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Dedicated cannabis and anti-drug war activist, Mickey Martin, passed away on June 20, 2017 of a heart attack at his home. To those who were close to him, this was a horrific punch to the solar plexus and to our collective work. He was gone suddenly in his early 40’s and far too soon from his family, friends and work — all of which he approached with great passion and intensity.
Though Mickey traveled extensively, he was also a very involved family man. He loved his wife, Elinor and their two sons. He was proud of his boys and his last Instagram photos are of his son Tyler’s Math Excellence Award, the family front yard garden planned and beautifully manicured by his wife, and some beaming baseball game photos of his youngest son, Lucas, whom he referred to affectionately as “Spanky.” Mickey coached his eldest son in baseball from 2009 until 2011. He did it while he was serving his sentences, and his wife Elinor adds that “It might not surprise you that he was ejected by the umpires more than any coach, ever.”
In addition to his wife and two sons, Mickey Martin is survived by his older sister, Kerri. Mickey’s parents preceded him in passing.
His foray into cannabis activism was manifold. As a teen, he decided that cannabis was much more effective for his ADHD than the Ritalin that he had been prescribed. He felt calmer and more focused on cannabis. After graduating high school, Mickey Martin graduated with honors from St. Mary’s College of California in Business.
Mickey’s father succumbed to prostate cancer after battling the disease for ten agonizing years. It pained Mickey to know that cannabis could have helped his father, but his dad refused to try it to abate the pain and hopefully help him survive because of the illegality of cannabis on the local and federal level. Mickey eventually also began to use cannabis to relieve a variety of issues like degenerative cartilage in his right knee and screws and a metal plate in his left heel. “He had multiple surgeries done on his knee, which he timed perfectly in order to get house arrest before having to eventually finish time at a halfway house,” shared his wife, Elinor. He also really liked the relief it gave him from stress as an adult. A lot.
Mickey Martin revolutionized the edible market with Tainted, Inc. in California. He was raided in September 2007 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for such products that parodied popular favorites as Reefer’s Peanut Butter Cups, Stoner Bars (instead of Snickers), Kif Kat Bar and many more. The DEA still has up their press release about and photos from the bust on their site ten years later.
According to Compassion Medicinal Edibles’ (which he founded after serving probation):
“Tainted Inc. Executive Director, Mickey Martin, surrendered to Federal agents a week after the raid following a well-publicized press conference at Oakland’s Federal building. He and three other staff members were charged with Federal crimes for their role in providing medical foods to qualified patients under California’s medical cannabis program. Two staff members were charged with misdemeanors and given probation. Martin and another staff member were charged with felonies.
After many protests and public actions on behalf of the company, the Tainted staff agreed to plea to charges that carried no mandatory minimum sentencing; the result was no jail time was given to anyone involved. Mickey Martin was forced to live in a halfway house and remain on house arrest. He was able to stay near his family and young children during his period of community confinement. His co-worker was given a short period on house arrest and probation. The very public case and fortunate resolution was a sigh of relief to the community at a time when things were very uncertain and people were being locked up for long periods for providing medical cannabis.”
As Founder of Parents 4 Pot, Principal Director at Mickey Martin Consulting/T-Comp Consulting, former Associate Editor of West Coast Cannabis Magazine, an author of Medical Marijuana 101, writer at Ladybud Magazine and blogger at his own site and movement favorite, ‘Weed Activist,’ Mickey was a lightning-worded and energizing influence in modern cannabis activism that hybridized with the burgeoning legal-ish and medical cannabis markets. He was pivotal in processing applications in several states for 13 years that achieved approval. He opened the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC), a cannabis school in Natick, MA and was fully engaged with his unimaginably large network through social media, a packed speaking schedule from coast to coast, and through the boards on which he was a member.
How the Movement and Industry Responded to Mickey’s Passing
Mickey Martin’s GoFundMe, which was coordinated and initiated by Dave Spradlin, Addison DeMoura, and Jason Anderson, to benefit his wife Elinor Clark and their two sons, is at $46,232 of a $100k goal in the beginning of September. The campaign would love to reach that $100K goal to honor his family and his work. Without them sharing Mickey Martin with all of us, we would not have made as many strides in the cannabis legalization movement.
Many donors to the GoFundMe are decades-long cannabis activists, colleagues and friends. Notably present and giving back were families who have been recipients of past Parents 4 Pot cannabis refugee support campaigns that Mickey championed, as well as families who have parents in prison for pot that P4P supported with gifts raised by compassionate donors during the annual Holiday Drive. Some of the most well-respected activists in our movement also donated and commented on the wall like:
Respected retired police lieutenant, speaker at The Law Enforcement Action Partnership and a contributing editor to Ladybud Magazine, Diane Wattles-Goldstein: “I didn’t always agree with you but I read every word you wrote.”
Founder at Marijuana Lifer Project: Ending Life Sentences for Marijuana, Cheri Sicard wrote, “I have no words. Mickey’s loss to the prisoners he helped and to the cannabis community at large is immense.”
Frank Lucido, known to the movement as Dr. Frank, the San Francisco Bay Area’s best family doctor operating in Berkeley and a true cannabis pioneer: “You are one of a kind, Mickey! He supported our Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012, and I was proud to speak at the federal building for him around the same time.”
Some donors like Joe Gerlach from Korova wrote, “Korova may have not gotten along with
Mickey, but he did a great deal for the cannabis community, and I respect that. I hope this money helps your wife and children in this difficult time.” He contributed $1000.
Cheeba Chews is selling limited Mickey and committing to a $10,000 donation to his family and Advanced Nutrients donated $5,ooo.
In Denver on June 24th, I co-organized a Life Reflection and Celebration with his close friend, Mike Hawley, Owner and Founder of Peak CBD as well as Get Seeds Right Here; cannabis activist Tori LaChapelle along with Deanna Jean, who were both founding members of Parents 4 Pot with Mickey. Generous space was donated by SoHi Gallery and HoodLAB, whose owners Adam and CiCi Dunn admired Mickey greatly. Friends and family members who reside in the Denver metro area came to pay their respects and the community came together by donating to his family, contributing a beautiful buffet for mourners, and poring over photos of Mickey’s adventures. Many people contributed stories at a time for open reflection and gratitude to the spirit of our fallen brother.
In California, Dave Spradlin of Magnolia Oakland, Addison DeMoura who founded Steep Hill, and Jason Anderson, Mickey’s close friend and CEO of Compassion Medicinal Edibles, once again came together and organized a Sunset Memorial at beautiful Middle Harbor Park in Oakland, California. His wife, Ellie, was there along with the organizers, friends and colleagues from Magnolia and River City Phoenix (both of whom hired Mickey to process their licenses), and many current and former Tainted/Compassion Edibles employees. Both Stephen D’Angelo from Harborside and his brother Andrew came. Stephen, whom Mickey referred to as “Weed Jesus” gave a “very nice speech”, according to Mickey’s close friend, Debby Goldsberry.
Out east, Russ Thetonia, Josh”Mohawk” Pisco of Mohawk Glass, and “Uncle Jack” held ‘Mickey Martin’s East Coast Memorial’ at Miller’s Homeport in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. It was Mickey’s favorite place to eat and unwind in the east. The Portuguese filet was Mickey’s preferred dish. Jack served the filet with lots of other tapas sides, which Mickey also enjoyed very much.
Hard in the paint: Brutal Wordsmith and the “Give-no-Fucks” Approach
Mickey was about the irreverent harassment of the government that was filled with a desire for accountability–appropriate levels of anger after what he had been through. Mickey believed that in order to truly celebrate the pride that citizens purport to feel, they must actually practice their rights. As such, he was not simply a cannabis activist who wanted to provide for people who used it as a medical necessity or enjoyment, he was a fervent defender of the right to free speech. Most of his social media implored citizens to employ this peaceful means of citizen action while also roasting those he found most reprehensible (or even simply annoying). Those who took advantage of patients, activists segueing into the legalization business whose backbones seemed to liquefy around money and powerful influence to hucksters, and self-proclaimed pot stars were frequent recipients of Mickey’s unique brand of criticism. He even created his own awards for a few years called the “Fuck Mickey Awards,” which lambasted industry and individuals as well as lauded those he thought were legitimately trying their best to end the war on cannabis individuals and families. Some of the recipients on the not-so-cool end reportedly contacted Facebook and had him put into what’s commonly referred to as “Facebook Jail”. He had great fun with what he believed was yet another approach and expectation of people in cannabis self-regulating or checking itself.
Debby Goldsberry Of Magnolia Oakland told Ladybud that, “Mickey Martin was the Sam Kinison of the marijuana industry. He yelled a lot, but in a way that made you want to hang out with him, and he was funny, even as he was taking down your idols and slaying your friends. Without him, we all have to turn up our own powers a notch. There are a lot of carpetbaggers, thieves, and fraudsters in our midst. We can’t be too nice, or we will become their victims.”
Mickey had an uncanny ability to zero in on people’s talents. In speaking with many close friends to give their impressions on his impact, I was surprised to learn that people I could have sworn he had met in person only knew him through the internet. He pulled on many of the movement’s most effective strings of in-the-trenches activists, but was also teaching new people about the trials and travails they would face, promising support whenever he could, however he could, in whatever shape their aspirations took them. He was a foe to some, but a mentor to many.
Vanessa Waltz, former Managing Editor at Ladybud and well-respected cannabis activist, wound up working for Mickey processing applications in many states and co-editing workbooks for the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC), and jokingly reminisced to me after he passed away, “”I was so fucking afraid of him when you first introduced us, remember? Like, OMG, what if I do something wrong working for him and he makes terrible memes about me?” Mickey loved to meme people, even his friends. Sometimes especially his friends. He really loved to have fun. “After I got to know him better,” says Waltz, “I found that behind his gruff and sarcastic exterior, he was one of the kindest and most compassionate people I’ve ever known – and one of the wisest.”
It’s quite hard even for people who knew him to encapsulate just how much of an effect he had but to say it was monumental would be an understatement. It would also be hard to tell about all of the places he helped as well as all of the jobs he had since he was such a multi-talented work-horse and mentor. His wife mentioned after his passing that she used to sometimes joke with him that he had two friends in their town but thousands around the world. He didn’t simply have followers to his very social media, he was actively involved in developing them. I don’t know he managed it all, frankly. Friend and fellow activist, Melissa Bouchard, wrote, “His work was not in vain though he, as we all have, wondered at times if it was. It wasn’t.”
Mickey Martin’s legacy will be that he inspired thousands of people who will in turn continue to inspire millions more. As Co-Founder of Parents 4 Pot, Deanna Jean Ryther mused, “Mickey continues to change lives. People continue to hear about his life, his accomplishments and his mission. I know Mickey brought a lot of people together because he had an amazing vision. Mickey continues to inspire and change lives, and continues bringing the best people together.”
Some Last Words from the The Mickey
“People who like weed and who grow plants are not criminals. We are your friends, your neighbors, the person who makes your coffee, your kid’s little league coach, and your fellow man. We do not deserve to be treated like animals and have our rights violated because of our choice to use cannabis. It is a disgusting and evil policy set forth in a time of intolerance, and the bottom line is that it has to stop.
When we step back from our egos and the image of who we believe the world thinks we are, we can more closely examine the real underlying issues and address them accordingly. Too often, cannabis activism is mired by the few who choose to make it about themselves rather than about the plant and the injustices of prohibition.”
Additional memorial and past pieces about Cannabis Legend Mickey Martin:
SKUNK Magazine: Remembering Mickey Martin
FEATURE PHOTO IMAGE and ARTICLE ©Diane Fornbacher/Ladybud Magazine Do not reprint without express permission from the author/photographer.