By: Diane Fornbacher
From the majestic redwoods of Humboldt county to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the NORML Women’s Alliance’s Sabrina Fendrick, Kyndra Miller, Melissa Sanchez and I toured almost the entire Sunshine State for nine days prior to Thanksgiving to rally our sisters and brothers in preparation for what will be a mighty 2012 for us all in drug policy reform.
The tour began at a beach-side co-op in the company of our NORML Women’s Alliance colleague Annarae Grabstein of Steep Hill Lab. We enjoyed a brainstorming session and sunset barbecue, then prepared for the incredibly scenic drive north up to Humboldt county the next day to attend 707 Cannabis College’s Hempfest event at the Mateel Community Center in Garberville.
The panel was moderated by Terri Klemetson, News Coordinator for Redwood Community News (KMUD). Speaking were the esteemed Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney; Mark Lovelace, Humboldt County Supervisor; Dan Rush, Director of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; Matt Witemyre, Chief of Staff at Medi-Cone; Alexis Wilson-Briggs, Esq., Criminal Defense Attorney/Pier 5 Law Offices and recently named San Francisco and Sacramento NORML Women’s Alliance Community Leader; Samantha Miller, President-Chief Scientist at Pure Analytics, LLC; and Paul J. Von Hartmann, Cannabis Scholar and Biodynamic Agriculturist.
The panel was very lively, and at times heated, with Wilson Briggs asking for clarification from D.A. Gallegos on many different topics, most specifically regarding enforcement tactics, difficulties reconciling state law versus the federal stance on cannabis and protecting local citizens. Overall, the energy was receptive, friendly and informative. Citizens addressed the panelists at the culmination of the event and what was most enlightening to us was how open and honest the farmers were with officials, genuinely wanting to work with the system, be respected in their industry by the government and have best practices so that they may do clean as well as successful business.
Afterward, we were treated to a tour of 707 Cannabis College with Kellie Dodds, Pearl Moon and Donna King. 707 is located in the heart of the “Emerald Triangle” where, “the highest quality education in the health benefits of appropriate cannabis use, sustainable cannabis horticulture and evolving cannabis law” is provided. We were delighted to see that the NORML Women’s Alliance has a huge presence at 707 with a permanent education access table, lots of enthusiasm and solidarity.
The next day, before heading to our evening fundraiser and screening of “A NORML Life” in San Francisco, we spent the day at the historic Pier 5 Law offices of Tony Serra, where NWA’s Kyndra Miller, Esq. has an office. Pier 5 has a long history of defending human rights and is an environment that has a strong female presence. While we were nearing the end of our workday, we were treated to a visit from the humble and sweet, Mr. Clint Werner. He stopped by with his amazing book “Marijuana: Gateway to Health”, a new release.
At the screening of Rod Pitman’s, “A NORML Life”, many NORML principals are featured in the film including Members of the Board: Dale Gieringer, Madeline Martinez, George Rohrbacher, William Panzer, Esq., Allen St. Pierre, and Keith Stroup . Tonya Davis, winner of NORML’s Pauline Sabin Award (In Honor Of And Recognition For The Crucial Need And Importance Of Women Leadership In Ending Marijuana Prohibition) was prominently featured in an inspiring narrative. Also in the house was Lynette Shaw (Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director NORML) who gave a rousing speech in support of the NWA, Ellen Komp (CANORML), Jack Rikess (Toke of the Town), NORML Attorney Matt Kumin, actress Heather Donahue of the Blair Witch Project, and many others at the forefront of reform in California. Executive Producer of the film, Mr. Pitman, gave a very entertaining free form Q&A session after the screening. The event was hosted by NORML Board member Richard Wolfe and his terrific assistant, Grynn. Catering was provided by the lovely Caitlin Martens.
The next day, we headed south to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills for our fundraiser, A Cause to Laugh, at The Comedy Union in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by Brooks Colyar and comedienne Simply Cookie emceed. In the house was Co-Founder and Director of Unconventional Foundation for Autism, Ms. Mieko Hester-Perez, well known also as Joey’s Mom. We want to thank everyone who participated in making this event amazing, especially Enss Mitchell, purveyor of the Comedy Union for believing in the NWA and providing valuable insight to achieve our goals for all demographics. Also, special thanks to Cheri Sicard for volunteering, as well as Kandice Hawes (OCNORML) for attending with friends.
It’s really quite difficult to summarize the trip into words but Melissa Sanchez was able to really encapsulate the energy of what we experienced during our whirlwind tour. She explained that, “from the people of Humboldt – people with so much heart living in the beautiful old forest – to the people of San Francisco who are dedicated to the never-ending work of politics and activism to Los Angeles where we were reaching out to a community who knows all about the real impact of the war on drugs, it was inspirational journey. Our movement is large and encompasses people who are not yet active in it: People whose families are affected by the drug war in Latin America, mothers who are patients but can’t speak out because they are afraid of the state taking their children, seniors who are fed up with taking medicine that may end up hurting them instead of healing them, and many others. The NORML Women’s Alliance is here to help bring more people into the movement. The more diverse and broad our movement, the sooner we will see significant change.”