In Redding, California, a group of property owners were meeting, in part, to discuss their concerns about medical marijuana collectives expanding.
Moments before Wednesday’s Mission Square property owners meeting, someone dressed in a green Grinch costume with a giant imitation penis attached stepped out of a limousine and walked into Giff’s Steakburger – the site of the meeting.
The Grinch announced to Mission Square owners that a new cannabis shop – Hampton Collective – would open in the former Humor Shop space on the north side of the shopping center.
I would have loved to have been there to take a picture of that moment, but… really? limousine, Grinch, giant penis? What was the thought process there?
“I don’t know, I was just trying to be funny. I guess it didn’t work out,” Bobby Martin, who dressed up as the Grinch, said by phone Thursday.
I think there’s a lesson here for us. One of the things we can do as drug policy reformers is to be aware of how we present ourselves.
Maybe Bobby Martin is a Grinch with a giant penis at home, but when going to talk to the property owners association, he should think about how they might feel about an endowed Grinch (rather than just whether he thought it was funny) and he could decide to change outfits. He could always put on his Grinch outfit again later when he goes out on the town with his friends.
The key here is to be aware of your audience. This doesn’t mean you have to sell out â€” you just need to know what makes them tick.
The easiest thing, of course, it to be right for your audience. Obviously, if you’re a LEAP member who is a former police officer and you look like a police officer with short hair while you stand in front of the Kiwanis Club talking about reform, you’ve got an advantage.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to be a police officer to talk to Kiwanis. I have had successful Kiwanis talks. It means that you need to understand what interests them and talk to their interests. You don’t need to lie or hide anything. Just simply tie back your long hair, put on a clean, pressed shirt, and talk to them earnestly and intelligently about issues that concern them.
Consider Tommy Chong. He has a lifetime of his entire persona being pretty much the ultimate stoner joke. And yet watch him sometime when he’s seriously talking about drug policy. He’s intelligent, articulate and engaging.
I have a workshop that I’ve conducted with others and by myself called “Elevator Arguments.” (Here’s the handout (pdf)) Part of the idea is to be able to come up with cogent drug policy reform argument in 30 seconds. Concise and to the point. But part of it is also to tailor that argument to your audience. And I let the workshop participants put me on the spot (I love this part). They call out a type of person and, on the spot, in 30 seconds, I tell that person why they should support drug policy reform.
It’s a good exercise, and a good skill to have.
How many of these could you speak to about drug reform in a way that would resonate with them?
- Soccer mom
- Parent who lost a child to drug overdose
- Republican party leader
- Democratic party leader
- Business leader
- Someone who just lost their job to the economy
- Police officer
- Rush Limbaugh
- Hillary Clinton
- Conservative Christian
- Abortion rights advocate
- African-American leader
- Poor family in the inner city plagued by crime
- Rich white guy
- Senior citizen
- Union member
- Your mom
You don’t have to stop being yourself to do this. You can still be a Grinch with an enormous penis. But you do have to pay attention to the interests, needs, fears, and desires of the people you want to convince. And not just in a superficial, caricaturized way, but to really understand them.
Understanding how other people tick doesn’t lessen your sense of who you are, it enriches it.