One of the most impressive stories coming out of the cannabis reform movements this year was a story that happened this month in Oakland, California. I am talking about the Gun Buyback Program that was developed and funded by Purple Heart Patient Center. The dispensary worked with local law enforcement and non-profit groups to sponsor a program to buyback guns, no questions asked, for $200 a piece. The program was very successful and ended up taking in over twice the guns that were expected, and the dispensary did not bat an eye when asked to double their contribution from $50k to $100k to meet the demand.
Now I know that this is one of many great stories of dispensaries and other groups putting forth goodwill efforts to improve the communities where they operate. This has been one of the many blessings of an industry working to find its identity through community involvement. But the reason this effort sticks out to me is because I have seen directly the positive impact this program has had in a City where gun violence is the norm and not the exception.
I actually found out about the program prior to knowing it was being sponsored by Purple Heart. A neighborhood watch group in North Oakland gave me a promotional flyer for the program, which at the time I was excited about just on its own merit. When I found out it was funded by a medical cannabis organization that I was a member of and whose work I truly respect, I was ecstatic. Why? Because in a city ravaged with gun violence, and where there are still skeptics of medical cannabis even in this most liberal stronghold, this story made it easy for people to connect the dots, and see how medical cannabis organizations can be good stewards of their local community, and help fund efforts that literally save lives.
Did Purple heart save a life this holiday season with their gun buyback program? Maybe. I may even go as far as probably.
The holiday season can often be a real struggle for some folks. I have had a friend take his life on Christmas before because his depression was magnified and he found himself a little drunk, a lot depressed, and with easy access to a .357 Magnum. It was a recipe for disaster that took one of the better musicians I have personally known off of this planet in an instance. Would this have happened if the gun was not there? Possibly…but more likely it would not have.
So as I read about those 600 guns being taken off of the streets and out of the hands of folks who may have used them to hurt themselves, or someone else, I was deeply touched. Life is precious, and if this program even maybe could save one life, if not hundreds, it was a huge success.
Above and beyond the call of duty…that is what this program represents. It shows that when a group can use its resources to make real differences in the communities in which they live and operate, that we can move mountains. It shows that when we do our part, that we can make real and impacting contributions to the world. Can you imagine if every dispensary in California, or even America sponsored a program to buyback 600 dangerous guns? Talk about impact.
Here is the story ran by the SF Chronicle on the gun buyback program….read it carefully and ask yourself, “Am I doing my part to make the world a better place.”:
Gun buyback program funded by pot club
Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, Chronicle Columnists
Updated 4:38 pm, Saturday, December 22, 2012
It turns out that last weekend’s big Oakland-San Francisco gun buyback – which took more than 600 firearms off the streets – was bankrolled in large part by a $100,000 donation from a medical pot club.
“It’s part of the philosophy we practice called capitalism with a conscience,” said Keith Stephenson, the low-key executive director of Oakland’s Purple Heart Patient Center.
The unique blending of pot and policing began one afternoon outside Oakland police headquarters a few weeks back when Stephenson bumped into Capt. Ersie Joyner.
“He said he wanted to make a contribution to the community for the holidays,” Joyner said.
The usual suggestions, such as food and toy drives, didn’t interest him much. “I wanted to do more than buy a few turkeys for the holidays,” Stephenson said.
Noting that the holidays also usually mean an increase in armed robberies, Stephenson suggested a gun buyback.
Joyner worked the idea up the police ladder, but it quickly became clear that the cops could not be directly involved with anything having to do with pot – medicinal or not.
So the idea was hatched to run the buyback through Oakland’s Youth UpRising and San Francisco’s Omega Boys Club – with the cops coming on board only to help keep an eye on things and to dispose of the guns.
Stephenson, 44, a former airline mechanic who turned to marijuana to help deal with his arthritis, put up $50,000 cash. The plan was to pay $200 per gun, no questions asked.
No sooner did the twin events get under way Dec. 15 – one day after the Connecticut elementary school massacre – than it became clear the cash was going fast.
“The cars were stretched longer than the fan line to a Raiders game,” Joyner said.
A call was to made to Stephenson, and within 45 minutes another $50,000 arrived.
Stephenson isn’t overly worried that his actions will attract the attention of the feds, who appear bent on driving pot clubs out of business.
“I just felt the public needed to know that medical marijuana can have benefits besides just paying taxes,” Stephenson said. “Hopefully, this might spread to a national buyback day.”