Court Cases‎ > ‎

State of California v. Sister Somayah Kambui

posted Feb 22, 2013, 2:48 PM by The Editor   [ updated Jun 6, 2013, 2:22 AM ]
Medical marijuana pioneer Sister Somayah Kambui publicized the use of hempseed oil and cannabis to treat sickle-cell anemia.  Sickle-cell anemia is a debilitating disease in which round red blood cells get deformed into a "sickle" shape, blocking blood vessels, causing intense pain, and damaging organs due to lack of oxygen.  Sickle-cell disease rarely affects anyone without African ancestry; as such it primarly strikes the African American community and is largely unknown by the American public at large.

There is no cure for sickle-cell anemia; morphine is the standard treatment for the debilitating pain of the disease.  The use of morphine has produced thousands of medical junkies.  Marijuana, however, works as a vasodilator, opening up the blood vessels, allowing the hook-shaped cells to move freely.  Marijuana also provides analgesic pain relief in addition to physically relieving the blockage in the blood vessels. If marijuana is substituted for opiate-based medicines, patients can obtain more effective relief and avoid narcotics addiction.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Black Panther Party, Sister Somayah Kambui received treatment for sickle-cell disease at the local hospital, where she would drink a small cup of morphine, then be told to come back in two days for another dose.  "I couldn't do anything on the morph," Sister told High Times reporter Peter Gorman. "And neither can a million other people. That's why you see so many middle aged and older black folk sitting on stoops looking like junkies.

"They are junkies. They're US government junkies."

According to Peter Gorman, who received an education in the disease from Sister Somayah, "About one out of 12 African-Americans carries the recessive gene that causes it; the gene apparently helped carriers survive malaria." 

Kacj Herer & Sister Somayah - 2002 Los Angeles Global Marijuana March

It has passed largely under the radar of medical marijuana activists, but as a California resident with the benefits of Proposition 215, Sister Somayah was able to establish the patients' group Crescent Alliance Self-Help for Sickle Cell to provide marijuana to other sufferers of the ailment.

Sister Somayah was raided five times for marijuana cultivation following the passage of Proposition 215. Her backyard garden was uprooted and seized twice in 2001.  After her acquittal by a jury on all felony charges in early 2002, her garden was again raided by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  After she lost her garden and spent painful days in jail without her medicine, the D.A. declined to press charges. Another raid of Sister Somayah's garden prior to the harvest in September of 2002 left her without cannabis or hemp oil, resulting in a flareup of sickle-cell symptoms that put her in the hospital on morphine for two weeks.

In October 2003, Sister Somayah's garden was raided by the DEA and a dozen plants were uprooted, with no charges immediately filed.  California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer denounced the raid as a "mean-spirited, gratuitous attack on a seriously ill woman who has been judged guiltless by her peers under California law.  Like other victims of DEA's medical marijuana raids, Somayah was targeted because she was a vocal, legal patient activist who was a thorn in the side of the law enforcement establishment."

Sister Somayah Kambui produced the first Los Angeles Global Marijuana March with fellow activists in 1999, acting as executive producer of all subsequent marches until her death in 2008.

Rest in peace, Sister Somayah Kambui.

Last updated February 22, 2013 by Lex Libreman for WEED WARS: United States v. Marijuana.

Sister Somayah's Original Tune to the District Attorney


California NORML. DEA Raids MMJ Garden of L.A. Patient Sister Somayah. California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 18 Oct. 2003. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>.

California NORML. LA Jury Acquits Sister Somayah of Medical Marijuana Charge. California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 18 Mar. 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>.

Gorman, Peter. "Med-Pot Activist Sister Somayah Kambui In Hot Water Again" High Times, 12 June 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>.

Gorman, Peter. "SISTER SOMAYAH KAMBUI: Burning the Bush for Sickle Cell." High Times, 17 Dec. 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>.

Hardin, J. Nayer. "Our Sister Somayah Kambui Is Gone?" Web log post. Hemp For Victory Now!, 29 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>.