Thursday, December 19, 2013

Is it time to retire the “Drug Warrior” moniker?

A famous story describes a short conversation with Mother Teresa and an activist who implored her to join her in attending an anti-war rally. The nun said no, she would not attend an anti-war rally however she would attend a peace rally.
At first this response might seem a little pedantic, but upon reflection it makes a very important point. When we fight against someone or something it is an aggressive act. We’re highlighting our differences and defining our “opposition” as an enemy. The natural response to this is to push back and defend. In effect, when we declare war against an “enemy” we’re giving them energy and defining their reaction as a “defense”. The problem is, when we act as a warrior we militarize the opposition and harden their position.
 Hopefully, this concept has tweaked your perspective about dealing with our current situation regarding the re-legalization progress in this country. I think it’s important to concentrate now on our common interests with our “opposition”. Many of these people who want to maintain the criminalization of marijuana are not evil, stupid, intolerant, (fill in your favorite description). They’re our countrymen, our neighbors and, sometimes, even our friends. They’ve lived a different life from ours with different experiences than we had. They typically have good reasons (they think) to oppose the legislative changes we’re striving for.
My point is simple, let’s concentrate on our points of agreement with respect and the intention of moving forward to accomplish common goals. We have more points of agreement than not I’ll bet.
  • ·         It is important to protect our children. Our current laws enable children to be removed from safe and loving homes due to a parent's medical cannabis use. They enable no-knock warrants. People die in these raids, many times innocent people, and even family pets, are killed or terrorized.
  • ·         It is important to protect our citizens from criminalization for a commonly accepted behavior approved of by the majority of our peers.
  • ·         Our government is not representing the interests of the majority of its citizenry. It is in fact openly and obviously trying to subvert the will of the people in many issues.
  • ·         Prohibition causes an unimaginable amount of damage to our society in many ways. i.e. disrespect of police, corruption of law enforcement, gang activity and turf wars, more dangerous drugs created in labs. Innumerable and incalculable.
  • ·         It is better to generate revenue and control drugs than waste money and encourage illegal activity.
  • ·         People should be able to grow plants and herbs to maintain their wellbeing.
  • ·         A doctor should be able to speak freely and recommend or prescribe anything that they feel will help their patient
To sum up my rambling, as one who has “fought the good fight” in the “drug war” since day one, It’s time to redefine ourselves and reflect on Mother Teresa’s words. It’s time to be inclusive not divisive. It’s time to make friends of old adversaries, we need to make it easy to those who opposed us over the years to “move to a common ground” instead of having to “surrender”.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cutting Through the Fog (Prelude)

It is a beautiful, foggy Florida morning. Driving across from the east to the west coast, it almost seems as if the fog is lifting with the morning sun immediately ahead of my headlights. Doesn't seem so foggy where I am, but just up ahead, it seems like pea soup.

We are seeking to inform veterans -- many of whom we strongly believe could benefit from the use of marijuana for a variety of ailments, including post traumatic stress, cancer, and other neurological disorders -- that cannabis is being legally and effectively used by veterans in other states.

The policy of the Veterans Administration on cannabis, while good for veterans in legal states, is one of exclusion. As my friend Al Byrne puts it, VA is practicing treatment by geography. They allow the use of cannabis in courses of treatment in 20 states, but it is disallowed and grounds for removal of pain medication in the other 30 states where it is not legal to consume cannabis, an inhumane policy when you consider that the purpose of using cannabis in many of these cases is to reduce the amount of debilitating medication they need to effectively manage their pain.

Today is day three of the tour, and I join the gang at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center. Our goal this week is to get information in the hands of veterans. There will be legislation and ballot initiatives to consider this year in Florida, and we need to make sure that our veterans and our Veterans Administrations are prepared for it. 

Most importantly, everyone involved needs to understand how urgent the matter is. We cannot wait for the FDA. We cannot wait for the DEA. We cannot wait for the NIDA. We can barely even wait for the Florida Legislature to act. Allowing the charade of Reefer Madness to continue hurts our veterans in ways we have only begun to calculate.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Veterans Program Launches from Florida’s Space Coast

Veterans from across the nation are joining forces to change cannabis policies and they are launching the initiative from the Florida Space Coast. On November 5, 2013, members of the Project will begin a whistle-stop tour of Florida VA Centers and hospitals. The group is seeking to partner with VA Medical Centers to provide a forum for veterans to discuss the implications of adding cannabis to their current therapies.

Mike Krawitz, the co-founder of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access is joining the tour. Mr. Krawitz, a veteran from Virginia was instrumental in the creation of the current VHA policy on medical use of cannabis. The VHA Directive 2011-004 states, “…patients participating in State marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services.”  Mr. Krawitz says, “The current policy effectively denies patients in 30 states the same quality of care as veterans in the 20 states with legal cannabis programs. If that isn’t illegal, it certainly is immoral.”

Joining the tour In addition to Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access members are local veterans cannabis advocacy committees. Bob (Whitey) Jordan of Bradenton, and Frank Dougherty of Sarasota, will represent the Florida Cannabis Action Network’s Veterans’ Committee. NORML of Florida’s Veterans Committee will be represented by their Chairman, Joe Sisco of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

During the seven-day tour the group is hosting forums at the VA Centers, partnering with local groups and activists along the route for evening meetings, hosting a rally at the Capitol, a moment of remembrance at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Tallahassee, a picnic in Niceville and plan to participate in the Veteran’s Day Parade in Crestview, Florida as the final stop on the tour.

Florida plays a key role in national veteran’s affairs. U.S. Representatives Jeff Miller (FL-1, Pensacola) and Gus Bilirakis (FL-12, New Port Richey) are the Chair and Vice-Chair of the U.S. House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Jodi James, Executive Director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network said, “Florida’s 1.6 million veterans are being denied a proven effective treatment option. When the collective influence of our veterans is pointed towards righting this wrong, national policy will change. “

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

FLCAN Conquers Fear With Education and Promotion of the Entire Plant

Hi, I am David Jones, the marketing and communications director for the Florida Cannabis Action Network, I’d like to share with you a conversation I had with a fellow cannabis supporter about overcoming fears associated with being an activist.:
       Whether the people we talk to use cannabis or not, there are many different philosophies and interpretations surrounding the plant we must keep mindful of. It is not the goal of the activist to discredit the experience that others may have had, but, instead, help reframe their perspective to become open to the possibility. I am going to share with you how to overcome the four internal blocks people have in order to forward them into action.

The acronym I use is: GAIL
Starting backwards from L to G.

L – Limiting Beliefs: These are beliefs that, if held to be true, limit action. These are the most common, and when you hear a limiting belief, the way to overcome it is to challenge it. For example, if a woman believes that there is a glass ceiling in the corporate world, she would be less inclined to put in her application for promotion. If I was the one talking with her, I’d challenge that limiting belief by asking, “What other successful women do you know in the corporate world that’s in the C-Suite?” If she doesn’t know right then and there, I’d ask her to research it and get back to me. The real magic is to ask open-ended questions and have the person truly think for themselves. You don’t want to give them the answers, but empower them to come to the conclusions on their own – the same goes with everyone’s relationship with cannabis. When you’re having an open conversation about cannabis never be judgmental towards a person and say that their life’s experience is wrong!

I – Interpretations: It is human nature for us to satisfy our need to ‘know’ what is going on. However, it is not uncommon for the human mind to latch on to the first idea that seemingly makes sense to us, although we believe that thought to be true. These interpretations are just that – an interpretation – of a particular situation. The way to challenge them is ask the person you’re talking with to look at it from a different angle. That loosens up their original interpretation and shifts them to a state of open-mindedness.

A – Assumptions: The cliché is common: When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME! Assumptions may be common, but they’re a type of belief that is more deeply rooted in recurring experience. Assumptions are harder to shake up and replace than the previous two internal blocks, but the attitude to approach shifting the person you are talking to would be – if it happened in the past, doesn’t mean it will happen again in the future.

G – Gremlins: Gremlins are at the core of our internal blocks, all of the blocks above stem from gremlins. These are the most difficult beliefs to change because they are the little, self-defeating thoughts we have about the world. These thoughts stop action and possibilities in its track because they are the little voices in our heads to not put forth the action. We freeze in fear with these thoughts: “I’m not smart enough…”; “It’s not worth doing so don’t try….”; “I’m not healthy enough…”; etc. Some issues require inner work to sort out, don’t take anything personally because if it hits close to a gremlin you will soon realize you just hit a button of theirs.

As a professionally-trained lifestyle management coach, I interpret button pushing moments as wonderful moments of personal growth, but when we are petitioning signatures or engaging people into a conversation about cannabis, it’s typically not the best environment to have a real, heart-to-heart conversation and explore where those thoughts are coming from and how they’re effecting who they are presently being and how those current beliefs are impacting their future and the state of Florida.

When you are in the community doing face-to-face work, it’s important to hear them out, acknowledge and validate what you hear them saying, and then empower them to take action and seek out answers for themselves.

This plant brings people together from all walks of life. Let’s embrace that and share our cannabis story with others.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bing, Bang, Boom goes your Bong

No, not really. By now, you have likely heard the news about the Governor signing a bill banning your bong. A lot is being said about the bill, but much of it is hyperbole or just plain wrong. Read more about the bill and its impact on you...

The bill was introduced by Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Pete, a mouth piece for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Representative Rouson believes paraphernalia of all types to be “utensils of death.” As a proud recovering addict, we can expect more of the same as long as he holds office. 

The House bill, HB 49 took a long time to get a sponsor in the Senate (SB1140) but once filed, the bill took wings. Throughout the process, only the Florida Cannabis Action Network and our partner, Bob Platshorn of the Silver Tour spoke against the bill. Lots of folks were talking about the bill though. On April 13, 2013 even Steve Colbert got in on the conversation about banning bongs in Florida.

With only a handful of Senators and Representatives voting against the bill, it passed with different versions in the House and Senate. Last minute conferencing between the Chambers gave us the bill signed into law by Governor Scott on June 5. 

Here is what the final analysis by the state says, “Section 893.147, F.S establishes the following five paraphernalia crimes: Use or possession of Paraphernalia; manufacture or delivery of drug paraphernalia; delivery of drug paraphernalia to a minor; transportation of drug paraphernalia; and advertisement of drug paraphernalia.

The bill amends s. 893.147, F.S., to make it a first degree misdemeanor for a person to knowingly and willfully sell or offer for sale at retail any of the drug paraphernalia listed in s. 893.145(12)(a)-(c) and (g)-(m), F.S., and  a second or subsequent violation a third degree felony. The drug paraphernalia included are: Metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic smoking pipes, with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish heads, or punctured metal bowls; water pipes; carburetion tubes and devices; chamber pipes; carburetor pipes ;electric pipes; air-driven pipes; chillums; bongs; ice pipes or chillers. The bill provides an exception for pipes that are primarily made of briar, meerschaum, clay, or corn cob.”

So, no, the government of Florida is not coming to take your bong away. If you are possessing a bong (or any other form of smoking device – yes, an apple could be paraphernalia) for any purpose other than smoking tobacco, that bong or pipe was already illegal. 

If the analysis you read says this bill passed, but nothing much changes, that is likely right. Smoke shops won’t likely be closing their doors, selling pipes at a drastic discount or even changing their inventory. After all, smoke shops only sell to customers who use their wares for lawful purposes!

In all the years the Florida Cannabis Action Network has fought for the rights of cannabis consumers, the health and well-being of patients and the protection of our right to speak and assemble, only a handful of Florida smoke shops have ever given a donation, publicly or anonymously to reforming cannabis laws.

Smoke shop owners sit back and reap the rewards while over 38,000 Florida adult cannabis consumers over the age of 21 are arrested each year for possession of under 20 grams of cannabis.

Lawmakers have managed to gag smoke shop owners at the peril of patients. Our friend, we’ll call him P to preserve his identity, spent a long time trying to find a safe supply of cannabis for his wife with MS. She (we’ll call her K) was diagnosed years earlier but had found herself wheel-chair bound for three-years. While P was able to access medical grade cannabis, finding the right delivery method for K was a nightmare.

P had to learn to roll cannabis for his wife, but the smoke was hard on her throat and the heat from the burning cigarette was uncomfortable. It seemed like a good idea to visit the local smoke shop for a better delivery device. How was P to know that you can’t even use the word cannabis in a smoke shop? He is a 60-plus year old republican looking for comfort for his sick wife and he is turned away by people who know the best products to assist P in finding a device that helps K. This family is willing to risk breaking the law to bring relief from muscle spasms, depression, and pain to K. 

At Florida Cannabis Action Network, we want you to be aware of the facts about cannabis, the harms of prohibition and have a front row seat for the creation of sensible cannabis policies in Florida that allow safe, legal access to cannabis. If you can help by sending this message to a friend so they know the truth about the bong bill that would be great. 

Here are a few other things you can do to get involved.
  •     Send a letter to the editor about the bong bill, the need for medical cannabis or another cannabis related topic. Here are important things for you to know about getting published from an expert! You can follow the letters that are getting published on the front page of our website.
  •     Schedule a meeting with your local representative’s office. Over 70 % of Floridians support legal access to cannabis for patients. Whether you are talking to your city official, county commissioner or state Representative, seven out of ten people will agree with you on some level. Here are several hand outs you can print at home and take with you to the meeting.

  •   Tell a friend- Florida CAN makes it easy for you to tell your friends about our hard work. Your friends – like-minded supporters of liberty, compassionate liberals and fiscal conservatives alike all have a vested interest in the success of the Florida CAN.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Office Opening soon, check it out

The grand opening is approaching faster than we could have imagined. Even though we are still weeks from the July 14, 2013 Grand Opening we are already seeing a steady stream of worker bees visiting the office, completing tasks and helping establish FLCAN’s place in the community.

Here is a short video showing how the office is coming together and thanking the folks who helped.

We are really excited about the roster of programs and activities planned for the office. If you are already out talking publicly about the need to change Florida cannabis laws, we want you in the Network. United we are invincible.

Here is a webpage where you can see what we need and how you can still help to get the office ready.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What’s Next for FLCAN

Even though lawmakers did not take up the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act in 2013, Florida CAN isn’t daunted or distracted from our mission. We are more determined than ever to see safe, therapeutic access to cannabis for people in Florida.

You can check out our reports about the legislative session but in short it was exciting, eye opening and encouraging. One southwest Florida lawmaker started our meeting by saying he KNEW cannabis was Safer than alcohol. A second owns a nursery business, he knows cannabis is an up and coming market and he wants in too. The battle was half won – at least they know the truth and for some of them its important. Now, getting them to act on the truth… another in a series of challenging things for CAN to accomplish.

For now, Florida CAN is ready for the next chapter.

The addition of Florida trial attorney, John Morgan, onto the list of Floridians actively working to change cannabis laws puts Florida squarely on course for some sort of legal medical cannabis scheme. Whether through an act of the Feds, through our state legislature or by popular vote in November 2014, legal medical access is coming to Florida.

To support the efforts of Floridians to change cannabis laws, we took a lease on a wonderful office just west of US 1 in Melbourne, FL. We need help now getting the place ready for the public. You can follow our progress here on our blog, on this page dedicated to opening the office, on our website or on Facebook.

Whether it is a gathering place for training, a collection site for petitions, a workspace for talented writers, graphic artists, would be video producers or a fun place to host a Sunday members-only pot-luck dinner, the office is going to be a great addition to the Florida reform efforts.

Our soft opening is June 19.  By the soft opening, we plan to have programs in place, jobs for volunteers and an idea what hours make sense for our volunteers and staff. We hope the public will embrace our July 14 grand opening. Our grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony will be at 12:30 July 14. We hope you’ll mark your calendar and make an extra effort to be counted among the faithful who will see cannabis safe, legal and available in Florida.