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Photos: Medical Marijuana Farmers Market Draws 16,000 Visitors

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Last week, we reported that there would be a marijuana farmers market in East L.A. over the weekend. What we didn't expect was a turnout of nearly 16,000 patients from all over SoCal, with thousands at a time waiting in line.

Cannabis activist and publicist Cheryl Shuman said the market was a success with a great energy among a community of patients. When she arrived at 10 a.m. on July 4, 4,000 people were already waiting in line to access the market where about 50 vendors were displaying plants, edibles, oils and all manner of medical cannabis products. When the police arrived to check things out, she introduced them to all the growers. The only negative thing she could think of that happened was one person receiving a parking ticket.

"A lot of people have this image of marijuana people as gangs," she said. "One of the things I've worked really hard at is to mainstream this because most of the real people in the marijuana industry are people who have been impacted by personal experience."

She mentions cancer and MS patients, and war veterans who are suffering from phantom limb syndrome or PTSD. Many involved in the industry, she says, are women. With medical marijuana, she says they've not only found a way to "heal their bodies," but "they're able to treat themselves with their own medicine, plus provide for their families through farming." Shuman herself became involved with activism after using medical marijuana during her own struggle with cancer.

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Shuman believes that patients have a common bond, in part because of the contradiction between state and federal laws. "Every time we purchase cannabis, we admit that we could be convicted of a felony because we choose a holistic path," she says.

It's markets like these that she and other advocates hope will change the public opinion regarding marijuana usage, showing that people from all walks of life will show up in droves to purchase medicine in a peaceful setting directly from farmers and vendors, no different from someone who drops by a traditional farmers market to buy raw honey and kale.

"We're witnessing history," Shuman said. "They talk about the dot com boom? This is the pot com boom."

The next market is getting an official endorsement from Moms for Marijuana and Shuman says they are working on bringing in speakers.

The California Heritage Market is located at the West Coast Collective, 1500 Esperanza, East L.A. The market is accessible to card-carrying medical marijuana patients every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.