Truly CompassionateBy Jake Browne
Today’s activists may spend most of their day online, writing emails and forwarding petitions to legions of followers, ramping up support without ever leaving their homes. While these modern conveniences certainly help keep many informed, one Colorado Springs woman is combining the power of the Internet with good, old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground protest.
When Audrey Hatfield founded Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights (C4CPR) in 2009, her main resource to reach out to others was an unconventional one: Facebook.
“[It’s] the best free networking tool available. Right now we have around 620 people in the group,” notes Hatfield. “We’re not going for quantity, though. We’re going for people who are truly interested in activism and the patient standpoint.”
Becoming a patient in 2009, Hatfield started attending events around the Colorado Springs area with the intent of connecting with other patients. It wasn’t long, though, before she noticed a need that wasn’t being met.
“I realized there wasn’t any program for patients that needed help, especially ones that are on low and fixed incomes. I started the organization with my own money . . . even though I didn’t have any,” Hatfield says with a laugh.
Between her own medical issues and working to support herself and C4CPR, she started reaching out to dispensaries to see if they’d be willing to lower the cost of medicine for patients in the program, asking them to commit to at least two qualified patients. She also sought out physicians offices that could work with potential red card holders, offering a sliding scale for their fees. The work was arduous.
“I process all applications myself for privacy, and I average about 50 requests a month for physicians’ services, dispensaries, or both,” she explains. “Without my board members, doctors’ offices and dispensaries, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”
Since applying for nonprofit status in November 2010, Hatfield has only added more to her plate. Defending patients’ rights means more to her than simply helping get them get access to discounted meds, and she proves it with regular protests against Colorado Springs District Attorney Dan May, as well as others.
“The first person we protested for was Jay Sanner in 2010, and since then we’ve protested Elisa Kappelmann Ali Hillary, Bob Crouse, and we’ll be protesting for Ernesto Encina, [who has] a trial coming up in February.”
The Encina trial is one that Hatfield finds a particularly egregious overreach of May’s power. “He had less than one-third of a joint in his ashtray. He doesn’t smoke and hasn’t smoked in over a year,” claims Hatfield. “You’re really going to spend over $200,000 to prosecute someone who is a patient over this?”
Many of those who have faced prosecution also face hefty legal fees, even when acquitted, so C4CPR has also stepped up to raise funds for defendants such as Bob Crouse, a 63-year-old chronic lymphocytic leukemia sufferer, as well as helping families cover portions of burial expenses for patients who passed due to their condition.
Now, Hatfield eyes the next legislative session and the likely reintroduction of DUID—driving under the influence of drugs—bills that have been shot down numerous times at the state level. She sees these limits as particularly dangerous for patients.
“I think to have a limit set where people are actually impaired, I would really [like to] see patients exempt from any nanogram bills,” she says.
With over 60 volunteers and 30-plus dispensaries in her network, the state should look out for Audrey Hatfield and C4CPR.
CULTURE interviewed Bob Crouse in 2011 for our “Profiles in Courage” feature. At the time, the patient suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia summed up his experiences in this way: “I usually introduce myself as a patient who is being prosecuted for trying to survive a life-threatening disease with an alternative, less accepted means of medical treatment.”