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Rudy Reyes: Medical Marijuana Patient Turned Politician

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director November 5, 2012

    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.

    Mine too!

    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.

     

     

    6 Responses to “Rudy Reyes: Medical Marijuana Patient Turned Politician”

    1. Galileo Galilei says:

      “And what happens the day after?

      The federal government ‘will be apoplectic'” –

      I wonder if they’ll spend another 100 million dollars on anti-marijuana adds again?

    2. phrtao says:

      Can the Federal government actually challenge a state law like this? If they could why was a proposition like this even be allowed on the ballot – after all there would be no point in allowing people to vote on something they could not have. As I understand it there will be two laws – a state law and a federal law. There needs to be a test case obviously to decide which one has precedence or both may co-exist with people still being arrested by federal agents. Everyone is keeping their cards close to their chests until later this week.

      [Editor’s note: Indeed! Good questions! Cannabis law reformers have gone twice to the US Supreme Court on narrow issue of medical cannabis, in 2002 and 2005, losing handily both times. But, what did reformers really lose as there were about 300 medical cannabis dispensaries (MMD) in the US in 2005, today post ‘losing’ in the high court there are well over 3,000 MMDs?

      The issue broadly discussed is ‘federalism’, and on the issue of cannabis, the federal government asserts primacy, the courts have affirmed, but, however, seventeen states and DC have deviated from federal policy to the point of naked violation. But, it would appear if the state is a player in the MMD industry vis-a-vis taxation and regulation (such as the states of CO, NM, NJ, ME and VT currently are), then the feds largely allow the state to be “laboratories of democracy”.

      No doubt state and federal laws are in conflict with medical cannabis, and will likely be cast into even murkier legal waters with state voters soon voting for outright legalization.

      Then again, this is the United STATES of America…not just America, and the states (and local govts) generally are the central organizing force in citizens’ lives. This again is another reason why passing legalization initiatives is so important in the U.S…..to check a federal government that wants to centralize power and authority to an uncomfortable degree that does not reflect cultural or economic realities.]

    3. Anonymous says:

      not necessary. at some point the federal government must respect the 10th amendment and the law of the land. States can make their own laws and the feds need to be reigned in and gutted like a trout. Badly.

    4. Sam says:

      that is why they allowed Arizona’s immigration law to stand. oh but when it comes to marijuana, the states cant rule themselves.

    5. Not so fast... says:

      “at some point the federal government must respect the 10th amendment.” Unfortunately this is not the case. The Supreme Court has ruled several times that the tenth amendment imposes no separate restraint on congressional power. In 2005 they ruled even possession of marijuana in a home in a state with a medical card fell under congresses authority to regulate interstate commerce. I wish it were otherwise, but as it stands, no judicial solution exists to federal mj laws.

    6. Galileo Galilei says:

      “This again is another reason why passing legalization initiatives is so important in the U.S…..to check a federal government that wants to centralize power and authority to an uncomfortable degree that does not reflect cultural or economic realities.”

      Conservatives take note.

      But, it would appear if the state is a player in the MMD industry vis-a-vis taxation and regulation (such as the states of CO, NM, NJ, ME and VT currently are), then the feds largely allow the state to be “laboratories of democracy”.

      i.e. money talks. Seems like NORML is consulted for advice by politicians when it comes to marijuana reform. Are these two points part of a strategy?

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