Terrie Best, San Diego - 2015 Activist of the Year

ASA’s 2015 Activist of the Year, Terrie Best, has always sympathized with the victims of the drug war. After seeing firsthand the benefits of medical cannabis for patients, Terrie began doing court support for those caught up in a series of raids on San Diego’s medical cannabis dispensaries.

Terrie’s social media reporting on the trials of Eugene Davidovich, Jovan Jackson and others helped galvanize supporters and educate the community, with jurors in two trials returning “not guilty” verdicts in a mere 10 minutes. The work of San Diego ASA, which Terrie now leads, has helped change the politics of the issue, as well. The district attorney who pushed prosecutions of medical cannabis providers is leaving office, and San Diego city officials are moving toward a regulated approach to medical cannabis.  

Terrie’s advocacy for medical cannabis patients stems directly from what she has learned from them. Her interest began with cannabis’s potential for treating anxiety disorders and PTSD but quickly expanded as she was exposed to more patients, such as a woman she met in 2008 who uses a topical preparation to treat nerve pain in her cheek and mouth, and Jacqueline Patterson, a mother from Missouri whose youtube videos about how cannabis controls her severe stutter and other symptoms of cerebral palsy have been viewed millions of times.

“Social justice issues was what got me started,” says Terrie. “California voters had acted in 1996, but patients were still being forced into court. Our police and prosecutors were not honoring the will of the people. There was no mercy. That was a travesty.”

Once she started work on the issue, it became apparent to her that the real victims were people of color in the community.

“Black and brown folks don’t get the same response from law enforcement when they identify themselves as patients,” says Terrie. She found non-white defendants were more likely to plead guilty because of a lack of community support.

Her court support work with other members of San Diego ASA has made a difference. They have helped arrange testimony form expert witnesses such as Dr. Michelle Sexton, a naturopath and expert on botanical medicines and Andrew Pham, former lead scientist at SC Labs. Using legal resources from the ASA website, they’ve helped win acquittals. Now, attorneys will call or have their clients call.

“The climate has changed in San Diego,” Terrie says. “The city council is not banning ancillary medical cannabis businesses like labs, so we’re looking forward to getting ordinances to regulate those.”

The key to success, she says, is keeping the pressure on and making it public.

“Engaging your elected officials on twitter and facebook, calling them out for their votes in public – that works,” she says. “You have to be respectful, but it is fun to make fun of law enforcement. If there's a raid, I just really like heckling the DEA with a bullhorn.

This profile was originally published in the February 2017 ASA Activist Newsletter