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  • Writer's pictureElucidation Strategies

Founder Angela Speakman makes statements at NJCRC public events

Recently Angela Speakman made public statements about access to cannabis education at a recent NJCRC meeting and Social Equity Excise Fund (SEEF) hearing.

Recent public statements:

Social Equity Excise Fee Hearing, March 27, 2024

Statement made by Angela Speakman, Elucidation Strategies

When we individually asked 297 NJ libraries to participate in a survey about access to cannabis public education, with an 18% response rate, we discovered broad interest in hosting Cannabis Community Conversation programs. 35% indicated positive interest, 54% uncertainty, while only 12% indicated disinterest. This backs the findings of the Rutgers and Drexel researchers who, in the 2023 SEEF comments, reported that education is a priority need. When asked about significant barriers, shedding light

on “uncertain” responses, the top two replies were interest (often citing administration) and budget, coming in at 41% and 33% respectively. The complete survey results, which we will submit, painted an interesting picture. From library personnel, a fascinating focus group, we heard loaded feedback like:

- “If it is in any way encouraging it, I would not be interested” and

- “We have many visitors who are addicts; would not like to encourage further addictions”

My name is Angela Speakman and I’m the founder of Elucidation Strategies, an education agency that helps people make informed decisions when it comes to cannabis. As a public educator, faculty in Stockton’s cannabis programs, and a research focused communications professional, I can prove that information exchange about cannabis is crucial to increasing comfortability and understanding of an ancient plant with a complicated past. The magic of our conversation program is encouraging participants to acknowledge those complications through practical, history-focused discussion. It’s a process and requires investment, but this is where real change happens.

Evidence supports that stigma and bias, rooted in misinformation, is at the heart of every cannabis issue. To reinforce my recent statement to the NJCRC, we owe it to ourselves to invest in exploring unknown truths - truths about Dr. Denise Kandel’s gateway drug study, conclusions from the Shafer, Prettyman, Wooten, Le Dain, and LaGuardia reports and the endocannabinoid system - while simultaneously prompting reflection about the influence of lifelong direct and indirect cannabis messaging.

At our 2023 events, 100% of participants reported a wider understanding of cannabis by the conclusion of the program. I’d ask you to imagine what happens when dozens of participants turn into hundreds turn into thousands. It’s been a century of false narratives regarding cannabis - it’s no surprise that it will take time and a nuanced approach to undo the past. Those faced with decisions - the municipal official unsure about licensed operations, the employee examining a new industry, the senior considering options for pain management - they need help.

On the survey, one director stated, “This library is located in small conservative town that doesn't take well to change. While I personally feel this would be a great program or event, I'm not sure our patrons would feel the same. I'm genuinely unsure how they, but more specifically the Library Board of Trustees, would feel about programming educating about Cannabis.” This encapsulates the inherent tensions of legal cannabis and it must be addressed for progress.

To conclude, we would like to request that our Cannabis Community Conversation model, initially focusing on Impact Zones, be used to implement a comprehensive public education initiative. A subsidy program eliminates funding and hesitancy barriers. Increased municipal opt-ins, reduced opioid usage, a growing workforce, real social equity advancement through the growth of Black and Brown businesses - these are just some of the powerful things that naturally emerge when bias is reduced and empowered decision-making is made possible. To the CRC staff, commission, and stakeholders, thank you for your time and consideration as well as your service.

NJCRC meeting, March 13, 2024

Statement made by Angela Speakman, Elucidation Strategies

Every barrier, every obstacle in cannabis, is rooted in misinformation and problematic stigma, which is nothing new for this plant. We can look to the 8th century as easily as the 18th and find instances of controversy.

My name is Angela Speakman and I'm the founder of Elucidation Strategies, an education agency working in our cannabis industry. Our mission is to help people and organizations make informed decisions when it comes to cannabis. Our education-first model, delivered through a historical framework while acknowledging individual perspectives and what influences them, is the focus of our work, helping individuals, community, and the sector-at-large. Shaped by my background in higher education and public humanities, our Cannabis Community Conversation program provides learning opportunities, hosted in libraries, for supported discussions that explore the complexities of cannabis, from past to present.

What’s behind the lack of real estate, a result of the opt-outs? What’s behind the hesitancy for cannabis as an opioid alternative? What’s behind every “I don’t want that kind” here statement from community members unwilling to even entertain licensed operations? It all comes down to fear, based on decades of misinformation.

Informed by library feedback in 2023, Elucidation administered a survey to all 297 NJ libraries in early 2024. The 5 question survey aimed to learn more about the interest in and barriers to cannabis education. Each library director in the state was individually contacted by phone and email to request participation, resulting in an 18% response rate. Three key takeaways: 1.) There is considerable positive interest in bringing these programs to patrons. 2.) Budget AND administrative comfortability and interest are big barriers. 3.) Unexpectedly, individual conversations proved to be the most insightful, as the “focus group” represents inherent tensions.

Quote: "I don't have interest in completing the survey. I know of enough people who started with pot and ended up as drug addicts, several of whom OD'd. And the thought of someone driving while stoned certainly takes the joy out of driving. The only education that's relevant is education not to smoke pot."

Quote: "I'm not interested in doing a cannabis program here. [Town X] is a very conservative community and prohibits marijuana dispensaries within the Township. Most of our patrons are seniors and parents. I don't think this is the right environment for such a program."

I could go on, sharing other direct quotes that reveal rationale for and against encouraging access to basic information, which is fascinating when considering all interactions were with information gatekeepers across statewide communities.

While you and your partners are doing a fantastic job promoting education about process, licensing and safe consumption, Elucidation’s data indicates that there is a substantial need for reliable, accurate, and neutral fundamental narratives, which ultimately positions New Jerseyans to better understand your current initiatives and make informed decisions involving cannabis.

I am requesting the opportunity to further discuss the implementation of a statewide history-focused public education initiative, using our conversation model to advance historical information that helps people understand why they feel the way they do about cannabis, which is likely to result in an increased willingness to receive accurate information about it. The complete survey results are available for review. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Contact Elucidation Strategies for more information about cannabis educational services.


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