Higher Ground Hits The Ballot Box

We’ve Turned Our Attention to Voting

By Michael A. Stusser

When we started Higher Ground in 2010, our mission was to Elevate the Dialogue on Cannabis Culture. While we supported the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana (no states at that time had legalized recreational weed), we were intentionally non-partisan when it came to politicians themselves: There were candidates from all parties in support of legalization: Most Democrats liked the progressive nature of ending the War on Drugs, many Republicans supported States rights (and eliminating the black market), the Green Party liked growing weed (apparently), and Libertarians, of course, liked the idea of the government staying the hell out of our damned business.

Fast forward to 2020 (in hindsight?), and there are eleven States that have legalized recreational cannabis, a total of 33 States that have made medical marijuana available, and SEVENTY PERCENT of Americans say it’s morally permissible for adults to “smoke marijuana,” regardless of the plant’s legal status (Gallup poll). In addition, for the first time, a majority of Republicans (56%) ALSO favor legal marijuana.(Hell, even that fool Kanye, a vocal Trump supporter, has become a strong campaigner for criminal justice and prison reform.) Point is, people want legal cannabis federally, and it’s going to happen in the very near future. (Sadly, the vast majority of Americans ALSO want gun control and single payer health care, which will probably take even more time to come about…)

Here at Higher Ground, we are NOT single-issue voters. There are plenty of candidates who support cannabis legalization who we would not vote for in a million years. (Take Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Please. And, while Sen. Mitch McConnell helped pass the farm bill last year which legalized hemp, he’s the worst asshat in the entire Congress.) Our values of equality and justice and peace and fairness override any single issue. Like most of you we’ll research an individual’s platform and let their actions and beliefs guide our electoral choices. Unfortunately, the United States of America, is still in shambles. The pandemic rages, millions are out of work, and racial inequality and police brutality, primarily against people of color, have come to the forefront via the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement.
ONE HUNDRED MILLION Americans who were eligible to vote in the 2016 election did not vote. Let’s repeat that: ONE HUNDRED MILLION Americans who were eligible to vote in the last presidential election (43% of the total) did not vote.
It is our belief that, if the majority of Americans participate in our democracy, we will have a more inclusive, just set of politicians and policies. We’ll also have legal cannabis, an administration that believes in science and global warming, and more people of color and women in positions of power. Which is why we’re devoting the next five months to the Ballot Box.
In a collaboration with the amazing cannabis brand Saints Joints, we have created The Higher Ground Ballot Box, a high-end box of cannabis joints designed to smash stoner stereotypes by registering people to vote. In addition to five premium pre-rolls, the Ballot Box contains a code that immediately registers voters, a mini version of the Bill of Rights, and non-partisan information about voting and elections. With the Ballot Box, we’re using a new platform as an entry point to spark engagement, and register new voters.
The Ballot Box includes a special QR code that directs to the Cannabis Voter Project – and registers individuals to vote. Established in 2018 as an initiative from HeadCount, the nonprofit and non-partisan Cannabis Voter Project is focused on educating, registering and turning out voters. HeadCount has registered half a million voters since 2004 at concerts and events. The Ballot Box link includes an easy-to-use online registration page and news to keep voters informed on election deadlines and voting locations.
We’re not the only ones laser-focused on voting this election.  LeBron James has partnered with other black athletes and entertainers to protect the voting rights of African Americans. The organization, called More Than A Vote, will pair up with other voting organizations and is even working for NBA arenas to be used as polling places for the coming 2020 election.
When We All Vote is another wonderful nonpartisan organization trying to increase participation. Launched in 2018 by co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, Michelle Obama and Tim McGraw, When We All Vote is working to close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, and harnessing grassroots energy.
We understand that legalization is a small but important step toward fixing discriminatory policing and racial inequality. But for those who ARE single-issue voters, and cannabis is your main priority, there are plenty of reasons to make sure you’re part of the democratic process. Obviously, the issue is hardly just about smoking weed. The War on Drugs and prohibition continues to be disproportionately applied. Every year over 650,000 Americans are arrested for violating cannabis laws – and not surprisingly, in every single state, black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though white people use cannabis at the same rates. Cannabis is always on the ballot: The War on Drugs and DEA policies have been used as a tactic to target, harass, assault, criminalize, and incarcerate communities of color for a hundred years.
Currently, only 23 states allow citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, meaning in most states the only way to reform cannabis laws is through the legislature. Dozens of cannabis policy reform bills have also been introduced in state legislatures across the nation, and supporting pro-cannabis candidates at the local level has real impact. Clemency campaigns and releasing prisoners for pot is also something where the needle can be moved at the local level by electing progressive governors and attorney generals.
Sadly, there are still a lot of silly stereotypes about stoners. We’re lazy. We’re couch potatoes. We wake and bake. We’re vegetables. Well here at Higher Ground, we’re working to counter all those outdated cliches-because we know cannabis consumers are as active, involved and civic as any other community. So do us a favor – VOTE in November. Join our Joint Effort. It’s the most important election in our lifetime, and we’d like your voice to be heard. (We’d also like you to be legally stoned….)

Photo: Lamar Alexander; Styling: Malina Lopez