If you pay attention to medical marijuana politics, you may know some of the big California activists like Ed Rosenthal, Dennis Peron, and the DeAngelo Brothers. Not a lot of people know the folks behind-the-scenes and fighting locally for patients’ rights to access cannabis free of harm. Since I’ll be writing about these folks regularly, I thought I’d take a minute to introduce you to them.
I have to start with Joy Cole, a local activist and founder of “SacPatients” a Sacramento based patient advocacy group that hosted a lot of the rallies and educational events early on in our movement. who passed away on April 29th 2012. She was a cancer survivor living in Del Paso Heights. In spite of being disabled, she spent her time visiting each dispensary in Sacramento City and county on a daily basis, keeping people informed of the latest developments in cannabis news (four years ago there were not nearly as many people blogging/facebooking, etc. about medical marijuana). When I began running a dispensary, I was shocked by how badly the community’s rights were being violated. Dispensaries were not allowed to exist by virtue of there not being a box to check for a business license. Government officials freely expressed bigoted cannaphobic views shamelessly in public. State law was constantly being ignored.
In October 2009 the city decided to write its ordinance, when i heard I remember thinking, “There really needs to be a rally.” The day of the vote, someone came into the dispensary and told me someone was doing just that, so I closed the shop and walked down to Cesar Chavez Park. There was a sound system set up on the concrete stage and approximately 80 people had begun to assemble.
After a few speakers blatantly used the platform to promote their business (something I didn’t like at all), I asked who was in charge and was directed to Joy. “Is this a rally or a commercial?” I asked. She was immediately aware of the problem I was pointing out and asked me, “What would you say?”
I told her, “Well, I think medical cannabis is in a battle for its soul, and we the patients need to make sure that governments and profiteers don’t take away or ruin what we are building here. No one is talking about the city and the vote, which is why I thought we were here!”
“OK, you’re up next!” she responded.
Had she asked me to speak I would have declined, but she really just made me speak and so I complied. This was the impetus of my journey into medical cannabis activism.
She came back with me to the dispensary with a few of the rally goers, and we had a long talk about the state of patients’ rights in Sacramento. She told me about the group she was forming, “SacPatients.” That evening, we sat at the computer and designed her logo.
It was through Joy that I met the people that would become my friends and co-activists, a lot of them at the first event we put together, the “SacPatients Mixer.”
While planning the big mixer, Joy introduced me to her friend and mentor Ryan Landers, the California State Director for American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC), and very active in lobbying the city to consider patients needs when creating laws. I recognized him from the cover of the Sacramento News and Review as Mr. Compassion. Ryan was there the day that Prop 215 was filed. He was then named Sacramento County Director for Californians for Compassionate Use. Ryan headed the signature gathering to pass Prop 215 for the State Capital region of the State and immediately started publicly speaking to all forms of media. He was the local poster boy for medicinal marijuana during the campaign to pass Prop 215.
Working in the dispensary, I met Kimberly Cargile, founder of Safe Access Sacramento (SAS) and The Committee for Safe Patient Access to Regulated Cannabis (CSPARC). She has been hard at work helping patients since 2006, when she graduated from Humboldt State University and started running one of Sacramento’s first dispensaries, Capitol Wellness. She has organized patients for letter campaigns, city, county and state council meetings and encouraged patients to stand up for their rights. She speaks for patients that are too ill or too scared to stand up for themselves. The collective she opened, Common Roots, served as a community center for us, and we had several gatherings and classes there before it was raided December 2011, under the county ban on collectives .
Kimberly introduced me to Americans for Safe Access (ASA, the national patients’ rights group), and together a group of us formed the local chapter Safe Access Sacramento in Spring of 2010. At one of the first meetings I met Richard Miller, who had opened a collective in the city of Auburn that was shut down in June 2011. He has been fighting this case for 2 years now. Richard also founded Health and Education for Legal Patients Rights (HELPR). His group participates in rallies, speaking at city councils and lobbying city and state lawmakers. They’ve been instrumental in getting signs printed and “boots on the ground.” They also help to distribute educational material about medical cannabis and host the largest medical cannabis-related Facebook group in the area.
SAS began holding its meetings at The Farmer’s Daughter shortly after it opened in the winter of 2011, a restaurant that began serving as our new community center after the closing of Common Roots Collective . It was there that I met owner Shelby Lucero, a staunch believer in the power of this medicine as a homeopathic healing agent and a maker of cannabis-infused remedies such as tinctures, balms and edibles.
In the back area, they hosted much more than just SAS meetings. There were legal workshops, yoga, massage therapy and a whole host of holistic educations and therapies. The county sheriff’s department raided The Farmer’s Daughter and the home of Shelby and her husband, Gus Sand on July 4th 2012. The Patient center was not able to re-open having all of it’s recources confiscated. Shelby and Gus are continuing to fight for their freedom and the rights of other patients.
I met Lanette Davis in May 2011, when Joy Cole, myself and others hosted a rally in response the arrest and incarcerof ation of Doctor Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer, for providing recommendations and cannabis to patients. Davis is the founder of Crusaders for Patients Rights (CRC), a Christian-based patients’ rights organization for medical marijuana that is still operating today and works on local, statewide and federal education and politics.
Davis is also the founder of Cannacare, the oldest dispensary in Sacramento. She has been active in the cannabis movement since 2005. She also served as treasurer and public relations director of the Compassionate Coalition from 2006 until 2008. She became the Americans for Safe Access Sacramento representative for 2006 and is still very active with ASA. Davis has held seminars on how to be in compliance with state law when opening a dispensing collective and testified in both the State of California Assembly and Senate on bills that affect patient rights.
Our resident medical cannabis professor is Doctor David B. Allen, a retired cardio-thoracic surgeon who saw how difficult it was for patients to get safe access and opened a practice that provided 215-compliant recommendations. I met him spring of 2011 after his 14 month pre-trial incarceration in a Mississippi prison.
Dr. Allen was accused of cultivation on a property he owned in Jackson County, Mississippi. When he finally received a trial, it was proven that the photos presented to the press from the “raid” on his property were in fact from another raid and not of his home. Unlike many of the “doc-in-the-box” outfits that crop up, he continues to provide patients with a host of valuable information on how best to ingest cannabis and the different medicinal effects of “cannabinoids” (the active medicinal component of marijuana) on the body. He gives lectures at local colleges and is published in “Treating Yourself” and other medical cannabis publications.
Having been a prisoner of the Drug War, Dr. Allen does not shy away from the battle he fights daily for patients’ rights, through education and studying cannabis from a medical point of view. Whenever we need a doctor to explain the wonders of this medicine in a debate, seminar or the like, David B. Allen, M.D., is our go-to doc!
All of these activists I have come to know and call my family, and every single one of them has been harassed and had their lives ruined by organizations like the DEA, county and city police or officials, the IRS or even the FDA – all simply because they support patients’ rights and help people get access to their medicine of choice. I am so amazed that, in spite of it all, they keep up this fight. The cases that have been resolved have mostly ruled in favor of patients rights and we are optimistic that the cases still pending will also exonerate these heroes of our community.