Historic California Collective Looks to the Future 

Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana

“It takes connecting to heal each other, it takes a village to heal the village, and it takes that village to heal a nation.” – Valerie Corral, WAMM


In 1993, a full three years before Californians voted to approve Prop. 215, which authorized cannabis as medicine in the state, Valerie Corral and her husband, Mike, created the non-profit, Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, or WAMM, in Santa Cruz, California.

The couple has farmed cannabis since 1974 to treat Valerie’s epilepsy after Mike found a study allegedly buried by then President, Richard Nixon, in a hospital office.

Valerie said she was then encouraged to use cannabis by the late California physician Dr. Tod Mikuriya. Dr. Tod, as he was known, was hired by the U.S. Government in 1967 to debunk Dr. Raphael Mechoulam’s findings of cannabis as medicine, after Mechoulam’s team isolated the compound THC at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel in 1964. Dr. Tod failed the task, and spent the rest of his life advocating for the plant, and co-authored Prop. 215 in 1996 with Valerie on the team.

“Dr. Tod was a revolutionary and a hero,” Valerie said. “He walked away from the financial security and respectability of a physician in America and spoke the truth, uncovering the lies behind the failed laws surrounding this plant.”

WAMM is the longest running cannabis collective in the country, serving Santa Cruz’s sick in a co-op-style environment, where work and medicine are shared, and no one goes without.

“We needed to create a place where patients could access medicine whether they have money or not,” she shared. “Of course, we need to meet the cost of production, but you must understand – there are patients who have mortgaged their homes to pay for traditional therapies like chemotherapy.”

Patient’s pick-up their remedies via flower, tinctures, oils, lotions and medibles during weekly meetings where information is shared and education on healing is provided. The collective hosts a membership potluck once per month, and Valerie said, “that’s where the real healing takes place.”

“What the potlucks do is provide a sense of community within the collective,” Valerie explained. “The weekly meetings drive data collection and conversations about the bigger picture of health. It’s not a ‘take two of these and call me in the morning’ process. No one is standing with one hand on the door knob with a hurried explanation of why you are sick.”

Valerie insists it takes more than prescribing a pill to heal a community. The regular Bingo competition is prescribed for fun. It’s a fiercely competitive and bonding treatment, and if someone fails to show up, a welfare check follows.

“It takes connecting to heal each other, it takes a village to heal the village, and it takes that village to heal a nation,” Valerie surmised. “When you are sick and poor you don’t have funds to eat well, and if you aren’t eating well, your chances of healing lessen. We also work with the food bank, which works with local organic farmers. It’s a whole foods and whole medicine process to wellness within our community.”

In light of California’s recreational legalization, Valerie fears the nurturing collective model will disappear. The state is already combining recreational rules with medical, and many fear the model that’s worked so well for patients and farmers alike will be contested by those in the commercial sector.

“I changed my language a few years ago for legal reasons,” she explained. “I don’t say medical marijuana any longer – it’s all Phyto-therapy, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to prison for practicing medicine.”

After several raids, the farm and its collective model are grandfathered in by the State of California; but they are the only collective in the state with these protections, due to a lengthy court battle.

“Collectives aren’t going to be protected,” she said. “The only way small businesses can withstand a corporate takeover in cannabis is by banding together. Monsanto is already working with GW Pharmaceuticals in Great Britain on GMOs under a licensing agreement with the U.S. for medical use,” she furthered, “Amazon just applied to be a pharmacy and CVS will be selling cannabis. The corporations won’t have to compete with dispensaries, they will put them out of business.”

Valerie is in the process of applying for six different types of licensing out of 13 available, per the Adult Usage Act (AUMA). She said she has no option but to go commercial, and is calling for a cannabis trade union in order to save the small cannabis farm and thriving cottage industry.

“It’s time to go Cesar Chavez!” she encouraged. “The good fight won’t be over until patients and farmers stop being put in prison for a plant via technicalities of limited legislation. The impact of legalization will be profound. Unless you know someone with money or can get a private loan to upgrade, you’ll be left behind.”

With a low estimate of 5,000 small cannabis farms in Santa Cruz, and less than 800 applications received for county permits, it’s safe to say, the majority of its cannabis providers will continue to be persecuted for lack of compliance.

“The farmers who can’t afford to buy into this industry are the very farmers who built it,” Valerie informed. “They made it possible for billionaires to have a place here now. Why should legalization create criminals?”                   For more information, visit WAMM.org

Emerald contributor since March 2012


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