Rudy Reyes: Medical Marijuana Patient Turned Politician
Undoubtedly most all cannabis law reformers’ eyes will be fixated on both the presidential election (a contest between the former leader of Hawaii’s Choom Gang and expert in ‘total absorption’ or the quintessential and self-described “square” who has never touched a drop of alcohol or cannabis) and the six major cannabis-related voter ballot initiative questions.
However, after meeting medical cannabis patient Rudy Reyes a number of years ago at a NORML-related event in California (Rudy is one of the heroes of the 2003 Cedar wildfires, where, unfortunately, in helping others escape Rudy suffered third degree burns over most of his body. Not responding well to conventional medicines he found that applying a topical solution made from cannabis worked well), I’m going to pay close attention tomorrow night to an otherwise insignificant and minor election for mayor in Santee (a suburb of San Diego), where Rudy is bravely contesting the re-election of the twelve-year incumbent.
Documentary filmmaker and Huffington Post contributor Harvey Stein is working on a documentary about Rudy Reyes and other medical cannabis patients in Southern California still struggling to safely and legally use cannabis for medical purposes over fifteen years after the passage of the state’s historic Prop. 215.
You can learn more about Harvey’s medical cannabis documentary here and below about how tomorrow’s historic votes may impact America’s cannabis consumers and a potential ‘Mayor Rudy Reyes’ in his most recent Huffington Post contribution.
Marijuana’s Watershed Year?
Allen St. Pierre, the Executive Director of marijuana reform organization NORML, told me that this year “the number of people getting to go into a voting both and pull a lever to change marijuana laws is unprecedented.”
Voters in 3 states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) are deciding whether to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults, and three more (Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana) whether to allow medicinal use of marijuana (adding to the total of 17 states that already allow that use).
St. Pierre sketched out to me briefly the arc of increased mainstream marijuana use in the United States: through their writing, beat generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac popularized – especially for those considering themselves “bohemians” – a drug that was then mostly a drug of musicians.
Then the Vietnam War provided access to many thousands of American soldiers, including minorities, who needed emotional release after days full of bloody combat.
Then in 1996, California voters proclaimed their state the first to allow medical use of marijuana (for conditions ranging from cancer to chronic pain). Since then, hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana users have “normalized” how people view marijuana. Right wing critics have complained that some of these medicinal users are “gaming the system,” but the fact remains that not one of these users in 17 states has ever died from an overdose of marijuana.
St. Pierre drew parallels with the long arc of alcohol legalization, noting that Kansas only legalized alcohol sales in 1959. He said this week’s polls show at least one state (Washington) will probably vote for legalization.
And what happens the day after?
The federal government “will be apoplectic” – the Feds will probably immediately seek a court injunction saying that Federal law prevails over state law. In the worst case, a judge might rule for a permanent injunction – but then Washington state could counter, by keeping a law on the books against marijuana possession, but reducing the monetary penalty to zero.
Another election day race related to marijuana is taking place in the San Diego suburb of Santee, where well-known medical marijuana patient/activist Rudy Reyes is running for mayor against 12-yr incumbent Randy Voepel.
Reyes is a “local hero” who barely survived the 2003 Cedar wildfires, with 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body. In the burn unit, on his doctors’ advice, he tried eating marijuana, which proved to be an effective substitute for the daily morphine, which was having serious side effects. Later, he discovered that THC cream applied frequently on his skin helped relieve the pain of the scar tissue.
I’ve been following Reyes for several years as part of a documentary project on Southern California medical marijuana patients. Reyes has been honing his political skills for more than 7 years, first taking on the right-leaning San Diego County Board of Supervisors. The Board is known for, among other things, petitioning the California Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 215, the law that made medical use of marijuana in California legal.
Read the rest here. November 5, 2012