By Tom Angell
It may sound incredibly corny, but it's the truth: Teamwork works.
While Marijuana Majority, the organization I lead as chairman, has gotten a lot of credit for heading up the successful effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution urging the federal government to respect state and local marijuana laws, it simply would have never happened without hard work from almost all the other major drug reform groups coming together as a team.
Every step along the way of this campaign, from conception to execution, Marijuana Majority was able to get by with a little help from our friends.
For example, the Drug Policy Alliance, based on its efforts to successfully shepherd pro-reform resolutions through the Conference in the past, helped us put together the initial draft of the new resolution and plan a strategy to get it approved.
Groups like Marijuana Policy Project helped us create a list of mayors who had been vocally supportive of reform to reach out to about co-sponsoring the resolution.
Just Say Now launched an online action tool that made it easy for activists to send letters to the editor of their local newspapers, urging their mayors to speak out in support.
And these groups and others like National Cannabis Coalition, NORML, StopTheDrugWar.org, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform all directed their supporters to Marijuana Majority's action page where people could easily write, phone and tweet their mayors to ask them to get on board.
Because of all these efforts, we were able to generate nearly 7,000 constituent letters to almost 1,000 mayors across the country in a matter of a few weeks. We ended up convincing 18 mayors - including those from major cities like San Diego, Seattle, Oakland and Aurora - to sign on as co-sponsors.
And this week we ended up passing this groundbreaking resolution through the Conference - unanimously. This is exactly the type of coordination and cooperation that we're going to need more of in the drug policy reform movement if we're going to be able to successfully and quickly capitalize on the fact that the majority of Americans now agree with us that marijuana should be legalized.
It's no secret that - like with any movement of dedicated social justice activists - from time to time infighting among drug policy reformers holds back our progress. Because we're all so passionate and have different ideas about the best way to achieve victory, we sometimes have disagreements about campaigns, tactics and messaging. Our various organizations often need to compete for the same limited pool of funding. And we all want to be quoted in the news articles that result from our collective victories.
But, in all honesty, I've seen that our movement has recently gotten a lot better at effectively dealing with these natural issues as they arise. Perhaps it's because there's simply so much going on now that none of our organizations can lead, direct or even be heavily involved in every single state legislative effort. It just makes sense to divvy up the states and campaigns and let certain organizations take the lead on particular efforts. Or maybe it's because many of us have been working together for so long now that we have a better sense of how to put our disagreements on the table civilly, discuss them, come to understandings and move forward in the effort to work together.
And when we can build trusting relationships amongst each other, we can feel comfortable about directing our own organizations' supporters to participate in campaigns headed up by other groups, as happened in the case of Marijuana Majority's Mayors Initiative.
No matter the cause, it's great to see so many important organizations teaming up to get things done and achieve much-needed victories.
As the debate about marijuana reform gets more and more prominent over the next few years we're going to need much more of the sort of cooperation and teamwork of the sort that underlied our Mayors Initiative.
Together --- and only together --- we can and will change these laws.
Tom Angell is chairman of Marijuana Majority (http://MarijuanaMajority.com).