An inside story about Direct
Access to Medical Cannabis
by Jason Browne
How history was made in an unlikely place:
Red Bluff, California – home to the biggest 3 day rodeo in the world, nitro boat races and lots of good ole boys-n-girls. It’s also where one of the longest running collective cannabis gardens in California had been located for the past eight years. It began in 1998. I had just been involved with a much larger collective garden deep in the heart of the green triangle and had also started this small farm here in Red Bluff. Unfortunately for the Humboldt area patients, CAMP and the DEA couldn’t resist taking such a nice harvest from poor, sick people, like taking candy from a baby. Before the ‘rip-n-run’ took place on the coast; I had been lobbying the local Sheriff and District attorney to inspect our Red
Bluff cannabis garden, but it was an election year, so neither one wanted to seem for or against medical use. They knew of my advocacy in Arcata and declined to inspect us, as did the local police department. They did, however, pass on the invitation to our state Department of Justice.
So, just after the raid of one garden I was faced with an inspection from the state police for another garden. They sent Dan Lungren’s right hand man (John Gordinier) to do a stakeout for a few days before the inspection, so they knew we were on the up and up. On the day of the tour, we had lemonade, ice tea and store-bought cookies for the police, but they declined to have any (I wonder why?) and seemed nervous about their role in upholding the Compassionate Use Act. Yet, we passed with flying colors and were able to harvest all of our medicine.
The following year, we had a new Sheriff and District Attorney and they agreed to inspect us themselves. Officers called our attorney for an appointment to inspect the garden and when they arrived, we were all present to witness the inspection. Questions were asked and answered (in the presence of our attorney), photographs were taken of each plant, and small samples of lower branches were identified with corresponding evidence tags. No plants were harmed and no patients were harassed in the inspection of this garden. After a couple weeks, the D.A. found us to be in compliance and the sheriff’s deputies returned to remove their evidence tags, thus establishing our claim to fame. A legal E stopped by Acquiescence, if you will. Police could never choose to
ignore our rights as patients in this garden, as they had overseen a confirmation of our compliance with the law and left our plants for harvest.
Since then, we have harvested a crop here almost every year, with a letter sent from our attorney to the local heads of law enforcement. No further inspections have been requested.
Benefits of Organic Farming and Direct Access:
Our cannabis has always been grown in accordance with California’s Organic Food Standards. As the master gardener here, it has been my pleasure to teach the other patients how to produce fertilizers and plant teas which are completely organic, in order to preserve Quality Assurance for all the patients here. Pesticides and other chemical agents leave residues that are dangerous to use,
especially by people with weakened immune systems. Less scrupulous gardeners don’t seem to get this point – their cannabis could kill someone (a case in point – the unfortunate death of Jane Weirick – R.I.P.). I also teach patients how to
grow the most exquisite medicinal cannabis to complete perfection. It’s so important to have complete control over the entire process; to prevent molds & over-ripening, and to make sure the medicine dries properly and is then cured for 10-30 days. Some of our more interesting features are the worm colony and the reptile-alter. We raise our own worms and generate ‘tea’ that is rich in castings to feed our plants. A concrete home has been built, housing many lizards, toads and occasional snakes. Grasshoppers and gophers beware! We’ve defeated spider mites with natural predators, killed powder molds with
beneficial rooting agents and held back scores of ravenous caterpillars with natural biological agents. Basically, if it isn’t natural, you won’t find it in our garden.
Here’s a great example of how politics is an affront to progress. A few years ago, during our fourth year of operation, we decided to register or certify as Organic, since we met all the guidelines to qualify. Our county Department of Agriculture was going to assist us in registering, until a local police officer intervened. He convinced the department that if we were to register our garden as Organic, we would be admitting to possession for sales and they would be guilty of aiding
and abetting. His logic was to infer that because such registration is only required for commercial operations, any family farmers that applied must therefore be commercial in nature. So, we tried to get private certification, but
they wouldn’t do it because they thought the feds would target them if they dared to certify cannabis as organic. And who knows – maybe they were right. Shrub hates weed.
By operating as a true Collective, we are able to share the costs associated with cultivating and processing our cannabis, allowing our money to go much farther than it would if we were to buy our medicine instead. By providing each other with the resources and support needed to produce medical grade cannabis, we are operating under a model of Direct Access, as the voters of California intended it. Indeed, operations such as ours are specifically protected under California’s Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215 and SB 420).
This year we grew 24 plants (for 16 patients). Because having different strains is important for meeting patients’ various medical needs, we grew 15 strains: Jazz Train/Indica, G-14, G-15, Old Blood Indica/Purple Haze, Ship Wreck, Sergeant Major Purple, Bubba Gump, Sugar Bear, Purple Indica, Cryptonite, Silver Indica,
Silver Ship, Silver Streak and a couple mystery strains named ‘B’ and ‘E’. We have much to celebrate for the Holidays, enough medicine for the year and lots of good cheer.
Our costs this year were around $36,000. This includes supplies & materials, security updates, staffing & remuneration, attorney retainer fees, extra food, bail money and insurance. We set aside sixteen pounds for free, as the initial
disbursement off the top (one pound each). This is equivalent to a donation worth $25,600, at production costs. The remainder was disbursed according to the amount of time and/or monies invested into the garden throughout the crop cycle. Patients earned $20/hour for labor and received equal returns (rounded up) for investments.
According to California laws, our garden this year was legally able to produce up to 38 pounds of buds for our immediate collective needs. This breaks down to costing around $100/ounce to produce. The benefits of Direct Access are self evident. There is no middle-man; therefore access is safe, affordable and consistent. Also, strains are known and everyone learns more about growing their own. Any additional medicine is stored by the patients, for their future needs. All trim/leaf is divided up equally, for making baked goods and concentrates. Everything is divided as its finished curing, so there’s no weight to worry about. As Ben Franklin suggested, we hang together, rather than apart. Strength in numbers – Power to truth.
State of the Compassionate Use Laws in California:
Many positive developments have ensued since the passage of Proposition 215.
– Our Supreme Court, in People v. Mower, ruled that patients and primary
caregivers are entitled to Qualified Immunity and need only show a reasonable doubt to defend their rights, while prosecutors must prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence that a person is not immune from prosecution, in order to proceed with charges. Also, they ruled that
qualified individuals are entitled to a unique form of preliminary hearing, where a full defense may be presented in order to bar prosecution, prior to a costly jury trial.
-Our State Legislature complied with provisions of Prop. 215 which instructed California to implement the Compassionate Use Act, by passing SB-420, signed into law by then Governor Davis. This law creates further implementation guidelines for Qualified Individuals to utilize and for law enforcement to enforce. Among them; primary caregivers may be reimbursed for their time and expenses; patients and their pcg’s may possess and grow cannabis collectively and may also form consumer cooperatives; cannabis may be transported; the state department of public health must issue ID cards to qualified individuals
throughout California’s cities and counties; patients on probation or parole are entitled to hearings seeking to amend the terms of said probation or parole (in order to lawfully use cannabis without violating) and; no city or county may impose limits below a minimum state threshold, where qualified individuals may possess at least 1 pound of processed buds, and higher thresholds are allowed. Also, physicians may exempt their patient(s) from ANY such limits, allowing qualified individuals to cultivate and possess AS MUCH CANNABIS as the patient(s) require.
-Our Attorney General issued a ruling that recognized the statutory definition of cannabis, whereby all concentrates and derivatives are allowed under the Compassionate Use Act (such as tinctures, foods,
hashish, keif, oils, etc?).
-Our Appellate Courts have ruled in favor of probationers’ rights to use medical cannabis in People v. Lekook, and completely supported the inclusive protections afforded to qualified individuals under SB-420 in People v. Urziceanu. These rulings further set into stone the foundations laid in California Health & Safety Code #11362.5 and #11362.7.
-The California Highway Patrol recently changed their obscene policy of ignoring the Compassionate Use Act, due to pressures caused from a lawsuit levied against them from ASA, on behalf of several individuals who had been the targets of state thievery under color of law. Subsequently, many local police jurisdictions are now taking a more progressive stance in their medical cannabis policies. When they feel the heat, they see the light.
Unfortunately, there are still many hurdles to overcome in order for the will of the electorate to be implemented. Qualified Individuals are still faced daily with all manner of insults and injuries. Discrimination is rampant, both in the public and private sectors.
-Most employers (and all drug testing companies) refuse to acknowledge the C.U.A. and patients are threatened with termination, in defiance of California laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
-Property owners mistakenly assume that medical cannabis is still a drug they can ban from use on their property, under the veil of the ‘illicit substance’ clause in rental/lease agreements.
-California Child Protective Services still interacts with adult family members as though their medical cannabis use is a threat to children and will actively terrorize such families over this issue. Likewise, many hospitals will turn in mothers who test positive for traces of cannabinoids, causing irreparable harm to many law abiding families. Ironically, child-birthing is one of the historically proven medicinal
uses of cannabis – it facilitates a smoother labor.
-Many local law enforcement agencies throughout the state continue to ignore the authority vested in the Courts, in the Legislature and in the People, when it comes to enforcement of the Compassionate Use Act. Agents of police departments, sheriffs departments and district attorney offices routinely select only small portions of the C.U.A. to enforce (and vigorously so), while depriving qualified individuals of the protections afforded them under the law. It remains to be seen whether or not police will honor the ID card system now that it’s going state-wide, but the
locations that have spearheaded ID cards have had mixed results, with quite arbitrary enforcement and no uniform guidelines.
Laying a Solid Foundation:
We’ve had a lot of good times in this garden over the years. We’ve also suffered many hardships, including the loss of the lives of people we hold dear. But all of the eight years were worth it, because we fought the good fight, and came out ahead in spite of overwhelming odds. Also, we established protocols and procedures that can be utilized anywhere in California, to establish true
Patient Collectives. For me, after serving nine years as a Primary Caregiver, I am moving on to other things (and to a different home). Hopefully, I can spend more time advocating for patients’ rights, authoring helpful legislation and continuing in my role as an expert witness and gardening consultant. I am truly humbled that I have been able to help so many patients and make so many new friends through all of this. Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to NOT growing cannabis for a little while, so that I can once again see the forest from the trees.
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