For this message evaluation I have chosen to evaluate the current social movement for the reform of Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Marijuana with a focus on the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Both are not for profit organizations that focus on the advancement of the supportive Marijuana social movement both politically and in society. NORML has a predominant focus on increasing public opinion in society in order to attain the legalization of Non-Medicinal Marijuana. MPP, whose cofounders were employees of NORML before starting MPP, focuses mainly on the policy reform of Marijuana. They focus on reform at the state level considerably more than federally. The MPP also indulges in increasing public opinion as well as making sure those in favor are active in voicing their opinion.
In class we agreed (for the most part) that a social movement needed three things to be the common idea of a social movement. Those things are a) uninstitutionalized b) had a sustained collective commitment to the movement and c) must be on behalf of change. Many social movements consist of these things; but some don’t. For that reason we should assess a little more what these aspects mean.
Being uninstitutionalized was the only thing that we could not seem to agree on as a class (in my eyes). In their article Persuasion in Society, Simmons and Jones define uninstitutionalized as “outside of the mainstream”. This definition and the word itself are up for debate as to what their limitations are. For some, this may mean that they cannot be made of/relating to the government; because that is ‘the institution’. I do not necessarily disagree with this, but I say that it is in terms of ideology. The ideology of a social movement must push against a mainstream idea/set of ideas. In terms of the Marijuana social movement, Marijuana has been illegal since the early 1900’s and has been properly propaganda’d by our government in that time. Up until recently the popular idea of Marijuana was negative. The Marijuana social movement has made several large steps in the past few years, which leads me to the concept of institutionalization in regards to the Marijuana social movement. I believe that at some point a social movement must be institutionalized to be successful. Popular idea may say most people would like the legalization of Marijuana, but that would not make the laws change. In order for the laws to change and the social movement (and organizations within) must be actively involved in politics and in society. Even when a dictator is overthrown, those involved in the social movement to overthrow the dictator must be involved in making a new governing system before the same system is set in place.
The second aspect a social movement must have is the sustained collective commitment towards a cause; which is the movement. I think this is absolutely essential to a social movement. If a social movement is involved in their cause at one time but not another, they would not be taken seriously as a group. Another facet of this is exemplified by the key word ‘collective’. The movement must collectively (or at least in a few subgroups collectively) agree upon a goal. Typically what differentiates between these groups would be the routes of how they are expecting to receive the results they want; or bigger ideological differences. For example, although not a social movement, there is a Christian/Jewish church called Temple 420 that advocates the use of Marijuana through God. That is a different ideological voice for the same cause as MPP and NORML. In this regard, these two organizations have been very persistent in their efforts towards their cause. MPP has been active since 1995 and has been making political victories up until right now. They are still influencing policy reform and political opinion to this day! In November of 2012 Colorado approved a bill drafted in part by the MPP to legalize and regulate the sale, production and use of Marijuana just like alcohol. This is not to say that a level of commitment is based upon success. This is not a limiting agent for this aspect. The degree to which a social movement is active in its cause is what determines whether or not it fulfills this need.
The third aspect of a social movement is being on behalf of change. If a social movement must have a sustained collective commitment it has to have a cause behind it. The cause may just be to increase awareness, but it must be on behalf of a change. The change can be good or bad. To me, there are not really any limitations to this aspect because change can be different in anyone’s perspective. MPP and NORML are most definitely fighting for a change. They fight for change in public opinion and public education of Marijuana as well as policy reform through political association. They are very active in both arenas and are falling upon quite a bit of success in recent news.
What I have been trying to wrap my mind around is what happens when this is all accomplished? In my opinion it is only a matter of time before Marijuana is legalized and taxed as if it were alcohol. Once this is accomplished will the social movement end? I like to think that it would just formulate into committees and organizations to uphold the laws that were put into place. I believe this social movement is very close to success, and I proudly support its cause.