Kathy Inman's organization has a unique mission: convincing Arizona's senior citizen voters that marijuana legalization is a good idea.
“It’s about breaking the stereotype,” says Inman, executive director of the pot-advocacy group MomForce AZ. "For a lot of years, it was promoted as a part of the hippie society, and older folks don’t want to be a part of that.”
As a teenager, Inman noticed the difference between her friends who smoked marijuana and those who drank or used other drugs. To her, the contrast was clear:
“The folks who stuck to cannabis ended up getting in a lot less trouble.”
So, as an adult, Inman started advocating for legalization.
In 2007, she joined Arizonans for Safe Access and the Phoenix March, a group of local pro-legalization women. And in 2008, she began working with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, eventually becoming Arizona director from 2012 to 2014.
During the same time frame, Inman watched the rise of MATFORCE, a special task force led by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk that originally focused on methamphetamine deterrence but eventually made marijuana prohibition its mission.
Inman was incensed by the misinformation put out by MATFORCE.
“We decided to change the name of Phoenix March to MomForce in answer to the misinformation about cannabis that we saw coming from [Polk's] group,” Inman says. “When I found out that cannabis had never taken a life on record, I thought it was time for someone to stand up and say, ‘Hey, as mom, we need a natural non-toxic alternative to alcohol and pharmaceuticals.’ ”
Part of what makes MomForce unique is the group's recent focus on persuading seniors — a huge voting bloc in Arizona — that they have nothing to fear from cannabis legalization.
MomForce holds monthly meetings that are open to the public in Sun City, Mesa, and other areas, at which members encourage seniors to support the right of others to use cannabis medicinally and recreationally, and to consider treating certain of their own health conditions with pot.
According to the most recent Gallup polling on marijuana, only 35 percent of Americans older than 65 support legalization, compared to 58 percent of all adults.
“It’s [because of] all the misinformation they’ve been told over the years,” Inman says. “They’re scared to death to touch the stuff because it’s not legal. We already have a medical law, but . . . I want a recreational law so that every single citizen feels comfortable trying this.”
Inman has seen how senior citizens benefit from pot use:
“They’re staying away from pharmaceuticals. They’re feeling better. They’re getting their health back."
“Sometimes we see these folks when they’re at the end of their lives, and they actually get some more time because they switch to this natural alternative versus the toxins the doctors are asking them to put in their bodies.”
Inman says she tries to combat the stigma surrounding marijuana by bringing local celebrities to her events. One of the highlights so far: a visit from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"He commended us for standing up for our rights and for standing up for what we believe in.”
She said he later sent her a photo of the Maricopa County drug-enforcement van with the message: “Thanks for saving our children.”
“He understands that I’m trying to save lives, and we have that in common," she says.
Inman says her group supports the upcoming ballot initiative proposed by the Marijuana Policy Project, and wants to see people work together because of the slim margins in the passage of medical marijuana.
She minced no words about the competing ballot initiative proposed by Arizonans For Mindful Regulation.
“There’s a lot of good stuff in that initiative; there have been many good initiatives written that haven’t been funded like the MPP’s.”
Inman believes the MPP initiative has the best chance of passage.
“In the history of Arizona, a volunteer effort has not been successful in getting an [recreational-use] initiative to the ballot," she says. "I believe that the MPP will be successful in delivering our right to grow up to six plants and possess up to an ounce.”
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Inman stresses that the vote in November 2016 is about progress.
“Whatever is on that ballot, we have to vote for progress," she says. "The thing that upsets me most about the AZFMR is that [backers] encourage folks that would be for cannabis to vote no on the MPP initiative.
“I think it’s criminal, because a no-vote against progress is a vote against our health and freedom.”
(This story originally was posted on December 10)