Blog Voices from the Frontlines
I am a disabled veteran and survivor. My wife, children, and I live with PTSD every day. I have a tough time in crowds and must follow a routine. The antidepressants prescribed to me have caused more depression and suicidal thoughts. I became addicted to the anti-anxiety pills. I tried to kill myself with pills twice. The second time, I decided to get rid of all of those pills and self-medicate with marijuana illegally. Since that decision in 2011, I have also advocated with veterans and medical marijuana patients for access to a botanical remedy that is better for many than pills. That advocacy work carried me to Washington, D.C. this past week to lobby as a veteran with Americans for Safe Access, Drug Policy Alliance, and Marijuana Policy Project. We worked hard for two days, visiting approximately a couple of dozen offices of key legislators. Below are the actions of Congress following my trip.
Last week, Congress debated the Veterans Equal Access Amendment to the MILCON-VA Appropriations Bill. This amendment would have rescinded VA Directive 2011-004 which has placed a gag order upon Veterans Health Administration health providers and was offered by Congressman Blumenauer (D, OR-3) which had bipartisan support.
Rep. Charles Dent (R, PA) rose in opposition claiming this directive does not violate our rights, allowing us the freedom to participate with an outside provider in a state medical marijuana program. He also went on to say that this could be construed as an endorsement for medical marijuana.
Tell the Pennsylvania Senate to Add Qualifying Conditions & Lift Patient Restrictions - Americans for Safe Access
The Pennsylvania State Senate will soon be voting on SB 3, which would create a medical marijuana program in the Commonwealth. While the bill is far from ideal in its current form, it can still be amended on the Senate floor to be more patient friendly. ASA's strongest concerns around the limited number of qualifying conditions and the restrictions on the methods by which patients my use their medicine.
Patients deserve the freedom to use their medicine in the manner that suits them best, while physicians deserve to be able recommend medical marijuana to any patient who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
Please join me for a live online broadcast entitled “California Lawmakers: Medical Cannabis is Medicine for Real” on Thursday, May 7, and 7:00 PM. I will be talking about the need to treat medical cannabis like other herbal medicine when we write and adopt legislation. Join this Google Hangout on Thursday a little before 7:00 PM to participate:
Or watch live on YouTube without the interactive features:
I am happy to report that the California Assembly approved AB 258, the ASA-sponsored Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, on Thursday of last week. The bill will prevent life-threatening discrimination against medical cannabis patients in the organ transplant process. Read ASA’s press release to learn more:
Registration is now open for the California Citizen Lobby Day, June 14-15, in Sacramento. ASA will make an appointment for you to meet with your state representatives when you sign up. With more than a dozen bills on the table, this is going to be our biggest and most important lobby day yet. Get all the details and register here:
Scroll down for all the medical cannabis news, events, action alerts, court support, and chapter meetings.
Washington State Update: Moving Forward to Guarantee Safe Access for Patients - Americans for Safe Access
Last Friday, Governor Inslee signed, and partially vetoed, Senate Bill 5052, titled the “Cannabis Patient Protection Act.” Americans for Safe Access and our members worked the legislative process every step of the way. It was a hard slog, and we didn’t get everything we wanted (not even the bill we wanted).
I am committed to ensuring a system that serves patients well and makes medicine available in a safe and accessible manner, just like we would do for any medicine.” – Governor Jay Inslee, April 27, 2015
That said, due to your activism the final result was much better for patients than many expected. We now have the opportunity to build a medical cannabis system in Washington shaped by stakeholders, including medical experts, patients, and industry leaders dedicated to patient health.
I am happy to report that the California Assembly just adopted AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act by a vote of 52 to 8!
This ASA-sponsored legislation will reduce unnecessary suffering and preventable death by ending pervasive discrimination against medical cannabis patients in the organ transplant process. Thank you to all of the ASA members and friends who signed petitions, sent emails, and visited offices to get the bill through the Assembly. The bill goes next to the Senate for a committee and floor vote, so keep up the good work.
California Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced AB 258 after two ASA members visited his office last year as part of our annual medical cannabis lobby day in the state legislature. The bill’s introduction is a clear example of direct grassroots action making a real difference in the political process - and in the lives of patients.
It is time to bring that effective grassroots power back to the state Capitol. Registration for ASA’s California Citizen Lobby Day, June 14-15, in Sacramento is now open. Please sign up today for the biggest and most important citizen lobby day yet.
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.