If the police barged into your place of wellness pointing guns, what would you do? This may seem farfetched to some, but not when the medicine in question is a controversial plant known as herb, weed, pot, ganja, Mary Jane, or of course, marijuana.
Police raided 14 medical cannabis centers September 9 in San Diego, California, one of which was Hillcrest Compassion Care, a rapidly expanding collective that grants members safe access to their medicine.
Rev. Paul Cody, president of Hillcrest Compassion Care, explains that the cooperative is more than a place to get marijuana. “We don’t want a pot shop in our town,” he declares. “We want a mental and physical wellbeing center to heal people who are at the end of their ropes and are going through possible terminal illnesses. We want to help them live vibrant and healthy lives in the community.”
That’s right; it’s not about getting high legally. Indeed, through a citizen vote, state legislation allows California residents over the age of 21 with a doctor’s recommendation to safely access medical cannabis, either by growing it themselves, or receiving it through the cooperative effort of patients and caregivers.
A medicinal herb that was cultivated in China as early as 5000 BC, marijuana is currently used to treat multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, pain associated with cancer and HIV, headaches, nausea, anxiety, menstrual cramps, and many other conditions.
“The wonderful accomplishment of medical marijuana is that it provides a sense of control over people’s lives so that they can function,” Cody points out. “People do not get stoned; they get medicated.”
So what’s all the fuss about? San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced in a press release the day after the raids that all local medical marijuana centers were illegally dealing drugs for profit. The law mandates that collectives are non-profit entities.
On the day of the raids, police literally bashed in the doors of Hillcrest Compassion Care, handcuffing several patients and caregivers, while taking possession of the collective’s medicine and confidential patient forms. The arrest procedure posed a specific problem for Cody, who is in a wheelchair. Possessing no movement from the waist down, he would require the handcuffs to be placed in front of his body while being positioned in the front seat of the car for bodily support. His requests were ignored and consequently, he flopped to the side in the back of the police car with his hands cuffed behind his back, receiving several injuries. Subsequently, no charges were placed on any collective members.
Cody reflects, “We feel that our civil rights are being violated on multiple levels. That’s why there will be several attorneys specializing in different fields to address this matter. We are holding the City of San Diego, the City of San Diego Police Department, the County of San Diego, and Bonnie Dumanis responsible for how the raids were conducted.”
Several protests were held September 17-21, where demonstrators voiced their opinion that the state law be upheld. People must be able to exercise their right to safely access medical marijuana through non-profit collectives without harassment from the authorities.
On a larger scale, the question to legalize marijuana statewide is coming to a head. Activists in Oakland are moving forward on an initiative to tax and legalize marijuana for personal use. In effect, the measure would allow residents 21 and over to grow or possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Local governments would decide whether to tax and regulate sales. The projected economic impact would be monumental in bringing the state much needed revenue. The signatures of 433,000 registered California voters are necessary to get the initiative on the 2010 ballot—and as of October 1, there are 100 days to get it done.
In the meantime, Hillcrest Compassion Care, along with other cooperatives, are working to safely supply medical marijuana to collective members.
“Alternative needs are here,” says Cody. “Whether it’s through acupuncture, massage therapy, reflexology, or support groups—we need to have a place where we can access these medications and practices.”
That’s why Hillcrest Compassion Care goes beyond providing medical marijuana by using its resources as a non-profit organization to benefit the community. “We have programs that aren’t just for collective members,” notes Cody. “We try to reach the community abroad. Everyone is welcome.”
The collective offers yoga classes on Mondays, medicine education classes on Tuesdays, HIV support groups on Wednesdays, and music on Friday and Saturday nights.
“There are many people out there who need help—that’s the bottom line,” affirms Cody. “It’s not done for profit; it’s done out of love and compassion.”
By Elyssa Paige