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The Compassionate use of medical cannabis is the foundation of the entire cannabis industry. Compassionate cannabis is free medical cannabis provided to patients who severely and urgently need it. Many of these patients would die if they did not have access to this medicine.
Compassionate cannabis and the nonprofit sector of the cannabis industry have three different phases. Phase 1, or Compassion 1.0, is the beginning stage of the nonprofit sector. It is characterized by small activist organizations breaking the law to get free medical cannabis to those who need it most. These groups work independently and usually without the knowledge of each other.
The originators of Compassion 1.0 were Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary in San Francisco, California. In the 80s and 90s, these two activists gave away free medical cannabis to low-income AIDS patients. Brownie Mary was a volunteer in San Francisco General Hospital’s AIDS ward and would give away free cannabis brownies to dying patients hospitalized there. Cannabis helped AIDS patients with wasting syndrome when pharmaceuticals were unable to provide them with any relief. It helped them to live longer and improved their quality of life when nothing else could.
At this time, cannabis was illegal, and Brownie Marie was jailed by the San Francisco Police Department on multiple occasions. Medical necessity is a defense used in court by cannabis patients and their caregivers. It states that if a patient has no recourse other than cannabis for their terminal medical ailments, they have the right to use cannabis even though it breaks the law.
In Compassion 1.0, compassion programs work directly with cannabis cultivators and medical patients. Compassion programs go to cannabis farms and pick up donations of cannabis, transport this medicine back to urban centers, package the cannabis, and then dispense it to patients in need either by delivery or by group meet-ups.
One of the major components of compassion 1.0 is educating the public about the medical benefits of cannabis. Usually, during this time period, many people do not understand that cannabis is medicine. Due to the drug war and the misinformation surrounding this herb, many people equate its use to other harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
One of the ways that activists educate the public is through direct action. Direct action is when people engage in breaking unjust laws to try and change these laws. Brownie Mary was arrested multiple times and her arrests were broadcast throughout the world by the mainstream media. People started to understand that cannabis was helping AIDS patients in ways that no other medicine at the time could. The younger generation was now able to talk to their grandparents about cannabis as medicine. The older generation was now open to this discussion after they saw the dramatic medical benefits that cannabis had for terminally ill patients.
Once the public begins changing their opinion on the medical use of cannabis, the stage is set to begin changing the unjust laws. In 1991, Dennis Peron and Brownie Marie passed measure P in San Francisco. Measure P was the first medical cannabis law in the world. Their activism changed the political climate in the City and County of San Francisco and legalized medical cannabis for the first time ever. Five years later, when the rest of the state of California saw the medical benefits that terminally ill patients in San Francisco were receiving from this medicine, the voters passed Proposition 215. Proposition 215 was the first statewide medical cannabis law, legalizing the use of cannabis for patients and giving access to this medicine to millions of people.
This is a brief overview of compassion 1.0 and the beginning of the cannabis movement. This was how cannabis became normalized and how we are now able to have recreational cannabis. It is important for us all to remember the roots of our industry and that the only way we were able to get here was through the dedication of activists helping terminally ill patients. We must always remember that cannabis saves lives.
Together We Can Save Lives!