Guide to Organizing Court Support
Marijuana is not just medicine in states that have Medical Marijuana laws. Medical marijuana patients are getting arrested, going to trial, and going to jail all over the country. As advocates, it is our job to highlight these injustices both in state and federal courts.
Federal laws make it difficult for patients and caregivers to speak out about medical marijuana because of fear of harassment, arrest, and imprisonment. That is why supporting someone whose use is already in the public eye is a good way to bring this crisis to your community's attention.
Hundreds of Californian medical marijuana patients went to jail before the law changed in 1996. Several of these patients and caregivers stood up in the public eye and pointed out the injustices facing them, which helped define medical marijuana's place in California politics.
What is court support?
Court support is a group of tactics used to support a patient or caregiver while they are going through state and federal legal systems. It is important to understand as activists, we posses a toolbox of tactics we can use. Just like any tools, it is important to decide which tools are appropriate for any situation. Listed below are some examples. You may want to use some or all of them depending on the situation. Remember the health and safety of the defendant must ALWAYS be your first priority.
- Get all the facts straight: Before you contact the press, make sure you have a first or at least second-hand account of what has happened. Get contact numbers for the defendant and anyone they would like to speak on their behalf: their attorney, family members, local officials, doctors etc. Make sure to let the press know you help them with interviews.
- Contact local media about case: Either immediately following the raid or a week before a hearing you should send a press advisory to your local press outlets letting them know that a medical marijuana patient has been arrested and is awaiting trial.
- Press Release: Before a courtdate, hearing, or any other relevant event it is a good idea to send a press release at least 24 hours in advance. A press release lets the press know who, when, where, and what. Press releases have very specific formats, so if it is your first release, check out ASA's media manual for tips and tricks of the trade.
- Backgrounder: Medical marijuana trials can be very confusing for the public and press. It is a good idea to have a one-page handout to give to the press that explains the specifics of the case, information about the state laws, and information about the state-federal conflict.
- Press Conferences: Press conferences should only be between 10-30 minutes long. Having a MC can help keep things moving. Make sure everyone knows the speakers order, only have a press conference when there is something NEW to say, make sure someone helps the press set up and get all the interviews they need, and don't forget signs and visuals!
If you need help or advise on contacting the press please call ASA @ 510-251-1856.
- In the courtroom:
Fill the courtroom with supporters...
If you need help or advise about organizing please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Outside the courtroom:
- Protests and rallies: Get creative! Street theater, easy-to-read signs, marches, pickets, and large puppets can deliver a complex message to the public and to the press. Trials can run for weeks, so if you want to keep something going, mix it up for attendees so they will want to come back.
- CAUTION: Be aware of laws concerning Jury tampering. Do not hand out information about the defendant once jury selection begins or during the trial.
If you need help or advise about organizing, please email ASA: email@example.com.
- Emotional Support
Going through the legal system can be both financially and emotionally draining. Awaiting a trial can be a lonely and frustrating experience. If we are to build a strong, vibrant movement, we must make sure we do not let anyone slip through the cracks. Sometimes people need an ear, sometimes a ride to court, or childcare for their children. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask what they need. It is important to only commit to what is viable for you.
When should use court support?
Court support should be used anytime a medical marijuana patient or caregiver is arrested anywhere in the US. A defendant or even your community may decide that a specific case may be too cloudy for the local political landscape, and media may do more harm than good. If this is the case you can still do everything else but contact the media (protests, presence in the court, emotional support etc.).
Why do court support?
- Organizing opportunity: Court cases create a crisis in a community and for many supporters court support gives them an opportunity to move from a quiet supporter to an active supporter.
- Community Awareness: Court cases create an opportunity to educate your community, local media, and legislators about the injustices surrounding medical marijuana.
- Bring the issue home: Court cases give patients/advocates the opportunity to localize and put human face on the issue of medical marijuana. To many people medical marijuana seems like a simple policy matter until they learn of a community member facing jail for their medication.
- The fate of the defendant: Simply, judges and prosecutors are less likely to screw people in public.
Who can do court support?
YOU and anyone who cares about the persecution of patients!
How do you find cases to support?
- Keep an eye in the paper for local pot busts
- Put out flyers
- Stay in touch with people in the medical marijuana community
- Hold medical marijuana town hall meetings
PLEASE REPORT ANY MEDICAL MARIJUANA CASE TO AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS!
A jury has the power to decide the issues of law under which the defendant is charged, as well as the facts. In our system of checks and balances, the jury is our final arbiter for justice. Check out our resources for legally educating jurors.