The Pew Research Center reports that a slim majority of Americans now support legalization. At the same time, opponents are beginning to step up community-based efforts. Regardless of which side you’re on, the reality is that your voice is needed in this debate. Consider what you have learned about the topic. Assess your own thoughts. What are your values? What are your positions? What are your priorities? How would you like to weigh in? The following represent just a few of the possible priorities you might identify for yourself and your community. Prevent or promote marijuana legalization Repeal legalized marijuana Provide more public education on marijuana Include more education with marijuana prescriptions Intervene and treat more of the people who develop cannabis use disorder Prepare schools to provide more prevention education and counseling related to marijuana Promote more marijuana research Regulate marijuana more effectively Once you’ve identified your own priorities, you may want to engage others in your community. Here is a general game plan for doing so. Create a Community Coalition for Marijuana Awareness Community coalition building is a key strategy for increasing awareness of marijuana-related issues. In addition to increasing public awareness, the process of forming a coalition creates new relationships in communities and can strengthen ties between local governments and community members. The basic steps are: Identify coalition members Hire or assign a local coordinator Conduct a local visioning session Gather relevant information and data Develop an action plan for increasing awareness of marijuana issues and battling addiction Implement the action plan Consider involving schools, treatment providers and others in the health care field, recovery support resources and local law enforcement, among others. Create a Media Campaign for Marijuana Awareness Effective publicity is important to any marijuana awareness campaign. You might want to provide marijuana statistics and information about your coalition’s efforts to daily newspapers, television and radio stations, and other local media, such as weekly community newspapers, school and faith-based newspapers, and organization newsletters. You could do so by writing press releases, submitting letters to the editor and opinion columns, and creating public service announcements, for example. Social media should be part of your coalition’s strategy as well, and a community marijuana awareness website might also be helpful. Host Community Events for Marijuana Awareness Community events, no matter how large or small, can go a long way toward building awareness and keeping marijuana issues in the forefront of public dialogue. They also help generate media coverage. Best of all, events connect neighbors, empower families and acquaint citizens with valuable resources. Events can help create community solidarity by engaging community members, including young people, in a common purpose. Sometimes they also provide the opportunity to collaborate with neighboring communities. Your coalition might want to host a marijuana education forum, for example, or mock drug courts, regular evening discussions, online chats or even community webinars and video meetings. You could invite people in recovery to speak, ask local artists to create relevant pieces, involve a youth improv troupe, convene a panel of experts and so on. The possibilities are limited only by your coalition’s imagination. The nation is divided on marijuana policy, and researching policies in other areas of the country can help you develop an approach for your own community. Look for policies that align with your community’s priorities and have proven successful elsewhere. Be a Lobbyist Acting as a lobbyist is one way that you can effect policy change. You and others from your community may want to schedule visits with local, state or national lawmakers to voice your views on marijuana legalization and related issues. It may be easiest to start with local community representatives—your mayor and members of your city council and school board. They may, in turn, be willing to help you set up meetings with state legislators, who in turn could help you set up meetings with members of Congress, if applicable to your objectives. If you schedule a meeting at a congressional office in Washington, D.C., expect to interact primarily with busy legislative assistants. It’s best to have a brief, well-organized presentation prepared that addresses specific concerns in the senator’s or representative’s district. Members of Congress tend to appreciate personal stories from and about the people they represent. Whatever level of government you’re trying to affect, it’s helpful to do some background research before approaching public officials. Find out about their interests, the committees on which they serve and their known policy positions. You also may want to check with other local organizations for relevant data, studies and resources that support your objectives. You’ll want to make sure that your request is specific and that you are armed with accurate information as well as local anecdotes and examples.