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New chapter of Americans for Safe Access in California

By Hempology | August 28, 2007

The Eureka Reporter, CA
26 Aug 2007
Renee Gusching


A week and half ago, a small group of people met in an Arcata coffee shop.  Its purpose was to discuss a topic that gets a fair amount of attention in such places.

But this group didn’t convene to exchange erudite ideas about medical marijuana; at the first meeting of the Humboldt County chapter of Americans for Safe Access, the group met to talk action.

Seated on the floor in his apartment last week, David Lawlor, the man behind the chapter’s establishment, fired up his laptop and opened a presentation outlining the group’s objectives.

The initial items on the chapter’s agenda are lofty and threefold.  The first is to get the California State University system to allow the use of medicinal marijuana on its campuses, the second to address what Lawlor said is a lack of access to physicians and marijuana dispensaries in the area and the third to work with city of Eureka officials and law enforcement to ensure state law in the city is being followed.

Lawlor, a 28-year-old Humboldt State University graduate student working to finish his a Master of Arts in Social Science, spoke enthusiastically on the topic he feels strongly enough about to start not just one advocacy group, but two.

When Lawlor arrived in Arcata in 2005 after completing a journalism degree at San Francisco State University, he and HSU student Eric Leonhard co-founded HSU’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

NORML was “pretty successful right away,” Lawlor said.  The chapter grew rapidly.

Lawlor served as chapter vice president the first year and as a special events planner the second year.  Some of the group’s early accomplishments included planning the first NORML Day 2006.  Another conference, “Race and the War on Drugs,” was held this past March.

The ASA chapter, Lawlor said, is his way of continuing to advocate for marijuana reform professionally as he nears the end of his university career.

Originally from Central California, Lawlor credits both his lifelong interest in politics and his deep sense of compassion for those suffering as contributing factors to his activism.

“Ever since I was a young kid, I was into politics,” Lawlor said.  He recalled being fascinated by political debates on television as a junior high student.

The death of his father when he was 14 years old, however, has perhaps had a stronger influence on Lawlor’s character.  His father had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteosclerosis.

“My whole life as a kid was centered around helping out my dad,” Lawlor said.

As a result, Lawlor said he has always been “more in tune to sick people or people who are suffering.”

It was years later that Lawlor found out his father had used marijuana medicinally to help ease the pain associated with his condition.

Lawlor himself began smoking marijuana when he was a college student, he said.  “In San Francisco, I was exposed to more of the cannabis scene.  I became aware of the whole medical side of it.”

Following an accident that left him with a broken right hip and forced him to take a break from college, Lawlor said, it was six months before he could limp around and a year before he was walking again.  It was during that period of recovery that Lawlor became a Proposition 215 patient.

California voters recognized cannabis for its medicinal qualities, Lawlor pointed out.  Once a physician makes a marijuana recommendation for a 215 patient, that person has the right to get it.  The challenge is how a person goes about doing that, he said.  If a patient can’t grow it themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them, they’re “kind of stuck.”

“Safe access to quality-controlled medicine is essential,” he said.

Dispensaries play a critical role in providing marijuana to patients, Lawlor added.  Humboldt Country has three dispensaries, all of which are located in Arcata.

The challenge lies in the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a schedule 1 drug with no legitimate medical use, Lawlor said.  As a result, the Drug Enforcement Administration has raided marijuana clinics, most recently getting media attention following the July 25 raids of 10 Los Angeles-area clinics.

According to its Web site, “promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research” is ASA’s mission.  It’s a mission Lawlor and a new group of local ASA members have fully embraced.

“It seemed cheap or lazy to have this law exist and reap the benefits and not become involved with the movement ( to ) assure that what people had started would stay strong,” Lawlor said.

The next meeting of the Humboldt County chapter of Americans for Safe Access will take place at 7 p.m.  on Sept.  20 at Mosgo’s.  Mosgo’s is located at 180 Westwood Centre in Arcata.  ASA meetings will take place regularly each third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.  For more information, e-mail humboldtasa[AT]

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