By: Nancy Botwin
Photo: (Left to Right) Keith Stroup, (J.D., founder of NORML), Kimberly Simms, Craig Beresh, Allen St. Pierre (Executive Director NORML and The NORML Foundation)
We caught up with Kimberly on her way to NORMLâ€™s National Legal Conference in Aspen.Â We asked how she is able to balance her many important roles in our local cannabis community.Â Kimberly is a Medical Marijuana Lawyer, a Legal Cannabis Institute Instructor and a Southern California NORML Board Member â€“when does she sleep? Letâ€™s ask and see.
Kimberly, how did you get involved with cannabis law?
I have always been interested in social and political issues as they apply to the practice of law.Â I am a long time supporter of an individualâ€™s right to use alternative or holistic healthcare.Â When 14 Stores were raided on September 9, 2009 and people were arrested and private patient records seized, I realized I had to do more than just be a â€œsupporterâ€; I had to be a vocal activist.
What aspect of MMJ Law is your primary focus?
I primarily focus on educating individuals on how to operate legal cannabis collectives or cooperatives.Â This is a tricky area of law and there are many legal issues and boundaries to consider.Â I help my clients navigate the medical marijuana laws in California.Â I also handle other civil issues arising from a patientâ€™s use of medical marijuana such as landlord/tenant, employment, and child custody issues.
How has it changed your life? Way of thinking?
The most amazing part of my job is the wonderful and unique people I get to meet.Â The marijuana industry draws from all professions and backgrounds.Â Â It is an honor to be part of such an incredible movement.Â Â Practicing in this area of law is a daily reminder that we, as a society, have no idea what kinds of problems or illnesses a person has and we cannot simply judge an individual by how they physically appear.
What do you do as the VP of the largest chapter of NORML?
My duties vary from educator and fundraiser to right hand woman of who ever needs an extra set of hands!Â I also have the pleasure of organizing monthly legal team meetings for my fellow advocates.Â NORML is also working hard to promote taxcannabis.org, encourage dialogue about the ballot initiatives, and motivate people to get out and vote!
You are becoming a local champion for a marijuana community; did I hear you are teaching as well? What do you teach at the Legal Cannabis Institute?
Teaching at the Legal Cannabis Institute is truly the best part of my week.Â I teach a class called â€œHow to Start a Collective/Delivery Service.â€Â The class is 3 hours long and I talk all about the important legal parameters and boundaries to operate a legal medical marijuana dispensary.
The two most important things we discuss in class are that collectives/cooperatives must be a closed circuit of valid medical marijuana patients or primary caregivers AND that collectives/cooperatives must operate as nonprofit businesses.
I saw you on the NBC news in June. Why?
NBC did an excellent profile of the Legal Cannabis Institute.Â Itâ€™s San Diegoâ€™s first and only medical marijuana school and it is important that people know where to go to find accurate information.
What is the biggest misconception you come across while working in cannabis law?
Unfortunately, there are still many stereotypes and misconceptions that I confront on a daily basis.
I think the two biggest misconceptions would have to be:
-All collective/cooperatives are running illegally and making huge profits.Â It takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to run a legal and successful collective.Â Until youâ€™ve seen a businessâ€™s books and talked to the managers â€“ you have no idea what is going on inside their business.Â These blanket accusations are inappropriate and more often than likely, incorrect.
-Legalizing marijuana will make it easier for kids to gain access to marijuana.Â 85% of teenagers have reported trying marijuana â€“ need I say more?
What would you like people to know about cannabis and current events in history?
It is so important that we all stay up to date and aware of things happening on the local level.Â Currently, San Diego is gearing up to draft an ordinance to regulate marijuana collectives/cooperatives.Â It is important that we all stay on top of this issue and be on the lookout for overly restrictive terms and speak with our city representatives about our concerns.Â I also cannot say this enough â€“ If you are not currently registered to vote â€“ please get registered!Â The November ballot contains four ballot initiatives related to marijuana.Â It is going to be such a close vote and this is a prime example of â€œevery vote counts.â€
Are you supporting Tax Cannabis 2010?
Absolutely!Â This is an extremely important initiative that could help close Californiaâ€™s billion dollar deficit, create jobs and most of all, law enforcement can stop wasting time chasing after recreational marijuana users and we can free up space in the overcrowded jails for the real criminals.
What is next for Kimberly Simms, Esq.?
I plan to just keep on fighting the good fight!Â I truly believe that every person can make a difference.Â I am continuing to work with Southern California NORML and San Diegoâ€™s Americans for Safe Access to help educate people, monitor the cityâ€™s progress on an ordinance, promote taxcannabis.org, and provide the best legal representation to those in need!