For the first. time. ever. the federal legalization of cannabis was actually in our sights in 2021 and the stakes were too high (sorry) for Americans to stay quiet.
With the introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a bill penned by the Democratic U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden, the Senate was finally poised to address legalization in a serious way. Despite more than two-thirds of Americans agreeing that cannabis should be legalized, too many of their Senators were on the fence.
The legal consequences for classifying cannabis on the same level as heroin have disproportionately landed communities of color in prison for decades (not to mention the economic and public health opportunities being left on the table).
The polling on cannabis is clear, but polls do not create change. People do. On the heels of this historic bill to legalize cannabis, the objectives of the Cannabis in Common campaign from HeadCount's Cannabis Voter Project were:
To unite all sides around common ground.
To remove the barriers to the democratic process. With just a few clicks on cannabisincommon.org, cannabis supporters could contact their representatives and their voices could be heard.
To break though the burnout. Cannabis legalization is a decades-old political debate. Some feel strongly about it, some feel totally bored with an argument they seemingly can’t win. With a lighthearted animated video and two iconic weed-loving comedians (Sara Silverman and Seth Rogan) the Cannabis in Common campaign came in fresh to motivate folks to get loud!
And finally, the Hail Mary was to change the opinions of Senators opposed to legalization and decriminalization.
With the messy, and at times dangerous, aftermath of the 2020 election and the continued deadly political divide over the pandemic, Americans can’t seem to agree on anything. Tensions were high and every issue felt dire, urgent, and (dare we say it) unprecedented.
Cannabis legalization is an issue that the majority of Americans actually agree on, but did they have the emotional bandwidth to care about yet another urgent cause? The empathy burnout was real in 2021, and it was the heart of the challenge facing our campaign.
The second challenge was to create something that would gain momentum organically – we had no paid media budget.
Instead of leading with the scary politics of it all, we went head first with humor and a lighthearted brand that made this big problem feel solvable.
This approach was true to the spirit of HeadCount’s Cannabis Voter Project, which knows how to make it fun to participate in democracy. Since 2004, HeadCount has registered over 1 million voters at concerts, festivals, community events — anywhere they can translate the power of music and culture into real action around a variety of issues, including cannabis legalization.
In the animated video, the campaign hero piece, our script pokes fun at the silly things that are also hotly debated in America (are hotdogs a sandwich?!) while making the case for why NOW is the time to make your voice heard.
We wanted the Cannabis in Common campaign brand to be the antithesis to what you see in typical political discourse. Instead of feeling stuffy and laden with jargon or overly emotional, perfectly styled imagery, Cannabis in Common is silly and very human in its simplicity. The purple and green campaign colors are symbolic of the work to be done – red and blue sides of American politics uniting to legalize the green.
To reach cannabis consumers directly through their favorite cannabis brands, we worked closely with Cannabis Voter Project to develop toolkits to make it easy for the cannabis brands in the US Cannabis Council and their influencer networks to amplify the campaign organically.
We developed a detailed campaign rollout schedule pinned to key Senate dates to apply the pressure.
The campaign video was shared by Sara Silverman, 49 brands, and 8 organizations in the US Cannabis Council. In a delightful surprise, Seth Rogan swooped in right before launch and filmed a PSA video for the campaign which helped build the groundswell of support.
This momentum earned:
970+ social posts, including mentions from Jessimae Peluso, Bob Weir, JoJo Simmons, and 311.
20.7M+ organic impressions.
400K+ video views.
Press pickups in AP, USA Today, High Times, Marijuana Moment and others.
Most importantly, 48,353 emails have been sent to Senators and representatives to date, with 30,400 sent in the first 48 hours.
This participation in democracy was a resounding victory, and one of the biggest moments to date for the Cannabis Voter Project.
Where does legalization stand now?
The campaign went live on November 9th and by November 15th Republicans introduced a comprehensive cannabis decriminalization bill backed by Americans For Prosperity.
The bill was by no means perfect, but an incredible step forward. The proposals from both sides are being debated, and as it stands in February 2022, Sen. Schumer just announced that his long-awaited cannabis legalization bill will be introduced again in April.
Public pressure is effective. While this fight for legalization is far from over, we are proud to have created a campaign that will serve as a resource to participate in democracy. CannabisinCommon.org will be utilized far beyond this campaign moment to help educate and mobilize cannabis voters to make change. That’s a win in our book.
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