By Stephanie Dreher in Mississippi

I grew up in a small suburb of Jackson, Mississippi, as an only child of a sweet southern gentlewoman and a Vietnam-era Airborne Ranger. I lived a pretty sheltered life.

I spent much of my youth at my grandparents farm in Lincoln County, MS. As I started to get older, I began to notice how people divided themselves into groups by race, gender, class, education, culture, etc. As a result, it seemed that members of these groups were quick to judge and cast aside others for their differences, and I didn’t like it. It was during these formative years that I came to value the importance of compassion. A big part of compassion is acceptance of differences. This ultimately led me to the concept of personal liberty.

I attended college at Auburn University, where I obtained both a bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering and later relocated to Tampa, FL, where I started performing work in environmental compliance and infrastructure design.  Since then, I’ve assisted with many natural disaster relief efforts and other humanitarian work.

Unlike many other people who found out about where they stood politically from their college experiences, I discovered the cannabis legalization movement through local online news. I reached out, intrigued, to find out what they were doing. I was asked by the woman who answered the phone if I was interested in helping and I was hooked… I met multiple women who have guided me and helped me on my path to becoming a liberty fighter. I joined forces with the ballot sponsor of MS Ballot Initiative 48 and became a member of the Team Legalize Organization. I became the Vice President and Director of Development for the MS Alliance of Cannabis.

Since then, I have been all over central and southern Mississippi talking about cannabis legalization, decriminalization, benefits, and aiding in petition distribution for reform.

There is so much more to cannabis legalization than people wanting to get high. It’s about economic empowerment, social justice, and forgiving non-violent offenders whose lives have been forever changed negatively because of the prohibition of a plant. It’s about personal liberty, and perhaps what is most fulfilling in my work to legalize cannabis is seeing societal attitudes change, and people becoming more compassionate. As the Director of Development for the MS Alliance for Cannabis, I intend to continue to do good work to promote personal liberty.