Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Safer AZ Re-files, Re-forms for 2016 Drive



(12/16/14)
For Immediate Release—

Contact: Mikel Weisser, Political Director, Safer Arizona
Safer AZ, the cannabis reform Political Action Committee behind last year’s marijuana legalization initiative, has refiled their organizational paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State’s  office to join the campaigns to legalize cannabis and hemp in 2016.  In their original incarnation, past-president Robert Clark will continue as co-chair with founder, Dave Wisniewski, for the new cycle. Mikel Weisser will serve as treasurer and continue as political director. In their recently released 2016 cycle business plan, Safer AZ announced intentions to develop a full-scale operation for 2016, complete with a paid staff and a fundraising arm of the organization. As their 2014 initiative’s author, PHX-based computer programmer, Dennis Bohlke explains, “AZ doesn’t have a drug problem, we have a political problem and this is how you solve it. We have got to stop the madness of destroying people’s lives for a plant. Everyone here is an activist. There’s no way we’re stopping now.”

Billing themselves a “full-service” cannabis political action committee, Safer AZ 2016 (new name for the new cycle) expects to be continuing with their same programs, but on a greatly expanded scale. Since filing their new paperwork on Dec. 5th, the group has already held interviews with four state legislators to discuss their legislative agenda for the upcoming 2015 session, re-launched their product line of their iconic green “MARIJUANA IS SAFER THAN ALCOHOL” tee-shirts and begun the networking and fundraising to build for the legalization 2016 push.

The controversial organization has been at the forefront of Arizona pot politics since Safer AZ made national news in June of 2013 by writing a cannabis legalization ballot measure for the 2014 election cycle, two years ahead of the nationally recognized Marijuana Policy Project’s proposed 2016 campaign. Often stuck negotiating between warring camps (pro-cannabis industry v pro-consumer, anarchist activists v political operatives, MPP supporters v AZ-only activists, just to name a few) Safer AZ’s greatest achievement may be that after two years, groups that never would have spoken to each other have formed a coalition to set an overall strategy.  

In November, six different activist organizations (Safer AZ, PHX NORML, PCC (PHX Cannabis Coalition, AZ 4NORML (Tucson based), SSDP (Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, both the ASU & the U of A chapters), RAMMP (Registry of Arizona Medical Marijuana Patients) & the Human Solution) formed the AZ’s Cannabis Consumer Coalition. Represented by nationally renown cannabis criminal defense lawyer Tom Dean, the group is participating in the lawyers-only drafting process that will create the 2016 ballot measure.

Originally founded by David Wisniewski, a tech savvy active duty soldier then-stationed in South Korea, and three other far-flung Arizonans (Tucson’s Clark, PHX based Bohkle and Weisser in Kingman), Safer AZ operated as a totally volunteer organization. Strong on ideas, though weak on resources, the upstart political action committee’s four principles soon began an ambitious agenda with supporters around the state signing up to join the movement.

Wisniewski built an online community through the PAC website and Facebook page that soon grew to have thousands or followers nationwide.  Bohlke and Clark organized dozens of activists and taught them to collect signatures. Weisser joined PHX-based cannabis activists, holding demonstrations, creating 420 focused musical fun-raisers, giving rallying speeches and “movement status reports” for all the trendy 420 groups, in addition to conducting a series of legislative interviews and demonstrations at the state capitol. Safer AZ leadership also served as the go-to voice of AZ cannabis reform, appearing in numerous clips on PHX and Tucson local news channels and talk radio stations, as a recurring subject for the PHX New Times, and even in articles by the New York Times and Huffington Post.  

One Safer AZ idea, “The Harm Reduction Measure,” was picked up by Democratic West Valley legislator, Mark Cardenas (LD-19) and introduced as HB2474. If passed, the bill would have amended state statutes on marijuana arrests. Currently ARS 13-3405 requires that all marijuana related arrests begin as felony arrests. Cardenas promises to revisit the idea in the upcoming legislative session. “I’m getting my bills together and we already have legislative counsel on it. It was a good idea, it’s still a good idea,” Cardenas says.

Early attention and accolades did not sustain the volunteer based group’s base of activists, however; and even the central four only had so much time in a day. As Weisser explains, “We all worked on the parts we liked and no one worked enough on central organization. We all had full-time commitments already. Dave was in the Army. I mean gee, give the guy a break. Dennis runs a computer company, I was running for Congress. Robert has health issues. Nobody had the time to work on it full-time. We rarely worked on fundraising and you can only do so much w zero budget.” The group eventually pulled their initiative in June of 2014 vowing to continue building on their gains and re-launch at the turn of the election cycle. True to their word, Clark, Weisser and Wisniewski were at the counter with the AZ Secretary of State’s elections office with new paperwork on the first day of the new cycle.
 Listed by the IRS as a 527, Safer Arizona’s new AZSOS designation calls it “an organization supporting or opposing a ballot measure.” Though one of the loudest voices on cannabis and hemp reform in the state, the group will not be introducing their own initiative this round. MPP of AZ does not expect their measure to be completed until February and HOW of Arizona, a Gilbert-based group of first-timers led by Christian Carrasco has already filed their hemp-only initiative and though they have begun working with Safer AZ leadership on strategy.
 “While we are not actually filing the petitions for the ballot initiatives, these are issues we have been promoting,” explained PAC co-chair, Robert Clark. “We are working with the committees running these initiatives to help them with the organizing and getting out the message. AND, to make sure we’re getting language that we like. But there is a lot more to making marijuana legal than just writing a bill and that’s where we come in.”

For more information contact Safer AZ:
Mikel Weisser
928-234-5633
SaferArizona.com


Saturday, December 13, 2014

University of Kentucky Post-Election Candidate Survey Excerpts

I don’t know about you dear readers, but in many ways now five weeks since election day, I am still trying to figure out what to make of my recent campaign. As a choice that controlled my life for the past two years, I knew I should take an opportunity to reflect now that it is over; and as I opened my mail today, that chance came my way, when I found a letter that started like this:



Dear 2014 candidate for public office:
 
My name is James K. Hertog. I'm an Associate Professor of 
Media Studies at the University of Kentucky
. My students and I are researching a set of critical issues for American political campaigns. We have developed a survey asking candidates like yourself about your personal and professional experiences campaigning for public office and your evaluation of the campaign process.

While the majority of the survey was multiple choice and other forms of putting check marks in boxes, there were a few essay answer opportunities and after I realized I was waxing eloquent and investing well over a 1000 words talking about the campaign, I decided I could turn this into a chance to check back in w you, campaign followers, and tell you how it looks from this end. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you saw the campaign from a different angle.
What made this social media platform the most effective for your campaign?
As a poor campaign we depended heavily on grassroots word of mouth and the tribal drums these days are the heartbeat of Facebook, or something like that. Using Twitter to drive my Facebook, I could build a message on the campaign blog that passed through several platforms: survey reply-->blog post-->website update-->twitter post-->Facebook personal page-->Facebook campaign page & shares-->campaign email. Since I had no staff, multi-purposing every task was critical. Further since we could share easily info w like-minded activists and organizations (NORML, PDA & DFA, for example), social media served as a primary communications line in the campaign as well, more often than email.
Please use the following text field if you would like to expand on your answers to the previous questions about campaign communications, to illustrate them with experiences from your campaign, or to identify additional communication methods you employed.
Social media is the chance for poor campaigns to achieve larger results. The plutocrats who run this country are doing all they can to maintain their powers but our social media can equal their mass media if the current trends continue. I work to make this so, before they consume us all. Of note, one of my platform issues, cannabis reform, has become my personal central issue and I am now the executive director of Safer Arizona, the state's leading cannabis PAC.
If you would like to expand upon your answers, to provide examples from your campaign experience, or to identify additional critiques of news coverage you think should be included in this study please use the text box below.


Despite creating a credible sized campaign which received endorsements from prominent national and statewide organizations, the media consistently ignored press releases and repeated requests for coverage. In my hometown of Kingman, AZ the local paper made clear they would not cover Democratic events and a radio station owner cursed out the state party rep once over her sending him a press release. The two times I was discussed in national news once was to insult the color scheme of my website (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/06/20/the-awful-campaign-websites-of-2014/), or to comment on how hard it was for liberal candidates to ge coverage. Lastly, despite years of steady, rational, professional work on cannabis reform, when the press got a hold of my cannabis advocacy they marginalized me as far as they possibly could. Check the bias in this from AZ most celebrated "Liberal" press: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/09/dabber_in_the_house_yes_if_azs_cd4_voters_elect_democrat_mikel_weisser.php

Please describe the nature of talk radio coverage your campaign received.
I was the liberal thrown to the right wing talk radio listeners for a couple of radio stations in the state. In particular, a gun oriented talk show had me on twice, for four full hours, debating gun policy. Another couple of general right wing shows had me on. I was also on internet radio to a lesser degree and can't clearly identify any impact it might've had beyond a momentary blip.
Please describe the nature of social media coverage your campaign received.
My twitter following grew by a couple 100 and my FB following by over a 1000 during this cycle. Since I am a leader in the state's leading cannabis PAC and the Democratic party and other activist groups I got to cross-pollinate and get the members of the different communities working together on Facebook and then in-person. I am still using the same principles and hoping to expand ever further.
All in all, what level of knowledge would you say voters had about your candidacy?
•             Voters were only slightly informed about my relevant qualifications and/or positions (closest answer of choices available)
Please use this space if you would like to add any comments regarding what influenced voter knowledge concerning your candidacy.
$$$--media told me early on if I had money they would follow my efforts and then ignored my every effort to earn their attention.
For you, personally, would you say that the experience of running for public office was:
Very Positive
What did you find most personally rewarding about running for office?
The personal relationships and connections created such deep and interesting experiences. My congressional district is larger than most states and required much time on the road, being an extremely poor campaign we depended on the kindness of supporters and stayed in dozens of places from mansion guest suites to trailer couches and slept on the floor more than once. The people I met and who supported me were as varied as their houses and we had extraordinary adventures. I also developed a statewide circle of pet supporters as well and being greeted w a wagging tail when you are road weary and far from home is very comforting.
What did you find most difficult or upsetting about running for office?
The tug of war between time spent was the greatest conflict I faced. In the field or time spent fundraising? Home town or on the road? Cannabis reform or appeal to moderate dems? All decisions made opponents for me and over the course of the election often both sides of a coin caused me conflicts. As an entertainer prior to going into politics, we often joked that my performances were too sacred for the profane and too profane for the sacred and it often felt that way. I was very focused on a populist workingman uprising message for example, I wore construction worker clothes in the same way western styled politicians in AZ will adopt cowboy garb. I was a plumber until 35 so I felt it was credible for me to represent the working poor; but I received continuous backlash from traditionalists who felt a candidate should appear elevated. One of my lines about my clothes was "I didn't come here to play dress up" and another was "We have got to stop looking for new leaders who replicate the imagery of our oppressors." While it helped me w the general public and was actually a strategy crafted by me and state party leadership, local leaders who saw themselves as party insiders fought me on this relentlessly. I guess that was the ultimate difficulty: the gap between the support I could get at different levels, but not all levels of the party.
What would you say were your campaign's most significant accomplishments? Please do not limit your answer to electoral success.
The biggest accomplishment was the road schedule. We traveled over a 1000 miles a week most of the past two years, well over 100,000 miles in the cycle. It took 9 different vehicles to accomplish this including 7 straight weeks of various rental cars. This required developing a network of supporters and donors beyond the hobby campaign of the typical outmatched place-marker underdog. Any month's thank you list would include over 100 people I had had personal and important moments with, the scope of the experience is still staggering. In the process we developed the respect of a couple of national groups, DFA, PDA & Blue America, and PDA's national endorsement. Statewide we gained the support and gratitude of state party leadership and grew to be welcomed among party leaders and my fellow candidates as well. As one writer (with only 3 guest columns out of 101 blog posts) and illustrator, I maintained a website and blog for two years straight with all original content and artwork. As for constituent services or "case work," I took great joy in helping about a 12 people who came to me for help the way they would've gone to the congressman's office. I learned several referral networks and frequently felt fulfilled the way I had when I had run the help desk at a homeless while in grad school. Lastly I want to note that the greatest accomplishment of the campaign was the fact we could accomplish so much on so little funding. My wife ran our accounting and our family went from a $70,000 a year budget to food stamps and yet we still created a full scale congressional campaign out of thin air and about $36,000. I spent hardly 3 hours a week on average raising money and yet we were everywhere. That is why the road schedule was so impressive.
If you wish to provide additional recommendations or comments concerning how to improve electoral campaigns please type them here.
As a congressional candidate I signed a pledge to support a Constitutional amendment to end corporate sponsorship and another to call for federally funding of elections.




--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of arizona

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Safer AZ Status Report: Dec. 7, 2014



Safer AZ is proud to announce we have re-filed our campaign committee paperwork for the 2016 election cycle and will be working with Arizona’s aligned cannabis activist groups on a statewide campaign to legalize marijuana in AZ in 2016. As a political action committee (PAC ID No. 201400153) Safer AZ led the state’s cannabis reform community with our own 2014 legalization campaign and successfully shaped cannabis-related legislation at the state house in last year’s session. In addition we created, or helped create, dozens of events around the state, developed an online community of nearly 5000 activists and frequently served as a voice that the media turned to for a breath of marijuana sanity to counter the toxic propaganda of folks like Bill Montgomery or Sheila Polk.
But, as a PAC, during the 2014 election cycle, Safer AZ was greatly limited in resources: essentially the part-time work of 4 independent organizers hundreds, even thousands of miles apart, Safer could not develop the resources necessary to complete our election goals and had to suspend our petition drive in June of 2014. We knew we had to re-organize. After the election, Safer AZ leadership had a choice: allow all our progress to come to an end once we filed our final Federal Elections Commission report on December 4th, OR, re-file our campaign and fight on. With the voices of the community calling for action and the support of the premiere national cannabis-reform organization, MPP (the Marijuana Policy Project), and the six other leading AZ cannabis activist groups in the state, Safer AZ is back and we’re bigger than ever.
Once again Safer AZ is committed to:
1.       Public Advocacy: Safer AZ is a voice for the public with a web, media and public presence, creating demonstrations and events around the state; helping patients and others in the community get their stories heard.
2.       Social Media Communications: With a Facebook following of nearly 5000 and an average weekly readership over 3500, Safer Arizona can create and has led email and phone call campaigns. Our Facebook page serves as a nexus for various activists and groups to spread word of their own activities.
3.       Legislative Action: Safer AZ successfully introduced a cannabis decriminalization bill at the AZ state house last session and we are focused on developing the relationships w state legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, and that includes keeping the larger community informed of statehouse developments.
4.       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 and provided contact info for candidates and officials so you can make your voice heard. 
5.       Counter-Propaganda Force:  In AZ, 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 in conjunction w the Human Solution. We provide speakers to various civic organizations, public debates, and news media needing a quote from an authoritative source to challenge Matforce whenever and wherever possible.


And most importantly,
6.       Cannabis Activist Volunteer Organization: Over the past 2 yrs, literally hundreds of Arizonans have joined our cause and volunteered--in their community, online, and at the state capitol. As the 2016 campaign becomes more visible, Safer AZ can serve a volunteer nexus, connecting newcomers to existing local groups, creating activist-business partnerships and training would-be activists to become their own community leaders. We have activists across the state and can show local groups how to take on their own community challenges and help change the culture of prohibition. Creating quality experiences for AZ activists will build our movement and change the state.


You can make a difference today:

1.       Wear your “Marijuana is Safer Than Alcohol” tee-shirt in public whenever, wherever possible. It is an amazingly effective way to promote education and will lead to exciting positive teaching and sharing experiences you would not imagine.  
2.       Host an awareness event in your home or in  your community
3.       Letter writing to your local media and elected officials and to state and federal officials
4.       Creating a 420-friendly entertainment event in your community
5.       Attending and staffing demonstrations and events in the PHX area
6.       Representing Safer AZ and the cannabis reform community at public events and debates
7.       Manning a Safer Arizona booth at community events
8.       Collecting signatures
9.       Share on social media
10.   Connect us to your family and friends so we can expand our reach.
11.   Attend a local political meeting or elected officials meetings
12.   Make $5 monthly donation
13.   Take leadership position in organizing and training others in your area after you’ve worked w us a while.

MOVEMENT UPDATE (Dec. 6, 2014):

Following the Nov. 4th election, AZ’s leading cannabis activists groups announced the development of a new cannabis activist super-group, the Cannabis Consumer Coalition, to ally the activities of th e different groups cannabis consumers, as separate from the cannabis, hemp, and medical marijuana industries. These groups and members of the dispensary industry are working w the central campaign committee, MPP of AZ, which will run the ballot initiative and coordinate efforts w MPP national. The overall campaign is expected to cost $3.2 million over the next two years. An informational meeting explaining the overall strategy was held in Tempe’s Purple Haze House (27 West Baseline) which brought different activist groups together in a semi-formal setting for the 1st time. Among the groups on hand were Safer AZ, PHX NORML, PCC (PHX Cannabis Coalition, AZ 4NORML (Tucson based), SSDP (Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, both the ASU & the U of A chapters), RAMMP (Registry of Arizona Medical Marijuana Patients) & the Human Solution. At that meeting, noted cannabis criminal defense attorney (and former NORML national legal counsel) Tom Dean presented his recommendations for amendments to existing state marijuana statutes (ARS13-3405) that will be necessary in the upcoming ballot initiative. Representing the newly formed CCC group, attorney Dean conducted a Q&A, and incorporated notes from the evening and has presented our proposed amendments to MPP of AZ to be part of the drafting process for the new ballot initiative.
In late Nov. MPP of AZ began the drafting process working w staff from the national offices of MPP, Ryan Hurley of Scottsdale-based Rose Law Firm and various pro-bono in-state volunteers. A poll is expected in January to determine public attitudes on legalization as a whole and on the hot-button topic of grow rights. Across the nation citizens’ rights to cultivate and process their own marijuana vary greatly from state to state. Following polling results, the final version of the proposed initiative should be available to the public by late February. The petition gathering campaign will kick-off in March. This campaign cycle, due to poor midterm voter turnout in the 2014 elections, the ballot initiative will require only 172,000 signatures, a decrease of almost 80,000 from the previous cycle.
INSIDE SAFER:
The Safer Arizona 2016 cycle re-organization features the following changes:
“Staff” (w no pay yet, can you really call us “Staff”?)
Stepping sideways 2014 president Robert Clark will now be co-chair w Dave Wisniewski. In addition, Robert will continue directing Tucson and rural southeastern operations. Dave will be responsible for PHX & central AZ operations. Dennis Bohlke will step down as treasurer. Political director, Mikel Weisser will assume that role and is acting finance director as well. Three regional leaders were announced as well: Yavapai County—Mark Goodman, North Valley—Benny Ingram & West Valley—John Howlett. If you have been a volunteer w Safer AZ and are wanting to take a leadership position in your area: call 928-234-5633


Our merchandising of our green “Marijuana is Safer than Alcohol”  tee-shirts is resumed and additional products such as stickers, lighters, cups, ball-caps and our fashion-line of Safer AZ are in the works. An order will be placed 12/8/14 and will be available for the holiday season.
Our legislative agenda has begun and we are scheduling appointments w AZ state legislators for the upcoming session. We are seeking volunteers to meet w their representatives and senators and give them a true face of an AZ cannabis user instead of the twisted propaganda our opponents use to demonize us.
Timeline Projections
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 merchandizing 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.”


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The 2014 @mikelweisser 4 US Congress Campaign is Completed

Update 12/4/14:
"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

Dear Supporters,
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!
Mikel
11:56pm 12/4/14




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:
Goals:
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.

Legislative Agenda
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.
Staffing
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.
 Timeline Projections
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.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Official "'End-of-Cycle' Thank You Blog"

As time goes by and I keep searching for some way to sum up everything that was involved in our 2 year campaign, I find the process gets more, not less, daunting as the days go by. Today is the 10 day mark since the election and we are still swamped w the massive tasks of putting away the past and building a brand new future.
More than most any other congressional candidate this cycle and probably this century, my campaign was handmade, by myself and by volunteers and supporters like you. We had no paid staff and usually little money. THX so much to all of you who helped w that. But money was not the issue and neither were our chances of election. While the press may have belittled my faith in the effort and not in the odds, I know that you know the reality of the district and the need to build.
& build we did.
Progressive Arizonans and Democrats around the country began a process that will create a powerful networked Democratic Party in AZ-04. Our progress was true. The Democratic successes in urban AZ can be accomplished in rural AZ when we invest the time and energy. In a year where Democrats across the nation, and especially AZ Dems, faced  a massive Republican backlash, our campaign still garnered 45,000 votes and outpolled any other Mohave County based candidate despite a fraction of the funding. Our campaign helped coordinate Dem efforts elsewhere as well and remained a significant component in the campaigns of Fred DuVal, Jim Holway, both LD5 candidates, LD1’s Frank Cuccia, LD13’s Terri Woodmansee & LD16’s Scott & Cara Prior. In addition to distributing more than 15,000 pieces of my own campaign literature this cycle, our campaign personally distributed nearly 5,000 pieces of statewide campaign lit in LD5 alone, in addition to our work for local candidates in Prescott, Kingman and Bullhead City. We helped create PCs in 3 different LDs around the state and began the important work of cross-pollinating the various rural parties.
In the short term, though already obviously tragic, the GOP backlash Democrats faced nationwide was inevitable and in keeping w their “governing” strategies: destroy all Dems at all costs. But since their only solution to any problem is to cut spending, their days of holding public support are numbered. So our campaign will keep working to push forward to that day. For me, 2016 began at 7:01pm 11/4/14.
We have come an incredibly long way and still have an incredibly long way to go, but remember: life is nothing except the fight and the moments of regret when we wish we were fighting. Our love of country has brought us together, our love of humanity; so our work will never be done.
And isn’t that the joy of it?
THX you for coming w me this far. Let’s keep going—


mikel 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Congressional Candidate Taps AJ Resident to Coordinate Nationwide Phone Bank

For Immediate Release
Date: 10/28/14—
Congressional Candidate Taps AJ Resident to Coordinate Nationwide Phone Bank


Apache Junction, AZ – Heading into the final phase of the campaign, upstart progressive Democratic Congressional candidate Mikel Weisser has called on Apache Junction activist, Barbara Njos, to coordinate his national phone bank program.  Weisser, the Democratic populist Kingman area activist recently earned an endorsement from the Progressive Democrats of America (commonly referred to as PDA) for his challenge in Arizona’s 4th Congressional seat. 

It was an honor uncommon for a tiny grassroots campaign such as Weisser’s and it came with a huge challenge when it came to creating an outreach program for a district of 700,000 people spread over seven counties and forty thousand square miles. “It’s Yuma to Utah, Parker to Payson, the central highlands and all the area around Phoenix where the people aren’t,” Weisser laughs.  With major cities in the district, such as Bullhead City and Florence being as much as 300 miles apart, the logistics of effectively reaching all the corners of the district required a phone calling operations of epic scale.

Enter PDA’s phone-banking dynamo, Apache Junction’s own Barbara Njos (pronounced “Naws”).  A longtime local activist and leader in the national organization of PDA, Barbara has logged in thousands of calls over the years. Working not only for PDA and the state party, but Njos also is a leader in the Apache Junction’s contingent of the Pinal County Democratic Party and has made phone calls for every one of those groups. “Phone banking is a key part of any political campaign,” Njos explained, “It gets the message out directly to voters. It connects you to people.” 

A member of the Arizona Democratic Party’s executive board, Njos has been in the leadership of many of the state’s party’s progressive groups over the past two decades including Citizens for a Better Arizona, the End the War Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Change, Habitat for Humanity, and the international women’s peace & economic justice activist group Code Pink. “Mikel and I first met in 2007 in DC at a Code Pink protest against the Iraq War. Since that first meeting we have become good friends. We share values that support the middle class and want life liberty and the pursuit of happiness to actually be something our country aspires to once more.”

Weisser was thrilled to get the chance to develop his relationship with Njos. “Barb is a mentor and a hero to me and a generation of AZ activists. PDA is the national leader of the progressive movement and I have been a proud member,willing to come the 400 mile round trip to join their events; but I never expected to rise to a position of leadership, much less being an endorsed candidate.” When Weisser originally started developing his 2014 campaign, Njos provided a base in the Apache Junction end of the district. With a budget that was a fraction of a typical congressional campaign, the PDA endorsement came as a blessing and a challenge. “PDA was willing to use their resources to help us create massive phone bank, as big as we wanted; but it was up to us to run it. Thank god for Barbara.”

Juggling her various phone commitments along w her other activist work, has been rewarding for Barb. “Every time I connect to someone who may not have been in agreement with me but we can reach one, it’s a victory. I learn a lot.” With volunteers scattered from Oregon to Florida, many who will never meet each other, the logistics are sometimes hard to work out, but Njos appreciates the challenge. “Leading the phone banking for Mikel has allowed me to take his message to more people and give them the opportunity to understand his work can help all Arizonans.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­"

This round of phone banking may end the night of the election, but the Mikel Weisser campaign has already committed to a run for the 2016 cycle. “I may not be the guy who dethrones Gosar, but I am not stopping till he is out of office.” Njos has also committed to the challenge for the foreseeable future. “We need to return our country to the vision that the founding fathers had.”

For more on the Mikel Weisser for US Congress Campaign:

For further information contact:

Mikel Weisser
4490 Sundown Drive
So-Hi, AZ 86413
928-234-5633
Paid for by the Mikel Weisser for US Congress campaign