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

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