My Experience Lobbying A State Senator
A few weeks ago I attended my first lobby day with Denver NORML at the state capitol downtown Denver. We are currently lobbying for drug test reform in the state of Colorado, specifically ending drug testing for Cannabis by employers in the state. As there is not a drug test in existence suited to determine whether or not an employee is high on the job. The best we can do is detect trace amounts of THC, which does not indicate impairment.
Prior to lobby day, I set up a meeting with Senator Beth Martinez who resides over the district where I live in Adams County, the 24th district. As a constituent it is my senators’ job to serve me (it doesn’t hurt that my vote helps to determine his or her election). This may come as a surprise to many, but as a tax-paying citizen our representatives have to speak to us if we absolutely insist. Prior to my attendance at the state capitol for lobby day I had a lot of preconceived notions about what I would do as a senator if I were in office. My mentality, conceived from inexperience, was that if I were in office I would do what I thought was right 100% of the time. Well they don’t call it politics for nothing. On paper, a state senator or representative’s job is to serve the people. A more realistic outlook might be to say that they serve whatever purpose they believe will get them re-elected. This isn’t to say that because they want to get elected that they don’t care about their constituents. Rather they believe that if they bend their policies to what is popular they will be in a better position to get re-elected and therefore be in a position to serve the greater good, at least in their minds.
I sat down with Senator Martinez for a good 45 minutes and it was a sobering experience to say the least. Senator Martinez is a Hispanic woman and also a republican. Knowing the political climate in this country it is really confusing as to how someone could be all three. In speaking with Senator Martinez she voiced the usual anti-Cannabis rhetoric, youth exposure, gateway drug, harm to employees on the job etc. I brought up factual statistics on how minor consumption of Cannabis has gone down in Colorado since recreational legalization. I brought up how states that have legalized medical Cannabis have seen a 25% decrease in opioid overdoses. Her responses were politics (particularly conservative politics) as usual. She expressed how studies were new and because of that taking them at face value was premature. I’m not saying there isn’t some validity to that statement, but a 25% reduction? Obviously medical Cannabis is helping the opioid crises we are currently facing in this country.
Senator Martinez kept going back to the fact that she had to listen to her constituents, for the obvious reason that if she didn’t she would be voted out of office. So how much does she believe the conservative rhetoric and how much of her position is formed based on the prospect of re-election? There is no real way to know for sure.
Senator Martinez is sharp, so it’s no surprise that she was voted in. Also to her credit she did give me the names of several representatives that are pro-Cannabis for our next lobby day. We have to get members on both sides of the isle to see the value of ending employer drug testing for Cannabis in Colorado in order to get our bill on the floor. So we will continue our fight on the conservative side. Hopefully with technological advances, and the progression of our government, we will see an end to this unlawful testing. Hopefully I did my small part in taking this issue to the people that have the power to change it.