While we often think about marijuana law reform on a large scale – at the state and federal level – it’s important to remember the old adage “all politics is local.” In other words, while large scale cannabis law reform is very important, reform on the local level is going to be felt first and more often by citizens in their daily lives.
Furthermore, local change is much easier than change at a state and/or federal level. Getting a petition on a statewide ballot often takes a lot of money and tens of thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of signatures. Lobbying state lawmakers to make changes can be even more frustrating and difficult.
But on a local level, one person – with a little help from their friends – can make real reform happen.
The story of Amy Wolfinbarger is a great example of this. In the Cincinnati area, her name is pretty much synonymous with cannabis law reform efforts in Norwood, which is a suburb in the metro Cincinnati area. Last fall she was instrumental in getting marijuana decimalization on the Norwood ballot; the measure passed in November, eliminating fines and jail time for marijuana possession of less than 200 grams within the city limits.
Building on that success, Amy has now decided to get even more involved in Norwood politics and is running for city council in Ward 4.
“Never once did I think I would ever be here, running for an elected position,” Amy told The Marijuana Times. “After Sensible Norwood was denied ballot placement in 2016, I decided to embed myself within the community. Soon after, I rallied the community and prevented a ban on cannabis businesses. I started attending and speaking at city council meetings. All as a strategy to get the Sensible Norwood initiative to ballot and passed. That strategy worked. However, police are ignoring the new law while council and administration play the blame game. Also, in doing this, I began taking notice of the many issues that exist in our city. I developed a passion for our city, but more importantly our community. Our citizens don’t feel heard and I want to change that.”
In the Norwood City Council, there are 4 Ward representatives, along with 3 at-large council seats. Amy is running as a Democrat in Ward 4 against incumbent John Breadon (R). Being out in the community and hearing what her fellow Norwoodians have to say about the issues they care about most has shown Amy just how much needs to be done.
“Our community has been suffering financially for many years,” Amy said. “We have been in fiscal emergency since 2016; prior to that we were in fiscal watch for 12 years. Roads and infrastructure are crumbling. Our parks are neglected and in serious disrepair. There are tons of vacant storefronts and our streets are littered. And it’s been this way for a long time. Citizens feel disengaged and have little to no faith in our elected and appointed officials.”
It’s said so much that it’s long passed being a cliché, but it’s true nonetheless. People like Amy are the often unsung heroes of our movement, the ones battling locally in the trenches and devoting huge portions of their lives to bringing about change.
If we had more people like Amy Wolfinbarger, there would be fewer problems to be dealt with.