Army veteran, social worker, political candidate and small business owner, Sarah Tyree said she was honored and surprised when Arizona’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) tapped her for its political director.
“I hope I can reach or exceed everybody’s expectations,” Tyree said. “I didn’t see that coming.”
When former political director Jon Udell moved to an acting co-director role on the board of Arizona NORML, the search began to find a new voice to add to the organization’s board of directors. After a weeks-long application and interview process, the board voted to appoint Tyree to the position.
“I didn’t actually apply, they reached out to me,” she said. “And asked me if it was something I was interested in.”
Tyree began her work as political director for Arizona NORML the week of Oct. 24.
“I will be working with legislators and, hopefully, city council members on policy that impacts people that utilize cannabis, whether it’s for medicinal or recreational uses,” Tyree said. “Some of my focus is on veterans.”
Tyree said she will address homelessness or the unsheltered community, as well.
“This is also really important,” she said. “They just get harassed on a regular basis…you know, rent cap is a whole other discussion.”
In a statement, Udell said he was “thrilled” to welcome Tyree to the organization.
“Sarah has a demonstrated track record of advocacy and deep experience working with nonprofits,” he said.
“We anticipate her appointment will not only strengthen our advocacy at the state capitol, but also bolster our long-running efforts to forge strategic alliances with other nonprofit organizations. With Sarah at the helm, we plan to redouble our efforts to serve disproportionately impacted communities of color, which have suffered arrests at (three to four times) the rate of lighter-skinned communities.”
Tyree is a native Arizonan, born in Laveen and raised in Maryvale. She was raised in a single-parent home, surviving abuse and poverty to graduate from Trevor G. Browne High School at 17. After high school, Tyree joined the U.S. Army and served the country for eight years.
Her Army experience has helped her decide her future.
“I served from 2005 to 2013, I did my eight-year contract,” she said. “I started off in aviation, fixing helicopter radios…But it just wasn’t for me.”
Tyree then went into civil affairs, which she likened to international social work, and that was a better fit.
Tyree’s employment in the nonprofit sector allowed her to work with vulnerable and systemically oppressed populations. She recently served as the medical special needs coordinator at Luke Air Force Base, where she continued to give back to her sisters and brothers in arms, by serving their families.
Tyree ran Arizona state senate to represent District 5 in 2020 and in this year’s election. She lost in the Democratic primary in August.
“I have run for office in two cycles,” she said. “I am assuming part of it is that I am fairly progressive. I come from a more conservative background where we were taught all drugs are bad, and that included cannabis, and now here I am being a cannadvocate.”
“There are still a lot of people in Arizona who still feel that way about cannabis,” Tyree said.
When campaigning as a candidate for office, Tyree attended meetings and spoke to dispensary vendors.
“I would say, ‘Hey, I’m a candidate and I want my voters to know more about what you, your business does…whether it is providing quality soil, or your packaging keeps things fresh,’” she explained.
Small business owner
At 21, Tyree earned bachelor’s degrees in social work and political science, and a master’s in social work. Tyree is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and certified life coach. She runs her own therapy practice, Intuitive Transformations, in Laveen.
As a small business owner, Tyree believes in autonomy. She appreciates the freedom of choice that allowed her to step away from a world of survival and move into a world of abundance.
She got involved with NORML after meeting Allison Stein, who currently co-chairs the state chapter of NORML, via one-time Arizona NORML Director Mikel Weisser.
“I met Allison via Mikel prior to his passing in the 2020 cycle,” she said. “Mikel was the first person who reached out to me as a brand-new candidate and (was) fully on board with me. He ran in my district previously so he was very knowledgeable. And then I met Allison and Allison and I do connect on NORML issues but we both very much connect on DCS (Department of Child Safety) issues.
“So, both of those things are something that we have continually stayed in contact about over the past couple years. I was very thankful to be an A-rated candidate in the 2020 cycle because it was my first time to be a cannacandidate. And then I was lucky enough to get it again this time.”
Tyree said she believes her willingness to go to NORML rallies and push the cause helped her land the appointment.
“I have gone to some of their rallies and supported some of the issues that are happening to some of our voters right now,” she said. “I think that’s why, because I was one of the few candidates willing to go out there, regardless of the impact it had on my raise…these are the things I believe in.”
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