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Honoring the Legacy of Michigan Advocate Zahra Abbas

We are very sorry to report that Zahra Abbas (35 years old) has died. The death of a community member is incredibly devastating for the cannabis community.

On July 28, the Michigan Democratic Party Cannabis Caucus for which she was the Chair, announced her death. “Without Zahra the Cannabis Caucus would not be what it is today and the world is a lonelier place without her presence,” the Caucus wrote online. “Our deepest condolences to her family and friends. We know she touched many all across this great state and beyond.”

Abbas, a well-known advocate for cannabis was herself a patient and tried to spread information about the medical benefits of cannabis. “Zahra was dedicated to teaching the world about the health benefits of cannabis and helping lead the progressive movement action to remedy the catastrophic consequences of the war on drugs,” the post continued. “Zahra was frequently failed by our healthcare system and cannabis prohibition that would at times deny her the only medicine that could bring her seizures under control.”

Detroit’s Metro Times reported on Zahra’s passing, describing an interview they conducted with her In 2017. At the time, she suffered from daily seizures that were not solved through brain surgery or prescription medication—but cannabis was a game changer for her.

“As soon as I started it, within a few days my seizures stopped,” Abbas told Metro Times in 2017. “Before I started looking into it for epilepsy I was very much against marijuana because there was so much misinformation around it. I had to choose between that or another brain operation to manage my seizures. … Turning to cannabis was kind of my last resort.”

To help others use cannabis, she signed up to get signatures for legalization ballot. “I’m doing this because I think more people should have access to cannabis because it helps all people,” she told Metro Times. “It should be everybody’s right to use it,” she added.

However, her journey in the cannabis sector was just beginning. As her activism grew, she was later elected vice chair and then chair of the Cannabis Caucus. She also served as Vice president for the Detroit chapter Motor City NORML. Her role was instrumental in the commute of Michael Thompson’s sentence. Thompson had been convicted for a marijuana crime and had spent 60 years behind bars.

Jamie Lowell was a friend and advocate. Metro TimesAbbas tried to quit marijuana at one stage to get through a drug testing for a new job. But her seizures returned. “She soon had a major seizure and vowed to not quit again for anything,” Lowell said. “After resuming, she was again seizure-free. This was her powerful and amazing testimony.”

Speakers at a rally featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, which was held in Pontiac, Michigan on July 29, took a moment to honor Abbas’s memory. Rep. Rashida Tlaib called Abbas “an incredible warrior.” “Her heart was full of love for community, and there wasn’t a cause that she did not take on … 100%,” Tlaib said. “She was one of our biggest advocates for health care and access to alternative approaches, including cannabis … and she never gave up the fight. It will be a great loss to her. I know that she is with us today.”

Also present was Dr. Abdul El-Sayeda who previously ran for Michigan governor in 2018, whose spoke about Abbas’s selfless dedication to the cause. “She took her pain and she used it to bring people together, to fight for all of the things that she herself was denied, recognizing that it could have been anyone else,” El-Sayeda said. “She took that pain and decided to make the world that much better.”

“Zahra didn’t have very much time, but Zahra put all of herself into the time she had,” he added.