American Kratom Association’s Secret Weaponby Paul Kemp March 15, 2015
How the AKA Gained the Edge in Tallahassee
The success the American Kratom Association had in Tallahassee this past week, where — on March 10th SB 764, a bill to make Kratom illegal in Florida had its first hearing — shows the superiority of our powerful “secret weapon”. (For those who don’t consider what happened in Florida’s capitol a success, bear with me.)
Our secret weapon is not only a talented campaign organizer with a Master’s Degree, but she is a poster child representing all who use Kratom medicinally. Her very presence calls attention to the lie that kratom is “legal heroin” and “hallucinogenic”.
In Susan Ash we have an experienced lobbyist, who also suffers from chronic Lyme Disease and uses Kratom to manage ongoing symptoms. She is passionate about helping others — who’ve found relief from a myriad of disabling conditions through kratom — to maintain access to the herb that she needs, too.
Susan Ash has “skin in the game”, as they say. She’s got a lot to lose personally and I think she is probably challenged professionally to succeed and help us all. The average high-paid lobbyist may be a smooth talker, but they don’t bring to the table the fire in the belly to bring home a win, every time, like Susan does.
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These are all great qualities to have in a lobbyist for our side.
It helps that her very presence and clean-cut, pleasant appearance presents a good image for us. Legislators, who “know” what kratom is (thanks to sensationalized news stories filled with misinformation bordering on hysteria) will probably have the stereotype of a “druggie” in mind…until Susan walks into the room. It will be hard for the Kristin Jacobs of the legislature to hold one image in their mind, while faced with the reality of someone so normal, organized, and mentally prepared…
Obviously not on a wild, hallucinatory trip! (So, how many other fibs have you been telling us, Kristin?)
Unlike most other professional lobbyists, Susan is not doing this for money. At this point, there isn’t enough money to pay her — and certainly not what she would earn, if we were an established non-profit like the 10,000-member Audubon Society of Portland, where she worked before Lyme Disease forced her from Oregon to live with her parents in Virginia.
This is not just a job for her. It’s a matter of survival in reasonable Kratom-Aided comfort.
As the AKA gains more funding, perhaps on a subscription basis from consumers who’ve had their lives changed by Kratom and from vendors who see the value that continued legality provides for their business, I will support a vote to make her our paid Executive Director, like most other non-profits have. We can’t do with volunteers alone the work that needs to be done.
Having worked for peanuts for a small Chamber of Commerce for a few years, I understand what a mental stress and distraction it is to be working hard for no pay. With all the travel that Susan may be doing as we have new states to persuade not to ban this life-saving herb, Susan needs to have personal financial worries not become a primary factor that keeps her from doing her job.
It didn’t help Susan to have one leg of her flight to Florida cancelled when part of the crew didn’t show up for a regularly-scheduled flight that would have brought her to the hearing on SB 764 in plenty of time.
Her composure was even more threatened by the conspiracy theories of some doubters who said the AKA was in cahoots with the Botanical Legal Defense (BLD), or that she had lied about or purposely missed her flight, and this was all a big ruse to raise prices of kratom for all who depend on it. Susan, of course, was monitoring the situation actively from a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, thanks to the wonders of modern communications. I’m sure it hurt to hear these wild rumors, putting her integrity in question.
Thank Goodness for our Seasoned Crew of Admins, Fighting Fires on Facebook (with Susan’s guidance) from the Comfort of their Homes!
When Susan finally arrived at the hearing, they had just called her name for comments for the last time and the door of the chamber was guarded and closed. Fortunately, she bumped into local Attorney Bill Wohlsifer leaving the hearing after giving his argument for keeping Kratom legal. Bill broke the news to Susan that the vote was lost; the committee had passed the bill! He offered Susan the use of his office, where she prepared testimonials collected from AKA members and others, for whom kratom has been a life-saver.
Susan didn’t sit around complaining about the injustice of her plane getting there late and the loss of votes we’d been told “were in the bag.” She regrouped and prowled the halls of the capitol, talking to staff of the members of the Criminal Justice Committee. She stood by, waiting hours for when the Chair of the Committee got out of his last hearing.
She didn’t learn until later, watching the video, the impact the hearing had or the unexpected negative turn it took, passing out of committee recommending that kratom be placed in the Schedule 1, along with heroin, cocaine, and marijuana!
“How could this be?” wondered those following the events in Florida on their phones and computers.
If you recall, the Botanical Legal Defense announced, on March 9th, that things would turn out in our favor. They put a call out, prior to the vote, to thank the three Senators who were prepared to vote in our favor. In fact, Susan was told by BLD representatives that there was no pressing need for her to even go to Tallahassee. They had everything under control — or so they thought.
If you think about it from the position of the powerful Senator Greg Evers, the Criminal Justice Committee Chairman and SPONSOR of the bill, how would you like hearing some fast-talking group and its lobbyist was publicly announcing the day before the hearing, how the discussion would turn out — and that you’d wound up the loser?
From all appearances, Senator Evers decided to show the BLD and their lobbyist calling the shots on his committee who was boss.
This was the situation Susan walked into, unbeknownst to her. She dealt with it and, after being granted
an unprecedented two hour meeting with Sen. Evers — that never would have happened had she made it to the hearing — she’d made a friend for her (and Kratom?) in the Florida Senate.
Susan Ash did a lot more talking to staff and committee members in the two days she was in Tallahassee. Some were open in their amazement that here she had just dosed up with her kratom and she didn’t seem to be high, hallucinating, or nodding out. Imagine that!
Susan Ash walked away from two days in Tallahassee, having made friends and connections who have a respect and some degree of affection for this likeable, tough, and knowledgeable representative for the AmericanKratomAssociation.org.
Senator Evers continues to stay in contact, while smoothing the way for Susan Ash’s next visit to Tallahassee.
More Information about Senator Greg Evers:
Legislator Profile: http://public.lobbytools.com/index.cfm?type=legislators&id=478
More Information about Attorney Bill Wohlsifer: