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Patient Advocacy Network was founded in 2006, by a group of medical cannabis patients dedicated to protecting patients’ rights and safe, affordable access to medical cannabis.  Patients had not had a voice in cannabis policy until then. PAN changed that.
PAN has trained thousands of medical cannabis patients and caregivers
about how to effectively engage the democratic process and how to protect your rights during a law enforcement encounter,  As a result patients have had an impact in getting medical cannabis regulations passed.
There is still much more work to be done.
Protect Compassionate Care
Prevent over-regulation, over-taxation on medical cannabis
Remove Cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act…
PAN is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization.  Please support our work.
  Degé Rosillier Coutee


Degé Rosillier Coutee is President of the Board of Directors of Patient Advocacy Network. She directs the organization's education and advocacy programs and has an extensive background in the non-profit sector as a social services director, teacher and activist.  She grew up in East Chicago and attended Purdue University first in the sciences but ended up completing degrees in English literature, professional writing, creative writing and theater with additional emphasis in sociology and education.  Degé began providing education, training and advocacy for medical cannabis patients nearly 25 years ago and coordinated the country’s first medical marijuana conference at Purdue University in 2001.




She escaped the ivory tower and began a career in education with at-risk youth and emergency services case management for the homeless. Degé has provided services for disabled/abused children, transitioning prisoners, victims of domestic violence, mental health patients, intellectually disabled adults, recovering addicts, AIDS/HIV patients, indigent elders, veterans, international refugees and other vulnerable populations. She has taught pre-school, elementary and high school students, directed after-school and summer programs, mentored the Purdue Women's Basketball team, facilitated weekly seminars for welfare recipients and conducted civil rights workshops on college campuses.




Degé is a long-time environmental activist and social advocate having worked with: Medical Marijuana Task Force of Los Angeles as patient advocate; Homelessness Prevention Network of Tippecanoe Co. and Indiana Chapter of NORML as Education Director; Greenpeace, Hoosier Environmental Council, Vallejo Community Plan Renewal, Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance as phone canvasser/door canvasser/signature gatherer; Alliance of Berkeley Patients as Campaign Manager for local voter initiative; and Sierra Club – Wildcat Chapter as an editor; as well as theater and radio.




An auto accident injury to Degé’s neck and back in 1992, lead her to try cannabis while withdrawing from hard pharmaceuticals. Cannabis is a regular part of treating the pain, spasticity, migraines and other symptoms associated with her ongoing spinal nerve compression syndrome. “Cannabis is gentle and effective. I’m productive, not debilitated. No one should go to jail for that,” she states.




Degé then started creating and distributing educational materials about medical cannabis and contacting her local legislators about the efficacy of medical cannabis and the economic importance of industrial hemp.  She soon found herself serving education director with the Indiana Chapter of NORML where she coordinated the country’s first medical marijuana conference at Purdue University in 2001.




Soon after relocating to California in 2002, Degé became the Social Services Director for the Bay area’s largest dispensary at the time where she ran all of the patient programs, her favorite being the Compassion Program where to the collective provided free medical cannabis to their most vulnerable members. Degé has helped draft medical cannabis regulations for several communities and has run a number of successful political campaigns to pass voter initiatives supporting safe, affordable access for patients.  




Soon after the passage of S.B. 420 Degé became inundated with patients seeking honest and reliable information on how to safely establish and run a medical cannabis business.  Since then she has consulted with thousands of operators or potential operators in the medical cannabis industry, and has providing training to tens of thousands of patients on protecting their rights and engaging the democratic process. She is also a court-qualified expert witness in medical cannabis industry compliance and practices. 




Degé founded Patient Advocacy Network in 2006, with other patients that were concerned that the patient’s perspective was not being considered in the storefront dispensary and cultivation regulatory discussion.  The group founded Patient Advocacy Network to teach patients how to be effective self-advocates, spokespersons and stakeholders in cannabis policy. PAN has developed a number of trainings and workshops to give patients and caregivers the tools they need to feel safe and be effective when working with local officials, and help patients get the most from using cannabis for their respective medical conditions.




On her spare time Degé likes to garden, write and care for her pets.   

Debbie Tharp


Debbie Tharp started early in the world of cannabis politics. Her first political action was joining the Libertarians and NORML at age 17 to help a local cannabis-friendly candidate’s campaign.




She earned her Associate’s from College of the Sequoias, her Bachelor’s in Psychology from University of California, Irvine, and is currently in her second year at Taft Law School in pursuit of her Juris Doctorate.




Debbie stepped up her cannabis advocacy after her husband was able to relieve his intractable nausea and vomiting from dialysis with smoked cannabis. In just a matter of months, he went from hospice care and a literal death sentence to healthy enough for a kidney transplant, which he received in 2008. Debbie literally credits cannabis for saving her husband’s life when all other pharmaceutical efforts failed--so she really likes weed.




Once her husband’s health crisis was resolved, Debbie jumped head-first back into politics by serving as the first secretary Young Americans for Liberty, UCI and secretary for the Orange County Libertarian Party while running for State Assembly on a pro-cannabis platform.




Debbie has qualified several pro-cannabis ballot initiatives, written a few others, and served as a proponent for MCLR, a legalization alternative to Prop 64. She is still fighting for fair regulations to this day.




“We cannot rest in this fight as long as there is still one person in prison for a non-violent cannabis crime. We can’t rest as long as there is still one patient denied a vital medical procedure because they dared use cannabis to treat their illness. And we definitely can’t rest until the business side of cannabis is secure, fair and sanely regulated.”

Richard Kearns

In Memoriam


Our Beloved Richard Kearns 1951 – 2012




i shoulda died




longtime ago so


everything troublewise


i conjur is pure






AIDSwise in dog years


(mad in the noonday)


that’s alotta sauce


even for me . . .








Richard Kearns is a 60-year-old gay man alive with AIDS in Los Angeles for more than twenty years. He is a long-term survivor. He considers his intercommunity advocacy to be as much of a part of his HIV treatment regimen as his big pharma HAART (highly active anti-retroviral treatment) prescriptions, as much as his Qigong breathing exercises (from of Traditional Chinese Medicine), as much as his daily medical cannabis use.


”It’s what I do to stay alive,” he says.




Kearns is a proponent of “cultural activism” as well as political activism, a notion he developed from first nations’ political theory. “Our aim must be to change hearts,” says Kearns, “and to do that we need to tell our stories, paint our pictures, add our presence to the social mix. Not simply bandy about statistics or half-baked generalizations. Not merely be outraged at injustice. We need to speak from the authority and detail and power of our own experiences. Ours must be the flesh and blood of public health care policy discussions. We need to be a cultural presence. Nor can we expect anonymous visibility to be very effective. What does it take to change a heart? What did it take to change yours?”




*    AIDS activism & cannabis advocacy --- Kearns was infected with HIV in 1980 and diagnosed in 1987. His primary tool of AIDS and cannabis activism is his blogsite,, then which he calls a cross between “poetry and journalism,” and in which he writes about his life from where he stands or sits, from time to time. He is also a member of SCHAC (Southern California HIV Advocacy Coalition), an AIDS lobbying organization at the state level, and a member of Being Alive, Los Angeles. Kearns considers his PAN (Patient Advocacy Network) service and board membership a part of his AIDS activism. He has also been a presenter at many POZ Life Weekends for the Life Group LA, an empowerment group for persons facing the challenge of HIV infection, not only as a qigong instructor, but also as a storyteller circle leader and lecturer.




*    publications specialist --- Kearns is a writer, editor, photographer, graphic designer, teacher (including adjunct instructor of Journalism at Loyola Marymount University for 12 years before retiring), writing coach and poet, working in the industry for nearly forty years. His blogsites, have entered their fourth year of publication. Kearns also specializes in niche marketing, computer-generated high-quality four-color low-print-run publications with high per-copy specialized of “niche” readership (such as poster-newsletters). He has published “too much fiction and non-fiction to keep track of.”




*    conference & event planner --- Kearns has been a conference and seminar organizer for different non-profit organizations for 20 years. These have been at the national, regional, state and local levels, monstrous multi-session things down to single meetings and storefront activism sites.




*    public speaker --- Kearns is at ease in a university classroom as well as in front of a microphone and a crowd. He has read his poetry to and addressed different city councils & administrative bodies throughout the southland on cannabis as well as AIDS issues, including the city councils of Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Lawndale, San Diego, many LA neighborhood councils, city committees. He has spoken with legislators in Sacramento about AIDS and medical cannabis issues. Kearns has also spoken on panels and organized local town hall meetings on the topics of his activism




*    exercise expert --- Before Kearns was a political/cultural activist, he was a gym activist, earning ACE (American Council on Exercise) certifications first as a group exercise instructor and then as a personal trainer. His ACE specialty certifications include working with pregnant & postpartum women, the elderly, and HIV-positive populations. Kearns taught weekly Qigong classes for Being Alive LA and for the Life Group LA’s POZ Life weekend for many years. He set up training programs for HIVers in several area gyms, and presented on the topic at different exercise seminars.




Kearns read his journalism-poetry Friday mornings at Lulu’s Cafe, 7149 Beverly Boulevard, (Beverly & Detroit), Los Angeles 90036, a virtual public artspace, meetingplace and hometown/npo for a diverse, inclusive community of activist artists, thinkers and persons whose aim is to compose, record, document, listen to, reflect upon, feel, communicate and “mythologize” our aids/hiv stories and experiences, intending to create a cultural context for social change, and thus to be a significant pro-active voice in all health, social and environmental public-policy-related decisions by offering wise counsel drawn from our accumulated visions.”

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