ASA National Policy Agenda

END FEDERAL RAIDS, INTIMIDATION AND INTERFERENCE WITH STATE LAW.

The are now 41 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia representing more than 300 million Americans that have passed laws authorizing individuals living with a serious or chronic illness to use and obtain some of of medical cannabis therapy as recommended by a physician. However, these state laws differ from the federal law and leave patients and their providers vulnerable to federal raids, arrest, and prosecution. Many state and local governments have been working overtime to fully implement their state laws to curb abuse and create the appropriate systems to carefully regulate and control the distribution of medical cannabis to authorized individuals in their communities.

Effective implementation of state medical cannabis laws is stymied by federal interference. The U.S. Department of Justice together with the Drug Enforcement Administration has conducted scores of enforcement raids and employed intimidation tactics designed to undermine the implementation of state and local law. The importance of state laws, and the protection they provide, is underscored by the reluctance of the federal policymakers to address the issue of medical cannabis in a meaningful way. Until the Congress and the Administration create a comprehensive national medical cannabis strategy, individual states should not be obstructed from responding to the public health needs of their citizens. 

With 80% of states having some sort of medical marijuana law, this idea has increasingly support among state legislatures. In fact, the National Conference of State Legislators passed a resolution in 2015 calling for the federal government to allow states to set their own marijuana laws without interference from the federal the government. 

ESTABLISH FEDERAL LEGAL PROTECTION FOR INDIVIDUALS AUTHORIZED BY STATE OR LOCAL LAW TO USE OR PROVIDE CANNABIS FOR THERAPEUTIC USE.

The United States Supreme Court, in Conant v. Walters, upheld a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that physicians have a Constitutional right to recommend the use of cannabis to their patients. Unfortunately, federal law specifically prohibits the use of cannabis - even for therapeutic purposes. Outdated federal policies significantly impede safe and legal access to cannabis; most patients have to break federal law and place themselves (or their caregivers) in unnecessary and potentially harmful circumstances in order to gain access to cannabis legally recommended by their physician.

Currently, the Department of Justice has prosecuted several hundred licensed medical cannabis patients and providers. Unfortunately, federal defendants are forbidden from presenting evidence at trial their marijuana-related activities were for therapeutic purposes and in compliance with state law, limiting their ability to present a defense in federal court. Congress and the Administration should amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt state-legal medical marijuana conduct from federal interference.

ENCOURAGE ADVANCED CLINICAL RESEARCH TRIALS THAT MEET ACCEPTED SCIENTIFIC STANDARDS.

In 2015, the Obama Administration finally removed the Public Health Service review process for marijuana that prevented meaningful research from being conducted in the United States, yet many barriers to research remain. Federal law clearly requires adequate competition in the manufacture of Schedule I and II substances, but since 1968 the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has had a monopoly on the supply of cannabis used for legitimate research purposes, yet in 2015, NIDA went on record before Congress saying that the monopoly should no longer be continued. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration imposes NIDA's monopoly by refusing to grant competitive licenses for the production of research-grade cannabis, so the monopoly will remain in place until either the DEA/White House or Congress takes corrective action.  In 2007, U.S. Department of Justice-appointed Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner issued an Opinion and Recommended Ruling which concluded that granting competitive licenses would be "in the public interest." However, neither the Bush nor Obama Administration's have taken action, and the Administrative Recommendation have been in limbo by remaining pending.

Congress and the Administration should work to remove the political and bureaucratic obstacles that inhibit clinical research and instead should create incentives to conduct research in accordance with the Institute of Medicine's recommendations.

CREATE A NATIONAL MEDICAL CANNABIS STRATEGY THAT INCLUDES A SAFE AND LEGAL ACCESS PLAN

A scientific consensus supports the therapeutic use of cannabis to control symptoms of serious and chronic illness. In the past decade, clinical research has clearly demonstrated that the use of cannabis, and its constituents, can safely and effectively treat symptoms of serious and chronic illness like nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, pain and spasticity.

The science and policy regarding the medical use of cannabis should not be obscured or hindered by the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana for general use. Scientific consensus coupled with state leadership has provided a solid foundation for federal policymakers to create a comprehensive plan to support long-term solutions for safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

ASA's National Policy Agenda for the 114th Congress (PDF)