Long Beach held a community town hall meeting earlier this week at the Gay and Lesbian Center titled “Medical Marijuana in Your Community.”
It was the first meeting of this magnitude in a series of town hall gatherings that are to take place in ‘every district in Long Beach,’ explains Joe Grumbine, a medical marijuana patient, advocate, and community organizer. Joe Grumbine is one of the founders of The Human Solution, a group that provides education and support for medical marijuana patients, providers, and the community at large.
As Grumbine explains, “we don’t need to be like Wisconsin and protest the decisions made by elected officials that have other agendas, we have to be smart about who we elect in the future. Defeating Cooley showed that we do have power and we can mobilize like those in Madison and through educating the public at large we can make smarter choices in the voting booth… Democracy is this. It’s all of us here tonight talking, not just voting every few years, which not enough people even participate in.”
Other groups participating in this series of meetings include Long Beach’s own Committee of Patients (COP), members from Americans for Safe Access, NORML, Landa Prison Outreach Program (LPOP), JEMM, and Medical Marijuana 411.
“Our goal is to help educate community leaders and empower patients to create an atmosphere that allows for a constructive conversation, especially in places that have seen budget cuts in education, police and fire departments, and other services,” says Grumbine. “Talking about how much money can be collected from taxing medical cannabis is premature at this point, especially when regulations are still being discussed throughout California, but talking about how much money is spent raiding patients and providers, which as a huge impact on every community, is long overdue.”
The Department of Justice issued a memo shortly after Obama took office highlighting a shift in policy, which prompted many to come out of the cannabis closet and even saw an increase in the amount of patients that were participating in medical marijuana programs around the country, underscoring the efficacy of regulations rather than prohibition regarding this plant.
Since that increase in participation, a backlash by law enforcement and elected officials who don’t know how to regulate medical cannabis have resigned themselves to not trying to do so, angering the patient community as well as the millions who see the medical benefits of marijuana and want safe access for those who need it. Rather than catching up to the current learning curve taking place, those opposed to intelligent regulations are seen squandering precious resources as they take their war on drugs to the patient communities throughout California, as well as other Compassion-friendly states.
Denying safe access has a cost to the community and the tax payers in that community see the subversive efforts first hand, and are now up in arms as they learn the financial impact, the reduction of crime, and the cost to the patient in those places is not being promulgated, which are the actual fact, but rather the opposite is taking place.
With statistics from other cities, states, and even countries that reflect a reduction of crime in places that provide medical cannabis while at the same time hearing the opposite from certain members, a Los Angeles police report reveals not only a decrease in crime in the immediate locations where collectives and dispensaries are but are also five times less likely to be robbed than a bank – which most people find very safe.
Similar reports in the Bay area, as well as Denver, confirm these findings, not to mention states like Portugal which view drug abuse as a medical and not a criminal problem and have put forth other solutions that have proven more effective than our efforts to criminalize drug use, see all use as abuse (accept for recreational alcoholic consumption), and lump the medical patient community in that group of ‘criminals.’
Stephanie Landa, who spent more than three years in jail, now helps provide support to those who are currently in prison for this plant by sending letters of love to those who are experiencing one of the most lonely moments on one’s life.
“We were invited by the city of San Francisco to help grow, it was sanctioned by the city, and on the day we were raided (the agents) even left everything after realizing this fact,” says Landa.
Hoping to put a face on the cost of the drug war hitting patients and the medical marijuana community prompted Grumbine (who helps provide court support for patients prior to becoming political prisoners) and Landa (who’s prison outreach program helps keeps P.O.W’s spirit alive) to join forces and help create a language to communicate with in communities that have seen an impact, however perceived, from medical marijuana regulations poorly managed by elected officials.
In Long Beach, for example, while many services and city jobs are being cut, public funds are being spent trying to entrap and prosecute those who are working to create a safer community, like Grumbine, who was raided and has a perspective to speak from as well.
Another impact on the community is the impact on the family of the patients, who after finally finding a medicine that gives them a better quality of life, often times face scrutiny by non-patients who don’t know how the endocannabinoid system works and why we heal so well with cannabis use in any form.
One parent had his children taken away, which was not only costly, but traumatic to this day not only to the children, but the parents as well.
The financial cost of fighting something that is not only legal, but also medicinal, has impacts on a community from a health stand point, as cannabis use as preventative medicine keeps the population more healthy therefore decreasing the cost of tax-funded health care by default for those who don’t have any at all. Fighting this effort increases not only health-care costs, but also takes away from the limited law enforcement efforts that are available as their funding is cut and their resources are more limited. When upwards of $1,000,000 dollars, many, many agents that are wasted in a medical marijuana raid, plus helicopters, dogs, vehicles, paperwork filings and recordings, court proceedings, etc. are used to go after the patient community, the patient community decided to strike back.
The pen is mightier than the sward, and the tongue is stronger than the gun and the people outnumber few controlling them. Now that this conversation is happening, and with the Next Steps conference later this month, there will be more and more pens and people to speak on behalf of those who cannot. And for those that can’t, people like Stephanie and Joe are happy to help them find their voice.