Arguing forcefully and cogently on behalf of Oakland-based medical marijuana patient lobby group Americans for Safe Access, Chief Counsel Joe Elford does the dirty work, representing California’s million-strong medical marijuana users and their allies at the highest levels of the California courts. Elford is among the few qualified to defend patient rights at the California Supreme Court, having already done so once in the precedent-setting Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc. (which ruled that employers have a right to terminate an employee who tests positive for marijuana, even if he or she has a doctor’s recommendation for it). This summer, Elford will write a hefty amicus brief to defend the model dispensary regulations of Oakland and San Francisco, which could be overturned by a court ruling this fall. The Yale Law School graduate has also defended celebrity grower Ed Rosenthal in a criminal prosecution by the federal government, and compelled the California Highway Patrol to change its policy on seized medical weed. A teacher to public defenders and patients alike, Elford works the entire system to change it, and ensure safe access to the life-saving drug.