Advocate Interview with Tom Rector, Jr.
Advocating for a cause is one of the best ways a citizen can give back to their community. Publicly supporting a particular policy can have a great impact on others’ lives who may not be able to speak up for themselves and it can also come with risks, especially in other countries where speaking out against the cruel policy of a regime can get you killed. Thankfully we live in America where we are blessed with the right of free speech. Advocates use speech to inform others of a situation which needs to be addressed. They volunteer their own time to educate and organize others and are selfless in their determination to fight for what is right. One fight which has been going on for decades is cannabis reform. Only in the past years has the lies and evil doing of past administrations been laid bare as states have ended their prohibition on cannabis thanks to advocates and organizations standing together to change state laws. But that does not go for Kentucky. Kentucky advocates for cannabis reform have to deal with a bunch of ignorant Republican lawmakers, an entrenched alcohol industry and general miseducation to get their voices heard and those voices are getting louder. So how does one become an advocate for cannabis reform and how do they inform people that it’s not about just getting high, it’s about the right to personal freedom.
I spoke with a long time cannabis advocate Tom Rector, Jr. about his efforts to get an ordinance passed in Louisville, on being an advocate and what he thinks should be done to advance the cannabis cause.
When did you start advocating for cannabis reform and why?
I began advocating for cannabis reform in 2004 when the US government violated my civil rights through an illegal drug test. I was a UPS pilot and I tested barely over the 50 nanograms per milliliter limit. I told the government when they forced me into "rehab" that their drug test was a mistake. I told them that the 30-day detection time for THC, a far safer substance, created a bias towards drugs with shorter detection times or drugs not on the test. You don't have to go any further than the bias the drug test creates towards alcohol use, to see that the drug test is amazingly counterproductive. I completed their silly rehab program, started flying again and that's when I started sending letters to the federal government. There were only 10 medical cannabis States at the time. My advocacy at the state level began in 2012 when the first medical cannabis bill was filed. I was the first person in Frankfort. I met Senator Perry Clark who filed Senate Bill 129 and he invited me back to his office to accept calls on the bill. That's how I met a lot of people involved in the movement. One of our first advocacy events was handing out flyers at the Jimmy Buffett concert in Louisville. I've been involved in many events since then.
How many organizations have u been a part of?
I feel like I work best independently, but I have been involved and I'm still a member of Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition. I was also briefly with Kynorml. I've said many times that we don't need money to win this we only need people.
How hard is it to get people involved?
Yes, I believe it's very difficult to get people involved. Turnout is the key to success in advocacy and it's always been a problem for us in Kentucky. There are probably half a million regular cannabis consumers in this state and we usually only get the same 150 to 200 people to show up at rallies and events. It's very frustrating.
What have you done as an advocate?
I've done lots of events over the last 6 years. I've told everyone in the movement this is a local, state and federal issue. It has to be attacked at all levels of government at the same time. A lot of advocate's refused to accept this and instead of only concentrate on Frankfort. I've spoken in front of the Louisville Metro Council for the last 6 years, many times by myself. We got a resolution in support of medical marijuana last year and I'm currently pursuing an ordinance or resolution in support of ending arrests in the city. We held a town hall informational meeting at University of Louisville and I did the presentation. I emceed a rally last year on the behalf of Kentucky cannabis Freedom coalition in the Rotunda in Frankfort. I was also the first one to reserve the informational tablespace in the hallway leading to the Capitol Building in Frankfort. I've written hundreds of letters and emails. I've been published several times in The Courier-Journal and the LEO. I'm one of the top advocates in the state of Kentucky.
Do other advocates/organizations work well together?
No, I don't believe that the advocacy groups work well together in Kentucky. The first reason is they refused to accept the local, state and federal strategy for years. A year ago, Alison Grimes told the reform groups to go get local resolutions from local governments in support of the medical cannabis legislation and they finally listened. I'd been saying that for the previous five years and speaking at the Louisville Metro Council by myself. We would be way ahead of where we are today if the advocates in Kentucky had listen to this simple, basic strategy.
When cannabis is legalized what would you advocate for next?
I will continue to be an advocate until cannabis is relegalized in Kentucky, the US and THC is taken off the drug test or drug testing is replaced by computerized impairment testing. I may continue to advocate to reform government to include term limits at all levels of government and a ballot initiative process in the state of Kentucky. I look forward to the day when I can live my life peacefully. I didn't want to be an advocate; I was forced into the position because of the actions the US government took against me.
Do you have anything else to say?
I hope everyone realizes cannabis prohibition will fall because it's a mistake. The iron law of prohibition works for all drugs. Prohibiting drugs ALWAYS results in stronger, more dangerous drug use and more violence in the streets. Prohibition didn't work with alcohol and hasn't worked with any other drug. We've made 25 million arrests, wasted a trillion dollars, performed nearly a billion drug tests and eradicated millions of marijuana plants. After all that effort, we're on the verge of worldwide legalization. Currently, a huge number of advocates in the state of Kentucky are following someone who believes the war on drugs works. It's mind-boggling, but hey, this is Kentucky!