Gabrielle Brown-Wing, Portland, Oregon

Gabrielle Brown-Wing, a driving force in organizing a new chapter of Americans for Safe Access in Portland, Oregon, has come to medical cannabis activism gradually. A licensed massage therapist for more than a decade, Gabrielle began using cannabis topicals after a colleague recommended it.

She had discovered in her early 20’s that cannabis helped with anxiety and depression, but when she found that the topicals helped ease the pain in her hands after work, she got a doctor’s recommendation to use it in 2016.

When she relocated from California to Oregon a year later, her fiancée got a job as a budtender in the Portland area, and she began to learn more.

“Before that, my involvement was as a medical consumer, but as he got more involved, I did, too,” Gabrielle says. “I became more interested in other medical applications, and started learning more about the ways practitioners were using cannabis topicals with clients.”

Soon, she was looking for job and volunteer opportunities that would allow her to be more involved with medical cannabis.

“I’d heard about ASA and donated years ago, so I went looking for a local chapter near Portland,” she says. “When I couldn’t find one, it seemed like a void and unmet need, so I decided to start organizing one.”

Gabrielle began reaching out around Oregon, soliciting advice and building a network. She discovered that patients were talking about how bad it had become since Oregon rolled out recreational access. She saw there was a need to unify the medical cannabis community to make social and legislative changes. Gabrielle launched an Instagram account at pdxsafeaccess and got lots of response from people around the state.

After meeting with several people and identifying a dozen potential charter members, she scheduled a planning meeting to review how to launch an ASA chapter and set priorities. This meeting is set for October 21 from 6:00-7:45 at the Northwest Multnomah County Library at 2300 NW Thurman Street in Portland.

“We’re looking for ways to engage the community,” says Gabrielle. “As I heard about the state’s problems with meth and other drugs in rural areas, ASA’s End Pain Not Lives campaign caught my eye as something to focus on.”

Concerns about vaping illness are also prominent, with state health officials recommending a ban. In response, local cannabis businesses are now releasing more information about their products.

“The problem is stimulating a positive change to more transparency and accountability,” Gabrielle says, “We need that to be more the norm, not just a reaction to an emergency.”

Another focus of the new ASA chapter will be outreach to marginalized communities to inform them about options and facilitate accessibility.

“Whether it’s because of socio-economic status, race or immigration status, many people in these communities are unaware,” Gabrielle says. “Part of our advocacy efforts for the chapter has also been focused on reaching out to representatives of other organizations dealing with accessibility issues and poverty."

For more information about the new Portland ASA Chapter, go to email [email protected].

This profile was originally published in the October 2019 ASA Activist Newsletter