force them to come to your position. That’s what we did in DC. They were not going to legalize for us here.”
What about all the people (like myself) currently living in a state without a ballot initiative option, what can we do to ensure progress continues? According to Adam Eidinger, we should go a-huntin’. In the metaphorical sense.
“I don’t mean kill them, literally,” he clarifies, and I wonder what exactly he thinks I’m carrying in my leather-trimmed canvas bag.
“I mean pick your worst enemy in the state and kill them. You only have to kill a few monkeys to scare a thousand. [We have to] show our power.”
This can mean making new friends. Finding new voices, politicians who support our cause, and then working to ensure they get elected. Eidinger believes we should be sending the message: “We will be your allies, if you are consistent on marijuana.”
It’s something we’ve heard a lot about since we started WRK: “the marijuana middle.” We listened to Dina Titus talk about how cannabis is one of the few political causes on which Democrats and Republicans can actually agree. And what is more in keeping with the most positive aspects of both American and cannabis culture than an effort to find common ground with and community among a diverse group of people? By forming alliances, we can bring people over to our side, like Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado, who initially opposed legalization in his state and has since had to (sometimes reluctantly) admit that he was mistaken. Who knows — maybe by working together on cannabis, we’ll find a pathway to greater progress on other issues.
It won’t all be peace pipes and compromise though, and that’s when we need to steady ourselves for monkey execution. Many states have a long way to go before they see any kind of legalization. Adam Eidinger encourages us to not only band together, but to stay focused on the most obvious proponents of prohibition: “You want to be an enemy of the marijuana movement, then you lose your job. It’s the only way to influence the rest.” It’s the cornerstone of our democracy: represent the views of your constituents or they’ll find someone else who will.
As we all sit waiting for the federal government to catch up to a rapidly maturing public opinion, action on the state level, whether it’s through a ballot initiative or the election of cannabis friendly politicians, offers an avenue to effect change now. The more influence we wield in state elections, the harder it is for the federal government to ignore our demands.
“The green light is there for change,” says Eidinger. Just as long as we’re willing to get rid of a few disagreeable primates.