Monday, June 29, 2015

Wounded, but NOT Defeated!

We are wounded, but we are not defeated.

On Friday, when our group received a tip that a deal had been struck by House Leadership to again stall SB3, as you would imagine, many of us just wept. Having been thrust into the disheartening world of politics, we knew all too well that this scenario was entirely believable, although we have yet to get this information confirmed.

Representative Nick Miccarelli, or as many of us lovingly call him, “NickMicc,” filed a discharge resolution to have SB3 removed from the House Health Committee, where it has been held hostage for 6 weeks. This resolution needed 25 of Miccarelli's fellow colleagues' signatures, in order to be considered. Well, that part was easy. We were told a steady stream of our House members made their way to the floor to sign on. After 40 signatures, those still waiting were turned away.

But, just as it was foretold Friday morning, Miccarelli was unable to motion for the discharge, as Matthew Baker called for a House Health Committee meeting, and session was recessed immediately. I was told later that day, by someone sitting within earshot, that as Miccarelli stood to call for the motion, the House Parlimentarian indicated to Speaker Turzai that he should not call on him. Speaker Turzai motioned to Baker. It was sabotage. is that simple.

Everything I could have ever imagined is wrong with politics has suddenly become my truth. My heart breaks over and over with the realization that what is actually happening is far worse than my imaginations. Indeed, the system is rigged. I’m seriously considering purchasing a pitchfork to ready myself for the impending revolution.

The House Health Committee unanimously voted to refer SB3, the Compassionate Use Act, to the Rules Committee, chaired by Dave Reed. Will Representative Reed uphold his end of the alleged back room deal and stall SB3 until Fall? Or will he uphold the will of the people he was elected to represent, having assured many of us that we could count on his unwavering support.

I speculate that never before has any issue caught the attention of Liberals and Conservatives, alike, in the Keystone State. Our legislators know their feet are being held to the flames, arguably for the first time in their careers. It must be frightening to suddenly realize you may be scrutinized by your constituents. I can hear the panic in your voice. “Oh crap, when did they start paying attention?” You see gang, when you try to keep life saving medicine from sick people, it makes them mad. (Insert condescending tone and eye roll here.)

We are all well aware that your seats are seemingly safe, having had the lines of your district drawn in order to keep you right there. No one ever runs against you? Oh goodie... So let's get this straight, you thought you could spend the rest of your life making up arbitrary rules? Well, we hate to burst your Gerrymandered bubble, but our fingers are on the pulse, folks. Compassion WILL trump political ideology. Maybe not today, but once the broken system is dismantled and exposed for what it truly is, we will prevail. The Will of the Almighty will prevail. We know this much to be truth. The good guys always win in the end, or at least that’s what I’m going to be telling myself.

So today, as we launch our new website, as we again face our oppressors, as we tread forward, our spirits are renewed. We find strength in each other, inspiration in the eyes of our loved ones, and in the heroes in our General Assembly who we’ve come to know and love. We are all downtrodden. We’ve grown weary from the political gamesmanship we’ve encountered. But we will never grow weary of fighting this injustice. There is an unstoppable groundswell of grassroots support for this issue. You may have thought we would give up, but this force is gaining momentum, and we’re just getting started.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Marijuana Has Done to Me

For the past year and a half, I have been advocating for the use of medical cannabis, initially for my daughter, Annie, who has epilepsy, but now for all Pennsylvanians in need. I have heard so many legislators say something to the effect of, “Marijuana is dangerous” or “It will change you.” I am writing this today because during this past year and a half, marijuana HAS, in fact, changed me. It has changed in the way I think - changed the type of people I associate with, changed how I spend my “free time,” although, as the mother of a child with special needs and a typically developing three year old boy, “free time” doesn’t happen very often. Please be aware that when I say that marijuana has changed me, I am referring to ADVOCATING for the use of medical cannabis. These changes, however, have not been the stereotypical “changes” that certain legislators were warning about.

Before marijuana came into my life, I didn’t care about politics. I just didn’t. I know some may find that appalling, my father included, but it just wasn’t important to me. I didn’t vote in the primaries, didn’t follow the “big” issues at the state level, or the federal level for that matter. Now, I can’t get away from it. Any time I see a name that I recognize, my ears perk up. Any time another candidate is announced at the state or federal level, I immediately try to find their position on medical marijuana.

Before marijuana, if I drove by a rally for medical marijuana, I would have looked at the signs and the people holding the signs and wondered why in the world “Freeing the Leaf” was so important to them. Now, I am one of those people. And, I love “those people.” I have met some of the most intelligent, bravest, most compassionate, hard-working families and individuals I have ever known...and it’s all because of marijuana.

By meeting these amazing people, I have learned to be thankful for each happy minute I spend with my daughter...because I have met children that have a much more difficult time than Annie. And at the same time, if Annie is having a difficult day, I find comfort in just knowing that others understand what I am going through because they have been there. I’m not just referring to children with epilepsy. I am including friends and patients I have met, who are dealing with other serious medical conditions.

Before marijuana, I could EASILY decide how I was going to spend “free time.” I used to enjoy going to the gym, starting a project at the house, scrap-booking or simply RELAXING while flipping through the pages of a favorite catalog. Now, marijuana comes first. Always in the back of my mind is an on-going “to-do” list, although it includes nothing from the list above. Thank you notes to supporters, emails to people contacting me and wanting more information, planning the next rally, proofreading educational materials that another amazing advocate has be distributed to the House of Representatives who MAY or MAY NOT think it is “important enough” to read. Those things are on the top of my list now.

Before marijuana, I would scroll through the TV guide and set the DVR for movies that I wanted to see or a new show that a friend told me to start watching, and then in my “free time,” I would watch them. Now, anytime something happens on the medical marijuana front, especially in Harrisburg, I set the DVR for every news broadcast on every network so I can make sure that they are reporting the correct information and I spend the evening watching them. My DVR is currently filled to capacity with all CNN’s “Weed” documentaries, as well as any “Face the State” episode that medical marijuana is even SLIGHTLY mentioned. Pathetic? Maybe. Passionate? Absolutely!

All of this occurred to me last week, as I was listening to Montel Williams speak at the capitol in an effort to draw more attention to the need for a Compassionate Use Act. He said, “Take the patient off the battlefield.” He hit the nail on the head. In my world it means, “Take the patient’s PARENTS off the battlefield.” I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. I, along with many other amazing people, are no doubt fighting a battle. And the battlefield is Harrisburg. Sure, I don’t dress in fatigues to go to this battle. I break out my most professional-looking attire, high heels, and quarters to feed the meter.

Before marijuana, I would slide on a pair of high heels to go out to dinner or another fun event. Now, anytime my three year old sees me dressed up or hears my heels clicking on the tile floor in front of the door, he exclaims, “Yep, mommy’s going to the Capitol again.” Why should he think anything different? Last year, I spent my anniversary with my husband Matt at the capitol, as we are in this together.

I LOVE how marijuana has changed me. But I would really like to get OFF the battlefield...and do SOME of the fun things that the “old Ang” used to enjoy. More than that, I would like to be able to spend my time “off the battlefield” watching my Annie play outside with her brother Matty, without a lump in my throat, wondering what our plan of action should be in the case that Annie’s health takes a turn for the worse as we await for the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a Compassionate Use Act.

So I guess it’s back to the battlefield for the Sharrer family...for now.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Thanks to Montel Williams..."You gave us your TIME, the most thoughtful gift of all." - Dan Zandra

Campaign for Compassion would like to extend our sincerest thanks to Montel Williams for joining us in our movement to legalize medical cannabis for all Pennsylvanians on June 11, 2015. We appreciated hearing his moving testimony and all of the facts that he presented that some of our current legislators have chosen to ignore. His outrage that one or two legislators are standing in the way of democratic vote matches that of our own.

We have the momentum right now. We must keep on educating House leadership, our State Representatives, and even the medical community in Pennsylvania. There is still
a great deal of misinformation to resolve. Even after Medical Cannabis legislation is passed, we will continue to educate our fellow citizens on the benefits of this medicine. Mr. Williams, your passion and conviction were inspiring! You have motivated us to keep pressing forward, to model the endurance and dedication you have shown, both in your service to our country and in your ongoing battle with Multiple Sclerosis. You have never given up or given in and neither will we.

In case you missed the town hall Mr. Williams was a part of, please click on the links below to go to the CBS 21 site and view the coverage.

Town Hall Part 1
Town Hall Part 2
Town Hall Part 3

Friday, June 5, 2015

That's True Love!

I often reflect on the path we’ve walked and think to myself, its all been worth it for the friendships alone. I love my fellow advocates in a heartachey kind of way. You know how sometimes you fall in love with someone, in the nontraditional sense of the word...Your heart literally aches to see them, to talk to them, to be close to them, and there’s nothing romantic about it? You just love them so damn much that it hurts not to be close.

Even spending a very long, frustrating day at the Capitol, listening to politicians talking politics can’t possibly erase the smile off your face as you race out of their office and immediately turn to your cohort. You erupt into a chorus of laughter as you scoff at the audacity of the legislator you just spoke with. Of course, we’ve walked out of offices and burst into a flood of tears at one time or another. But even then, even in that moment of pure desolation, you can’t help but crack a terribly inappropriate joke and your accomplice will almost fall to the floor laughing. To share laughter at the most discouraging times...That’s true love.

For Medical Cannabis Advocates, the road is long. The battle will be filled with obstructions. The anguish we feel some days is almost suffocating. However, to become enraged and frustrated with each other is the ultimate defeat. To sell each other out in the interest of preserving our own ego is to swallow the most bitter pill. Our friendships have been forged in the trenches of injustice, and to sacrifice those friendships for the sake of our own gratification, whether that pleasure be in name recognition, or in discrediting each other, is to disregard the sacred bond of unity that we claim to hold so dear.

I can’t imagine how torturous it feels to have been working on this issue for decades, as so many of our predecessors have been. For us, it feels like a life time since we held our first rally. As prolonged as this journey seems, in some regards, we’ve only just begun. Now is not the time to surrender, not the time to succumb to “activist fatigue”, and it is most certainly not the time to let our frustrations and despair cause us to turn on each other.

Some of us have lost loved ones during our journey. Cause of death: War on Drugs. I can think of few things more fulfilling than honoring their memory through our advocacy. I can also think of few things more satisfying to our opposing parties than knowing there are fractures in our community. Fractures, no matter how small and insignificant, will weaken us. But if we repair those fractures, binding them with forgiveness and acceptance, then we will move forward far stronger. Consider each fracture a test. Consider the repair a small victory. Consider the small victory a reason to celebrate. And of course, always celebrate with friends.

As for me, I will choose to be thankful that voices are being heard, even if its not my voice. I will choose to celebrate everyday that I’m still fit for this fight. I will choose to be grateful that the hand of the Almighty has guided us here. This movement will not be credited to any one person, or any one group, but rather the collective efforts of many kindred spirits. May we find peace in our travels, comfort in our friendships, and strength in knowing that we are doing good work. Blessings.