Cannabis Wildcats are on the Prowl
By John Novak and Brian Grimmer January 24, 2011
One of the best parts of volunteering for community projects is getting to meet new people. Since joining up with the Sensible Washington group, I can tell you that we are meeting some of the most dedicated activists I've ever met. The issues that are raised when talking about cannabis are much bigger than recreational ingestion. It goes right to the heart of medicine, industry and food production.
We met Brian Grimmer, president and founder of Wildcats for Compassionate Care at Central Washington University. I will let Brian tell you his background and future plans...
Brian: I am a non-traditional student at Central Washington University. That means, being 42, I am older than the typical 18-25 yr old college student. I am double majoring in History and Sociology with a minor in Chinese Studies. I am currently a junior (though I am only four credits shy of senior status).
This past Thursday, I was elected president of the Central Washington Scholars Club which will represent students participating in the Robert E. McNair Scholars Program. While this group is still in the founding stage, our focus will be helping students prepare to take their GRE, a test for acceptance into graduate school. Lastly, I am also the Publicity Coordinator for the Moore Residence Hall Leadership Council where I publicize events for our residence hall on campus.
I am the president and founder of Wildcats for Compassionate Care and the Kittitas County Coordinator for Sensible Washington. Just last week, Students for Sensible Drug Policy recognized Wildcats for Compassionate Care as a chapter organization at CWU.
It is my goal to re-enter the workforce as a professional advocate and lobbyist for cannabis law reform in the United States. Upon legalization, I would then become a lobbyist for the resulting cannabis industry that will arise with legalization. Being activists for something I strongly believe in, I find that the desire to participate is there among the public.
Unfortunately, many people are still scared to even discuss their beliefs openly, let alone participate actively. That is something I hope to change. I am the voice for these people and our message will be heard. I can imagine a world where one fights wars with petitions and citizen initiatives. It may sound fanciful, but it is a cheaper and more effective way than killing people.
John: As you can see, Brian is very self-motivated and concerned about his community and his own future. We wanted to know more about the Wildcats for Compassionate Care program. So we asked for more details.
Brian: Wildcats for Compassionate Care became a club just before the Thanksgiving break. This is our first quarter that we are being active and working towards educating the students about cannabis in general as well as medical cannabis and Washington law pertaining to medical marijuana. We also hope to inform students about less controversial topics such as naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, and acupuncture, however with the amount of public energy behind the legalization movement, our focus is naturally going with this flow.
John: So what motivated you to get this program going?
Brian: As I said, Wildcats for Compassionate Care started last quarter. I got the idea while I was researching what the University's policies were regarding medical marijuana and how they handle student patients. While doing this, I overheard some students talking about getting their medical recommendations and were saying some stuff that would definitely result in their arrest if pursued.
At that point, I decided someone needs to educate these students so they don't get themselves in trouble or blow upwards of $200 in an attempt to get a recommendation when they don't qualify. Therefore, I gathered some like-minded students together and we started the group.
John: You said you researched the University's policies. What did that uncover?
Brian: My research last quarter uncovered something promising and yet disturbing. There are many sympathetic voices among the faculty at CWU. Unfortunately, to my dismay, there is not an official policy in place regarding students who are legally using cannabis as patients under Washington’s medical cannabis laws, despite their being approved by voters in 1998.
Despite intensive research, I have nothing official beyond the blanket Drug and Alcohol Policy CWUP-2-40-030. Because 17% of the university’s funding is federal, the common practice appears to be to whitewash the issue under federal guidelines and simply hope it will go away. It has been 13 years since Washington legalized medical cannabis; this is not going to go away. It is time to step up to the plate and acknowledge the rights of this neglected minority.
John: I know from experience that speaking with people in public and even sometimes in private on this issue is not always the easiest thing to do. There is so much disinformation at so many levels on this plant. How to you overcome this obstacle?
Brian: Professor Nelson Pichardo from CWU’s Sociology department has been invaluable in his recommendations regarding portraying a favorable image on the subject of cannabis. While cannabis is our focus due to the current measures in the state legislature and the upcoming initiative promoted by SensibleWashington.org it is not our only concern. The club will also be hosting events about acupuncturists, naturopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine. What all of these topics have in common is that they are an alternative to ingesting the poisons pumped out by big pharmaceutical companies: I feel we do not need pills to feel better as there are better alternatives.
John: Are you speaking as a lobbyist now or do you have personal experience?
Brian: I feel so strongly about this because I have experienced the pharmaceutical nightmare. Because of a motorcycle accident during my younger years, I have a broken L4 vertebra and the existing policies on almost every campus in the United States force me to use prescription opiates in order to alleviate my pain. Despite following the instructions of my physician and the directions on the bottle, I have twice fought off addiction to these poisons, which knock me down so hard I just want to sleep all day. Currently, I do not take anything for the pain, however on the same note; I am not very active in a physical sense either despite a great desire to be so.
John: I am glad you kicked the addiction. I had to go through some of that as a kid when taken off phenobarbitol for the seizures. Giving people information about choices is always a good thing. What what kind of turnout and support are you getting with promoting Sensible Washington and the push for legalization of cannabis?
Brian: Don Skakie the State Coordinator for Sensible Washington came to the campus on January 7 and the event was quite successful. I had to set up the event personally as a private citizen and student, as the ASCWU had some paperwork issues with the club that was preventing their ability to reserve a room during the first week of the term. Thankfully, I was able to get help from the campus Diversity Education Center to reserve a room and host the meeting. 10-12 people showed up to volunteer and learn about Sensible Washington. Several times a day I walk about the campus and hear conversations about cannabis and the positive response of students when they see our flyers on campus with cannabis leaves printed on all of them. More importantly however, in just a few weeks, more than 60 students and Kittitas County residents have signed up to volunteer with Sensible Washington and help gather signatures once the I-11xx petitions are printed and released in February.
John: That is good to hear about the support. You made a post online about being prevented from holding an educational event, “Cooking with Cannabis" and Bake Sale fundraising event back on January 20th. Can you give us more details about the issues that were used to try and stop this?
Brian: We were accused of violating the student Drug and Alcohol policy CCWUP2-40-030 for planning a bake sale in which water would be replaced with Tempt hemp milk to create some unique, yet legal baked goods for fund-raising. This resulted in an accusation against me that claimed I was in possession of paraphernalia - in this case, the mixing bowls and items I would use to prepare the baked goods. Upon meeting with Jack Baker, VP of Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management on Friday, he felt that there was no violation and expects everything to be cleared up Monday afternoon upon meeting with Richard DeShields, Senior Director of Housing and New Student Programs.
In addition, because of my efforts as a student and private citizen to set up a room for the Sensible Washington Meeting, the ASCWU BOD felt that I was circumventing their authority. As a result the club was on placed on bad status and prohibited from conducting meetings and fundraising until we came to an understanding this past Friday. We had few initial arguments over the wording of our advertisements and the educational values of “Cooking with Cannabis.” While we both vented our frustrations, we did come to an agreement on the main issue regarding the circumvention of rules and policies. The BOD has assured me that once they have our letter of agreement stating that we would abide by the ASCWU Constitution and bylaws. This was a non-issue as far as I was concerned as I felt we have always operated within the realms of the rules. I wrote the letter and hand delivered it to the BOD and got a copy stamped as received on Friday afternoon. With that being done, Wildcats for Compassionate Care will be back in good standing as of Monday morning.
John: Where did the accusations come from? Didn't they realize you were getting products bought from the grocery store?
Brian: That is a good question, the answers I have are only partial at best, and they create additional questions. Our understanding is that things started to get out of of hand when campus Chief of Police Steve Rittereiser made the decision not to allow the campus Catering Services to make brownies for us using hemp seed and hemp milk. I do not wish to cast our law enforcement into a negative light, as I truly believe they do a wonderful job here on campus in keeping us safe, but I am inclined to believe that the Chief of Police knows hemp products are legal products. Someone else made the paraphernalia accusation. Jack Baker stated that he personally was unfamiliar with hemp food products or the law relating to them. I say “was” because once I found out about the allegations, I immediately got in contact with NORML, SSDP, FIRE, and CDC as well as many other organizations, friends and supports.
John: Well, I am sure he is getting an earful now.
Brian: Oh yeah! Within hours supporter’s began to swamp Jack Baker with e-mails and phone calls. In his words, "half the world e-mailed him about hemp" and informed him of hemp's standing as a super food and a legal product. Even the president of Living Harvest, manufacturer of Tempt brand hemp milk, which we were planning to use in our baking efforts, called on our behalf. The support shown by everyone who came to our aid in a time of need is a true testament to the spirit of goodwill within the cannabis industry in America. We are all working different avenues toward a common goal.
John: Wow! That's amazing and extremely encouraging to us, especially now that we are volunteers for Sensible Washington. Who is the best person for people to contact within Sensible Washington to learn more about this initiative?
Brian: That would be Don Skakie. Don's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. He can provide you with the "meat and potatoes" information of the initiative and how to organize a chapter faster than I can. If someone is looking to start a campus organization, I can definitely assist there and help put them in touch with those who will not allow the administration say it is too controversial.
John: Yes. I've met and talked with Don personally. He's doing an incredible job and is not taking pay for it. The leadership this year is very impressive and has been extremely helpful. We are all looking forward to gathering signatures here soon. So what is next for the Wildcats for Compassionate Care?
Brian: While this past week cost us a meeting and a fundraising opportunity, it also gave us an incredible amount of publicity and helped cement our relationships with our allies in the movement. We will have a meeting on Thursday night, January 27 at 7pm. As I have yet to schedule the room, we will let you know where on campus it will be.
John: Please do. We'll be in court that day and I'll be sure to update how that goes. Anything else you would like to add?
Brian: One thing I would like to say is that our brothers and sisters at Washington State University Cougs for Cannabis Reform are very vocal in regards to their support of legalization. I believe Central Washington University will be as well. We are beginning to discuss a loose coalition that will allow us to speak as a unified voice across the state. Once we can get students past their "fear of prejudice and judgment,” I hope we can get them to roar like the Wildcats they are.
We are working hard to gather funding to allow us to be part of the 2011 Students for Sensible Drug Policy Training Conference at the University of Maryland College Park from March 17-19, 2011. At the conference we will participate in an intensive training conference that will provide students with the skills to run effective campaigns, recruit members, improve public speaking skills, work with the media and so much more.
John: I want to personally thank you for your activism and hard work. Especially for this issue as it has so much controversy around it. How can people who are not students assist?
Brian: People can assist in our fundraising efforts by donating $4.20 to our operating funds: Of course, you may contribute more or less, as your budget allows. A small and symbolic donation is all we that we are asking for. It will help us in so many ways get the word to those in in Olympia and Washington D.C.
For the last part of the question, our meetings are completely open to all in the community, not just students. We gladly welcome faculty, staff, and the citizens of Ellensburg and Kittitas County to come to our meetings, participate and learn.
If you want to send a donation to our fundraiser, make your check out to Wildcats for Compassionate Care and mail the check or money order to: Wildcats for Compassionate Care c/o Brian Grimmer 1300 N. Walnut St. Moore Hall #A6 Ellensburg Wa 98926
We also have a group on Facebook if people would like to follow us there.
John: Best wishes to Brian, the Wildcats for Compassionate Care. We also want to thank and everyone involved in the Sensible Washington.
We can do this, Washingtonians!
HEMP FOR VICTORY IN 2011!