The campaign's goals are to:
- "Organize transpartisan support for ending marijuana prohibition across the country by combining the online organizing efforts of FireDogLake, which has 100,000 readers a day, with the grassroots organizing abilities of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, with chapters at 150 campuses across the country.
- "Turn out voters to support marijuana initiatives on the 2010 ballot in Arizona, Oregon, California, Colorado and South Dakota. [Editor's Note: The Colorado initiative campaign is actually aimed at 2012.]
- "Work to get marijuana initiatives on the ballot in multiple states in 2012, with an emphasis on presidential battleground states, to encourage a national conversation about marijuana policy during the next election.
- "Inform the conversation around ending prohibition and educate the public about the true state of our antiquated drug policy
- "Encourage government at all levels to adopt more sane, pragmatic and reasonable policy regarding marijuana."
As part of the campaign, Just Say Now is also launching a petition to President Obama calling for an end to pot prohibition. In addition to being available online, students at SSDP chapters around the country will be carrying copies for signing on campus.
"The war on marijuana is a failure," the petition reads. "The government wastes billions of dollars fighting drug cartels that thrive on marijuana prohibition. Thousands of people are killed, police officers' lives are put in risk, and taxpayer dollars are wasted for nothing. With states on the verge of legalizing marijuana, it's time for a reality check. The federal government should drop its active opposition to marijuana legalization. It's time to end the war on marijuana."
"We're delighted to be joining with SSDP to launch this campaign, and bringing together a transpartisan coalition of support," said FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher. "We have a significant online presence, and SSDP has a significant grassroots presence. Young people want marijuana to be legalized in overwhelming numbers: Young voters are not just excited to support legalization, but are much more likely to turn out to vote if marijuana is on the ballot. We're delighted about organizing legalization supporters and getting them to the polls on election day."
"I am thrilled to be partnering with FireDogLake at an historic moment in the marijuana legalization debate," said SSDP executive director Aaron Houston. "Our coalition will serve as a long-needed cooperative effort that will marry expert political minds with an enormous grassroots network of students and activists around the country. Together, we'll get the message out that we can cut off 70% of the cartels' profits if we tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol."
Students across the country will be working the phones to identify sympathetic potential voters and get out the vote in November, said Hamsher, casting an eye toward the Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative in California. "We're hoping California is going to be a turn-out election and not a persuasion campaign," she said, alluding to the low level of undecided voters, around 10% in most polls. "Support declines as folks get older, and off-year elections tend to turn out older voters, not younger ones. We're hoping to identify people who support the measure who will be willing to put in efforts to pass it in the states that have measures on the ballot."
Pot legalization could be just the issue to bring key groups of voters to the polls. As Ryan Grim reported in the Huffington Post Tuesday, recent polling suggests that "surge voters" (those who came out in historic numbers for the 2008 election), young voters, single women under 40, and Hispanics would be more inclined to come out and vote if legalization is on the ballot.
"As a police officer, I can tell you that the 'war on marijuana' has done nothing to reduce marijuana use," said LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a 33-year veteran cop who ran anti-narcotics task forces for the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department. "But this failed prohibition policy has achieved some results: far too many cops killed in action, billions of tax dollars wasted, powerful and well-funded drug cartels and out-of-control violence in our cities. When my good friend Ed Toatley was killed in the line of fire during an undercover operation, Maryland lost one of the best narcotics cops in our state's history. It is in his honor, and in the names of all the good cops whose lives have needlessly been lost in this failed 'drug war,' that I now work to change these deadly laws."
Seeing a political opening, the campaign will work with LEAP and its speaker bureau to get the message out. "We will have a heavy emphasis on law enforcement and people with criminal justice experience who can speak to the truth of a situation that has been demagogued for so long," said Hamsher.
"I'm very proud to be part of this campaign," said former Seattle police chief and LEAP member Norm Stamper. "I've come to the conclusion that the drug war does more harm than good."
"This is a fundamental issue of states' rights. This is an opportunity to enable states to choose how to address this issue" said Bruce Fein, former associate deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, "Marijuana should be treated just like alcohol -- regulated and taxed -- there could be a windfall for the US economy."
The hip-hop community is also in the house. "I'm very gratified that this has moved along to this point, where law enforcement and states' rights folks and Republicans are starting to come together," said Bill Adler, publicist for Def Jam Records. "It's an idea whose time has come. It should have happened 40 years ago."
Just Say Now is tired of waiting.