Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Aug 132014

Suspense for California’s Medical Cannabis Regulation Bill - Americans for Safe Access

Member Mike GattoUPDATE 08/14/2014 - The Assembly Appropriations Committee held SB 1262 in committee today, so it will not pass this year.

The California Assembly Appropriations Committee placed SB 1262 into the suspense file this morning. The suspense file is where the committee sends any bill with an annual cost of more than $150,000. Suspense file bills are considered at one hearing when the committee has a better sense of available revenue. The deadline for bills in the suspense file to be approved by the committee is August 15, but the last scheduled meeting of the Appropriations Committee is tomorrow.

Pictured: Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank)

SB 1262 may be approved by the committee tomorrow. If so, it will go to the full Assembly for a vote. However, SB 1262 may not make it out of suspense this year for any number of reasons. If that happens, we will have to go back to the drawing board for statewide medical cannabis regulations in January. Both co-authors, Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), are term-limited. Neither will serve in the legislature next year, so someone else will have to author a regulatory bill in 2015.

Aug 122014

Leafly Partners with Americans for Safe Access on NFL-Focused Chronic Pain Ads - Americans for Safe Access

ASA_USA_Today_NFL_Preview_Ad.jpgWith the NFL preseason already underway, cannabis activists are shining a spotlight on the professional sports league to soften their stance on medical cannabis use among players. Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, has stated that he'd consider allowing athletes to use medical cannabis to treat concussions and other head injuries if research supports it as a valid treatment option. The league itself, however, has so far remained firm on its anti-cannabis stance and has continued to fine, suspend, or release players who fail drug tests or are caught in possession of cannabis. 

But, as we continue to see for ourselves, change can happen gradually with enough time, persistence, and education. At this crucial moment for the NFL, Leafly has partnered with Americans for Safe Access to release a series of ads promoting medical cannabis as a treatment option for chronic pain, an ailment with which many professional football players are very familiar. 

Aug 112014

ASA California Weekly Roundup: August 11, 2014 - Americans for Safe Access

Contents:Photo: Mayor Jacob and me presenting an award to Assembly Member Ammiano at the lobby day @safeaccess #mmot #mmj

  • Message from the CA Director: Well done on the lobby day!
  • State & Local News: News From Communities All Over California
  • Public Meetings & Events: Sacramento, Santa Rosa, & Riverside
  • Court Support: Submit dates for court support!
  • Take Action Now: Support medical cannabis bills in CA & More
  • ASA Website Spotlight: Vote Medical Marijuana
  • Chapter & Affiliate Meetings: Nevada County, San Diego, Sacramento, & Yuba County

ASA’s fourth citizen lobby day in California was a big success. Approximately 150 patients and other stakeholders attended, and they visited more than fifty legislative offices – plus a lot of impromptu visits initiated by attendees themselves. Participants asked lawmakers to support ASA’s proposed Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act and SB 1193 (Evans), the return of property bill. They also expressed a variety of opinions on the controversial SB 1262 (Correa/Ammiano).

After the lobby day, a standing-room only crowd gathered to watch Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, and me present term-limited Assembly Member Tom Ammiano with a certificate of appreciation for his years of work on behalf of medical cannabis patients. Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Senator Mark Leno, and staff members from several legislative offices joined us for the reception.

We spent a long time talking about SB 1262 at the lobby day. There is a lot of concern, indecision, and support for the bill among our base. Of the twenty five attendees who returned our survey on lobby day, eight supported SB 1262, six opposed it, and ten were undecided (one did not answer the question). Most had helpful input and suggestions. I will be interested in seeing how those numbers change as others return their surveys or complete them online. There are action alerts for the two current bills and ASA's Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act in the "Take Action" Section of this email.

I want to say a special thank you to the volunteers who helped pull off the lobby day this year, and to our sponsors: The Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, Organicann, Peace in Medicine, SPARC, Buds & Roses, and the Emerald Growers Association.

Aug 072014

ASA Citizen Lobby Day Makes a Difference - Americans for Safe Access

ASA’s fourth citizen lobby day in California was a big success. Approximately 150 patients and other stakeholders attended, and they visited more than fifty legislative offices – plus a lot of impromptu visits initiated by attendees themselves. Participants asked lawmakers to support ASA’s proposed Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act and SB 1193 (Evans), the return of property bill. They also expressed a variety of opinions on the controversial SB 1262 (Correa/Ammiano).

After the lobby day, a standing-room only crowd gathered to watch Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, and me present term-limited Assembly Member Tom Ammiano with a certificate of appreciation for his years of work on behalf of medical cannabis patients. Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Senator Mark Leno, and staff members from several legislative offices joined us for the reception.

Aug 062014

SB 1262 and California Patients - Americans for Safe Access

photo2.JPGThe debate about SB 1262 in California has been a contentious one, and controversy is sure to persist until a final vote on the bill that will regulate doctors who recommend medical cannabis and those who commercially cultivate, process, test, and distribute it. About 150 medical cannabis patients and stakeholders came to Sacramento on Monday to talk about SB 1262 and other legislation. They debated the pros and cons of the bills, and voiced opinions for and against SB 1262 in more than 100 legislative offices. Well done!

The provisions of the bill related to commercial licensing have dominated the debate, but I am hearing an important question more often as we come to the endgame for SB 1262. What does the bill mean for patients? That is a good question, and the answer is good news for those who legally use medical cannabis in California.

Aug 042014

D.C. Empowers Physicians to Determine Medical Marijuana Patient Eligibility - Americans for Safe Access

Safe_Access_DC_Valentine_2014.jpgOn Thursday of last week, Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray took the bold step of putting physicians in charge of determining which of their patients should use medical marijuana therapy, quietly signing B20-0876, the Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014. The emergency legislation, which was unanimously approved by the D.C. Council on July 14th, removes the restrictive list of conditions a patient must have in order for a physician to recommend medical marijuana, as well as increases the plant limit at cultivation centers from 95 to 500 plants.

The passage of B20-0876 is one of the most significant victories for medical marijuana patients in 2014. While most states that passed medical marijuana legislation this year seemed to be in a bizarre contest to pass the most restrictive medical marijuana health care legislation possible, imposing restrictive qualifying conditions lists and limiting access to conventional forms of marijuana, the District of Columbia opted instead to expand its program. This is particularly notable because the District, along with New Jersey, was one of the first jurisdictions to pass hyper-restrictive medical marijuana legislation when the District's B18-622 was passed, only allowing four qualifying conditions. D.C. now joins Massachusetts and California as the only current medical marijuana states that allow physicians to decide which patients ought to engage in medical marijuana therapy. By year's end, that list could become a genuine trend, expanding to an additional two states, as Pennsylvania's SB1182 and Florida's Amendment 2 both contain similar language empowering physicians. 

Just as important, this is a major milestone for District patients with conditions such as post traumatic stress, lupus, dystonia, spinal cord disease, chronic pain, and any other condition that medical marijuana can treat, as they will now be able to obtain a recommendation from their physician if that doctor determines medical marijuana would be a proper therapeutic option. The Safe Access D.C. chapter was instrumental in organizing patient meetings and testifying at hearings over the past four years, helping to bring about these changes in the law, even tweeting the Department of Health a Valentine's Day Card, pointing out that D.C. had the most restrictive program in the country. Many of the District's cultivators and dispensary operators also fought tirelessly to improve the program.  

Aug 042014

ASA California Weekly Roundup: August 4, 2014 - Americans for Safe Access

Contents:

  • Message from the CA Director: Wherever you are in California
  • State & Local News: News From Communities All Over California
  • Public Meetings & Events: Sacramento, Costa Mesa, Santa Rosa, & More
  • Court Support: Westminster
  • Take Action Now: Support SB 1193, Support the Med MJ Organ transplant Act, & More
  • ASA Website Spotlight: The Medical Cannabis Advocate's Training Center
  • Chapter & Affiliate Meetings: San Francisco, Yuba County, Sonoma County

The CA Citizen Lobby Day is today! I hope to see many of you with the patients and advocates at the Citizen Hotel this morning and at the Capitol Building this afternoon. I understand others cannot make it to Sacramento today. That is OK. You can help out wherever you are in California. Will you take a minute to send an email to your California Assembly Member in support of SB 1193 (Evans) and sign a petition supporting ASA’s proposed Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act of 2015? Do it today, so lawmakers see your email on the same day they see us in the hallways and in their offices.

People all over the state are talking about SB 1262 (Correa/Ammiano), the bill that seeks to regulate doctors who recommend medical cannabis and those who commercially cultivate, process, or distribute it. Read my blog entitled “So, what’s the deal with SB 1262” to learn more about ASA’s position and strategy on this controversial bill. We expect that bill to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee next week, so it is crunch time for final amendments. Keep an eye open for news.

Thanks for helping today! Look for news about the CA Citizen Lobby Day on my Facebook page, Twitter feed, and the ASA Blog

Aug 022014

So, what’s the deal with SB 1262? - Americans for Safe Access

CA_Lobby_Day_Banner.jpg

More than one hundred medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders will fan out across the state Capitol Building in Sacramento to talk to California lawmakers about medical cannabis legislation on Monday. They will be talking to Assembly Members and Senators about the Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act, a proposed bill by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) that will prevent discrimination against legal patients who need life-saving organ transplants. They will be asking Assembly Members to support SB 1193, a bill by Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) that requires law enforcement to pay reasonable compensation if legal medical cannabis or plants are damaged or destroyed when confiscated as evidence.

The most contentious bill that participants in the CA Citizen Lobby Day will talk to lawmakers and staff about is SB 1262. That bill, coauthored by moderate Southern California Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana ) and progressive Bay Area medical cannabis champion Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), seeks to regulate doctors who recommend medical cannabis and those who cultivate, process, and provide it. The bill is a lightning rod for controversy among patients and industry workers, and debate about its provisions will likely dominate the morning legislative briefing before Monday afternoon’s visits. Senator Lou Correa will be the guest speaker at the briefing on Monday morning at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento.

Jul 312014

Special Needs Parents Group Wants Feds to Reschedule Cannabis - Americans for Safe Access

ireportbrainsurgery4monthsoldjpg-3303412_p9.jpgFor many with the Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis life doesn't revolve around soccer matches, dance recitals, and play dates. It’s consumed by their kids’ violent seizures, trips to the emergency room, and now – trying to convince the federal government to remove cannabis from the list of banned Schedule 1 controlled substances.

Schedule 1 is reserved for drugs the United States government says have no medicinal value and are too dangerous for use, such as heroin and LSD. Yet, these parents question cannabis’s restriction among such harsh drugs, given research from other countries suggests the plant may be a safe and effective treatment for a host of conditions, including epilepsy. They watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN profile a child whose intractable seizures reduced significantly when taking Charlotte’s Web, a non-psychoactive hemp oil extract high in the substance cannabidiol, also Schedule 1. They read the report from Stanford University on epileptic children using the oil that suggests side effects are minimal to none. With time working against their own children, this group of special needs parents from across the country decided to take action.

These parents believe the solution lies in the removal of cannabis from Schedule 1, which would allow medical research on the plant in the United States. They say Schedule 3 or lower is ideal because that would enable regulation and safe access. President Obama and Congress each have the authority to reschedule cannabis, but neither appears willing to make the move.

Jul 302014

Congressional CBD-Only Bill Raises Both Hope and Significant Concerns - Americans for Safe Access

Yesterday, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) introduced a bill in Congress that would create an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for cannabis plants and derivatives with an extremely low THC content. Representative Perry has a checkered record on medical cannabis in his first term as a member of Congress, having voted for the Rohrabacher-Farr CJS Amendment in May, but against medical cannabis providers in the Heck and Fleming Amendments to the Financial Services Appropriations bill earlier in July. Perry's HR 5226 was joined by cosponsors Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and would allow for cannabis plants with a THC content of less than 0.3% to be grown in the United States. While this would certainly be a step in the right direction rather than the state quo of complete medical cannabis prohibition, the bill has left many patients, parents, and activists wondering whether this more sideways step than one moving forward towards truly meaningful access to medical cannabis therapy.

Ladybud has already published a superb article that highlights the problems with CBD-only legislation and quotes several parents that are very concerned with the limited therapeutic potential of HR 5226. The piece quotes parents such as Jason David and Brian Wilson, both of whom have been treating their children for seizures with medical cannabis therapy. “CBD is a very important part of the mix, but only part,” noted Wilson. Speaking about the dangers and limitations of THC caps, David said, "There’s no way possible that all these children in Colorado could get seizure control and get off all their medications without using different ratios and adding THC and THCA. It’s impossible to get off all the medications and go through benzo withdrawals without being able to play with the THC ratios.” Wilson and David are hardly alone in their skepticism about CBD-only legislation, and ASA's Dr. Jahan Marcu spoke about the myths of CBD-only at the 2014 ASA Unity Conference back in April.