Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Registration for the California Citizen Lobby Day, June 14-15, in Sacramento will begin this week. This two-day event will be the biggest and most important lobby day yet. We will have workshops on local regulations and voter initiatives, special legislative briefings, citizen lobbyist training, and much more. Be sure to respond to the registration announcement when it arrives via email. ASA will make an appointment for you with your state representatives or staff on Monday, June 15.
There is a time-sensitive action alert for California patients and advocates this week. Please send an email to your state Assembly Member to support AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act. The Assembly could vote on that bill to end discrimination against medical cannabis patients in the organ transplant process at any minute.
Thanks for helping! Read all the medical cannabis news from around the state, learn about upcoming events, and more in the California Weekly Roundup for Monday, April 27, 2015.
Congress to Vote on Veterans Equal Access Amendment for State Medical Marijuana Programs - Americans for Safe Access
This week, perhaps as early as Wednesday, the U.S. House of Represenatives will be voting on the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which sets the budget for the Veterans Administration (V.A.). Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom Reed (R-NY), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) are planning to re-introduce the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would allow veterans to be able to obtain medical marijuana recommendations from their V.A. physician. Although the amendment failed in 2014, it received 195 YES votes, which at the time was the most any piece of medical marijuana legislation had received in the House.
Last week, an attempt was made in the full Appropriations Committee to add the Amendment to the bill in committee. However, Committee Chair Hal Rogers and others quickly rallied a sharp party line vote (see bottom for vote recap). While this spelled defeat for the Amendment in committee, it does not mean that the Amendment is doomed. To ensure it's success on the House floor, ASA is launching an action alert for members to call and write their House Representatives urging them to Vote YES on the Amendment.
Under V.H.A. Directive 2011-004, V.A. physicians are explicitly forbidden from being able to fill out recommendation forms for state medical marijuana programs. This means that veterans who are dependent on the V.A. for their health care are denied equal access to state medical marijuana programs. The VEAA would forbid the V.A. from using any funds to punish physicians who write state-legal medical marijuana recommendations. In doing so, the VEAA would allow veterans to have safe and legal access to medical marijuana in states that allow its therapeutic use under the recommendation of a physician. Veterans with PTSD and chronic pain who rely on the V.A. for their healthcare are not being afforded the same access to state medical marijuana programs as their non-veteran fellow residents. With 22 veterans or more committing suicide each day and an estimated 25 million veterans living with chronic pain, it is unfair to deny them a physician-recommended treatment option that those who did not serve have greater access to.
Here are what veterans are saying about the Veterans Equal Accecss Amendment:
Take Action Washington: Make sure the 502 fix bill is also a fix for patients! - Americans for Safe Access
We just learned that as early as this morning, the Washington State Senate will be voting on House Bill 2136. The bill’s purpose is to fix issues plaguing the implementation of Initiative 502.
While we were able to create a separate licensing structure for medical cannabis businesses in 5052, HB 2136 would only exempt patients who sign up for the registry from sales tax, still burdening patients with a 37% excise tax.
In the wake of the third installment of CNN’s Weed documentary series Dr. Sanjay Gupta is upping the ante suggesting it’s time for a “medical marijuana revolution.” Dr. Gupta sees signs of revolution everywhere and isn’t equivocating about what he wants saying, “We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now.”
We couldn’t agree more. However, since there are so many subjects that can’t be fit into one hour of television it’s worth asking what would a medical marijuana revolution really look like? What would get in the way? On April 20th ASA hosted a Google Hangout to discuss Weed 3 and a three key themes emerged:
When asked if he supported the CARERS Act, in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta last night, President Obama said “I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue…” The President was talking about groundbreaking bipartisan legislation that would end federal interference in medical cannabis in California and other medical cannabis states. His comments are another sign of how far we have come. Read more about the President’s interview, an important case in federal court, bills in the state legislature, and local developments around medical cannabis in the California Weekly Roundup for Monday, April 20, 2015.
You can hear more about what the President’s comments do and don’t mean in a Live Google Hangout tonight. The program will feature ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, PA State Senator Mike Folmer, medical cannabis researcher Jahan Marcu Ph.D, U.S. combat veteran and activist with Grow for Vets Matt Kahl, and Weed 3 participant Dr. Sue Sisley. Join the interactive event live from your computer or mobile device tonight at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/asa_live
Be sure to read ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer’s blog about our 13th birthday!
And finally, don’t forget to email you California Assembly Member in support of AB 258. A vote on the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act in the State Assembly could come at any moment this week.
Today is the 13th anniversary of the founding of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has become the nation’s largest and most influential patient advocacy group. ASA wants to say a very special thank you to the members, donors, and volunteers who have helped us accomplish so much!
We’re getting a big birthday present today. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has brought stories of everyday Americans that obtain essential benefits from medical cannabis products into the living rooms of millions of Americans, is broadcasting Weed 3 on CNN tonight 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT. We expect this broadcast to have a big effect on the national dialog about medical cannabis. You can talk with an all-star line of medical cannabis experts about the program and its significance on a Live Google Hangout tomorrow, April 20th, at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT.
Grassroots action can yield surprising results. Just one week after medical cannabis patients and advocates were on Capitol Hill talking to lawmakers, two congressmen sent the Department of Justice a letter telling them to cease prosecuting medical marijuana cases.
That letter from Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) is another example of why we had honored them as 2015 recipients of Americans for Safe Access Excellence Awards on the last night of our third annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference.
Every year at our annual conference, ASA honors individuals and organizations who have made extraordinary contributions to advancing the cause of medical cannabis. As cosponsors of the budget amendment that forbids the DOJ from spending tax dollars interfering with state medical cannabis laws, they deserved our recognition as Elected Officials of the Year, along with Senator Barbara Mikulski, who shepherded the historic amendment through the conference committee.
As many of you know, Senate Bill 5052 sailed through the Senate concurrence process with a vote of 41-8. With the legislation poised to hit Governor Inslee’s desk in a matter of hours and a five day window to make needed changes to the bill NOW is the time to make your voice heard!
Washington It’s Not Over Yet. Ask the Governor to Use His Veto Power to Protect Patients! - Americans for Safe Access
First, a heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who took action on the advocacy alert ASA sent out on Friday. Your efforts helped fuel a sizzling closed-door discussion in both the Republican and Democratic Caucuses that dragged on for hours, sparking the robust debate we witnessed on the House Floor. Things did not go as we hoped, but you still have a chance to help protect patients by telling Governor Inslee to VETO SB 5052.
And if there’s any doubt how hard some of these Representatives fought for you, watch this clip of three passionate Floor speeches that encapsulate the overall tone of the bipartisan discussion.
Today, almost 14 months since the Epilepsy Foundation issued a call to action on medical marijuana, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer spoke as part of the organization’s Medical Cannabis Panel on the eve the Foundation's lobby day on behalf of medical cannabis legislation.
In those 14 months, 15 states have passed new legislation allowing medical use of cannabis or specialized extracts of the plant, with the vast majority specifying epilepsy or other seizure disorders as the reason for the law and frequently the only qualifying condition.