Here are some tips and talking points to help you effectively communicate with your legislators:
- Find your legislators and their contact information here.
- Handwritten or typed and signed letters are the most influential.
- Always maintain a respectful and friendly tone.
- Begin by thanking the legislator for his or her service and introduce yourself as a constituent in the district.
- Be polite and concise. Never insult your audience. Keep your letter to one page as to not overwhelm the reader.
- Focus on one important point. Don’t try to address separate issues in one letter.
- In your closing statement, ask for a response and offer to provide additional resources upon request.
Here are some points you can make in your letter:
Talking Points — Reducing Penalties, Imposing A Civil Fine for Possession
- According to the Unified Crime Report, in 2012 there were over 70,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Texas, more than in any other state. Meanwhile, the state clearance rate for reported rape cases was only 44%, and nearly 70% of robbery cases went unsolved.
- A criminal penalty accompanying a conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences. A conviction can result in denial of student financial aid and government housing benefits, employment, and professional licenses.
- Although more than 105 million adults have used marijuana, the unequal enforcement means these harsh collateral consequences disproportionately affect minorities.
- African-Americans are 2.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar rates of usage.
- In Texas, 97% of all marijuana-related arrests are for possession — not manufacture or distribution.
- Imposing criminal penalties and jail time on those who possess small amounts of marijuana forces law enforcement to spend valuable time on arresting, processing, and prosecuting nonviolent offenders. This time would be better spent going after violent criminals.
Talking Points – Medical Marijuana
- Every year, hundreds of thousands of Texans are diagnosed with serious and debilitating conditions — such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and seizure disorders.
- Tens of thousands of Texas’ 1.6 million veterans are living with PTSD or intractable pain as a result of their time spent serving their country.
- The suffering of these patients is devastating or them and their families.
- For some seriously ill patients, currently available medications are not effective, and many of the treatments currently prescribed cause devastating side effects. A recent study found that overdoses on opiates decreased by 25% in states with medical marijuana laws — while medical marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose.
- Patients need the freedom to use the treatment that is right for them, and physicians must be free to recommend the best treatment for their patients without government interference.
- There is extensive research indicting the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating a range of conditions such as wasting, muscle spasticity, and chronic pain.
- Legalizing medical marijuana will create growth and job opportunities in Texas in addition to providing relief to thousands of patients.
- Reducing government interference in the medical field and creating a market for medical marijuana is a state’s prerogative.
- Texas voters support allowing access to medical marijuana. A 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 58% of Texans support allowing access to medical marijuana.
- A 2013 national poll by Fox News found that 85% of Americans support medical marijuana.
- Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. currently allow patients legal access to medical marijuana. Several other states are currently considering legislation to allow access to medical marijuana.
- For some patients for whom currently available medications are not effective, medical marijuana may provide relief from suffering and improve quality of life.
- It’s time for Texans to ensure medical freedom for seriously ill patients to access the best treatment for their care, including medical marijuana.
- The Texas Nurses Association “believes alternative therapies and complementary modalities may be appropriate interventions to meet patient needs. Such therapies and modalities include the use of marijuana in appropriate medical situations such as helping patients manage chronic pain. Patients should have access to marijuana for such use and practitioners should have the right to counsel patients about the use of marijuana in appropriate medical situations.”
Talking Points — Taking Marijuana Off the Criminal Market
- Marijuana prohibition has failed. Today, over 106 million Americans admit to having tried marijuana, and over 17.4 million say they have used it in the past month.
- Marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective, inefficient, and problematic as alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s and 1930s. Most Americans agree it is time to replace this failed policy with a more sensible approach.
- A majority of Texans agree it is time to replace marijuana prohibition with a system of reasonable regulation, legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and over.
- Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol. It is less toxic, less addictive, and less harmful to the body, and it does not contribute to violent and reckless behavior. Adults should not be punished for choosing to use the safer substance.
- By treating marijuana like alcohol, we can take sales out of the hands of drug cartels in the underground criminal market and put them behind the counters of state-licensed businesses that are creating jobs and paying taxes.
- Law enforcement officials’ time and resources could be better spent addressing violent and otherwise serious crimes instead of arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana. For example, in Houston alone, over 15,000 burglaries with viable leads went uninvestigated in 2013. During that same time period, over 74,000 arrests for possession of marijuana occurred in Texas. Clearly, our tax dollars and our law enforcement priorities need to be redirected.