A non-partisan organization is using excitement over cannabis legalization to register and engage voters ahead of the November 2018 midterm elections.
With midterm elections right around the corner, a new initiative is pushing to get voters informed on different cannabis measures and to inspire others interested in cannabis legalization to register to vote.
The initiative is called the Cannabis Voter Project, and it comes from the nationwide non-partisan group HeadCount, which registers voters at concerts and with the help of famous musicians.
HeadCount’s efforts to register cannabis-interested voters started early this year, and they’ve seen traction since they initially launched the project in late June online. So far, they’ve worked with a wide range of artists to host their booths, including Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who will be hosting HeadCount at their concert in New Orleans this week.
Headcount’s Director, Andy Bernstein, got the idea to use cannabis policy to engage voters over the last year. He said this was after previously attending the 2015 Cannabis Cup in Denver and seeing how well the event was operated and how similar it was to a concert or festival space. Another motivating factor behind the Cannabis Voter Project was the first-hand knowledge they gained about how cannabis can spur engagement on social media. For example, when the Marijuana Policy Project did a HeadCount-backed voter registration post on Facebook, it outperformed other types of organizations with a similar following across social media.
“So [Bernstein] kind of got this idea that cannabis might be a great issue around which to mobilize voters,” said Sam D’Arcangelo, the director of the Cannabis Voter Project.
“The idea around the Cannabis Voter Project is we can mobilize people to vote by sort of getting them to better understand the cannabis issue in the United States,” he said.
D’Arcangelo believes there are a lot of people out there who may care about cannabis issues, but ultimately not take their opinion to the ballot box. He says that HeadCount has constantly been confronted with people who have the mentality that voting doesn’t matter.
“But with marijuana or cannabis, we figured it would be a great entry point for people who might be apathetic about politics,” D’Arcangelo said. “Voting does matter. Voting does change things. Because when you look at the way cannabis policy has gone the last five or six years, so much of it has happened at the ballot box. So much of it has happened after elections that changed the balance in legislatures.”
D’Arcangelo says it’s the perfect example of an issue people care about being directly influenced by voting.
The Cannabis Voter Project is also hoping to educate folks on the local level about where their elected officials stand on the issue of cannabis. D’Arcangelo says there are a few resources out there, but no great “one-stop shop.”
“We wanted a clear easy-to-use system, because a lot of people you talk to who are informed voters and who care about the cannabis issue may not hold cannabis as their number one issue,” said D’Arcangelo. “They are generally informed voters, but they don’t know where their politicians stand on cannabis.”
D’Arcangelo says that many people assume that almost all legislators would be against cannabis legalization — which might have been the case a decade ago, but today is simply untrue. He believes that HeadCount can simultaneously help the electorate to learn about their officials and get them to register to vote at the same time.
Because HeadCount is a big-name national organization with high-end corporate partners, it might stand to reason that there would be internal pushback about getting involved with cannabis. However, D’Arcangelo says this wasn’t a problem.
“One of the reasons why it’s such a great issue to focus on is that it’s fairly bipartisan, and that’s a really big thing for HeadCount,” he said. “One of the things about the cannabis space is that there are things happening on all sides of the aisle.”
TELL US, are you registered to vote? Do you know where your legislators stand on cannabis?
By Jimi Devine