California's Unity Vigil: supporting medical cannabis POWs

The recent California Unity Conference provided an opportunity for California’s medical cannabis patients, caregivers, allies and associates to come together to initiate a successful, informative and vital discussion with our community and our lawmakers. But while we focused on the future of our movement, we also took time to mourn those we have lost.

Sunday night before the Lobby Day, Unity Conference participants gathered at the Sacramento Federal Courthouse, coming together in vigil for medical marijuana prisoners of war, the aggressive forced closures of our state's dispensaries, and brave patients who have passed away before seeing an end to this struggle. Sacramento patients had been mobilizing weekly at the Federal Courthouse since the first week of this year, supporting each other and the victims of the drug war. But this gathering was especially bittersweet, and not just because we were joined by our brothers and sisters from across the state.

We Sacramento area advocates recently learned the crushing news of the passing of our dear friend and activist Joy Cole. Among numerous projects that Joy had spearheaded with our local ASA Chapter, Sac Patients, was organizing the weekly candlelight vigil group. Joy had also stood up in support of POWs Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer, rallying before their surrender to federal marshals while ASA organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials in 10 medical marijuana states, as part of our “Sick & Tired” campaign. Despite the effects of battling cancer, Joy was a constant voice for patient rights - whether behind a sign, behind a microphone before city and county officials, or behind a pen, writing to lawmakers and newspaper editors.

Unity Conference gatherers took a moment of silence for all of our brothers and sisters who can longer fight for safe access, having lost their life or their freedom. We closed the evening inspired to continue the momentum of our movement.

We hope you have the opportunity to find inspiration in supporting fellow patients and standing up for medical cannabis prisoners and those awaiting trial. Check out Supporting POWs in ASA's training center. Reach out to local ASA Chapters, Ambassadors and Allied Organizations to coordinate court support, and if you live in California, sign up to receive ASA's California Roundup, a weekly email highlighting news and actions from around the state.

Courtney Sheats is ASA’s Sacramento Community Liason.