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Riding for Freedom – From tragedy to activism

My name is Stacey Shepherd, I am the Co-Founder of CannaSense Campaign, Board Member of Freedom Grow and the owner of the infamous CannaBus!

In the Spring of 1993, I was on top of the world in Georgetown, KY. I was doing it! Defying all odds living the American Dream!

My mother had been court ordered onto pharmaceuticals when I was 12. Within a year my mother was a totally different person, a very suicidal pill popping alcoholic in and out of treatment centers and psyche wards. We ended up living in the projects. Mostly life became chaos. I spent many days of my early teen years, attending AA and Alanon meetings for my mom, and visiting her in treatment centers. She couldn’t stay sober and keep our home a safe enough environment for my comfort when I became I mother myself, so I moved out on my own! In 1993 I was Junior in High School, an emancipated mother, that had just been awarded a national academic scholarship. I was being celebrated, interviewed, featured in People’s Magazine, etc. I was doing it, securing my future to give my daughter a better life, literally living the American Dream against all odds. In June 1993, I was sent, all expenses paid to be honored and awarded in Washington DC. On July 8 th , 1993, my daughter turned a year old. One month to the day later, right before the start of my senior year, the law killed my Uncle Gary.

On August 8, 1993, I was playing on the living room floor with my daughter when words from the news (one of the same news stations I had been on a few months before) got my attention. “Earlier today in Brodhead, KY, police were forced to gun down a crazed Vietnam Veteran, holding his family hostage
while protecting his marijuana crop” all while they were showing a picture of MY UNCLE!! Immediately I jumped up in disbelief screaming, “Oh My God! They are showing the WRONG Vietnam Veteran from Brodhead, KY with this story, that’s MY UNCLE GARY!”. My Uncle Gary, one of my favorite and safest humans in my world that would not hold Mary Jane and Jacob hostage!!! Then they showed an arial view of my family farm and I could barely breathe. They interviewed one of the State Troopers and he says my Uncle Gary came out of the trailer doing things I knew he couldn’t do with his disabled body, and I experienced shock that followed vomiting and more disbelief until I could reach my family.

Gary E. Shepherd was a Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran that loved his peace, God, and his family. That Sunday the poor state of Kentucky afforded 3 Black Hawk Helicopters, more than two dozen Kentucky State Police, and a National Guard Drug Task Force to block roads, surround my family’s farm and hold my Uncle, my Aunt, and, my 4 year old baby cousin hostage for 7 hours. Law enforcement was holding my family hostage all those hours before throwing concussion grenades in my uncle’s face and filling him full of bullets while his hands were in the air. My aunt was grazed in the head by a bullet and my cousin covered in both his parents’ blood. Law Enforcement had to clean him off before knowing he wasn’t shot also. He was screaming with blood all over his little body! YES, my cousin was that close while witnessing his dad’s murder due to 12 immature marijuana plants!

I started and finished my senior year with the Drug War cloud looming over me. Sadness, grief, confusion, and sympathy for what my family was going through was a lot to hide and conquer daily. I was fortunate to be able to sign myself out of school when I needed to. I missed more days my senior year than I had with morning sickness my sophomore year and being a new mom, my junior year combined.

My faith that had always carried me through was extremely challenged. How could God let this happen? My baby cousin quit talking and went on a hunger strike for months begging God to give him his dad back. My family was suffering. I was suffering, but I did mine mostly in silence. My pain couldn’t compare to what my family in Brodhead had to be going through. I mostly stashed my feelings down and dealt with things alone the best I could. It wasn’t easy! Activists Gatewood Galbraith and Lynne Wilson brought a lot of attention to what happened to my uncle and during the 5-year wrongful death case there were many rallies, protests, etc., in Kentucky and throughout the country to help bring attention to my uncle’s murder in the Drug War! I attended many of them, but I would just get angrier and more confused, and my family was such a grieving angry mess over it all. It was all tough! Then the court case was just dismissed.

I dropped out of college months into my first year, and within a year of that I left Kentucky with my daughter and moved to Arizona! Kentucky was just too heavy and dark to raise my daughter in. I joined corporate America, bought a house and raised my daughter the best I could while leaving the past behind me as much as I could. I had my struggles, but I maintained a happy joyful atmosphere for my daughter. I always smoked cannabis but kept it very hidden. I was a law-abiding tax paying citizen that smoked pot no matter the laws because they killed my uncle but also terrified of consequences it could mean for my daughter at the same time.

In 2010, my daughter graduated High School and we passed Medical Marijuana in Arizona. I was reminded about the cannabis college in Oakland, Ca and made plans to go. I first attended Oaksterdam University May 2011. Chris Conrad was my first instructor. During the first part of class I was learning that everything my uncle had ever said about cannabis was true and more. They broke us for lunch and announced that they had opened the Oaksterdam Museum for us to check out even though it wasn’t complete to open to the public quite yet. There, 18 years later hung a memorial to my uncle Gary! After experiencing PTSD of being right back in that living room in 1993 I was able to read the words under his picture. Then I was able to read all the smaller memorials surrounding my uncle’s story. I was learning for the 1 st time in 18 years that it wasn’t just a backwards Kentucky mishap, people had been killed over cannabis across the country for years and it was still happening. All while learning the history, politics, science, and medical value of the plant by activists that were keeping me uncle’s story alive for 18 years. I left Oaksterdam a changed human, passionate about doing all I could to help bring the truth to the people and help end cannabis prohibition for everyone. I also left determined to get my cousin to Oaksterdam to help him understand his dad more, which I did!

I continued to educate myself and share everything I learned with everyone I could. I was educating communities and helping patients all over Arizona. It was great therapy to be able to introduce cannabis into someone’s life and witness them getting better. I was doing it as much as I possibly could and it was magical. I wanted ALL Arizona patients to get their medical cards and receive the benefits of cannabis! At the same time, caregivers that were helping me help others were being raided and arrested. It was a bittersweet time in many ways. By the fall of 2011 we were starting the Canna Sense Campaign, and by the fall of 2012 I was picking up our Cannabus and touring here across the country. Around that same time, I met Stephanie Landa and was learning about court support and people serving ridiculous time for cannabis offenses. She had done time in Federal prison for cannabis and dedicated her “free” time to showing up for people and prisoner outreach. She has been quite the mentor over the years, is our founder and President of Freedom Grow, and I’m honored to be a part of her board daily!

Our Cannabus is a 1988 GMC Thomas School bus that has been turned into a Cannabis Freedom rally on wheels that tours all over the country. In February 2012 , Kristin Flor who had lost her dad in prison and activist, Carrie Boiter reached out requesting the Cannabus for a Journey for Justice court support for Chris Williams in Montana. A single dad that was licensed and legal under state law but being sentence under federal law. During that journey from California to Montana my bus was full of people that had been affected by the war on cannabis in one tragic way or another. During this journey I learned that people who had loved ones in prison for cannabis were suffering in many similar ways that my family was, with two big differences. One, their loved ones could be freed to be reunited with them physically again. There was hope. Two, at least we knew my uncle was in a better place. Their loved ones were in prison and that was a harder pill to swallow daily for these families than death in many of the circumstances. Advocacy for our cannabis prisoners and their families became much of my activism. There’s nothing that I can do or any law that can change to bring my uncle back for my cousin or heal his traumatized heart. It’s been evident the past couple of years that YES our work and public cries are finally being heard, and it has been possible to help free some of our plant prisoners and reunite them with their families!!

This past year it was quite the gift being with the Delisi family for 5 months when Richard DeLisi was released from state prison in Florida. I was with them when President Trump released a dozen more of our people spending life sentences for cannabis. All stories that have filled our Cannabus windows for thousands of miles over the years. 2021 was a good year for cannabis freedom but it is never good enough as long as anyone is still in prison for cannabis. There are still children separated from their parents, and hearts broken due to loved ones being in prison for cannabis. With the known truths regarding cannabis, it truly is cruel and unusual punishment to keep anyone in prison for a plant that heals a myriad of ailments!

My Uncle Gary Shepherd was a purple heart war veteran that survived a foreign war and died in the war here at home. Honoring our human casualties, our cannabis prisoners and their families as war veterans have been super important to me this past decade. This past year we finally had our first event to do just that, our 420 ConVets Fishing Tournament. We hosted more than 20 Cannabis War Veterans and their activists in Florida, and it was great and it’s now an annual event!! The family connection and community growing among us is unstoppable and the love shockwaves are powerful, renewing my faith that good can triumph over evil.

Activism and advocacy is such hard and lonely work with plenty of heartache and devastation along the way, but the rewards are priceless. Each time a patient can experience cannabis or get legal cannabis for the first time is always such a treat! Every time someone is freed from prison and reunited with their family my heart is so filled with joy for them which helps my happiness grow! Helping our Plant Prisoners and their families is beginning to be the trendy thing to in the cannabis industry which is long overdue and I’m so grateful! I know with every bit of my heart and soul that ending the war on cannabis and setting our plant prisoners free will help grow a healthier more loving world for ALL OF US!!! My heart hurts daily that I haven’t got the trailer in Brodhead, KY that’s full of bullet holes bulldozed down for my cousin yet, but it will happen! So will ending federal cannabis prohibition and the release ofall of our plant prisoners. Ending the war on cannabis, which is a war on we the people! Godspeed!

To learn more about how you can help our Plant Prisoners and their families, visit FreedomGrow.org and CannaSenseCampaign.org.

I am the niece of Gary Shepherd, a Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran, who was filled with bullets and murdered by Kentucky State Police and a national drug task force in his front yard, all over twelve cannabis plants in 1993.

I am the niece of Gary Shepherd, a Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran, who was filled with bullets and murdered by Kentucky State Police and a national drug task force in his front yard, all over twelve cannabis plants in 1993.

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