As the stories in this Weekly News Update show, there is a lot at stake in the farmers' lawsuit in North Dakota. We expect an initial decision (on the DEA's motion to dismiss) from Judge Hovland by the end of the month. The court transcripts
of last week's oral arguments are quite revealing, and this is a very interesting case on legal, intellectual and practical levels.
Last week I attended the Capitol Advantage Customer Day Conference and Capitol Hill reception in Washington, DC. It was very revealing that a large number of people attending the event had seen and read the featured Washington Post story by Peter Slevin. The theme for this year's conference was "The Art and Science of Influence." Even though Vote Hemp is relatively small, we are a national, single-issue, non-profit organization, and much of the training was very applicable to us. A wide range of subjects were covered and included everything from tools and methods for effective communication to overcoming objections to intellectual and emotional reasons for opposing legislation.
Former Congressman Max Sandlin of Texas, now with Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations, was one of the speakers in the first session on influencing a legislator's decision-making process. I was able to ask a question on industrial hemp, and Congressman Sandlin both understood the subject and answered the question well. He did so on an intellectual and professional level, and he obviously saw the issue as an agricultural one and kept his personal emotions in check.
Dr. Frank Luntz, the keynote speaker, did not do as well with the issue of hemp farming. I was privileged to ask the last question in his lecture, "It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear." My question addressed what words should be used to overcome objections to industrial hemp farming. He lamented that mine was the last question, and stated that there was no way to overcome the objections at all. It was obvious from the beginning that his answer would come from an emotional perspective rather than a rational one. In the space of a minute, he went from the word "hemp" to hard drugs and recounted the death of a good and talented friend. The emotional overcame the intellectual, and he could not answer my question on a professional level. All too often, that is what we see in the legislative process as well.
A single word can evoke very powerful responses, often out of proportion to reality. Compared to the issue of hemp farming on a national level, wearing a t-shirt with the word "hemp" on it to school may seem insignificant, but it can also garner such a strong response. Recently a student at an Alabama high school was banned from wearing t-shirts
advocating the use of hemp on them, and he is finding similar emotional responses. In a letter the school Superintendent equated wearing a shirt with the word hemp on it to wearing a Confederate flag! Just because some authorities in our society have tried to hijack the definition of the word hemp and have it refer only to drug varieties of Cannabis does not mean we need to accept it. We know better. Education is the answer, but it will take time. mers overcome the unreasonable roadblocks that have been placed before them. [More...]