Feeling shaky in Sonoma.
Usually, when we work the Cannabis Cup, the days seem to fly by, as we zip dutifully from one task (or vice) to the next. But not at this year’s Sonoma Cup—this time, ol’ Helios had gone postal, and everything just dragged out all slow and sweaty and stoned as hell. After shooting for several hours in the oppressive heat, your humble reporter was just about spent. But I had one more interview to do before calling it a day: activist extraordinaire Valerie Corral.
Since first using marijuana back in 1970s to treat her epilepsy, Valerie has been a committed caregiver and pro-pot drug warrior. In 1993, along with her then-husband Mike, she founded the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM)—America’s oldest medical cannabis collective—in Santa Cruz. For decades, Valerie has fought against disease and for patients; she even fought the DEA—and won.
In recognition of these struggles and triumphs, Valerie and Mike were receiving our Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award later that night. Which is why I found myself at Valerie’s booth around 2:30 p.m., nervously awaiting her arrival, and why what happened next was especially embarrassing: As soon as I began the interview, I became very dizzy and sweaty; my heart began to race, and my knees and hands began to tremble violently.
“I’m sorry, Valerie,” I apologized, “I realize this is very unprofessional, but I don’t think I can continue the interview … I suddenly don’t feel very well.”
Now, there were several factors causing this unfortunate situation: the heat, inadequate hydration, the pulled-pork sandwich churning in my gut … and yeah, maybe I did have a few spoonfuls of medicated ice cream (which I don’t normally do while I’m working) … but that vanilla-honey-caramel cup looked sooo good, and the Beezle’s Creamery guy swore it wasn’t potent ….
In any case, all of that just added to the core problem—a genetic condition I have called “essential tremor.” You see, even under normal circumstances, my hands tend to quiver a bit. But under stress, my hands and knees can shake uncontrollably. It was this ailment—amplified by the aforementioned factors—that caused my heatstroke meltdown.
But instead of becoming disconcerted or annoyed, Valerie did what she reputedly does best: She kicked into caregiver mode, offering me water and a chair, and reassuring me that my wellbeing was far more important to her than the interview. Within minutes, I was returning to normal. I thanked her for her kindness and headed back to the High Times booth.
That night after the awards show, I caught up with Valerie again backstage—this time cool, and collected—and got the interview I’d hoped for. But I’d gotten something far more valuable: the respect of a great woman.
“It took a lot of guts to be honest like you did,” she told me. “A lot of guys wouldn’t have been secure enough to show vulnerability … I really admire that.”
At the end of the day, my meltdown acted as the catalyst, turning acquaintances into newfound friends. Thank you, Valerie, for so beautifully epitomizing the spirit of compassion inherent in the cannabis community.