Friday, March 29, 2013

Marijuana Activists Set the South Ablaze with Some Good 'Ole Southern Rebellion

Activists from around the country converged on Atlanta last week with one goal in mind: marijuana law reform. Having labored tirelessly with the wonderful team at Peachtree Norml to coordinate the 1st Southern Cannabis Reform Conference, I felt like a midwife as I hurried to the Georgia State Capitol to join my fellow activists for the birth of something great! Affiliates of ABC, CBS, and FOX covered the grand kickoff which included statements from a coalition of activists, the display of the Mom's for Marijuana Cannabis Quilt, and a display of handkerchiefs from the Embroidery for Peace Exhibit, each commemorating a death in Mexico from the Drug War. Things began to heat up as the synergy from each handkerchief and unity panel mixed with the passion of the activists who had already begun to arrive from around the country. Crowds gathered to see what all the fuss was about; undoubtedly, some were curious as to why there were marijuana leaves covering the State Capitol. Meanwhile, passersby stopped to observe the Mom’s for Marijuana Unity Quilt which was hard to miss at an amazing 18ft X 24ft, adorned with handcrafted panels from marijuana advocates from around the globe.

After several hours of media interviews and community outreach, several activists headed over to Daily Toker's house for our first dish of Southern hospitality before indulging in some down-home cooking at Atlanta’s infamous Mary Mac’s Tea Room. As the waitstaff poured out of the kitchen with trays full of deep-fried and smothered delicacies, it became easy to see why this restaurant is heralded  as the epitome of Southern cooking. After a couple hours of laughs, a few sidebar strategy sessions, sweet tea sipping, and the consumption of a few thousand calories, we said our good nites and headed home to rest up for the first day of the Southern Cannabis Reform Conference...

As I stepped into the Center@Spring4th Complex, the excitement of new life was in the air! After months of laboring and planning to bring forth something that the South has never seen, the time had finally come. It was time for the birth of Revolution...

Change can be a daunting task for all of us. However, challenging the status quo, debunking age-old myths, and confronting antiquated mentalities (particularly in the "Bible belt") is an undertaking that requires knowledge, skill, a high level of social aptitude, and a lot of courage. Which is why Executive Director, Sharon Ravert, of Peachtree Norml called on the best and brightest anti-prohibition advocates she could find to assist her with this monumental project. With facilitators representing a host of organizations, including Project Freedom, L.E.A.P. (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), the Norml Women's Alliance, the GA C.A.R.E.S. Project, S.S.D.P. (Students for a Sensible Drug Policy), C.A.M.P. (Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition), and various NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chapters from around the country, change became more than something we believed in; it became something we demanded and were willing to work together for. This unity is what made the Southern Cannabis Reform Conference and Peachtree Norml a force to be reckoned with in the South. Devoid of all "superstar activists" seeking to become the next hottest thing in the marijuana Movement, each presenter brought such a sense of passion for liberty that it permeated the atmosphere. Everyone from the facilitators to the attendees and the delightful young ladies walking around with bags of baked treats (ok..ESPECIALLY the young ladies walking around with bags of baked treats) all contributed to creating a wonderful energy that knitted our hearts together with one common (hemp) thread. Even the "non-medicated" experienced a euphoric high from the amazing energy created here in Atlanta last week. 

If you were unable to attend this conference, I strongly suggest you purchase a copy of the DVDs when they go on sale in a couple weeks. This was no "stoner session" about how to legalize weed so we can all smoke in peace. This was more like a strategic summit of higher learning where lawyers, law enforcement, citizens, mothers, grandmothers, students, farmers, ministers, entertainers and more came together to discuss law reform, healthcare, the cure for cancer, parenting, education reform, and rational solutions to fiscal cliffs. Thanks to +Sharon Ravert, +Peachtree NORML, and every activist who contributed to the Southern Cannabis Reform Conference, Atlanta is not only the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, but the birthplace of Rebellion and the playpen of Revolution! 

Check out the following links for a sneak peek of the action!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference "Bridging the Gap Between the Public & Policy"

I had the pleasure of attending the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference “Bridging the Gap Between the Public & Policy”, hosted by American’s for Safe Access in Washington, D.C.  February 22-25, 2013. The conference was packed with three days of intense training and concluded with a Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. I was amazed by the immense amount of information I was able to absorb during the workshops, and particularly impressed by the global view of medical cannabis as presented by proponents from Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel. As I listened to Philippe Lucas, Boaz Wachtel, Tjalling Erkelens, and George Pappas provide detailed reports on current international medical cannabis policy, it became even more apparent to me that the current "justice system" in the United States has been designed to perpetuate a system of slavery and injustice with little to no concern for the voice or needs of the people!
I arrived on Friday evening so, unfortunately, I missed the keynote address given by Dr. John Schwarz (one of the father’s of string theory); however, the panels and workshops on Saturday and Sunday were jam-packed with a plethora of knowledge and tools designed to equip activists to advocate more proficiently.  Saturday morning began with a panel on the history and current state of medical cannabis in America. Panelists included Valerie Corral of the Women’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, Mary Lynn Mathre of Patients Out of Time, Don Duncan of American’s for Safe Access, and other advocates who have dedicated many years of their lives to patient advocacy and the movement to decriminalize cannabis. Of all the incredible panelists represented, each with their unique stories, impressive resumes, and varying levels of experience in the movement, I found the firsthand testimony of Joseph Casias (Casias v. Walmart) to be the most riveting!
Ebony & Ricki Lake
I attended a number of workshops ranging from Drug Policy Reform to Grassroots Lobbying and Creating Campaigns for Initiatives and State Legislation. I found each presenter to be knowledgeable and well-versed. I was particularly appreciative to be able to hear their experiences and learn from them. I even had an opportunity to chat with talk show host, +Ricki Lake, who was also attending the conference and invite her to the Southern Cannabis Reform Conference which is being hosted by Peachtree Norml in Atlanta, Georgia March 15 & 16th. The highlight of the conference was attending the press conference on Capitol Hill and stopping by my congressional representative’s office to discuss their views on the decriminalization/legalization of marijuana. The meeting ended with an exciting partnership (that will be unveiled soon)!!! I left Capitol Hill with a high that could never be achieved through anything other than the sheer fulfillment of destiny. My attendance at this conference was more than a coincidence; it was a divine appointment. I was constantly reminded by everything that was occurring around me that I was in the right place at the right time…
As an activist, my stance on marijuana has always been decriminalization/legalization. When I hear the term “for medicinal use”, I can’t help but wonder ‘what kind of marijuana isn’t medicinal?!’ While I understand the entire argument behind medical marijuana, and have many friends who fight strictly for patients’ rights, I also understand that simply allowing patients access to medical cannabis will not provide access to the millions of people who will never qualify as patients, nor will it decrease the ever-burgeoning prison population or secure the next generation’s access to financial aid is not quelled by antiquated drug laws. However, this conference opened my eyes to the dire needs of patients. Having heard, firsthand, the stories of patients with varying diseases and their amazing testimonials of the healing effects of cannabis, my zeal for patients’ rights has been ignited!
I am sincerely grateful to have had this opportunity. Congratulations to +Steph Sherer on the birth of a vision she has carried for over 10 years, and many thanks to +Americans for Safe Access for hosting such a fabulous conference! My heartfelt appreciation goes out to Peachtree Norml, the +NORML Women's Alliance, Dr. Bronners, and the many friends and fellow activists who made this experience possible and contributed to my growth as an activist.
Ebony w/ +Ken Wolski & Vanessa Waltz of Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey

Ebony w/ fellow activists Vanessa Waltz, +Diane Fornbacher, & +Neill Franklin 
Ebony w/ 71yr old federal marijuana patient, Elvy Musikka