Sunday, January 30, 2011

Notes From The ASA Call of 1/30/ 11; (Next Call 2/6/11 at 6PM)

Last night six Massachusetts activists phoned in to the conference line of Americans For Safe Access and had an opportunity to speak at length with Kristen Ford of ASA.

Kristen first checked in with us about the movement we've been meeting together to bring forward here in Massachusetts. As I listened my own understanding of all the work that has led up to our current circumstances grew. Kristen then spoke about the role that ASA might take in the development of Massachusetts' movement, as a facilitator and a supporter of our efforts to implement medical marijuana laws here, and offered to post us more information about our various options for association with ASA, so we can read up and decide what we want to do as a group.

We might choose to become a chapter of ASA, but even if we do not, if we decide to be an affiliated group  with ASA or serve as an action alert response group,  Kristen assured us ASA would be willing to share information and resources with us, through their website and with more direct contacts, to assist and support our efforts. One of the goals of ASA is to help activists all around the country in ways that ensure all of us are on point with our message, not repeating steps that have already been taken, and essentially furthering a consistent movement, not one that has to reinvent itself locally or in isolation, without the benefit of all the good work that has come before.

We talked about the upcoming ASA virtual event in February, the nation wide Activists' Boot Camp. This sounds like it's going to be a very dynamically structured two day course for activists who want to train and prepare to be uber effective when interacting with legislators. That is one of the most daunting aspects of this work, to me, gaining the confidence and poise to effectively speak truth to power. I'm kinda scared of those really powerful people!  But I know the message I want to share with them is true and of vital impotance, and I am determined to overcome my own social awkwardness if it will bring light and greater understanding of the issue to those who hold the power to change our laws for the better.

Beyond that, a conference in February  would be a great opportunity for all of us who attended the Stakeholders' Meeting in Boston to gather once again and share what we've all been up to, along with a chance for newcomers to become as inspired and motivated as  we were  three months ago, a chance to "embiggen" the ranks of our movement.

There was a powerful sense of solidarity at the Boston Meeting last November. Norman and I were so lucky to be able to attend.  A great friend got us there, since we have no car. That friend is one of Massachusetts' most tireless movers and shakers, who for years has been speaking publicly, recounting her experiences as a medical marijuana patient, testifying numerous times at the State House and in DC on behalf of patients like herself despite the formidable strain of such work and the toll of her great effort on her own serious illness. She lives too far for me to be able to visit her, since November I've only been able to reach her by phone a couple of times, but she's often been too ill to talk long and  much too debilitated to attend any of the meetings we've held... Marcy, if you're reading this we love you and wish you well with all our hearts!

It  gives me shivers when I think about this movement by and for ill people... that some of the most dedicated, talented activists among us, who have laid the groundwork for those taking on the effort at this time, are now no longer alive, and that some of us active now may not live to see the day when access to medicinal marijuana becomes safe and legal for all who may benefit. 

The ASA conference in February may be taking place in Amherst or in Worcester, later today we'll know if tentative locations we've reserved for it will pan out. I was somewhat dismayed to learn that the $75 cost of the two day conference is *per person*... That said,  I want to quickly add that I think $75 for two days of professional training is an awesome bargain, a great way to support all the  tremendous work of ASA and I understand the money is needed to offset the cost of producing and shipping all the materials developed for the training event.

Still, it's embarassing but necessary to admit that $75 dollars apiece is just too much money for Norman and me to come up with after we pay our bills at the beginning of the month. Once we've covered the rent and utilities,  splurged on mad luxuries like cat food, the computer, phone and television (my other drug of choice!) laundromat and toiletries, there's just a little, measly bit of money left over and you can imagine what that goes for! $150 represents more than our whole month's budget for the not even nearly enough medicine both Norman and myself subsist on, if and when we are lucky enough to access any. The latter half of the month is always a tough, tense time, we try not to but as the end of the month nears we invariably run out of food, meds *and* money (and sometimes toilet paper!) simultaneously...I sure wish the local food pantry would also dispense free medical grade marijuana!

We hope ASA can consider a provision of low or no charge for low-, no-  or fixed-income patients like Norman and me, who after all still passionately want to be a vital part of marijuana reform activism even though we're stinken poor. Kristen offered to bring our request to her colleagues and get back to us with what they decide.

We agreed it would be great to talk with Kristen again some time before and again after the Activists' Boot Camp. We set the time and date of another conference call with her for Sunday, Feb. 6th at 6 PM once again.

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