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Act Up SF Budtenders

In my SFDA ACT-UP SF file is a July 2000 letter from Drs. Donald Abrams and Paul Volberding, leading AIDS specialists at SF General Hospital, to colleagues treating patients in the Bay Area: 

As many of you know and have experienced, the local group calling itself ACT UP San Francisco has long been engaged in a campaign of disruption and denial. You have probably heard how they have disrupted educational forums whether presented by community groups or by your peers in the medical community. You've heard of how they have repeatedly disrupted meetings of the Public Health Department and how they poured urine and feces-laden cat litter in the hair and face of Pat Christen of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. And more recently, you've probably had to spend time with some of your patients who have been caught up in their “AIDS is over, the drugs are poison” polemics.

After a period of relative quiet brought on by the AIDS Foundation's restraining order against them, they recently renewed their disruptive tactics at a meeting sponsored by Survive Aids and Project Inform where Steven Deeks was the lead speaker. This event resulted in the injury of a woman on the staff of Project Inform. Project Inform responded quickly and has already secured a temporary restraining order, while the DA’s office has filed battery and trespassing charges against them. 

You may have heard through the local community papers that they are currently taking in roughly one and a half million dollars per year from the sale of medical marijuana. It seems strange indeed for them to sell medical marijuana to help with the disease they claim does not exist. 

We are writing for two reasons. One is to provide you with the attached set of materials you might find helpful in dealing with patients who question whether HIV causes AIDS or whether the treatments are “poisons.” You are free to copy and distribute these however you wish.

Secondly, we are writing to make a suggestion as to what you can do about this situation, other than show your support for people and groups who are attacked. You have complete discretion over whom you wish to refer patients seeking medical marijuana. While ACT UP SF is indeed one such source, there are several others in the city, none of whom use their sales to foment denial and violence against and among your patience.

In March 2001 the DA’s office prosecuted the three men who disrupted the Project Inform / Survive AIDS meeting (which focused on how to best use protease inhibitors). Pasquarelli was one of the three men charged. He was found guilty of riot and disturbing the peace and given a one-year sentence. He appealed and was out on bail when he took part in the actions with Petrelis that led to the arrest in November with bail set at $600,000. As Reg Smith of the DA’s office told the LA Times, “They have been jailed before. They’ve been released. They’ve been admonished not to do anything. And they’ve done it again.”

One Comment

  1. Betsy Cawn August 5, 2020

    With apologies for nit-picky-ness, is the last word in the next-to-last paragraph supposed to be “patients”? (Contextually, seems logical; and we are seeing so much of the phonetic mashup of words in today’s crunch communications we almost feel mean for asking.) Thanks for the followup, Mr. Gardner.

    One of my good pals over here in Lake County was fully involved in delivering outreach and education during the era of the SF Free Clinic and Berkeley-based service providers led by UCSF medical practitioners. [We didn’t know each other then, my experience was peripheral at most (with many friends in the multi-cultural community of pre-“medical” marijuana joyfulness — late 60s and the tumultuous 1970s — including the Mime Troupe, Project Artaud, Berkeley Barb and the San Francisco Good Times, etc.).]

    The social confusion over “medical” marijuana and legitimate “dispensaries” was obfuscated here by the overwhelmingly Republican Chamber of Commerce machine, who relegated (by deliberate choice, not by voter default) all options to the City of Clearlake — where environmental delicacies such as “Sensitive Species” are obliterated by the city’s massive police department (63% of the city’s annual budget, and supplemented by “Volunteers”).

    We appreciate the criticism of Mendocino’s pot permit debacle, and the relentless illumination of inequitable practices imposed on marijuana propagation and production that are not demanded of viticulture and silviculture. To all of our brothers and sisters who have contributed to our psychic survival amidst the warmongering tax extractors, plagued by prejudice and actual pandemic diseases, infinite appreciation from this side of the Cow.

    P.S. — Glad to see the San Francisco AIDS Foundation is alive and well.

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