About Americans for Safe Access and Americans for Safe Access Foundation
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Americans for Safe Access Foundation (ASAF) share the mission of ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic uses and research. ASA works with our grassroots base of over 50,000 members to effect change using public education and direct advocacy at the local, state, and federal level. ASAF trains and educates patients, advocates, health care professionals and other stakeholders. ASAF also provides direct legal support and uses impact litigation to protect and expand patients’ rights.
Until ASA stood up for access, the national debate around medical cannabis was focused solely on the legality and ethics of arresting and prosecuting patients for cannabis use. That experience is real, but reflected only a fraction of the experiences that patients and this community were having on a daily basis. ASA brought the patient's voice to the table, and we shifted the debate to the real concerns of patients: legal access to medicine and patients' civil rights.
We created a vision for what safe access should look like, and the legal framework to support that vision through the passage of state and local laws and numerous court battles. Our extensive monitoring of implementation has helped thousands of patients to navigate the legal system, held law enforcement accountable for their actions, and established major policy changes. On Capitol Hill, we have fought back against attempts to further undermine our state laws, and we continue to work with members of Congress and the Administration to resolve the federal conflict.
Cultivating a thorough understanding of the complex realities "on the ground" has been the key to catalyzing empowerment and collective action. We cannot create good policy without including the voices and experiences of patients and those who provide them with access to care. That is what ASA members have brought to this movement and that is what we can bring to the states and country as a whole.
Resolve federal and state conflict on medical cannabis laws
Ensure safe and legal access to medical cannabis (therapy and research) throughout the nation
End stigma and discrimination associated with medical cannabis use and research
Cannabis has medical value.
Safe access to medical cannabis is a human right.
Cannabis is an herbal medicine and should be regulated as such.
All laws and regulations should promote and preserve biodiversity of the cannabis plant, including regulatory modifications for genetically modified cannabis.
Regulation of medical cannabis should be separated from broader legalization.
The Drug War is a failed policy, and medical cannabis laws should not increase penalties or create new crimes.
We should expand the body of scientific knowledge about medical cannabis, including research, better treatment, improved health care policies, and legal protections.
The best advocacy is done by those who are affected, so policy should be patient-driven.
ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer founded ASA in 2002 with the purpose of building a strong grassroots movement to protect patients and their rights to safe and legal access. At the time, there were only eleven medical cannabis dispensaries in the nation, and the Bush Administration had declared war on them. ASA began as a coalition of drug policy and HIV/AIDS organizations joining together in a campaign to highlight the actions of the Bush administration in California. Asa Hutchinson was the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) at the time, and so the campaign got its name: “ASA v. Asa.”
The heart of the ASA campaign was a nation-wide emergency response to federal raids in California. We created “raid-preparedness” trainings for medical cannabis providers and began organizing nationally to prepare people for action. In June of 2002, the new coalition took the offensive and held protests in fifty-five cities across the country. ASA protesters served the DEA “Cease and Desist” orders from our community.
In October of 2002, ASA organized a statewide stakeholders meeting to identify the needs of patients in California. Following the conference, we launched the CA Campaign for Safe Access to begin implementing Proposition 215, the voter initiative that legalized medical cannabis in 1996. We created our Patients Rights’ Project to educate and defend medical cannabis patients that same year. This work spread to supporting other state-wide implementation efforts around the country. ASA directly funded efforts in Washington, Colorado, and Rhode Island.
As soon as we opened our first office in Oakland, CA, ASA started receiving calls for patients frustrated by legal challenges, including confiscation of medicine, arrests, and prosecutions. ASAF created a legal hotline to help patients navigate the legal system. We also started gather important data about law enforcement activity, which helped ASA achieve important victories for patients in court. Our Patients’ Rights Project helped to protect patients in California from illegal confiscation of medicine, secure the right to have medicine returned, and establish criminal protection for medical cannabis providers.
By 2005, ASA had over 20,000 members. The work of the organization was going nationwide and focusing on more direct lobbying. ASA decided it was time to leave the fiscal sponsor, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), and become two new non-profits: Americans for Safe Access (501-c4) and Americans for Safe Access Foundation. (501-c3).
We opened our National office in April of 2006 with goals of ending the arrests and prosecutions of patients using medical cannabis therapeutics, ending the ban on research, and creating an access plan for the entire nation. We work on Capitol Hill and within the Administration to improve the federal government's understanding about the therapeutic uses of cannabis and the immediate and long term needs of our members. A variety of legislative issues have the potential to affect the lives of medical cannabis patients and researchers including the development of health policy, federal appropriations for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Justice.
In addition to monitoring and responding to these issues, ASA's National Office works to broaden support for ASA's mission on Capitol Hill, and within executive agencies and national institutes.
In 2010, ASA’s Executive Director began traveling across the country hosting six-hour strategy meetings with patients and other medical cannabis stakeholders. Each of these meetings begins with a “vision” exercise in which attendees are asked to articulate their vision of the perfect medical cannabis law. Their needs ranged from civil protections to functioning access models.
ASA took this input to our staff and advisors and created “Legislating Compassion,” our citizen-advocates guide for developing policies for our community. We also created model state and local legislation and launched the Medical Cannabis Policy Shop to provide professional assistance to local and state organizers.
While state medical cannabis laws vary tremendously, the needs of patients remain consistent across the nation. The need for accurate and authoritative information on crafting laws for patient access is growing daily. While many regulations look good on paper, their impact can be detrimental to the patients they seek to help.
Using “Legislating Compassion” as our guide, ASA staff and our advisory committees ASA can now offer patient advocates and policy makers legislative and regulatory analysis, amendments for legislation and regulations, strategy advice, campaign development and support, and targeted lobbying materials.
ASA also created a unique text and video-based online Advocates Training Center and a 300-page companion workbook to help ensure that grassroots advocate shave knowledge, skills, and tools they need to be effective in the increasing complicated filed of medical cannabis. The training center and workbook discuss medical cannabis history and legal issues. They also provide practical help in building skills in advocacy, media relations, community organizing, coalition building, and more.
As states across the country have granted patients’ rights to access medical cannabis, a new industry has formed to meet these needs. Many states and localities have created regulations to govern the location, size, taxation and even the ownership and management structures of these businesses and non-profit organizations. While these regulations are important in integrating these businesses into the local landscape they do not, for the most part, address the safety of the product being sold or the distribution model providing patient access.
In 2011, ASAF began working with the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) to create industry standards in the form of recommendations for regulators in the areas of Distribution, Cultivation, Analytics, and Manufacturing, Packaging and Labeling. These recommendations are the cornerstone of ASAF’s Patients First Certification and Education Program created to address product and distribution safety in the medical cannabis industry. The PFC program provides components for operators, legislators and regulators to promote the adoption of safe and reasonable industry standards and regulations.
In 2013, ASA launched the Peace For Patient Campaign; with the goal of ending the federal war on medical cannabis patients published the What’s the Cost report to educate federal policy makers about both the human cost and financial burden tax payers are footing for this war.
Everyday ASA and ASAF staff are on the frontlines of the medical marijuana movement working with our members to shape policy and public opinion moving toward our goals. By participating in this movement, you are helping create the future of medical cannabis in your city, state, and nation. By donating to ASA, you can help ensure that we will reach our goals!
Until there’s safe access, we are Americans for Safe Access.
Welcome to the movement.