Upvote Social Movement Organization: Marijuana Policy Project

by cierravega
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A social movement organization (SMO) is a segment of a larger social organization that deals with a particular area of a larger social movement. A social movement, in turn, is an organized collection of people united by some common ideal and working towards instigating change for the better in a particular aspect of society. This study singles out Marijuana Policy project (MPP) - a national advocacy group for cannabis based in the District of Columbia. MPP champions for the legalization of medical marijuana. The social movement organization also advocates the freedom of home cultivation of cannabis. This fast growing group gains momentum and it is an appropriate SMO to obtain insight on, given the relevance of the topic of marijuana legalization. This study will look at what Marijuana Policy Project is about and how it came to be. The paper will also examine its organization and structure, the milestones of MPP and its defeats. The study will also include relevant outreach methods employed by MPP and other interesting facts about this project.

Studying this project will go a long way in bolstering peace studies in that it will offer an alternative approach at airing grievances. Marijuana Policy Project has a long history of non-violent confrontation through waging only legal wars. Inquiring into MPP should offer better understanding into what social movement organizations do, how they are organized, and whether or not they are effective. This study will look at how peace can be a factor at affecting change in issues that would otherwise be presumably violent.

This study will look at blog posts, the official MPP website, the MPP Facebook page, and legislative victories of this SMO. This study will also countercheck medical facts about marijuana and the politics behind this issue from both sides and, to some extent, explore the ideologies behind a peaceful action. Media mentions like news posts will also be important sources of understanding MPP and getting an insight into their operations and history.

Marijuana Policy Project Description

Marijuana Policy Project is a social movement organization working towards countrywide legalization of medical marijuana and cannabis use as a whole. As an SMO, MPP is a part of the growing national movement aimed at legalizing marijuana use. MPP was formed by a breakout group of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Their slogan, “we change laws” gives glimpse of what the project is about. MPP was founded in 1995 by founders who felt that NORML was not proactive enough. Whether or not this proactivity has been achieved and adhered to is a question worth answering. MPP has been influential in changing some state laws and garnering a sizeable clout. Within its advisory board, there are celebrities like Adrienne Curry, Jesse Ventura, Bill Maher, and Jack Black. Its main strength is its public appeal, especially to younger demographics, and its clarity is in what it sets out to do, making this a quintessential SMO.

Marijuana Policy Project aims to steer the changing of laws, to legalize medicinal marijuana and allow home cultivation of cannabis. Other notable objectives of this group include debunking the so-called myths behind the negative stereotyping of marijuana. It also aims to remove criminal penalties for marijuana use. Assuming that one day MPP realizes that its objectives have come to fruition, there would be peace.

Peace in itself becomes subject to scrutiny in this hypothetical study. It would be a negative peace if MPP were initially known to engage in acts of physical or verbal violence. However, there is no evidence that would suggest a history of violence instigated by this group. Negative peace would hold because it is the absence of active violence. Marijuana Policy Project has a history of legal confrontations, so the realization of its vision would only result in positive peace, with positive peace being the presence of social equity as opposed to the absence of violence. There exists a fine line between the two, but this paper should go to show support for an eventual positive peace, given that MPP achieves its goals.

As it has been said, MPP was founded in January of 1995, and by April of that same year, it had persuaded the U.S. Sentencing Commission to shorten prison sentences for people convicted of growing marijuana. That was a first for MPP and a major victory for the larger movement pushing for the legalization of marijuana in the United States. Since then, 23 states have legalized medicinal marijuana. It is not clear when the movement for legalizing medicinal marijuana has begun. However, since then, there has been a steady series of milestones that indicate a growing public and legislative support for this movement.

Marijuana Policy Project Tactics

Marijuana Policy Project, like any other legitimate social movement organization, is a non-profit outfit. Its resources are entirely reliant on donations made by its supporters. Having a powerful social media presence (more than 438,670 likes on Facebook) has enabled MPP to reach a reasonable audience. Using their social media and online traffic, they ask for donations from anyone with a reason to support their course of actions. After securing reasonable funding, the next step, as in all other SMOs, would be to stand out. A social movement organization has one of three main tactics to achieve success. Candlelight vigils are one of the methods that have come to encompass broadly any show of public commitment to a struggle. MPP can only be thought of as using this strategy if one looks at the broader loose definition of it, in holding placards and waiting outside courthouses for verdicts that hold relevance. Public disruption is another ploy for attention. Although, as mentioned earlier, MPP does not have a history of violent protests, and so this tactic does not apply to it. MPP is best known for its political and artful way of seeking change, which it has mastered over the years. Being pro-peace and politically motivated has proven to pay off in winning so much needed public support for MPP. Recent scientific journals have gone to vindicate MPP by proving that marijuana, when looked at as a drug, is much less harmful than tobacco. Political opinion is an ever-changing field, and the MPP seems enjoy this relatively favorable political landscape.

MPP argues that marijuana should be as commonplace as alcoholic beverages since both might as well be classified as harmful drugs. MPP might appear to present information that may hurt the movement, but it does leave someone with a compelling argument for why marijuana should be a personal choice like beer or cigars, for example. On social media, especially Facebook, MPP enjoys endorsement messages from renowned celebrities like Snoop Dogg, which brings MPP even more followers. Marijuana Policy Project also quotes world leaders and the intellectuals like Kofi Annan, who said that arresting people for drug use filled up prisons and was a fight against humanity. Kofi Annan might not have been directly rallying support for MPP, but such quotes go to adding a sense of intellectual backing to the struggling.

Marijuana Policy Project Successes

On March 23, 2016, marijuana possession was decriminalized in New Orleans, an apparent victory for the marijuana legalization movement. MPP cannot be directly credited with such milestones because then, it would mean that they have had the power to do so. However, one could look at some victories that MPP was closely associated with such as the Delaware legislature passing a law that reduced the penalty for possession of up to an ounce, which was achieved in June 2015. MPP led that push and in spring of the same year, the Illinois General Assembly lowered penalty for marijuana possession of up to 15grams. After a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, Alaska became the fourth state in the USA to end the prohibition of marijuana in November 2014. These successes can be attributed to successive sensitization campaigns held by MPP, supplemented by rigorous political lobbying.

Marijuana Policy Project Defeats

It would not be a struggle if MPP did not suffer any major defeats. Ohio defeat of Issue 3 amendment was a major blow to MPP that had invested about $20 million in its campaign. This loss was attributed to some reasons, amongst them being an unclear plan of implementation, state-sponsored issue 2 that was to stop a cartel, oligopoly or monopoly, confusion between full legalization and medicinal legalization, and poor timing.

Marijuana Policy Project Internal Conflicts

MPP, as an SMO, was born out of disquiet within the NORML. Since its establishment, many have questioned whether the move was worth it. A faction of the group still advocates the legalization of medicinal marijuana and home cultivation. There has been another faction of the group, seemingly motivated by money in their push, and they are accused of planning to monopolize the marijuana business once it becomes legalized. For example, in the 2010 incident, the members of the movement in California shot down a marijuana proposition due to an influence of ‘big money’, which was an outright form of internal conflict.

MPP could also do with some clarity, being unclear of their core agenda, which is the legalization of marijuana or legalization of medicinal marijuana. Being clear about this would give them a perception of focus and purpose, a clause that needs specificity is whether or not they want legalization of the entire supply chain of marijuana or not. Why should they push for decriminalization of possession and not of supply or distribution? How much possession is too much? How much possession does it take for one to supply? Is it okay to supply cannabis as long one supplies in quantities below the legal possession limits of, for example, 15 grams in Illinois? It is such glaring questions that need being answered by MPP.

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