Steph Sherer: Cannabis Patient With a Mission
By: Greta Carter
Steph Sherer is a medical marijuana patient with a mission. She has worked with community development, education, social justice, human rights, peace, social change and youth programs. She is a powerful advocate, a skilled spokesperson and an energetic initiator of campaigns. Steph is a nationally recognized activist in the global justice movement and has received several community awards for her work, including the San Diego Peacemaker of the Year Award in 2003. She is a guest lecturer at University of California, Berkeley and George Washington University, DC. Steph is the founder and executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA).
Here are excerpts from our interview with Sherer.
Dope: Regarding the recent raids on Oaksterdam:
Sherer: I woke up to my phone ringing off the hook and as soon as I found out the raid was happening, I sent the raid response network into motion. It’s important that law officials realize they are being watched by patients, individuals, the media, and there are witnesses to make sure people are safe and people can see for themselves this paramilitary action is taking place. When I arrived, there were maybe 20 IRS and DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] agents there, and as the crowd began to grow so did the number of officers. As the crowd got to the hundreds, Oakland police came down to help with the parameter. It got pretty violent and people were crying and really upset. He [Richard] is so high profile, it was really upsetting people.”
D: Any insight on why Oaksterdam – Why Richard Lee?
S: We want to believe that there is some magic formula we can do to keep us from getting raided. The details of those that are raided don’t normally give people the answers they are looking for. The truth is no matter what state you are in, if you are providing medical cannabis to patients, it’s illegal federally and they can raid you at any time. What Richard was doing in the eyes of the law is illegal. The number of people willing to grow cannabis has grown exponentially. A movement has grown up around them. We are bringing in city and county officials that are in support of what we are doing. It’s becoming more difficult for the feds to make their case. This is where we need to be.
D: Where are we in the war on drugs?
S: We have taken several steps forward, we’ve taken a couple back. We have 16 states that have changed their laws and provide some patient protection. The access piece is the hardest for people to get their arms around. The key part is you have to work with your community to make sure your community wants you. That kind of relationship doesn’t happen overnight. Like Billings, MT, 97 dispensaries opened up in a 60- day period. Small town, no one was talking to elected officials or their communities to see how to bring access that would work for patients and the community. The backlash is cities then reach out to the federal government for help.
D: Who is the face of the enemy??
S: We have a real enemy. The federal government in coordination with law enforcement, their lobbyists, and the machine of Drug Free America. They do not want to see us succeed. They are calculating and very real enemies. What gives them fuel is the lack of education out there. What I’m amazed at is when I talk to elected officials, I hear “You know Steph, we just don’t hear that from our constituents.” I thought they were lying to get me out of their office. It is their job to represent us. After that experience, you hear me ask wherever I speak, “How many of you have met with your elected officials?” And every single time less than three percent of the room raises their hands. Honestly, it angers for me. If I’m spending all this time and people can’t make a phone call or go to their public official’s office, that’s why we aren’t winning. It’s that simple; everyone wants the silver bullet or to have someone else do it for them. The truth is that medical cannabis exists today because thousands of people have talked to their elected officials. We’re not scary; we need to get that message to our elected officials.”
D: Can you comment on the movement’s varying ideas about legalization?
S: A movement is hard, it means challenging ourselves to be in rooms with people we don’t 100 percent agree with. It means finding common ground rather than the details that tear us apart. Having a realistic view of what we can accomplish, and making a commitment to each other to stay together to see all of our goals met. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We can all get caught up in the details. We need to breathe and look around and see how inspiring this movement is. I’ve never seen a group of people willing to commit federal disobediences on a daily basis to provide people medication. It truly is inspiring. We are not going to solve this tomorrow, there is no silver bullet that is going to end prohibition. If you want to see payback, you have got to get involved.”