Women and the Tipping Joint

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PHOTO: Erik Gustafson

Confession: I’d never heard of Ladybud Magazine until a friend suggested they’d run something I’d written. I might have caught an article from here, but never thought about it until I needed something. Fortunately with wit, groveling, and some dumb luck, I demonstrated passionate interest in pot, politics, activism, humor, and (by total accident) women.

I like women, enough to marry one. Over the past year or so, support for marijuana legalization has jumped up 10 percent. Support has risen 10% with women, to 51% in a recent CNN/ORC International Poll. Plenty of room for support to grow.

Amber Iris Langston

Amber Langston, Executive Director at Women Against Prohibition,and Secretary, Board of Directors at Show-Me Cannabis

Looking at the drug reform movement, it’s undeniable that future success hinges on women’s support of and activity in campaigns. Cannabis Now has an article on their work in the midwest featuring my old friend Amber Langston.

Involvement of women like Amber is the difference between allowing ladies in the formerly all-dude golf club, and letting them on the…whatever board of old dudes runs a golf club (the viability of my Ladybud golf column is in serious doubt.) The early legalization community grew along the anti-Vietnam War movement in the late 1960s. They included women as outreach and volunteering, but often shut out of major decision-making.

I didn’t think about this when I first hooked up with NORML at college in Missouri. There were two groovy ladies in the leadership of our chapter, one being Amber, and it was never hard to find women to help at events or lead in executive positions. But later when starting a Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter in Washington I found that with three core members, all guys, it was tough brainstorming and executing events, and keeping more fair-weather volunteers involved.

As a guy, it’s weird to think about targeting women as a demographic. You’re prone to generalizing, you worry whether you want their input, or just their presence. Even with a mutual concern for social justice, it can feel wrong to apply extra persuasion because of gender, no matter if you’re genuinely open to their views. In 2012, much of the core staff of Washington’s I-502 legalization campaign were women; headed by prominent ACLU lawyer, Alison Holcomb.

The reform movement thrives with professional leaders and responsible spokespersons in every community. But it needs women. Not only helping signing up volunteers or making signs, but deciding what those signs should say, and what those volunteers ought to be doing.

The 51% legalization support from women is good. We are at the “tipping joint” with this policy, and the host of new issues its change brings into question. While I don’t foresee it declining, nothing promises we won’t tip back without a sustained effort. If left to our own devices, guys are likely to appeal to women using air-horns and ranch dipping sauce.

I’m suggesting that 2014 needs to be a year of women activists reaching out to others and getting them involved in direct issues. It’s not all about pot: it could be mandatory minimums, intrusive policing, drug testing, or many others.

So that’s why I’m happy I found Ladybud, and another perspective on drug reform. I’ll keep reading and hoping Ladybud finds more readers, louder voices, and stronger women. It’s the only way to move past the “tipping joint.”