AUSTIN420: How do you perceive the influence of so many high powered women in the Cannabis Law Reform movement when it comes to affecting the attitudes of our lawmakers in this upcoming 2015 Legislative Session?

CHEYANNE WELDON: I guess I never think of us as “high powered” (was that your intentional pun or mine?), but I do believe an increase in support from women sends a message to lawmakers, just as it did when alcohol was prohibited and when it was later repealed. Regardless of the variations in family lifestyles, women are traditionally thought of as the caregivers, nurturers, the ones “looking out for the children,” and truly, we are now again, through supporting a legal market and a plant that is not contraband. I do believe though, an increase in any demographic where support was previously lacking, is noteworthy and of great benefit, gender just happens to be a larger percentage of the population than most other categories in polls.

AUSTIN420: How can the younger voters affect the upcoming election considering the low voter turnout of an off season election?

 CW: Talking about the election, the voter turnout, the candidates, seriously talking about it with anyone that will listen and for as long as they will listen. Ask questions, do research, volunteer, meet your Senator and Representative’s staff and try to meet the members themselves, follow their social media, and make sure to learn the rules of the game in our state and educate others about what they learn. Wanting change is not enough, you have to be willing to work for the change within the parameters of the laws here, not the laws of other states where we see headlines. There are thousands of bills filed each session, but the Texas Legislature’s website is easy to navigate and provides a wealth of information on our elected officials, history of bills including videos of hearings, glossary of terms, detailed steps on how bills become law, and pre-defined searches such as “bills filed today.” Anyone of any age scrolling through the various proposed laws will surely find more than one issue that they are interested in, and being knowledgeable about and interested in more than one topic will help anyone understand how hard we need to work to make our issue a priority, and give you something else to talk to your legislator about. The site even provides House and Senate links to help teach kids, think School House Rock and “I’m Just a Bill.

AUSTIN420: What do you feel has been your greatest contribution to the cannabis reform movement?

 CW: Having only been involved 5 years, the greatest contribution I can think of is what I have done for myself and those who interact with me by “becoming NORML". Changing my habits as a social drinker and walking away from all the turmoil that came with that for me over the past 20 years, by learning and continuing to learn how I can help others, and building a real community of supportive friends for the first time in my 40+ years. In having this kind of support while being in a better state of mind, I have been able to contribute more to the movement. Really it’s more what the cannabis reform movement has done for me since I stumbled into it in late 2008, and it’s only through the knowledge and support I’ve been given from so many others that I have anything at all to contribute.

 AUSTIN420: What do you feel are the lessons we should take into next session?

 CW: We learned a lot about procedures as well as relationship building in the 2013 session. We now have more allies and advisors going into this session and understand more about how our laws are changed. We’re way ahead of the game this time. We just can’t expect our issue to be as important to everyone. We must remember to always educate, no matter how opposed the person is. It simply means they need more information, which we have and should choose the best and most pertinent evidence to first address concerns of others. We must hear the concerns, so that we address and get that out of the way, THEN we can explain the many benefits of the change we want.

 AUSTIN420: What are your views as a woman, mother, and grandmother on Medical Cannabis use for epileptic seizures and other medical conditions affecting children?

 CW: Parents and caregivers are the best experts for understanding how to look out for the child’s best interests. Our current laws are non-sensical in that doctors legally recommend prescriptions for children with harmful (sometimes fatal) side effects, while they and parents are restricted from exploring avenues of benefits from a plant without the risk of those side effects. I believe that all adults and children should have rights over their own bodies and certainly the final word on how to care for those bodies.

 AUSTIN420: As Executive Director of Texas NORML, what is your perception of the public’s view regarding Cannabis going into the 2015 Legislative Session?

 CW: I think the general public, even most non-consumers, believe it is time for a change in how we allocate our time, funds, and resources. In who we lock up, or at least interfere with their future education and employment choices. Many of those who are actually opposed understand that legalization is inevitable in our future. Remember we have only been arresting for cannabis in Texas for ONE century…. this “era” is only known to our generation and a couple before us, this too shall pass. ~