‘Aaron on Being a Marijuana Lobbyist’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.

“Being a marijuana lobbyist is definitely the coolest job that you can have. It always makes for good conversation at a cocktail party and tends to be more interesting than the folks who work at any given corporate lobbying firm. I love every minute of what I do and really think it is the Lord’s work. Everyday, I work to keep people out of jail for a substance that is less harmful than alcohol, yet we still waste our nation’s blood and treasure waging a failed war on drugs.

“I got into this after working as a Democratic campaign operative in Colorado. During the 2002 election cycle, I was part of a winning campaign, but I didn’t care to work for candidates anymore. I wanted to work on issues that I really cared about, so I came to D.C. to work with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in March 2003. I had some personal experience with recreational marijuana use and also was around people who saw positive effects from medical marijuana, I just couldn’t get over the fact that it was illegal. It seemed so stupid to me.

“Before doing this, I never really talked with my buddies in politics about my thoughts on marijuana because I didn’t think that anyone agreed with me. Now, one of the remarkable things about being a marijuana lobbyist is like a priest, people come and confess their marijuana use to me. This job gives me such perspective into how many people have had experiences with marijuana and how much of a failure our laws really are.

Continues after the jump.

“When I started at MPP, it was the first day of the Iraq War and Bush seemed invincible. Sometimes, we were laughed at for advocating our issues even though polls showed that medical marijuana was supported by a majority of Americans. When Obama came into power, there was this tremendous sense of hope, and we were really encouraged that we could finally have an honest debate about medical marijuana.

“After his election, on four occasions, President Obama asked Americans what issues were important to them on his website and through Moveon.org. All four times, people replied that marijuana legalization was the number one priority. When the President realized he had people’s support, he issued guidelines to stop the Bush Administration’s policy of raiding medical marijuana patients and retail facilities.

“While I am pleased with our progress, we have so much more to do. Many people may just think that marijuana is about hippies or Cheech and Chong movies, but it is a very serious issue and people are dying and getting locked up every day over these failed laws. We can have academic debates about marijuana in Washington, but Mexico is headed towards being a failed state and over 50% of our federal prisoners are there for some form of drug related crime. The indicators are everywhere that what we have been doing in the past is not working and we need to try something else.

“Our opponents will tell you that ‘legalization’ has been tried and failed in places like Amsterdam. That is false because the Dutch don’t make things legal, they just decriminalize it. In my knowledge, I am not aware of any country that has tried a comprehensive regulation system for marijuana. Places like California and Colorado are trying to move things forward, and now D.C. is on the path. Congress finally lifted the prohibition on D.C. having a medical marijuana law after 12 years of blocking it. The City Council is looking into the regulation and distribution system. We are hopeful that the city will soon have non-profit retail locations to provide medical marijuana to D.C. residents.

“These things inspire me and give me hope. As the parent of three children, I always tell my kids that I am trying to change our drug laws because jail is much more harmful than marijuana. In this country, once every 37 seconds someone is arrested for marijuana. We can’t live like this anymore.”

Aaron Houston is the Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

12 Comment

  • That is a cool gig. I wish I could lobby for people to get high (legally).

  • It looks like he got dressed after a night out with his clients.

  • I can just imagine his organization’s typical lunch order:

    “Get some sour cream and onion chips with some dip, man, some beef jerky, some peanut butter. Get some Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars, a whole lot, make sure chocolate, gotta have chocolate, man. Some popcorn, red popcorn, graham crackers, graham crackers with marshmallows, the little marshmallows and little chocolate bars and we can make s’mores, man. Also, celery, grape jelly, Cap’n Crunch with the little Crunch berries, pizzas. We need two big pizzas, man, everything on ’em, with water, whole lotta water, and Funyons.”


  • Another great post Danny. I’m wildly supportive of this issue and agree with every word Aaron says. I like Danny’s mix of interviews – some folks PoP readers like and some we don’t.

    One thing Aaron didn’t get to say in the post is that the war on drugs is also the war on minorities. African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.

    • Have you ever looked at the relationship between those who commit robbery and drug use….its definitely related

      • hmm. neither of you provided sources, but cookietime’s use of numbers definitely trump joking’s proof-by-“definitely related”

  • “a substance that is less harmful than alcohol” – thats something to be proud of…and a red harring

    “I had some personal experience with recreational marijuana use” – another stoner pushing B.S.

    “being a marijuana lobbyist is like a priest, people come and confess their marijuana use to me” – have you ever had people confess to you from a drug rehabilitation center? Unless you have, your not very priestly.

    “positive effects from medical marijuana” – Lets see the study. For serious illness it is proven there are better alternatives, and it doesn’t work. Yes, for ‘headaches’, ‘stress’, and ‘night sweats’ stoners swear by it!

    “When the President realized he had people’s support” – huh? Not nationally…not even in very liberal states.

    “places like Amsterdam” – perfect example of a city full of problems cause by their decriminalization, like Denver or Oakland.

    “We are hopeful that the city will soon have non-profit retail locations to provide medical marijuana to D.C. residents” – this will be so good for people who live near it.

    “jail is much more harmful than marijuana” – another false comparative, red harring but I agree with prison reform.

    “every 37 seconds someone is arrested for marijuana” – so why don’t they obey the law to put a stop to this madness?

    • Looks like someone needs a toke…

      You really need to look at a few facts before you start throwing out ridiculous statements about Amsterdam being a “city full of problems caused by decriminalization.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I invite you to leave the mid-Atlantic states occasionally and maybe visit this “city full of problems.”

      Moreover, you throw out several red “harrings” yourself…like suggesting that marijuana users are filling drug rehab centers. I’ve met a lot of veterans from such places, and not one went there because they were addicted to marijuana.

    • I smoked some red harring once – it was o.k. but not as good as Maui Wowie.

  • and no pot shop on GA Ave

  • I knew a guy who worked for the Drug Policy Institute and yes, he was a huge stoner in college.

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