Hemp Lobbying With Evan Nison Of NORML

Hemp Lobbying With Evan Nison Of NORML
Ministry of Hemp Podcast

This week on the Ministry of Hemp podcast, an experienced hemp advocate tells us about the current state of hemp lobbying in the United States.

Evan Nison joins our host Matt on this episode. Evan has been working to change hemp and marijuana laws in the U.S. for years now, with almost too many lobbying groups to name here. The two compare fighting for hemp and cannabis legalization and what the two separate battles can learn from each other. Despite legalization at the end of 2018, there’s a lot that needs to be done to create a stable, healthy setting for U.S. hemp to thrive.

About Evan Nison

Evan Nison is the youngest member of the NORML Board of Directors and also sits on the Board of Directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He is the founder of the PR firm NisonCo, which connects leaders in the legal cannabis, medical marijuana, and hemp industries with influential journalists. He received the 2011 NORML Student Activism Award and High Times Freedom Fighter Award for his advocacy.

As part of his mission to build socially driven businesses, he co-founded Whoopi & Maya, a women’s-focused cannabis brand with actress Whoopi Goldberg and fellow NORML board member Rick Cusick. Some of his other efforts include a Northern California-based cannabis tour company and Bloody Good Vape & Smoke, a smoke shop in New Jersey he founded with a victim of cannabis prohibition. Evan has been mentioned in news sources such as the New York Times, CNN, Politico, USA Today, NBC New York, Bloomberg TV, Forbes, and has been profiled in many more.

Thanks to our partners Ott Coffee for making this episode of the Ministry of Hemp podcast possible.

Brought to you by Ott Coffee

The Ministry of Hemp is proud to partner with Ott Coffee.

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Use the code ott15 to get 15% off your first purchase at Ott Coffee.

Be sure to check out episode 43 of our podcast for Matt’s interview with Alwan Mortada, CEO of Ott Coffee, too. Thanks Ott Coffee, for making today’s episode possible!

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Evan Nison of NORML joined the Ministry of Hemp podcast to discuss how hemp lobbying differs from cannabis advocacy.

Hemp lobbying with Evan Nison: Complete episode transcript

Below you’ll find the complete transcript of episode 57 of the Ministry of Hemp podcast, “Hemp Lobbying With Evan Nison Of NORML”:

Matt Baum:
I’m Matt Baum, and this is the Ministry of Hemp Podcast brought to you by ministryofhemp.com, America’s leading advocate for hemp and hemp education. Welcome back to the Ministry of Hemp Podcast. Once again, this week, we are brought to you by Ott Coffee, O-T-T coffee, that is. You can find them at ottcoffee.com. Super pumped to partner with these guys because Alwan, who is their CEO sent me more free CBD coffee, and I officially love CBD coffee. You will love it too. I’ll tell you all about it later on in the show and a way that you can get 15% off your first order from ottcoffee.com, so stay tuned for that. Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that this is a show about hemp education advocacy. We call it the Ministry of Hemp after all. By the way, not a religious organization, so stop sending me those weird religious emails.

Matt Baum:
That’s not what we do here. We’re just preaching the word of hemp. Okay? You’re welcome to your thing. I’m going to do mine, but regardless. Today on the show, we are going to talk about marijuana for a little bit. It is hemp’s cousin, the same plant, literally the same plant as hemp, but with more THC. Today, I’m going to talk to Evan Nison. He is the youngest board member of NORML. NORML is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Now, Evan also lobbied for hemp for a while, and that’s why I wanted to bring him on the show. I thought it would be really interesting to have a conversation about the differences of lobbying for hemp laws versus lobbying for marijuana laws. We ended up having a really interesting discussion. Evan is very cool and extremely busy. I would list off everything he does right here, but I think it’s better if you hear it from him. This is my conversation with Evan Nison.

Meet cannabis and hemp lobbyist Evan Nison

Evan Nison:
And I am the owner and founder of NisonCO PR, the treasurer of NORML National. I’m the board of directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and also the co-founder of a couple of smoke and vape shops in New Jersey and a cannabis tour company in San Francisco.

Matt Baum:
You’re a busy guy, is what you’re saying. Do you have a lot of stuff going on?

Evan Nison:
Yes. Yes. I’m definitely pretty busy. I have amazing teams and if it wasn’t for them, I obviously wouldn’t be able to do, or we wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much, but I am definitely busy and my whole team stays pretty busy as well.

Matt Baum:
Fair enough. Let’s talk about NORML for a minute because I don’t think a lot of people know what that is. What can you tell me about NORML? As I understand it and maybe I’m wrong, but NORML was partially formed with help from Playboy Entertainment. Is that correct?

Evan Nison:
Yes. Actually, that is a less known story.

Matt Baum:
That blew my mind.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. Hugh Hefner actually made one of the original donations that founded NORML, and I believe in may have actually been on the Playboy jet from what I’m told, obviously. [crosstalk 00:03:14]. Yeah. That’s what I’m told.

Matt Baum:
Oh, wow. You weren’t around for that one. You’re a little too young.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. But from what I understand, and I believe High Times was also initially modeled after Playboy, which is why that centerfolds the bud. They were thinking that it would be Playboy or Penthouse, but for drugs instead of sex was like the model of High Times. High Times and NORML actually sort of helped create each other too. High Times helped fund NORML, and NORML promoted High Times, and both of those things sort of rose together, both the entities.

Matt Baum:
I never put that together, but yes, High Times is basically Playboy magazine, but instead of nude pictures, you get pictures of bud.

Evan Nison:
Yeah, exactly.

Hemp & cannabis lobbying with NORML

Matt Baum:
It makes perfect sense. I never really put that together, but there it is. Tell me about NORML. What is NORML? N-O-R-M-L, correct?

Evan Nison:
Yeah, exactly. It stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Sorry. I almost crack there. The Reform of Marijuana Laws, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a national organization. Actually, international, but primarily focusing on national and domestic issues in DC and state and local politics here. We’re a grassroots cannabis reform organization, nonprofit. When we say cannabis, we mean all of cannabis, including hemp, of course.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Evan Nison:
We view ourselves as the consumer lobby and we’re one of the oldest organizations standing. We actually were not the first cannabis legalization, nonprofit. Some people think that. That’s not true. There was a group before us called Lamar for legalized marijuana apparently, but one of the first and certainly the oldest longest standing cannabis reform organization. I’m the youngest board member as well. It’s pretty crazy. I set up these board meetings and some of these people helped found the medical marijuana movement and the legalization movement. It feels pretty surreal. I still honestly have a hard time grasping it.

Matt Baum:
How does a kind like you ended up the youngest board member of this massive… I mean, NORML’s pretty big. They’re huge. They’re nationwide. They’ve been around for a lot of years. How do you end up on the board of directors at your age?

Evan Nison:
Well, in my very particular case, I have a mentor who is also on the board who elected me, which helped [crosstalk 00:05:35].

Matt Baum:
Okay. That helps. Sure.

Evan Nison:
That definitely helped in this particular case, but I would think I was at the right place, the right time. Also, it was at a time where the movement was shifting from the 70s style, pi politicians in the face to exaggerate, to like the suit and tie type of deal. I remember one of the only people lobbying for cannabis reform in a suit and tie, and now obviously everyone’s wearing a suit and tie [inaudible 00:06:06] no longer have to because [crosstalk 00:06:07].

Matt Baum:
Right. That’s changed quite a bit. Yeah.

Evan Nison:
Yeah, exactly.

Matt Baum:
Probably for the better. I love the old hippy stuff too, but at some point, if we want to play the game, we have to wear the uniform. Right?

Evan Nison:
Exactly. Right. Exactly. Ironically enough, I actually kind of stopped wearing the uniform because I was mostly doing it to show like “stoners can also be professional,” and now we’re actually professional, so I don’t have to show it anymore.

Matt Baum:
Fair enough.

Evan Nison:
We’ve always been professional. Yeah.

Matt Baum:
This story started with, like you said, Playboy founding NORML. Recently, they also just launched a huge cannabis reform campaign. What can you tell me about that?

Evan Nison:
NORML or Playboy or…

Matt Baum:
NORML and Playboy together from what I understand have launched this cannabis reform campaign.

Evan Nison:
Honestly, I’m not familiar with that.

Matt Baum:
Okay.

Evan Nison:
We have three board meetings a year. I’m in touch with the staff on a regular basis, but we have our next board meeting on a few weeks. I assume that update is going to be coming down. I’ve mostly been focusing with them on the New Jersey campaign. We just did a promotion with Rick Steves, who’s the travel guru, has his own TV show.

Matt Baum:
Oh, yeah. Rick Steves from NPR. Yeah.

Evan Nison:
Yeah.

Matt Baum:
I love that guy.

Evan Nison:
He has a travel show as well.

State initiatives to legalize cannabis

Matt Baum:
Oh, okay. Tell me about the New Jersey campaign. What’s going on with that?

Evan Nison:
We have legalization for Up Cannabis, which would include hemp and hemp is already legal here in New Jersey. We include… It would be adult use for adults over 21 on this case, full legalization, on the ballot, but it’d be a constitutional amendment, so we’d still have to pass a statute through the legislature.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Evan Nison:
But the polling is very, very good. Almost two to one in support, so I’m very excited about that.

Matt Baum:
Okay. Now, let me ask you this. One of the things, we see marijuana on the ballot in a lot of states, New Jersey in this case. What does legalization of marijuana for adults? What does that do for the hemp space? Does that help the industrial hemp space or the CBD space? Does it affect it at all, or are we just talking about marijuana legislation here?

Evan Nison:
In this particular case, we are talking about marijuana legislation, but I believe they all tie into each other in the sense that they’ve all been stigmatized.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Evan Nison:
Hemp itself is not as popular as it could or should be because of its stigma related to cannabis. I believe as the full plant becomes legal, all of its derivatives including medicines, fibers, all of it is going to be less stigmatized and consumed in higher volumes, if that makes sense.

Matt Baum:
Sure. Sure. I’m from Nebraska. We’re an exceptionally red state where we’re never going to make it legal unfortunately because of all kinds of stupid reasons, but we recently just had a bunch of petitions that went out to get medical marijuana on the ballot. It actually passed. Our wonderful governor said, “No. I’m not going to put it on the ballot. Sorry.” Because he’s just that kind of guy, but do you have other states right now outside of New Jersey that are like in NORML sites where you think you can make wins like this?

Evan Nison:
There’s actually not as many ballot initiatives as we were thinking initially, because of like you said, some governors didn’t put on the state. There were some issues with some of the states, but what we’re very excited about is the potential for New Jersey to be a domino effect or the potential for a domino effect from New Jersey. At that point, I imagine New York will probably pass legalization within the next few weeks. They will be giving…

Matt Baum:
New York’s been trying for a while, right?

Evan Nison:
They’ve been “trying.” I’ve lobbied extensively in New York. I think I mentioned I got one of the pens used to sign the New York medical marijuana law. I may or may not have mentioned that. Cuomo is not as supportive as he says behind the scenes.

Matt Baum:
I’ve heard that.

Evan Nison:
A lot of times, he’ll say he’s supportive of something, but he will actually use his political capital to do the opposite.

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Evan Nison:
That’s one of the things that I believe has been happening in New York. I think that that calculus will change. The votes are like… The senate’s blue, the assembly’s blue and Cuomo’s in office. The Democrats in both houses have said that they’re ready to pass this. Every year, they’ve been saying that.

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Nationwide legalization through the MORE Act

Evan Nison:
It’s just the governor. I know [inaudible 00:10:40] has basically say he wants it and not actually try to prevent it with his political weight. I think that calculus in his head might change. Of course, there’s Connecticut, Pennsylvania as well, Maryland. There could be a pretty serious domino effect there. Then, of course, the MORE Act. It got pushed. The MORE Act is going to be voted on in congress before the election. It got pushed until after the election, but that is really what we are trying to achieve is the MORE Act right now.

Matt Baum:
Can you tell us about the MORE Act real quick? Because a lot of people probably don’t know.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. The MORE Act is a legalization. It has a lot of social equity provisions. I’m not the expert in NORML on them, so I don’t know all of them, but it has the social equity provisions. It has adult use legalization. It has support in the house, which is huge. It really is what we want and was one of the reasons that we were founded to achieve is something like the MORE Act. I’m not saying that there won’t be work after, of course.

Matt Baum:
Of course. Yeah. I think hemp people found that out real quick. We’ve got a farm bill and we’re like, “Hooray, we did it.” They were like, “No, you didn’t.”

Evan Nison:
Right. Exactly.

Matt Baum:
You barely did.

Evan Nison:
Exactly. The MORE Act, I guess, is like the farm bills for cannabis consumers. Really, it’s going to be that level of a win where it’s not the full win, but it is a huge win.

Matt Baum:
Right. Okay. Now, just speaking from the cannabis space, what do you say to win these people over? When we have like a governor like we have in Nebraska who thinks it’s a gateway drug to heroin or something stupid, what do you say to these people that accuse you of just being a stoner in a suit that wants to get high? What is the purpose of… What is normal use to normalize this? How do you talk to these people?

Evan Nison:
Great question. In most situations, the way to respond to that, unless you’re talking to an actual elected official is, I myself, just turned 30. I used to say in my 20s, but now I guess in my early 30s.

Matt Baum:
You’re an old man now. You’re not a kid anymore. Sorry.

Evan Nison:
Yeah, exactly. I’m not really college age anymore. I used to say college aged, but now I’m early 30s. Now, most people can probably assume I’m a consumer or most people can assume I’m a consumer and I’m not the right messenger actually.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Evan Nison:
The best thing to do is for me to get a mother or a former cop or a current cop or a judge to make that argument for me. They’re called non-traditional allies.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Evan Nison:
They’re the most impactful at convincing people. When you’re talking about any issue, you’re going to listen more closely to somebody who you’re surprised is supporting it than somebody who… Obviously that person’s a stoner, they’re going to stay there for legalization.

Matt Baum:
Right. The difference between bringing out like a video game playing rapper or your grandmother who like, “This really helped my grandmother’s glaucoma,” or the pain that they’re in or something.

Evan Nison:
Exactly. Yeah. A lot of our job and a lot of my job has been, throughout the years, especially in the earlier part of advocacy, was actually helping other people communicate to the press and to electeds who they would listen to more than me, frankly.

From hemp lobbying to cannabis PR

Matt Baum:
Sure. Sure. You have lobbied for hemp in the past. Tell me a little bit about that.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. Actually, we were talking before the segment, me lobbying for hemp pro bono is what led to me having a PR firm organically, accidentally, I should say. Same thing.

Matt Baum:
Yeah. I think that organically is a nice way to say accidentally, basically.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. I was lobbying for industrial hemp in New Jersey, and I’d put out a press release and a company contacted me saying that they wanted to help support that bill. I was like, “Well actually, I’m doing this for free. You could hire a lobbyist and I’d be happy to manage them, but also I think I could probably just pass this if I have enough time to do it. Right now, I’m doing it a couple hours a week. I’m driving down a train, and meeting with whoever’s down here.” They’re like, “I’m down to do that. Let’s do that.” That turned into a paid lobbying gig. Then, during that paid lobbying engagement, I wound up getting them so much media that they got me PR tools as well, and asked me to focus on PR in addition to lobbying. Then, that led by word of mouth to my first 30 clients, which led to me hiring people. Now, we’re a PR firm and have like 22 or 23 employees.

Matt Baum:
It’s an American success story, [inaudible 00:15:35].

Evan Nison:
We’re like becoming a company. Yeah. We’re becoming a company. We’re becoming a company. Yeah.

Thanks to Ott Coffee for sponsoring our show

Matt Baum:
This is great. Yeah. This is perfect. Let’s take a quick break, so we can talk about our partner this week. Ott Coffee is partnering with us for a second week in a row. For a second week in a row, you can get 15% off your first purchase at ottcoffee.com, or you can hit them up and get a free sample just by paying the $5 shipping. Now, Ott Coffee has figured out a fantastic way to combine CBD and very high quality coffee. I say very high quality because I am a coffee snob. Alwan, the CEO sent me some and I loved it. You can hear our full conversation about how he started his company back in episode 43 of this show. The idea is very simple. You combine coffee with CBD for an alert, focused and mellow state of mind, minus the annoying jitters, anxiety and crashes that come with caffeine.

Matt Baum:
I love coffee and I need caffeine to wake up. It’s a crutch, and I have been thinking about trying to see if I could cut it out of my diet someday, but I love it too much, so I don’t plan on it. Now, another reason I don’t plan on it is because now I can get CBD with my coffee. Just like they said, it takes away that jittery thing. I drink it too fast, I admit, and I drink too much of it. But when you mix it with CBD, it seems to mellow me out just enough, so I’m focused and I’m alert and I’m awake, but I’m not vibrating. My heart is not racing, and I slowly come down the other side. I don’t hit a caffeine crash and decide that I need to grab more coffee.

Matt Baum:
If I do, they have a decaf as well. It’s a part of their relaxation series. It’s a medium roast coffee blend with smooth notes of caramel, chocolate and fruity flavors. I particularly love their productivity series. This is the full caffeinated version. It’s a medium roast coffee blend with smooth notes of caramel, chocolate and vanilla flavors. They are both fantastic. Like I said, you can try a free sample at ottcoffee.com. Just pay the $5 shipping or you can use the code OTT15. THat’s O-T-T 15 for 15% off your first order. Like I said, it’s just great coffee.

Matt Baum:
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Getting to know Evan Nison

Matt Baum:
What was your background? Did you come out of law? Did you come out of city government? How does this start?

Evan Nison:
Well, when I was in college, I never liked classes. I tried my best to not attempt the classes to be honest, but I really enjoyed learning.

Matt Baum:
I did too. Yes. Same here.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. I tried to do things outside of the class, like lobbying, holding press conferences for medical marijuana and things like that. By the time I got out of college, I had experienced lobbying. I experienced holding press conferences. I knew a bunch of legislators and I was kind of well positioned. Again, this is at a time before the industry. There wasn’t many of us who are really involved. There was probably 20 at most. We all knew each other across the country.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Evan Nison:
Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but 20 really, really, really into it people.

Comparing cannabis advocacy with hemp lobbying

Matt Baum:
You’ve lobbied for hemp. You’ve lobbied for marijuana. Which do you think… This might be a silly question. Do you think one is more difficult to sell to the public than the other? Because even though they’re the same plant, one does a different thing and one has less THC. Do you think that selling hemp to a state to get legalized or legalizing marijuana? Which one do you find more of a battle in?

Evan Nison:
That’s a good question. Legalization of cannabis, of high THC cannabis was harder in the sense that we’re talking about “a drug.” We’re talking about addiction. We’re talking about people’s kids. We’re talking about driving. Like there is a lot, there is a lot of really, really sticky issues for public.

Matt Baum:
Sure. Sure.

Evan Nison:
But there was an extreme amount of interest in it. This was more of the case obviously back in the day, but I remember when we put out a first press release of one of our clients going from Wall Street to the cannabis industry, that was like Wall Street Journal covered it on their actual paper, in their front section and things like that. There was just a lot more opportunity to talk to the public with hemp. There is interest in it, but it’s not as much interest, but I think hemp is easier.

Evan Nison:
The real reason that I will say that is because of farming because the Republicans have tied… Especially in congress, the Republicans have tied themselves to farmers in middle America, in Kentucky. That has played perfectly into our narrative… Into their narrative, rather. Whereas with cannabis legalization, we’re talking about inner city, youth being arrested. I guess there would be farming, but I think it’s viewed differently. I want to say hemp has been easier, but it’s been harder to actually have the platform to speak on.

Matt Baum:
It does seem like that because it seems like marijuana was legalized in different states well before we even started talking about hemp and the concerns for marijuana were such that like coming out of the 70s and 80s, where of course, we learned that marijuana just ruins lives and destroys civilizations as we know it, whereas hemp had none of that tied to it other than the fact that it looks like marijuana. It just seems so ridiculous. First, to be fair, the whole thing is ridiculous and it should all be legalized. Period.

Evan Nison:
Yes. Right.

The future of hemp lobbying

Matt Baum:
Okay. End of story. But I can see how the arguments against marijuana, which were so ingrained for racial stereotypes, for crime stereotypes and whatnot. Overcoming that almost seemed to be easier just due to interest whereas hemp right now doesn’t have that same interest outside of some pain relief, helping farms, replacing certain things in the industrial as far as plastics and fabrics and whatnot. What do you think the way forward now that hemp is legal? It’s totally legal, but still having all these problems. What do you see the way forward for hemp being?

Evan Nison:
That’s a good question. Figuring out the issue and making sure that the farm bill is implemented correctly, even if that means additional legislation or fixes is going to be very important. I’m not a hemp farmer. I know there’s incredible amounts of issues. I don’t know all of them in detail, but there’s going to need to be stakeholder meetings with hemp farmers and things like that to really figure it out. I think that the agencies should be empowered to do that, so we don’t have to go back to congress all the time. That would be big because I do think that the federal agencies are not opposed to this. Once congress allows it, they’ll happily regulate it and try to support the industry. They just need the ability and latitude to be able to make the decisions they need to.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Evan Nison:
It’s not often. I actually encourage more bureaucracy [inaudible 00:23:41]. If the agencies don’t have it, then the congress has it and congress has the worst bureaucracy.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Evan Nison:
That’s pretty important. I think also like in a weird way, this is going to tie into psychedelics what I’m about to say. It’s to your point, which I know is totally on top of… Off the map in cannabis, but to your point on hemp being legalized after cannabis, I think that there is a huge faction of people that was like cannabis illegal because there’s a reason. It wouldn’t be made illegal if there wasn’t a reason, and they made that same judgment with hemp. I remember my parents, they’re very open-minded, but they’re like, “No. That doesn’t make sense. There’s obviously a reason they would make this illegal. If it was just a plant, and whatever.”

Matt Baum:
Oh, of course.

Evan Nison:
I think when cannabis became legal and people were like, “Holy shit. We actually were lied to for decades.” Now, they’re reevaluating hemp, and this is where psychedelics comes in. That’s been making much more progress than I would have ever dreamed of.

Matt Baum:
Yeah. Definitely.

Evan Nison:
Like mushrooms are being decriminalized. I think that it all stems from people being like, “Holy shit, we maybe are lied to sometimes about these things.”

Matt Baum:
Absolutely. You mentioned about how hemp has really pushed for federal agencies to make rulings on things. It doesn’t seem… Maybe I’m wrong. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like marijuana is pushed as hard. It seems like marijuana has gone more for a state by state win as opposed to going to federal agencies and saying, “All right. Let’s get a full US-wide lift on this, sort of like we did with the farm bill for hemp.” Am I mistaken here, or is that correct?

Hemp & cannabis in Congress

Evan Nison:
That is correct. Well, that’s part of what we want for the legalization, right? Something like the MORE Act that would bring this conversation to a national level rather than state by state. To some extent, it will be on both levels forever just like hemp and even alcohol laws are now, which is [inaudible 00:25:43] constitution because prohibition, of course.

Matt Baum:
Of course.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. Well, we tried for both, right? The MORE Act, we are trying to get it voted on before the election. It seems like it will be pushed off and I don’t ever want to give credit to him ever again, but I think it’s because of Mitch McConnell.

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Evan Nison:
Kentucky being… Hemp is just as much of a Republican issue. Actually frankly, hemp is probably more of a Republican issue right now than it is a Democrat.

Matt Baum:
It’s way more of a Republican issue. Most definitely.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. Yeah.

Matt Baum:
If you look at where it’s grown, they’re mainly red states.

Evan Nison:
Right. That would be my hypothesis is that because the Republicans took this off as their issue and the Democrats, of course, would go along with it because we would have taken it up as our issue as they are probably.

Matt Baum:
Sure. Sure.

Evan Nison:
Or a Democrat, then it just is a breeze. Right? Cannabis can be like that potentially. There is certainly as much bipartisanship in terms of support or almost as much bipartisanship in terms of support. It’s just the Democrats… I mean, the Republicans haven’t actually made it their issue.

Matt Baum:
Right. Right.

Evan Nison:
If they had to vote yes or no, or abstain, I think they would vote yes or abstain depending on if they thought they needed their political calculus. But it probably will not be their issue, but they’re not opposed to it. You’re not seeing ads either anywhere of saying, “Kamala Harris sponsored…” Yeah.

Matt Baum:
Is that out of fear, do you think? Is that what it is? Like, “We’re just scared to… We know it’s very popular, but there is an older electorate that’s a little [inaudible 00:27:19] about the whole thing and we’re afraid to touch it.” Is it just fear?

Evan Nison:
I think it’s actually just momentum. I think it’s just the fact that it’s been decades and decades and decades and all of these politicians have decades and decades and decades of wreck of audio and video talking about the drug war, all this stuff.

Matt Baum:
Of course. Yeah.

Evan Nison:
The fact that no one’s fighting it is huge. In some levels, it’s not enough, right? We want people to support it.

Matt Baum:
Of course.

Evan Nison:
But like I was saying, there was no ads against Kamala Harris and Biden because Kamala Harris sponsored legalization in the congress. There is opposition against Biden for supporting things like the RAVE Act and the drug war. I think the more that that happens, hopefully the Republicans will take it up, but maybe it’s just because it’s a drug issue or because they were the ones who took the real hard stance in the 90s, and they don’t want to fully admit they were wrong. I’m not sure. It’s obvious to see why they took up hemp as an issue. It’s harder to see why they’re not taking a cannabis.

Is legalization inevitable?

Matt Baum:
Do you think it’s inevitable at this point? Has one too many dominoes fallen already, and this is just going to happen and you can either get on the right side of history or try and push back, but is it inevitable? Is this coming?

Evan Nison:
Yeah, I believe. I think everyone thinks it’s inevitable and almost no one is even really trying to push back anymore.

Matt Baum:
Yeah. It seemed like that, right?

Evan Nison:
Yeah.

Matt Baum:
It just seems like there’s some delay tactics basically, but they’re not even delayed tactics in the sense, like maybe we can push this off until it goes away. From what I’ve seen, especially like McConnell, like you mentioned, who we’ve talked about a lot on this show, he was very pro-hemp and behind his farmers. He’s kind of backed off and disappeared a little bit since then, but he’s fighting a lot of weird battles right now. I’m not defending the guy.

Evan Nison:
Right. Exactly.

Matt Baum:
I can’t stand him, and I don’t agree with anything he says outside if his hemp stance.

Evan Nison:
Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. I am exactly the same place.

Matt Baum:
It just does like whenever we get closer to these elections, they seem to get quieter on these subjects to ensure that their older voting base doesn’t think that they’re trying to legalize marijuana, so the hippies take over the country, which…

Evan Nison:
Totally. The reason that the MORE Act was pushed was not because the Republicans wanted to delay the vote. It’s because there were Democrats within the caucus who wanted to delay the vote and those are Democrats and it’s politically okay. Politicians are like… They’re like scared animals in terms of new things. In some way, you can use that against you or use that against them. If you kick somebody out of office for something, all the politicians take notice of that. They’re very reluctant to do new things. When elections approach, they’re very, very nervous to do anything new or potentially controversial even if it’s not actually controversial. That’s just how they are.

Matt Baum:
Now, I don’t know why I’m even bringing this up, but what has it been like to work with the current administration in Washington? They can’t be friendly to this, judging them on a lot of their other policies.

Evan Nison:
Right. That’s a good question. I should actually ask our lobbyists about the Trump administration. We speak mostly about congress because that’s where most of the action is happening. I think… I don’t know this. This is my belief because we haven’t really talked too much about the White House yet, and I don’t know if that’s just because the MORE Act would still have to get through the senate or whatever. But my hunch is that there is probably a belief that if something gets to the president’s desk, not no matter who they are, but if they’re Republican or Democrat, it will probably get signed by Trump, by Biden, by whoever because for all the reasons we mentioned, like their support, it’s inevitable.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Evan Nison:
By the time it got to the president’s desk, they will all have to have been in the house and the senate who put it there. Unless we have a warrior, it doesn’t happen this next four years. We have a drug warrior somehow in 2024 or 2025, I guess is when they’d be inaugurated. I think that the president will not be the issue is my guess.

Matt Baum:
Are you calling your shot? Are you saying next five years, you think this happens? Feel free. Call your shot. I’m not going to track you down in five years and be like, “You’re wrong.” Like, “Try again.”

Evan Nison:
If I had $100 bill and I had to put it on one, I would say yes, it will probably get done the next five years.

Matt Baum:
That’s amazing.

Evan Nison:
I don’t think politicians…. Yeah, it is amazing. Just like politicians don’t really want to vote on this, they also don’t want it around either.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Evan Nison:
I think they kind of want it off their plate as soon as it’s convenient.

Matt Baum:
Okay. You signed this and people freak out and go, “Oh, we can’t believe they’d signed that.” Then, you look how much money starts coming into your state and you look how much benefit comes from it. That probably silences quite a few detractors.

Evan Nison:
For sure. States will always… Again, just like alcohol, there will always be places that do not allow it. Right?

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Evan Nison:
I don’t think there will ever be a situation unless we enshrine it into the constitution. Even in that case, like I was mentioning alcohol isn’t fully true now. There’ll always be local bans, state bans, things like that, but there should be national possession legalizations and you can’t get arrested in any place and things like that.

Matt Baum:
100% agree. What do you think is the single best thing that us… You guys seem to be killing it, by the way. NORML is really out there slaying it.

Evan Nison:
For sure.

Consumer advocacy for hemp

Matt Baum:
What do you think the single best thing that we could do in the hemp world? We don’t have a NORML like you guys. You’re representing us. Thank you. We appreciate it.

Evan Nison:
Anytime. Anytime.

Matt Baum:
But what’s the single best thing you think we could be doing in the meantime? Is it literally just like writing your congressman, writing your senator, letting them know you’re interested because we collected ballots. We collected signatures here in Nebraska. It did no good. None. They told us to shut up, even though we got the amount of numbers. What do we do?

Evan Nison:
Yeah. That’s ridiculous. I think making sure that it’s clear what the needs of the hemp industry are, would be very important. If you think cannabis industry needs, you automatically… Well, it’s a different position obviously, but you think banking, you think taxation. There are certain things that the cannabis industry has made it abundantly clear. It needs to be able to thrive. When you think about hemp, there aren’t necessarily as clear of a set of policies that the hemp industry wants any people to adopt. Right? That might just because we just got a huge win in the Farm Act and it has to shake itself out, but I think being clear and concise about that as it shakes out and figuring that out as an industry and community would be beneficial, for sure. Because if you go out and if you have 100 things that you say you want, probably nobody’s going to have time. If you all talk about the same three to five things, you’ll probably get all three to five things.

Matt Baum:
Yeah. Or at least two of them, which would be great.

Evan Nison:
Right. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

Matt Baum:
Come on.

Evan Nison:
Exactly. That’s something.

Matt Baum:
You have been fantastic. It’s amazing your breadth of knowledge on this and everything that you’re doing in to fight for this. We’re rooting for you. We’re on your side. We’re your allies and we’re on your side.

Evan Nison:
I appreciate it. I appreciate it. I’m on your side. We’re all on the same side.

Final thoughts from Matt

Matt Baum:
It’s true. We are all on the same side. Thank you again to Evan for coming on the show. I will have links to all the amazing things that he is involved in, in the marijuana and hemp world. I just think it is incredible that there’s people out there like Evan who do understand that we need to do the dance and we need to wear the suits sometimes, and we need to do our homework and we need to come prepared. We can’t just scream and yell. We’re going to organize. We have to let our leaders know that this is a priority and we have to let them know what those priorities are. Let’s get it together, hemp. Let’s do this.

Matt Baum:
Thanks again to Ott Coffee for partnering with us. Like I said, be sure to check out the show notes and check them out. Speaking of the show notes, here at Ministry of Hemp, we believe that an accessible world is a better world for everybody. There is a full written transcript of this episode also in the show notes. If you need more hemp in your life, we have got all kinds of cool articles up on ministryofhemp.com right now, including another CBD review from a brand called Helix Naturals. They do joint relief balm that helps with pain. Be sure to check that out and check out one of our top posts right now about hemp and plastic. Hemp makes great plastic, so why isn’t hemp plastic everywhere? It’s a fantastic article. Speaking of hemp plastics and hemp fibers, next week on the show, we’re going to be talking to a company that is making hemp shoes.

Matt Baum:
I’m super excited for you guys to hear this one. If you want to be cool like Ott Coffee and actually support the Ministry of Hemp because you liked this show, you like our site and you want to help spread the word of hemp education, do me a favor and review this podcast. Wherever you’re listening to it, give us a star rating or a short written review. It really helps to move us up in the search algorithms so people can find us and head to patreon/ministryofhemp.com, and become a ministry of hemp insider. It’s going to get you access to early articles and podcast extras. I’ve got one from this episode where I’m talking to Evan all about his cannabis tour company out of San Francisco. It’s a little quiet right now because of COVID, but it’s a really cool idea. It’s helping normalize the idea of cannabis farming in California.

Matt Baum:
Head to patrion/ministryofhemp. Become a Ministry of Hemp insider right now, and huge thank you to everybody that already has. We’ll see you back here for another episode next week. Right now, it’s time to go. I like to sign off the same way every time by saying, remember to take care of yourself. Take care of others and make good decisions, will you? COVID is still out there. It’s coming back. Wear a mask, continue to wash your hands, and play it safe, you guys. No joke. Flu season’s here as well. Get a flu shot. If you haven’t, register a vote. This is Matt Baum with the Ministry of Hemp signing off.

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