Pages tagged "training"


Why I'm Attending the California Summit

I am so excited to be attending the ASA California Medical Cannabis Policy Summit and Lobby Day this weekend.  The event last year was absolutely brilliant.  Steph and the Sacramento ASA Chapter did an outstanding job organizing the event, and together, we accomplished the impossible. Imagine visiting EVERY representative in Sacramento in ONE day.  What an undertaking!  We might qualify for a Guinness Book of World Records.

Lobbyists have a lot of power in Sacramento, but legislators really take notice when an “ordinary” citizen takes the time to show up in their offices.  The value is priceless.

Seriously, I learned so much about being an EFFECTIVE advocate: how to make  appointments to talk to your representatives, how to address them, how to prepare my talking points, and how to follow up after the meeting.  This training has served me well during the past year and I have developed relationships with several legislators as a result.



Another great reward for attending the conference is the sense of community that comes when you meet activists from other areas.  It is empowering to know that we have so much support.  I guarantee that you will have a great opportunity to network and build relationships with other activists.

The most important lesson I learned from the Conference is that even seemingly impossible tasks can be accomplished by creating a systematic and well executed plan of action.

Why I am Going to Sacramento

Nothing happens in the state legislature just because it should. Sometimes laws get passed because those with a financial interest in the outcome influence lawmakers. In some cases, political favors get traded to get something done. And all too often, lobbyists are the only voices lawmakers hear when they make choices that affect citizens. That is what is happening with medical cannabis in Sacramento right now, and I hope you will join me there next month to change that conversation for the better.

Medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders are meeting in Sacramento May 4-6 for the California Medical Cannabis Policy Summit and Lobby Day. The goals of the event are to develop strategies and skills necessary to adopt beneficial legislation for medical cannabis this year, and to take that message to lawmakers in person. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our partners at Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM); a coalition of patients, cultivators, organized labor, and others; is organizing this event to be sure that patients are at the table when important decisions about regulating medical cannabis are made this year.



You can help shape the future. Last year, we brought hundreds of patients to the State Capitol and helped push medical cannabis legislation further than anyone thought possible. Lawmakers noticed our grassroots coalition and started to take us more seriously. We need that influence now more than ever. Bills to regulate cultivation, distribution, and testing of medical cannabis are on the table right now. Proposals about additional taxation are on the way. We cannot afford to be silent right now. Someone is going to influence lawmakers on good and bad legislation this year. If it is not you, it will be lobbyists, law enforcement, and others who want to roll back safe access in California.

We will have a special fundraising reception on Saturday night, and then spend all day Sunday building strategies and skills for the citizen lobby day on Monday. We will start on Monday with a press conference, and then we hope to visit every lawmaker in Sacramento to talk about what we want to see in California. We will all meet back for a complimentary VIP reception on Monday evening.

Register today for the California Medical Cannabis Policy Summit and Lobby Day. This may be the most important thing you can do for medical cannabis right now.

We have a great opportunity to do something positive for patients, cultivators, workers, and others. If lawmakers from all over the state hear in person from constituents in their Districts, we can show them that there is a safe political space to stand up for medical cannabis. That is why I am going to Sacramento: to make a difference. Will you be there with me?


My Bumpy Road To The ASA Conference in Washington D.C.


I spent the last three years working as an Executive Legislative Assistant to a ranking budget chair in the Washington State Legislature, so it should come as no surprise that a trip to the Nation’s Capitol has always been high on my  bucket list. I was this close to fulfilling my dream in 2008, after scrimping and saving for over two years on a relatively low salary. Unfortunately, prohibition happened.


I became a medical cannabis patient in ‘05 while living in Oregon. At that time, I did not know that I had a rare genetic disorder; only that I had long been suffering from chronic joint and muscle pain, extreme nausea and vomiting, disabling migraines and eventual insomnia. After an honest conversation with my doctor about the handfuls of pills I was taking to mask the symptoms - at the ripe ol’ age of 25, mind you – it was suggested that cannabis might relieve what ailed me. I was honestly taken aback when it worked so well and I was able to wean myself off every single pharmaceutical.




Happy ending, right? Not really.


Like many who wind up in court for cannabis, I was pulled over by a traffic cop. It happened on a desolate stretch of Interstate 5 in Southwest Washington. In what has become a recurring nightmare for cannabis consumers nationwide, the State Patrolman asserted that he “smelled a strong odor of marijuana.” The two joints I had were sealed in a glass jar, so it was more likely the peace sticker on my car, identifying me as a beatnik, that aroused the officer’s suspicion. Regardless, I knew better than to consent to his request for a search. In an instant, I was handcuffed and in the back of a patrol car, yelling out the window “you do not have permission to search my vehicle. I do not consent to the search you are performing right now.”


Reality quickly set in. My doctor’s recommendation from Oregon was no good here, even though I was just 50 miles north of Portland. My eyes zeroed in on the bumper sticker on the plexiglass in front of me that proudly proclaimed, “It’s Not JUST Marijuana” and featured a bright red no sign over a pot leaf. I then realized my vocal protests about the search were in vain. The officer obtained probable cause the moment he allegedly smelled cannabis. It would be his word against mine and a determined drug enforcer like him was bound to find my medicine. It was only a matter of time before I found myself in the Cowlitz County Jail with bail of $5,000, payable only in cash. I was facing a felony for Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, a charging decision left up to the discretion of individual officers. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was cancelling my East Coast vacation and using the funds to bail myself out, literally and figuratively.


Since then, my priorities have shifted greatly. I have become increasingly active in the medical cannabis, legalization and criminal justice reform movements. My life trajectory was forever altered by the horrific death of Richard Flor, Montana’s first registered cannabis caregiver. 68 years old and incredibly ill, Richard died from the neglect he experienced while serving a five-year prison sentence. His widow, Sherry, remains imprisoned even after her husband’s tragic death. The once-happily-married couple of 37 years were named co-conspirators in a federal indictment. The last four months of Richard’s life, they were not only imprisoned apart from one another – separated for the first time in their marriage – but they needed special permission from each of their wardens to communicate just by mail. That permission never came. Instead, Sherry’s final words to her husband were in a call to her daughter, Kristin, who stood helpless over her father’s comatose body, as he lay shackled to a hospital bed. The U.S. Government got its pound of flesh from the Flors, but that wasn’t punishment enough.


Two of Richard’s business partners and two other employees were also indicted.  A third business partner accepted a plea bargain that spared him from indictment, but required “significant cooperation” with investigators. One of the co-owners, Chris Williams, courageously took his case to trial. Watching firsthand as Chris’s nightmare unfolded in federal court, my resolve was cemented. I could not rest until the whole world knew what was happening in America’s so-called justice system.


Soon after, I left my Legislative career to work with the November Coalition. Founder Nora Callahan and her husband, Chuck Armsbury, are also casualties of the War on Drugs through separate but equally absurd tales of conspiracy, drugs and guns. Then, just this month, I met another inspiring victim of cannabis prohibition. Jacob Shepherd was four years old when he watched as law enforcement agents gunned down his father in a deadly standoff over a small backyard cannabis garden. His mother was hit by a stray bullet. As an impressionable young child, Jacob was whisked away from the scene in a police cruiser, covered in both of his parents’ blood. That was almost 20 years ago. When will the madness end?


I am incredibly appreciative of the kind-hearted sponsors who donated to the scholarship fund for ASA’s upcoming Unity Conference in Washington D.C.  Thanks to their assistance, I will be able to personally tell members of Congress about Richard, Sherry, Kristin, Chris, Nora, Chuck, Jacob and countless other stories of injustice. I will get to learn from world-renowned medical experts who have studied cannabis science in depth. I will get to meet other like-minded advocates from across the country, all because of the generosity of complete strangers! I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity and plan to make the most of every second I have in the epicenter of democracy! Thank you again to Americans for Safe Access for hosting the conference and every supporter who has made this trip possible.


Why I am Attending the National Unity Conference

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opened the eyes of this thirty-three year law enforcement veteran. Caught in the whirlpool of drug prohibition policy, prohibitionist law enforcement folks as I once was, forget the importance of maintaining an open mind. Unfortunately, “ group-think” is where most of us tend to feel comfortable.

Until roughly four years ago, I knew virtually nothing of medical marijuana. I must say that I was somewhat skeptical of the claim for its medicinal properties. My knowledge of marijuana originated from two places, my experimentation as a teen in 1975 and from an enforcement perspective throughout my lengthy law enforcement career. Neither provided any meaningful insight to the medicinal properties or benefits of marijuana.



One of the first people I met when I assumed the role of LEAP’s executive director was ASA’s executive director, Steph Sherer. People had told me of ASA and Steph, but it wasn’t until I met with Steph that I began to educate myself regarding all there is to learn of medical marijuana (properties, policies and patients). My interaction with ASA encouraged me to visit medical marijuana dispensaries in California where I met dispensary owners like Steve De Angelo and Debby Goldsberry. I toured Oaksterdam University where I met Richard Lee and Dale Sky-Jones. Educationally, I benefitted tremendously from my firsthand experience.

The quality of the dispensaries, the marijuana and the people managing them is exceptional, but it was my interaction with patients that gave me the best insight. Hearing patients speak of the benefits was truly eye opening. They spoke of their weaning from debilitating opiate based prescription drugs and the quality of life returning once again. I heard of marijuana’s effectiveness in combating many illnesses with virtually no side effects. And to this day I continue learning.

This is why I am attending the ASA conference this month in Washington DC. Do you know any law enforcement types in need of an education? Do you know of anyone in need of a medical marijuana education? If so, invite them to the conference and let’s open some minds. Education and public policy changes are so desperately needed in acquiring safe and legal access.

ASA California Tour: August 19 - September 1



This month, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer and I will be visiting eleven cities in California to train, empower, and activate the grassroots base of support for medical cannabis! Mark your calendar today for the closest stop on the ASA California Tour 2011.

We will be conducting a Know-Your-Rights and Raid Preparedness Training in each city, followed by very special city-wide Stakeholders Meeting. ASA invites patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers, community members, and others to attend these free events all over the state.


The need to mobilize the base in California has never been greater. Cities and counties are adopting regulations, moratoria, and bans on patients’ associations and cultivation. Patients and providers routinely encounter resistance from law enforcement. Media bias and public ambivalence threaten to roll back gains made over the last few years. State lawmakers are grappling with legislation that will have a huge impact on patients’ welfare, and federal pressure on medical cannabis is mounting!

ASA knows that the key to adopting and implementing good policy at the local, state, and federal level is having a trained and activated grassroots base in the community. There is no other way to make it happen. The ASA California Tour 2011 is a chance to reconnect with the grassroots campaign for safe access – or to get started fighting for patients’ rights for the first time. Don’t miss this great opportunity.

Mark your calendar today for the ASA California Tour 2011, and download flyers to invite your friends and loved ones to come with you! I look forward to seeing you in cities all over California this month.

ASA trains medical cannabis professionals

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More than forty medical cannabis advocates attended this weekend’s “Putting Patients First” training in Pasadena, California. This innovative new ASA training is designed to teach important professional skills for those in the field of medical cannabis. The standing-room-only crowd at the MCC Directory building in Pasadena learned about the bio-psycho-social model of health care from Dr. Amanda Reiman. Dr. Reiman is currently the Director of Research for Berkeley Patients Group, a lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, and the Chairwoman of the Medical Cannabis Commission for the city of Berkeley. Trainees also explored the evolving political and legal issues surrounding the field.

The training is part of ASA’s commitment to building skills in our grassroots base – a cornerstone of our ongoing work to protect and expand patients’ rights. Be sure to sign up for email alerts so that you know when the next “Putting Patients First” or other ASA training is scheduled near you. Thanks to Liz McDuffie and the team at the MCC Directory for hosting the training!

Valley Collective Steps Up



A San Fernando Valley collective is recruiting its members in the effort to sponsor ASA’s new training for medical cannabis professionals. The staff and operators at Buds and Roses in Studio City are asking patients to help sponsor “Putting Patients First,” and it seems like it is working. They have already collected half of the money they need to sponsor the new training program in their counter-top donation jar. Thanks, Buds and Roses!



ASA will host the second-ever “Putting Patients First” training on Saturday, April 9, at the Medical Cannabis Caregivers Directory in Pasadena. This ASA certified training is highly participatory, fast moving, and a lot of fun. A new section on Treating the Whole Patient, builds competency and awareness for students to better understand the unique challenges that patients face in daily living through a greater awareness of how physical, psychological, and emotional health conditions affect patients functioning. This is the most relevant and comprehensive training in the field. Sign up now to save on the registration fee.

Can your collective or business help promote or sponsor the event? Perhaps sponsor patients or staff to attend? ASA will acknowledge your generosity, and you can feel good knowing you are helping build the field of well-trained medical cannabis professionals in Southern California. Visit the ASA website, email info@safeaccessnow.org, or call toll free for information: (888) 929-4367.

See you on April 9th in Pasadena!

ASA Works to Build the Base in MT

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ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer testified before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in opposition to HB 161, a bill that would repeal the state’s six-year old medical cannabis law, before setting off on a three-day tour of the state.  Judiciary Committee members delayed a vote on the bill, which has already been approved by the full House of Representatives. ASA is opposing HB 161 to preserve access for patients in Montana, and calling on lawmakers there to properly regulate medical cannabis instead of repealing it.



Ms. Sherer is visiting cities around the state this weekend to hold stakeholder’s meetings to talk about how to push back on HB 161. Grassroots opposition to the bill is essential. Research and experience show that lawmakers are more likely to respond to a broad and genuine citizen’s movement than lobbyists in St. Helena. ASA works on the frontlines with patients and providers, because medical cannabis patients advocating for their own needs are the most effective advocates for their own rights. That is why ASA makes training and skills building priorities in our work.

We ignore the repeal effort in Montana at great risk to patients. Medical cannabis opponents are exploiting growing public ambivalence about medical cannabis nationwide, and this has a real impact on policies that effect patients’ welfare. Opponents are also trying to repeal medical cannabis laws in New Mexico and Oregon. Other states may follow.  This battle will take place at the local level, too, where cities and counties in the fifteen medical cannabis states consider ordinances that severely limit or prohibit safe access to medicine.

I hope you will support ASA in our efforts to build the powerful and effective grassroots movement to push back on opposition like what we are seeing in Montana – and to push forward in the work of protect and expanding patients’ rights nationwide.

Activist Boot Camp

 



This weekend, patients and advocates in more than twenty cities and nine different states will participate in ASA’s National Call to Action: Activist Boot Camp, the nation’s first virtual skills-building conference for medical cannabis activists. The Activist Boot Camp is a part of ASA’s commitment to educating, training, and empowering a powerful grassroots base nationwide. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have medical cannabis laws today, but patients inside and outside those states continue to struggle for access and fight for their rights. Please take a minute to register for ASA’s Activist Boot Camp today, so that you can be a part of that powerful grassroots base.



More than fourteen years of experience with medical cannabis laws in the United States has made one thing clear: the adoption of state laws the first steps in a long and hard process to meet the legitimate needs of patients. ASA believes that the true test of success is whether those laws are properly implemented, and the legitimate patient community has achieved safe and legal access. We are well on our way, but challenges remain.

That is why the Activist Boot Camp is so important. State and federal lawmakers rarely hear from their constituents about medical cannabis. It will take a strategic and persistent effort to reverse that trend. If ASA can mobilize that grassroots base, we can show lawmakers that there is a political safe space for supporting good legislation, and a potential downside to standing in its way. They key to achieving this is to put the voices of those invested, empowered patients at the front of the debate in 20011 and 2012. So sign up for the Activist Boot Camp nearest you today!