August 26, 2014

In 1991, I joined the SF Bay Area PSR Steering Committee. I had gone to the Nevada [nuclear] test site for the first time and heard Daniel Ellsberg speak the night before we did civil disobedience. I was going to be a support person and pick people up who got arrested. Dan Ellsberg said there was no greater feeling than being able to put your freedom on the line and be arrested for what you believe in. Then he said, “I warn you, it could be addictive. I’ve been arrested dozens of times.” So I decided, that’s for me! I did the nonviolence training the next day, crossed the line, and had my first arrest.

I became an activist and was trying to figure out what more can I do. I realized that anti-nuclear work was one of PSR’s issues. I talked to Bob Gould and asked what I could do for PSR, and he said “We can use you on the Steering Committee” so that’s how I got involved.

After that first civil disobedience, I became an organizer at the test site, organizing the medical tent for the march that was happening the next year. I didn’t want to be arrested at that time, but because I was an organizer and I was holding a video camera near the line, they pulled me across and arrested me. I learned you need to step well back from the line!

This served me in good stead once medical marijuana became legal, because I knew that even if you’re following the law, you can be singled out. I got investigated early on by the Medical Board for medical cannabis evaluations. Once they looked at the case, they realized I had some of the best standards of care and closed the investigation. This led me to create standards for doctors so they could defend their actions in court and support their patients using medical marijuana.

I’ve been in family practice for 35 years, and have been doing medical marijuana evaluations since 1996. Our chapter endorsed Prop 215 [legalizing medical marijuana in California] as an access to care issue in 1996; PSR was very supportive. Unlike most cannabis doctors, I didn’t give up my day job at that point; I still do family practice. I was also a medical legal consultant reviewing malpractice cases for plaintiffs and, while I don’t do that anymore, I am still an expert witness in medical marijuana cases for patients or doctors. That’s been very rewarding. In more recent years, I’ve started to see kids with autism and seizure disorders and elders as they develop more illnesses, and have found that less psychoactive strains of cannabis can help them. I also went off all insurance and now have more time to be with patients; I’ve been enjoying that a lot more.

Highlights of my involvement in PSR have been going to some of the national PSR conferences and the IPPNW conference in Mexico City in 1992 or 1993, and being on the Steering Committee and supporting our chapter. At the conferences, I got to know Bob Gould and Ron Bieselin [Board Member] and others a lot better, and to see their commitment to the cause. It’s been moving going out to Livermore for the Hiroshima Day actions, and getting to meet some of the hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’ve also met members of Veterans for Peace and the Alliance for Atomic veterans, who were exposed to nuclear tests on American soil and were intentionally exposed to radiation to see what the effects would be.

Our chapter has expanded our mission beyond anti-nuclear issues to areas such as the healthy hospitals initiative with Health Care Without Harm. While I’m not involved directly, it’s been gratifying to see the other members and staff working hard on these campaigns.