"It's Official: as of 4am az time the @mikelweisser 4 US congress campaign is completed w our final FEC 2014 paperwork filed. THX all! #2016!"
--from my Twitter Stream on 12/4/14, 9:51 AM - 4 Dec 2014
Now that the 2014 election cycle is officially completed, the Mikel Weisser for US Congress campaign is suspending operations on this site for the time being. Please continue to follow the action in this blog and @ http://saferarizona.com.
It is without hesitation that I can say, at no point prior to choosing to become a medical patient in the summer of 2012, could I have predicted the role cannabis reform would come to play in my life. After falling in my primary in Aug. of that year; and then deciding to press what few political chips I had to arrange a first few meetings w legislators to discuss flaws in AZ’s medical marijuana program in Dec. of 2012, I met Dennis Bohlke and Robert Clark and they asked me if I would join them in their work on cannabis reform. Since that moment, my life has gone through what feels like a whirlwind these past 18 months and starting tomorrow, Dec 5th, 2014, in addition to my current role as political director of Safer, I will be assuming the role of treasurer and finance chair of the PAC.
In keeping with our promise to advance the rights of the AZ cannabis community in any way possible, by all means necessary, Safer AZ is re-filing our AZ SOS political action committee paperwork and revving up for 2016, continuing to work on legalization, and partnering w MPP of AZ, in addition to 6 other cannabis activist organizations operating here in AZ (AZ NORML, PHX NORML, PHX Cannabis Coalition, The Human Solution, Registered Arizona Medical Marijuana Patients, & Students for a Sensible Drug Policy) to develop a citizens’ initiative for the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Arizona.
To my non-cannabis consuming supporters of AZ-04: It is my fondest hope that you will see this action as in keeping with my commitment to citizens’ basic rights and advancing AZ into the 21st century. It is my fervent belief that cannabis prohibition has consciously been used as a method of social control and it is our role as activists to address this massive social injustice, in the same way as we need to commit ourselves to the issues of gender equality, environmental devastation, crony capitalism, and the other ills of the conservative values agenda—this is a social movement that can transform America. It is our honor, not our burden, to take up this mantle.
In 20 yrs, in a society freed from cannabis prohibition and the social mental straitjacket it creates, our society will do a better job at addressing the needs of the under-classes or exploitations of the elites. There are a dozen or so avenues of social change that an activist could focus his entire attention upon in the hopes of making a difference. At one point in my campaign, I was trying to string together an agenda of the 23 grievances we’d identified in the Kingman Occupy group. There are not enough people working on this issue in AZ to give it the attention it deserves, and so for the time being, I will give it the attention I have.
For those of you under-familiar with Safer AZ, please give our website a look (http://saferarizona.com/) and check out our Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/SaferAZ). You can scroll back through the posts in this blog and get numerous updates on the movement. The most important one is available in this You Tube video: Safer AZ Announces 2016 Drive at PHX NORML 9/2/14 (Mikel Weisser).
(For those of you wanting to get a serious picture inside Safer AZ’s future, there is a peek at the current business plan below.)
I really appreciate all the people who have helped advance my work as a congressional candidate because they hoped it advanced their goals as an activist. I promise my work in this specific field is in keeping w your values. Please keep watching. It may take a bit until this website starts resuming sustained activity, but rest assured, through Safer AZ we will continue to work for the good.
Fans of this specific website design and artistic sensibility, here is an important announcement: After 2 yrs of relentless pasting of pics and text on this landing page, Google sites has warned we are nearing the limits of our allotted space for a free website. Since the campaign is committed to a 2016 run, at some point this site will become an artifact and a new site will be erected for the 2016 campaign. Rest assured of these two things: 1. I love the work I have done here since 2012 and will preserve access to this site as an archive when the new campaign website launches closer to the 2016 election & 2. Whatever site it is that replaces this one, it will kick even more ass. In the meantime, as long as I can find continuing space here, I will post updates and set up a smooth transition to the 2016 site; but, for the most part, for the foreseeable future my efforts will be devoted to Safer AZ’s site, though I will continue to share blog updates w the blog.
For now and for tomorrow, please continue to believe: in me, in yourself, in our country’s potential and our abilities to guide it towards a better future. This past Thanksgiving, as part of my long standing tradition of actually making contacts on the day and giving thanks to those who I appreciated, I made 50+ calls and texts before I realized I could not possibly address all the wonderful souls who have shared themselves hopes with me. If I were to try to list the names of all those who have contributed time, treasure or other support to our 2014 effort, I would be at it till 2015 and still leave folks out.
So, just know, YOU specifically, if YOU did even one Iota to help me, to help your favorite cause, to help somebody because you believed in the idea more than you cared whether or not you believed in the actual man, if you went through hell so somebody else didn’t have too (or if you recognized that allusion), thank you.
Keep it going!
For those wanting a peek into the future of Safer AZ, continue reading below:
Organizational Notes, Safer Arizona
Intro-After operating principally as a volunteer organization of 4 central activists and dozens of volunteers w little coordination and no developed income stream beyond donations of the charter members, Safer Arizona is reorganizing to turn our operation into a full-scale Political Action Committee, w multiple-income streams, paid staff, media presence and legislative influence. To do so, Safer Arizona will have to develop a focus and culture that advances a few basic ideas:
Safer Arizona will:
1. Actively work to advance legislation and citizens’ initiatives to legalize and regulate cannabis on the 2016 ballot.
2. Support political actions, organizations, business interests and movements in general aiming to legalize and regulate cannabis in AZ and nationally that meet w our ethical standards.
3. Promote and coordinate the activities of other individuals and organizations in AZ to increase our movement’s effectiveness.
4. Challenge those opposing cannabis reform in a variety of platforms; and work as advocates for patients and other defendants in the criminal justice system for cannabis related offenses.
5. Provide volunteer opportunities for members of the cannabis community and larger activist community to take personal and group actions on the issue.
6. Generate funds to advance our activities.
Safer AZ will generate income in the following ways:
1. Web Presence: A primary immediate revenue generating goal for SaferArizona.Com is developing the existing website, or website elements, into a site that serves as a nexus for the movement with its own merchandizing capabilities; AND is also functional as a traditional political website in data collection and fundraising capabilities (i.e. Nationbuilder or equal) w ad space marketing, either as an exchange w other sites in the industry, or through ad space sales to industry-aligned businesses.
2. Merchandising: Already Safer AZ has a recognizable product line: our green tee-shirts w our signature phrase: “MARIJUANA IS SAFER THAN ALCOHOL,” on the front and our logo on the back. There are already nearly a 1000 Safer AZ tee-shirts in circulation in the state and the market for the idea is due to grow exponentially with the legalization movement catching fire over the next two years. In addition, we initially want to introduce a small assortment of accessory promotional products using the same messaging and logo. Among these are logo stickers for sale and give-away, coffee cups and ball caps. We are also in negotiations w the estate of Len Richmond, producer/director of the 2010 documentary, “What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?” to distribute DVDs of the film for little or no cost to use it for fundraising and educational purposes. We will target the dispensary and smoke shop industries primarily for our wholesale sales and focus our direct retail merchandising at events such as “1st Fridays” and concerts, etc. in addition to cannabis related events and meetings.
3. Campaign Service Vendor: Safer AZ will create petition gathering/public awareness events and help promote and coordinate the events of other cannabis activist groups in partnerships. These partnerships can include consulting fees to create events or train volunteers in local activities, and most importantly, signature gathering contracts w the central initiative campaign committee.
4. Direct Political Fundraising: Using traditional political campaign techniques such as email promotions, call-time solicitations and partnership-sponsorships from aligned businesses and organizations, Safer AZ can wield political power just like other political action committees do. Here, besides the traditional angel-donor approach, we will be using direct phone and public events solicitations to encourage small-dollar recurring donors to set up monthly contributions. Whenever possible we will direct donors to our online portal in the Safer Arizona website; but officers can also take checks and in the short run should be equipped w card readers and smart phone software to take card donations in the field, both for merchandizing and for outright political donations.
5. Events Production: Safer AZ has various resources in the entertainment community, especially the 420-friendly entertainment community. We can create 420-friendly entertainment events around the state to promote the movement and generate revenue when we get either star-power headliners or all-day festival events w multiple acts. Ticket sales, vendor space rental and merchandising will give events production its multiple revenue streams.
6. Media Marketing: Safer AZ can begin production on a KFNX’s talk show station hosting a call-in sponsor supported talk show on marijuana and related topics. KFNX is one of the largest talk radio stations in the southwest and reaches apx. four million potential listeners in AZ in the PHX-Tucson listening area. Sponsorships on the radio show could be the radio advertising access some of those in the industry have been looking for. With studio time running $250 per week , having as few as 4 sponsors per week would net the production a profit. KFNX believes this is a demographic waiting to be marketed to. Leadership in MPP of AZ believe this media access could be a huge tool towards shaping the media in the upcoming campaign. The station is hoping to develop this show in time for the New Year.
Safer AZ Services
As a political action committee Safer AZ will have to declare a mission statement of sorts or a purpose of intent. As a collective of activists we will need to create and develop a few initial areas of operation and can expand according to our resources, both revenue and manpower.
1. Public Advocacy: Safer AZ is a voice for the public and will maintain a web and public presence, both in creating demonstrations, entertainment and educational events around the community around the state; but also at the state capitol as a legislative activist organizer helping patients and others in the community get their stories and desires to our legislators so they can better shape public policy.
2. Cannabis Activist Volunteer Organization: As the 2016 campaign becomes more visible, more and more people will want to become volunteers in the movement and will need a place to connect. Safer AZ can be that nexus. With our two years of experience as an organization run by people who operated in their “spare time,” we have already proven that we can organize activists online, at public demonstrations around the state and at the capitol. Moving forward
3. Social Media Communications: Safer AZ is an organization born online (when founded the 4 original activists each lived in separate cities, with one member (Dave Wisniewski stationed in South Korea for the first full year of operations). These days Safer Arizona has a Facebook following of nearly 5000 and an average weekly readership over 3500. We have created and led email and phone call campaigns and serves as a nexus for various activists and groups to spread word of their own activities.
4. Legislative Action: Safer AZ successfully introduced a cannabis decriminalization bill last session, HB2474 to address felony arrest provisions in state law. We also led the challenges to various anti-cannabis rights legislation and blocked several bills. Safer AZ is focused on developing the relationships w state legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle and being a watchdog on cannabis-related legislative activity to help the larger community keep informed of statehouse developments.
5. Electoral Watchdog: Through our web pages, Safer AZ has tracked both elected officials and candidates’ positions on cannabis related issues, creating district level maps so voters can support pro-cannabis issues at the ballot box.
6. Counter-Propaganda Force: As the national legalization movement intensifies our opponents are increasing their campaigns of misinformation and incarceration. In AZ the leaders of the anti-cannabis community and the leaders of the state prosecutors and law enforcement have banded together to power an anti-cannabis media campaign through their organization, Matforce. Safer AZ is committed to challenging Matforce propaganda both through our web presence and in person, by helping local activists organize counter-protests and court support for cannabis defendants. We provide speakers to various civic organizations, public debates, and news media needing a quote from an authoritative source. In addition to our own members, Safer AZ has helped organizations get additional cannabis leaders as speakers and are ready to act around the state to challenge Matforce when necessary.
7. Community Volunteer Opportunity: One of the most important things Safer AZ provides is an outlet for activists. AZ is catching the green rush and thousands of citizens are wanting a way to act. Safer AZ is creating a database of our nearly 200 activists around the state and developing a monthly newsletter to keep the community informed. With a statewide reach, Safer AZ can help local citizens develop their own programs and connect to the larger movement.
Here are the tasks volunteers can help w.
1. Host an awareness event in your home or in your community
2. Letter writing to your local media and elected officials and to state and federal officials
3. Creating a 420-friendly entertainment event in your community
4. Attending and staffing demonstrations and events in the PHX area
5. Representing Safer AZ and the cannabis reform community at public events and debates
6. Manning a Safer Arizona booth at community events
7. Collecting signatures
8. Share on social media
9. Connect us to your family and friends so we can expand our reach.
10. Attend a local political meeting or elected officials meetings
11. Make $5 monthly donation
12. Take leadership position in organizing and training others in your area after you’ve worked w us a while.
As a political action committee Safer AZ has already developed connections to nearly half of the 2012 AZ state legislature. Our model legislation, “The Harm Reduction Measure,” (which called for removing state statute that requires that all cannabis-related arrests are listed as felonies) attracted the attention and support of 15 AZ state legislators and was introduced as HB2474.
This cycle Safer AZ is working with Tom Dean, former national legal counsel for NORML, to develop model legislations to address the following issues:
1. A re-introduction of “The Harm Reduction Measure” (HB2474).
2. Supporting GOP proposed Hemp legislation.
3. Sunset of the 25 mile rule for qualified medical marijuana patients.
4. Halting civil forfeitures prior to conviction.
5. A “Good Samaritan Law” to protect citizens helping someone who has overdosed.
6. An AZ version of KY’s “Casey’s Law,” which allows parents of under-aged drug users to petition for placements for their children in rehab facilities.
7. DUI protections requiring evidence of impairment and video records of sobriety tests.
8. Jury nullification court rule changes to allow juries greater instruction and discretion in sentencing.
Safer AZ as a political action committee is governed by a board of directors and required to have posts of a chair, or president, and a treasurer. In addition, Safer AZ requires having certain areas of operations delegated to various officers and volunteers. While there are numerous vacancies and much overlap in current operations, we are projecting to fill in these roles:
Finance Director—Responsible for generating and managing operating capitol, this person will work w executive director and treasurer to generate funds and set an operating budget. As the organization expands this office may add call-time assistants or fundraising consultants.
Executive Director—Responsible for managing office day-to-day ongoing operations, this person will work w finance committee to generate funds and set operating budget w the volunteer coordinator and political director. As the organization expands this office may add a secretary/receptionist.
Volunteer Coordinator—Responsible for developing and maintaining volunteer activities and records, this person will work w the political director and executive director to create and direct activities of volunteers around the state, in particular in events creation and petition gathering. As the organization expands this office may add regional volunteer coordinators. Currently John Howlett of Buckeye and Mark Goodman of Prescott Valley have offered to assist in their areas.
Political Director—Responsible for creating and implementing the strategies and directing the resources of the group, this person works w the executive director and the volunteer coordinator to develop volunteer projects (such as educational presentations and demonstrations), legislative activity, communications strategy and instruments, and shaping fundraising projects. As the organization expands this office may add legislative activist or lawyer
Communications Officer—Responsible for maintaining the Safer AZ website, Facebook group, newsletter, press releases, internal communications and Twitter feeds, this person will work w the executive director and political director to create political materials, maintain a content stream for our website and newsletters, assist w internal communications and manage the social network of activists that gravitate to our online presence. As the organization expands this office may add a website designer to upgrade our operations.
Events Coordinator—Responsible for creating and promoting educational and entertainment events, this person will work with the political director and volunteer coordinator to create and manage an ongoing educational program as part of our outreach and for-profit large scale entertainment events. The communications office and finance director will also assist this office.
Division of Labor
Currently Safer AZ, unofficially, has two full-time unpaid staff, Mikel Weisser and Robert Clark. Dave Wisniewski and Dennis Bohlke, who have both done extensive volunteer service, are also volunteering in a part-time to half-time basis. Additionally there are other volunteers who have volunteered as various levels of involvement and will be invited to consider taking some of these roles from the four principals.
Division of Operations
Geographically Safer AZ has an obligation to the AZ cannabis community to develop a statewide reach in both our activism and our advocacy. Due to the massive area of the state, both in terms of the cannabis consumer community and the AZ medical marijuana industry, we will be dividing the state into operating regions for volunteer coordination and AZ CHAAs (Community Health Assessment Areas) for fundraising and merchandising concerns. Volunteers will be identified 1st by their general region of the state: PHX, Tucson, Rural North & Rural South. As the organization expands, this division can be further split up according to congressional districts for the PHX metro area and legislative districts for all other areas.
Dec. 4—Safer AZ completes filing final 2014 election cycle report w FEC. Safer AZ representatives kick off our legislative activities w a meeting w newly-elected AZ LD1 Rep. Noel Campbell.
Dec. 5—Safer AZ files new AZSOS paperwork for 2016 cycle and reopens bank account w new officers. Dave Wisniewski and Robert Clark will be co-chairs. Mikel Weisser will be treasurer.
Dec. 18—Safer AZ delivers our tee-shirt order in time for the holidays, re-orders including additional styles and colors as requested.
Dec. 26-30—Safer AZ sends legislative proposals to AZ State Legislature.
Dec. overall—update wufoo, paypal and merchant services, begin interview process of existing volunteer network, develop donor base and legislative agenda, establish marketing networks and operating protocols, recruit and develop staff.
Jan. 2—Mikel Weisser relocates to PHX to take over day-to-day operations.
Jan. 8—Safer AZ joins local protesters in Mohave County to attend the Matforce presentation in Kingman
Jan. 12—Open day of AZ legislature, Safer AZ holds demonstration at the capitol and assists cannabis activists in contacting their legislators while on campus.
Jan. overall—Safer AZ begins legislator interviews, radio show foundation work, expanded merchandising and sales route development. Safer continues to assist w public input into drafting process of MPP of AZ’s 2016 initiative and expands our fundraising. Begin talks on website overhaul. Create schedule of upcoming volunteer based events and begin promoting it.
Feb. overall--Safer AZ continues legislator interviews and assisting w public input into drafting process of MPP of AZ’s 2016 initiative, foundation work, expands merchandizing sales route. Safer continues to and expands our fundraising. Begin radio show and website overhaul. Begin volunteer training for petition collection. Launch newsletter and media campaign. Negotiates a contract w MPP of AZ to be a vendor providing petition signature collection and sundry services.
Mar. overall—Begins petition-collecting as a vendor to the campaign, adopts sales route into an organizing route and begin volunteer based petition-drives. Continue expanding previous operations.
2015 overall—develop income stream and operations network, hire and train staff, exhibit continuing robust legislative presence, collect 50,000 of projected 172,000 required signatures, assist MPP of AZ w completing signature campaign, develop radio show following, expand market for Safer AZ tee-shirts; create product line of additional Safer AZ merchandise, establish regional activist groups and ongoing educational programs, create multiple large demonstrations, create 3 profitable 420 friendly entertainment fundraisers, establish PHX storefront office and network of rural activists, expand donor base to include both numerous monthly small dollar contributions ($5-$10 recurring) and some larger dollar “angel donors.”