Changing Laws and Changing Lives: An Interview with MPP’s Morgan Fox

Changing Laws and Changing Lives: An Interview with MPP’s Morgan Fox

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Image Courtesy of Morgan Fox

Of all the cannabis advocacy groups in the United States, none have been responsible for changing more laws than the Marijuana Policy Project. For more than 20 years MPP has been reducing prohibition in states from coast to coast. They have been changing minds and getting things done.

MPP’s most well-known victory is probably the passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado in 2012, which legalized marijuana for all adults in the state. Even with all the problems inherent in a new industry, Colorado has become the standard by which all legalization that comes after it will be measured. The results of legalization have even been impressive enough to make a convert out of one if its most outspoken opponents, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

For the last several years, one of the people most instrumental in spreading the influence of MPP has been their Senior Communications Manager, Morgan Fox. As a bridge between MPP and the worldwide media, Morgan has been quoted in hundreds of media outlets and publications, including The Washington Post and The Associated Press.

I was able to catch up with Morgan recently and ask him about his career at MPP, his thoughts on the current state of the marijuana law reform movement and more!

The Marijuana Times: What were you told about cannabis growing up?

Morgan Fox: My parents were pretty progressive and science-based when they talked to me about drugs. They told me cannabis wasn’t good for me, but that it wasn’t as unhealthy as drinking too much or taking other types of drugs. The thing that stuck out the most was that they emphasized how bad it would be for me if I were caught. I didn’t realize it at the time, and I’m not sure they did either, but they clearly recognized that cannabis prohibition was more dangerous than cannabis use.

MT: What kind of work were you involved in before joining Marijuana Policy Project?

MF: I was only out of college for a year before I moved to DC for an internship at MPP. Before that, I had some legal clinic internships, but I mostly worked in pizza delivery and various bar roles. That’s where I got a real good look at both the illicit and legal drug markets, respectively!

MT: Why did you join MPP?

MF: I had several minor encounters with the justice system because of cannabis possession, and I saw the collateral damage that prohibition had on my own life. As I got older, I started seeing the damage it was doing to society at large and to certain communities in particular, and I decided to make ending prohibition and pursuing social justice my focus in life. At the time, there weren’t many opportunities available in my hometown of Cleveland, so I broadened my search and discovered MPP. A little research convinced me that it was a very professional and serious organization, so I kept applying until I got an internship. That was almost eight years ago.

MT: What’s the toughest part of your job at MPP?

MF: We’re fighting against decades of stigma, misinformation, and entrenched special interests that profit from prohibition, so basically everything we do is tough. Some days are easier than others, to be sure. I think maybe the most disheartening part is hearing the same false arguments being trotted out by opponents over and over again, and people continuing to buy them, even in the face of factual evidence to the contrary.

MT: What’s the most rewarding part of your job at MPP?

MF: Passing laws is absolutely the most exciting part of the job. It feels really great after working so hard to see that your efforts resulted in real change. But the most rewarding part is hearing from people whose lives have been changed by those laws. I could be having the worst day ever, banging my head against the wall literally and metaphorically, and a patient will call and tell me how the law we just helped pass has saved their child’s life. That makes it all worthwhile.

MT: Do you see legalization as “inevitable?”

MF: Nothing is inevitable. We came really close in the late 1970’s, and then the backlash of “Just Say No” put the movement further back than when it started. Right now, the states where cannabis is legal for medical or adult use are being left alone because of Justice Dept. policy. But the next president could easily reverse that policy, so until Congress acts, the states are vulnerable. Bottom line: the pendulum can always swing back.

MT: What are some of the pitfalls activists should look to avoid?

MF: Infighting and letting the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good” are the biggest problems I see in the movement. There is a tendency to attack people who want the same thing but disagree on how to get there, instead of working together to find common ground. I also see a lot of people who are unwilling to support bills and initiatives that don’t go as far as they would like, not recognizing that we have to be practical. Most voters won’t support the activists’ ideal laws right now, and most things in politics happen incrementally. It is inexcusable for us to allow the continued arrests of thousands of people simply because we disagree on the minutiae of certain policies. We need to work together to get closer to the finish line.

MT: Do you think there will be a need for organizations like MPP in, say, 20 years?

MF: Absolutely, we might just have to tweak our role a bit. If you look at alcohol prohibition, there were still states well into the latter half of the century that did not allow regulated sales. There will probably be some holdout states that drag cannabis prohibition out as long as possible, and there will need to be groups working to change policies there. There will also be a need for people working against the pendulum swinging back, and against state and federal efforts to reinstate prohibition.

MT: If cannabis were legalized nationwide tomorrow and MPP ceased operation, what kind of career would you pursue?

MF: There is still a lot of work to do in many areas of drug policy reform, as well as a myriad of other social justice issues. At some point, I hope the world is a just enough place that I can ease back on activism and be a small farmer.

The effort to get cannabis legalized is a movement comprised of tens of thousands of people, all working toward a reduction in prohibition. Each does their part, big and small, to keep the gears of the machine moving; to gain and keep the momentum, with the final goal always in sight: a complete end to cannabis prohibition in the United States.

When it comes to the big cogs in that machine, none are bigger In terms of influence and results than the Marijuana Policy Project. And Morgan Fox is there, on the front lines so to speak, getting out the information the movement runs on. He stands ready to refute the lies and propaganda foisted upon us by supporters of cannabis prohibition.

He’s helping to change laws, which means he’s helping to save lives.

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