Compassionate Care is Alive Again in California

With California’s new laws around cannabis
being donated to sick and low-income patients taking effect March 1, one of the
state’s most famed providers took immediate advantage by offering free cannabis
to those in need.

The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana was the oldest operating medical cannabis collective on the planet when it was forced to close its doors in January of 2018 as Proposition 64 took effect. After operating since being founded in 1993 Valerie and Mike Corral, the collective was forced into a holding pattern when lawmakers and regulators neglected to create a mechanism for medical cannabis to be distributed for free without insane taxes.

With their free to sliding scale model of distribution to people with cancer, AIDS, MS, epilepsy and other life-threatening conditions effectively taxed out of existence, operating WAMM became financially unfeasible.

“It’s darkly ironic that after being at the forefront of the cannabis movement for decades, including facing a DEA raid in 2002 and the threat of life in prison, it was legalization that closed WAMM’s doors,” Valerie said of California’s adult-use regulations that kicked in on Jan. 1, 2018. “But we never stopped pushing back — along with our many allies in the community. And now that the laws have changed to once again allow compassionate giving, we’re pioneering a new, holistic way to offer phytotherapeutic and alternative care.”

It seemed like there would be a glimmer of
hope in 2018. Senate Bill 829 made it all the way to then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s
desk. The bill would have exempted compassionate care programs from paying the
crazy taxes that put WAMM out of business in the first place. Unfortunately,
Brown vetoed the bill before he left office.

But advocates continued to push on, including State Sen. Scott Weiner who would again file the now aptly named Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act again in 2019. Senate Bill 34 would make it to the Governor’s desk like its predecessor, but this time the man sitting there would be the leader of California’s blue ribbon commission that led to Prop. 64, Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom continued his longtime support for medical cannabis and signed the bill late last October, but he certainly kept advocates on edge.

Now four months later, the bill went into
effect on March 1. We reached out to Weiner to get his take on seeing the bill
finally cross the finish line.

“Compassion programs provide critical, even
life-saving, free medicine to low-income Californians,” Weiner told Cannabis
Now. “The idea that we would tax these programs, which don’t generate revenue,
makes no sense. We worked hard to pass SB 34 to ensure that everyone who needs
medical cannabis can benefit from it.”

Valerie celebrated the day by officially launching WAMM Phytotherapies, which will begin operating regularly in Santa Cruz at KindPeoples, a state-licensed dispensary.

According to WAMM’s press release on the
relaunch, Kind Peoples has generously donated the use of their space and
infrastructure as WAMM Phytotherapies transitions into a new home so that
eligible patients can receive their medicine in a safe and accessible location
in the heart of the city.

When WAMM provided free cannabis to 40 of its
longtime members this week, it was not only an act of compassion, but it also
served as the first step in their reemergence in their beloved Santa Cruz
community.

Khalil Moutawakkil, CEO and co-founder of KindPeoples, spoke with Cannabis Now about what it’s been like helping WAMM get back to serving their patients.

“It’s wonderful,” Moutawakkil said.“It’s
amazing. Val and eye have worked side by side on the legislative front for many
years in the city of Santa Cruz and the county. So it’s my honor, we’re
overjoyed to join forces with WAMM. And now we’re setting the standard for the
new age of compassionate care in California.”

March 1 was a date that kicked off a new era
of legalization in Moutawakkil’s opinion now that compassion can thrive and
coexist alongside wider positive reforms. He went on to note SB 34 sunsets in
five years.

“We have an opportunity to establish a rock-solid medical cannabis system in California, hopefully one the rest of the nation can follow,” he said.

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