Stereotyping, Discrimination and Segregation for Using a Natural Medicine: Absurd or Accepted?

By: C. Roots

Every day more and more people are choosing to use natural non-toxic remedies such as medical cannabis. As the side effects of pharmaceutical medicines grow, patients are expanding their options with various alternative therapies.

California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. This gave medical cannabis patients protection from criminal prosecution in the State; however, it does not provide any civil protections. Almost two decades later, medical cannabis patients are still facing stereotyping, discrimination, and segregation for choosing an alternative medicine.

GREEN-CROSSStereotyping: Just the other day, when I was at a birthday party for my child’s friend, I was faced with an uncomfortable situation in which I was stereotyped. This is just a small example of how people are being looked down on for taking responsibility for their health. One of the mothers asked what field am I in. I told her I am a medical marijuana patient’s rights advocate and I am the managing board member of a local medical marijuana dispensary. She laughed and replied, “If you want to sit on your couch all day getting stoned and watching TV that’s alright with me, I’m just not into it.” At first I was taken back and didn’t know what to say. I don’t even have a TV and I definitely don’t use cannabis to get high. I actually work to educate people on how to use the least amount of cannabis to cover their symptoms. So I responded, “There are many stereotypes of medical marijuana patients out there. I actually work to educate people on the correct uses of cannabis and advocate for more regulations in the industry. Oh, and I don’t have a TV” I went on to explain the long list of illnesses and disorders that our patients suffer from. The never-ending work I do is to educate the public and government on their plight. I thought to myself how much easier it would have been to just talk about my other job as a yoga instructor.No-Discrimination

Discrimination: That little uncomfortable situation is minuscule compared to the discrimination that many patients suffer on a daily basis throughout California. There are currently no laws on the books that protect patients’ rights to their housing, to jobs, and to healthcare. As it stands, medical cannabis patients can be fired or evicted for using cannabis medically based on a doctor’s recommendation. They can lose their access to health insurance, pain relieving pharmaceuticals and organ transplants just for choosing to use an herb to alleviate their symptoms. With my positions on the boards of Sacramento Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Sacramento Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, I hear many sad stories of patients being denied jobs, housing, and healthcare.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for people to abuse marijuana or to use it while working. I just believe that those patients that use it to relieve the symptoms of legitimate illnesses and disorders should not be treated differently than a patient using a standard pharmaceutical for the same symptoms. Patients are in desperate need of an Assembly member or Senator to step up to bring forward a bill to protect patients’ rights throughout the State.

Segregation: Within the State of California, every City and County has the responsibility to regulate land use, including where medical marijuana dispensaries are located. Many of the more conservative City Councils and County Board of Supervisors have voted to ban dispensaries within their borders even if their citizens voted in favor of Proposition 215. These bans deny patients their right to access their doctor-recommended herbal medication. The majority of the slightly more open-minded governing bodies have opted for segregation. By enacting ordinances that position dispensaries on the outskirts of town in industrial zones, patients have limited safe access. Out of the bounds of public transportation, financially challenged patients are left without any legal means to obtain their medicine.

Cityseal-color1_000The City of Sacramento has one of the most extensive regulating ordinances in place within the State, allowing for approximately 25 dispensaries. The City Staff took two years to write their ordinance. The ordinance requires each dispensary to undergo a rigorous permitting process with random inspections and audits as well as following a long list of rules to stay in operation. These stringent regulations still allow the dispensaries to operate in commercial zones similar to pharmacies. This gives patients safe access to secure, professional businesses who provide lab-tested medications. With many of the dispensaries being close to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals, your grandmother has safe places to access medical cannabis if she chooses to use it.

Over the last century we have seen so much progress in regards to ending stereotyping, discrimination, and segregation for minorities of many different groups. Because of this, I have hope that someday a medical marijuana patient will just be classified as a patient. Someday, patients will not be looked down upon for using a safer, more natural remedy. Someday, I will not be laughed at for standing up for those that are too sick or too scared to stand up for themselves.

April 8th 2015 General Meeting

Here’s a 40 minutes clip of the April 8th 2015 General Meeting.
Guest Speaker Hezekiah Allen from the Emerald Growers Association.