Saturday, November 15, 2008

Off the Grid, in the News.

Reading today in the paper about the seven-page form that the Obama staff is mailing out to anyone applying for staff positions, a firmly worded document on vetting all for not only shady loans, resumé inflation, and suspect associations to discriminatory country clubs, but now Facebook photos, YouTube videos, candid diaries, or blog revelations that may "incriminate the President-Elect," I realize again how much of ourselves we reveal through this shared medium. So, this entry today only seals my own fate for this or any future administrative appointment in D.C. Since my wife's already written about her advocacy and legal use of medical marijuana, no secrets spill out from me now.

My friend from Santa Cruz, who works for the county, sent me this long article from their Metro SC paper. I would say alternative paper, but that's probably redundant up there. He'd been there at his job when the medical marijuana was first distributed with the local government's approval to WAMM (see below for details and acronym!). This puts them, and California, into conflict with the Federal drug agents. We passed a proposition years ago, but this has been battled in court and beaten down ever since. This also reminds me how we have no politicians with the honesty to support medical marijuana and decriminalization, at least on a national level. I wonder if this will change with the new Democratic alliance? I doubt it.

Given the opprobrium that millions curdle towards any alleviation of God-given pain, and the cruelty of denying palliative care towards those who ache, I wonder why we withhold God-given plants from those who suffer. Yes, with such a sentence I betray my native state.

Still, Westerners may cotton to an ideal that allows individual pursuit of a common good over bureaucratic interference or theocratic meddling. As the blogger "Coyote" in "Diary Notes: Baby Boomers in Charge No More" back on September 5th (about the last time the race looked even) has reminded us, the failed candidates this election boasted a Western ethos. Perhaps part of the reason so many in America did not "get" McCain and Palin's idiosyncracies may be traced to their sagebrush and tundra mindset, their impatience with the usual laws and regulations. Now, as one who bitterly opposes the GOP for its laissez-faire lack of environmental and cultural protections in the name of free-market rapacity, I may shake my head back and forth rather than nod up and down, but point taken. We three thousand miles from Washington tend to distrust too much oversight. We stereotypically want to clear the lot, build the shack, shoot the moose, and park the truck. And, often, smoke the joint. (At least by hearsay, if any Federal agents review this damning evidence!)

It's easy to both admire and satirize this Northern California ethos, at least from my sun-baked "hot, brown, and crowded" terrain. Even in mid-November the glaring shimmer surrounds me with the dust and haze of a summer's day. Is it indeed global warming, or is it merely that I forget similarly unseasonal temperatures from my youth here?

Anyway, drifting in memory away towards this cooler, foggier, breezier stretch of the Golden State, I remember how different parts of this state can be. It's so large, so unpredictable, with so many microclimates, whether for hemp or wine. I tend to regard it as an endless urban sprawl, due to my myopic orientation, broken only two hours (I used to say ninety minutes) out of here finally by big farms, tall mountains, a desert or two, until you hit the ocean, which you may have a hard time seeing up close along Pacific Coast Highway 1 due to all the stucco that blocks its blue vistas. Build the (multimillion-dollar) shack.

Up in Santa Cruz County, north of that city and towards Half Moon Bay, the region has been saved from development. Farms still hug the cliffs. Lighthouses loom. Clouds waver. Winds whirl. Hawks glide.

I am inspired, scanning this piece about a hundred acres above the beautiful vistas of the coastal hamlet of Davenport. That's one of the prettiest panoramas I've ever seen outside of Ireland, and indeed I've been reminded of green and aqua and a lighter shade of brown when driving along the slower route to San Francisco. Here I'm noting context about Sogyal Rinpoche and Tibetan Buddhism in passing, finding yet another eccentric rich Englishman coming to the shoreline to seek wisdom and fund a retreat, and learning about Valerie and Michael Corral's struggle to sustain their foundation-- inclusive slash and all as "Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana." (At least it's not "Wo/Myn's.")

In an era of unpredictable change, when gay marriage gets blocked, when abortion continues to matter more than climate change to many voters, and when flag pins and who gets to be the First Dog for the White House bloat into headlines, the need for compassion-- in that Buddhist sense-- and wisdom-- in the human search-- return to remind us of essential comforts. My wife, I believe, guided by me on Mapquest by phone three hundred miles south, was directed towards the same Almar Street (same street as the Good Earth tea makers; I recommend their Original Sweet & Spicy mix, which even decaffeinated tastes wonderful, chicory and rooibois and cardomom and pepper) dispensary on a recent jaunt up to her favorite second city.

Often, I do come off cynical (a word rooted in the Greek for "dog") and sour. However, living where I do, part of me does find traces of the bold quest that has drawn so many (and so much stucco!) towards the Pacific. I hope that constant, that which impels us to work with nature to heal ourselves, can endure. This idealism proves that the countercultural legacy, and the spirit of informed quests that integrate humanity into its habitat rather than to hack and punish those who seek their own peaceful paths, struggles on, if in such blessed and privileged corners of our state. May this cause motivate others towards such goals everywhere. Here's a link to the WAMM Collective Website.

The MSC article's lengthy, but well-written. Here's an excerpt, after a DEA raid in 2002 on the Corral property destroyed 167 plants:

What happened next became a part of Santa Cruz lore. The city banded together with the Corrals and WAMM in a show of support for the club, Prop. 215 and the local ordinances that permit the use and growth of medical marijuana. On Sept. 17, 2002, the mayor, the City Council, the county Board of Supervisors and former Santa Cruz mayors gathered at City Hall with WAMM to publicly distribute medical marijuana in an act that would come to define Santa Cruz quirk. "Making medical marijuana available is an act of common sense and compassion. ... I'm standing with the Corrals," wrote Mayor Christopher Krohn in an Op-Ed in The New York Times.

"That's the tenor of this community," says Valerie with pride. "The government needs to cross out Santa Cruz on their list."

In 2003, Valerie pursued a lawsuit naming former Attorney General John Ashcroft and John B. Brown III, the former administrator of the DEA, as defendants, and was joined by six WAMM members, WAMM itself and both the city and county of Santa Cruz as plaintiffs. Although no charges against the Corrals were ever filed, the lawsuit could have major implications for the future of medical marijuana,

"We think this was an attempt to improperly hijack our state's right to make laws like this," says attorney Rice, who is representing the county. "There are so many good people in the community and supporters in the medical community and in our local government--what's happening to WAMM is a terrible, sad situation, but it's not going to mean that medical marijuana is not going to be as viable here as before."

"Paradise Lost," Jessica Lussenhop, Metro Santa Cruz, November 12, 2008.

Photo from "Join Our High-Five Club." I suppose at 4:20?

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