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Leading Cannabis Activist Mike Brennan: Advocate & Patient

Mike Brennan is a New Jersey cannabis advocate and patient. He serves on the board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey (CMMNJ) and the board of Garden State NORML.

Brennan has been a patient for several years and an advocate for even longer.  He is disabled and walks with pain. Brennan suffered an accidental injury that resulted in lasting nerve damage. His medical marijuana (or clinical cannabis) helps him cope. Initially, Brennan used opiates unsuccessfully to treat his pain.

After seeing many doctors, a neurologist jokingly suggested clinical cannabis before it was legal. He subsequently did a great deal of research. Brennan had access to a medical library in Philadelphia where he poured over studies and found cannabis could help.

Brennan finally received his clinical cannabis card in 2013. His adorable aid dog, Stella Blue, a miniature Dachshund, is often by his side, seeking to help or simply enjoying his company.  Brennan and Stella live in Moorestown in South Jersey. 

Medical Cannabis Issues

New Jersey’s medical cannabis program leaves much to be desired. As a cannabis advocate, Mike Brennan bemoaned the sales tax on medical cannabis. 

“It’s the only medication that’s taxed,” Brennan said, though it is getting phased out over the next two years. However, there are ways to get discounts for some strains, Brennan noted. But specific strains patients need as medicine can be hard to find.

New Jersey is the most expensive place for clinical cannabis, Brennan noted. He criticized Curaleaf especially and their subpar cannabis.

Thus homegrow is necessary, Brennan argued. CMMNJ is strongly in favor of homegrow. Homegrow was initially part of the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA). However, it was taken out at the last minute, much to the dismay of advocates. The State Senate had passed a version of CUMMA that included homegrow. But none of the State Senators who voted for it have defended it since.  Brennan is in favor of homegrow since he believes growing itself to be therapeutic and relaxing. As an outpatient at a spinal center in Philadelphia, Brennan said he watched patients grow regular plants and saw how it benefited them.

He hoped New Jersey’s program continues to improve as it has. Brennan said that Germany has an excellent clinical cannabis program. It grew to 153,000 patients in its first six months, he said.

Mike Brennan as a Cannabis Advocate

Brennan was the first person who testified for New Jersey’s medical cannabis law CUMMA in June 2009 as a cannabis advocate patient with chronic pain.  While there, he met Ken Wolski and Peter Rosenfeld of CMMNJ. After a couple of years, he began working with them by tabling and speaking at events. His favorite part is meeting the public at fairs and discussing the benefits of clinical cannabis one-on-one. 

In addition, he has been a member of NORML for a while and commended their leadership.

As a leading advocate, Brennan has been to many protests. In addition, he has lobbied at the New Jersey statehouse and on Capitol Hill as part of NORML.

November Third Referendum 

Mike Brennan is eager for the legalization referendum to pass. However, like many, he criticized the strange wording of the question.

“I’m looking forward to the results that I’ve gotten from this medicine to be available to other people without them being persecuted,” Brennan said. 

It was illegal to begin with due to racism and politics Brennan noted. 

“If not for racism, weed would not be illegal,” Brennan said.

Reflecting on the history of cannabis prohibition, he noted “marijuana” was Mexican slang for the plant, which prohibitionists then adopted to malign its use. (More on that in Cannabis 101!) 

Of the legal recreational states, Brennan said not one mentioned social equity nor racial justice in their drives to pass legalization. In stark contrast, New Jersey advocates are pushing for it to be central to legalization’s implementation.

According to the ACLU, 94 people a day are arrested for possession. Brennan said $145 million is spent each year on prosecuting possession charges in New Jersey.

Once the law gets passed, cannabis advocate Brennan theorized it would take 18 to 30 months before legal cannabis can be purchased in New Jersey. Nevada and Illinois took about seven months to implement while it took California and Massachusetts closer to two years.

“I can’t wait!” he exclaimed. “You should be able to walk in, order what you want, and walk out. If you’re 21 years old, why not?” he asked.

Brennan criticized private prisons and the drug rehab industry for backing prohibition measures and stalling legalization.

“Nothing changes the mind like a family member getting epilepsy or cancer,” Brennan noted.

(This article is based on a podcast I host on a monthly basis)

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