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Los Angeles Cannabis Conference Makes History as Next Steps for California Conference turns to Caucus-like Conversation

Sam Sabzehzar 2011-03-21 0 comments

By Sam Sabzehzar  |  March 21, 2011

“No matter what our opinions are about how to get there, we’ve all been called together by this plant, and we all share a common Destiny in what happens with her.” Steve De Angelo

Marcy Winograd, who is running for California’s 36th Congressional District, sees the War on Drugs primarily as a huge waste of resources that focus disproportionately on the safest drug on their list (it’s safer than everything not on their list too but they can’t get their heads around that either).

Winograd, who is running for U.S. Congress, spoke with a handful of powerful people on the Public Perspectives panel, including Judge James Gray (retired), West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem  John Duran, California State Assemblymember Jim Beall and moderated by CA NORML’s Dale Gieringer, who put together the Berkeley event and helped plan the Los Angeles caucus with the other organizations.

Reflections from public figures on the state of marijuana laws in California concluded that the most harmful aspect of marijuana is the prohibition of it.  At every level, more and more public officials see this but few have the courage to voice their opinions like the leaders on the Public Perspectives panel.

Others panels include Expanding the Statewide Reform Coalition, which focused on building the movement to include the Latino Voters League, The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing (PATH). Also on this panel was former South Bay Lieutenant Diane Goldstein representing Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) as was chaired by Drug Policy Alliance’s California State Director Steven Gutwillig, who was also instrumental in creating the day’s conversation.

The War on Drugs may provide job security for a couple people, but creates job insecurity for those caught in the crosshairs of the because of cannabis prohibition, which has weakened the potential economic growth this state, and the country, could benefit from.

The first step at ending our wars is to recognize people are being attacked.  Most people just aren’t aware because they think it’s already legal medically, which it is. The problem is in what Cliff Schaffer (Schaffer Drug Library) calls “the Gap.”

When a state votes to create a law, or has a law changed through the court system, there is usually a gap in when the law is implemented. Patients hope to continue to close the gap at a faster rate now that other states have had a chance to provide cannabis therapeutics.

In regards to medical cannabis in California, the gap has been fifteen years and has seen policy changes implemented in the California Highway Patrol, thanks to Americans for Safe Access, as well as in the Department of Health in every county throughout the state.

Schaffer, who spoke on the Perspectives and Proposals panel, agreed with fellow speaker Steve De Angelo when noting that Colorado was the only state that wasn’t raided and the only state that is dispensing medicine through a tightly regulated state-wide system, as is worth looking into but both stopped short of endorsing such metrics.

While California remains the only state that provides same day access to your medicine, there are certainly drawback to our California’s implementing of Prop 215 and SB 420.  So much so that California Governor Jerry Brown, who was Attorney General at the time, issued a mildly lengthy series of guidelines (which still hasn’t stopped the federal government from coming in) back in 2008.

Compromises will have to be made, like any ‘treaty’ after a war. Some time has passed since then and we hope to see a revised set one day soon that keeps the good our system does have, and adds the lessons learned from other states as well, like reciprocity, and state-wide transparency like tracking systems.

Safe = Affordable

The Medical Marijuana Regulations panel identified strategies to expand acces and protect patients and providers once and for all.  This panel was chaired by ASA’s California Director Don Duncan, and featured The Farmacy’s Joanna LaForce, Cornerstone’s Michael Backes, and Yami Bolanos from the Greater Los Angels Collectives Alliance (GLACA). Also on the panel was Lanny Swerdlow, an RN who has a radio show once a week and  a farmer’s market for growers and patients in the Inland Empire, Bill Britt (Association of Patient Advocates), and Eugene Davidovich, who has helped San Diego’s Stop the Ban Campaign gather over 2,800 letters all writing in opposition to the efforts of San Diego district attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Michael Backes, from Cornerstone Collective, wants to see more research take place and is working closely with laboratories and groups like Project CBD to collect as much information as possible and pass it along to his patients and the community at large.

Cities and Counties that create restrictions are a grave impediment to these efforts and regulations that have been implemented in other areas that attempt to provide safe access are still too restrictive and in turn, not affordable unless patients turn to the black market which is an unsafe market to get medicine.

If the only avenue is down the street to the black market, cities that impose restrictive bans are creating a criminal element to a non-criminal activity otherwise, and leaders of those communities are responsible for the increased marijuana available on the black market because they lack the wisdom to create safe and sound policies surrounding the issue of safe and affordable access.

Hearing the perspectives from public figures who have the courage to speak out on this issue only makes the public officials using the tired, old, and outdated rhetoric as incompetent.  When Judge Jim Gray is out there stating facts that conflict with statements made by current politicians acting as attorneys, like Bonnie Dumanis and Steve Cooley, those out there listening to the Jim Gray’s of the world are motivated enough to do something about it.

This movement is done with using small venues now that the rest of the public is listening; it’s time to stand up and take our next steps in California, continuing to lead the way with an all-encompassing coalition of forces ready to fight with tools like voting and activism while using guerilla warfare tactics that weaken our enemy and strengthen our army, like reason and open debates.

Tim Cavanaugh from the Reason Foundation applauded Mara Felsen’s comment (that PTSD is experienced by our youth as they return from war overseas) that if our opponents think the majority of those actually trying to participate in a medical marijuana program are the young, 18-30 year olds who are taking advantage of a system (that would otherwise leave them vulnerable to criminal prosecution).

Whether they are returning from an overseas war and or never left American shores, both groups can experience PTSD since the War on Drugs is aimed at all of us who are fighting back, patients or recreational users alike, regardless of veteran status, DOJ memos, CHP policy changes, or CA DOJ Attorney General Guidelines, let alone the will of the voters fifteen years ago.

If our officials still aren’t doing their jobs correctly, and they still aren’t listening to those telling them to change their ways, it’s time to implement the ‘or else’ attitude and run for positions of power ourselves to make the changes we wish to see.  People like Marcy Winograd and Steve Collett, who didn’t speak but did attend, and is also running for Congress, need to be supported by the base that will elect her or Steve or anyone else who runs for office and says what they truly believe, not what ‘polls’ high or what is ‘trending hot’ at the moment.

Even the State Board of Equalization participated in the Berkeley conversation and hearing the money man talk about marijuana and how to pay taxes illuminates just how high up the ladder the policy changes need to go, and who’s already on board to take our fight to their battlefield, whether it’s the BOE, DOJ, CHP, or local municipalities throughout the state.

The Next Steps Conference was the first step at making that happen and thanks to all those in attendance and who followed the conference online (Medical Marijuana 411 was a media sponsor of the event and streamed live, offering our online audience a chance to participate and ask questions as well), Americans are ready to take mankind’s next giant leap and California is ready to lead the way, changing the way we see through changing the way people think by changing the language they are speaking with, and everyone is invited.