Originally published on Canlio

“Politics has its own language, which is often so complex that it borders on being a code, and the main trick in political journalism is learning how to translate.”
-Hunter S. Thompson

As a writer focused almost solely on cannabis issues in Canada, I am constantly reading what others are writing, partially for research, but also to understand without firsthand experience what is going on in other circles. If I read something that in my opinion is out of left field I usually question the author, but sometimes I don’t because I know that this person is speaking another language and/or has no interest in the truth.

Knowing what motivates messages is key to understanding the message. Most everyone has an MO (modus operandi) method of operation and once you are aware of the MO, it’s easier to filter and translate.

This applies to politicians especially as they are now in the precarious position of protecting their communities from the perceived harms of a substance they know very little about and the real harms of prohibition: the enrichment of organized crime and the criminalization of cannabis consumers. Quite the challenge when it comes to messaging and being on point with critics from all sides.

It would serve us all well as a country on the cusp of legalization to take a step back from hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric to speak to each other in the same language and to speak to each other as if we are on the same side, which at this point you would think we are. But there is a disconnect and it’s a tough habit to break, until you consider the MO and what motivates it.

Politicians want to fulfill their mandates to keep the confidence of the people who voted for them. When they speak, that is who they are talking to, their base. When lawyers speak, they are talking to their clients. When small business owners speak, they are talking to their customers. When corporations speak, they are talking to their shareholders. The only thing that connects them is the subject of cannabis legalization, and they are all coming at it from different angles.

This is just the beginning of the disconnect, and so we find ourselves on a slippery slope of us vs them which not only creates divisiveness but is also counter-productive and not effective to actualizing the desired outcome. The language barrier is very real, which is why translation is essential.

The industry folk who are most vested in the future of the cannabis regulations should be talking to their local politicians now, municipal, provincial and federal. They should also be talking to their local economic development councils, chambers of commerce, and every other business that is currently affected or could be affected by the regional impact of future cannabis regulations.

These are the translators who are best able to bring your message to Ottawa. Talk to them about jobs, taxes, social equity, the environment , health, and education. Speaking to your local government is critical. We know British Columbians understand one another best, as do Maritimers. GO LOCAL!

Ottawa is the centre of the political universe but it is not necessarily where the most impactful decisions are going to be made. And not only that: there simply is not enough time in the next year to learn each other’s languages. Instead of spending this time arguing over what the other means, we should keep moving towards liberating cannabis through civil, responsible and effective discourse. With this in mind, use your translators, your allies — the people who are fluent — to help you navigate the system and ultimately achieve desired outcomes.

The clock is ticking.

Republished with permission from Canlio.