Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Sep 162014

NFL Eases Marijuana Policy. Barely. - Americans for Safe Access

On any given Sunday in the NFL, winners and losers can be hard to predict, as every fan and athlete knows. Now medical cannabis advocates are tasting disappointment, too, along with more than a few players, after an expected improvement in league policy fizzled in the late stages of the game.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has approved a change in the NFL's drug policy that includes only a modest increase in the threshold of detectable marijuana metabolites that triggers league sanctions. The current limit is an infinitesimal 15 ng/ml, with the new standard only 35 ng/ml. Sure, that's more than double, and high enough to get one current player off suspension, but 10-times that amount was what most expected.

Many observers had predicted that the NFL and the players' union would adopt the much higher 150 ng/ml limit used by the International Olympic Committee and professional sports that adhere to the World Anti-Doping Association standards. That was what medical marijuana advocates and many sports commentators had urged them to adopt, as it would allow players to use cannabis therapeutically off the field without as much fear of a career-jeopardizing suspension.

But even that 150 ng/ml, intended to detect only use in competition, would not be what players need, since they routinely play under the influence of far more dangerous medications. 

For injuries to muscles, bones and ligaments, medical cannabis can offer as much pain relief as codeine while also reducing inflammation. Even at low doses, cannabis can treat pain opiates can’t touch, relieving the intense nerve pain that can result from tissue and spinal injuries. Its synergistic effect can make smaller doses of drugs such as Vicodin or Oxycontin more effective, reducing side effects and the risk of addiction that plagues many former players, who abuse painkillers at four-times the rate of the rest of America.

The powerful anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis can also protect players from the side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Overuse of even over-the-counter NSAIDs can cause liver damage or kidney failure, as was the case for former Seahawks Safety Kenny Easley, who sued the NFL while waiting for a kidney transplant. But ibuprofen is not the only problem. Of the NFL’s team doctors, 28 out of 30 reported injecting an average of 15 players a game with Toradol, a pain-killing NSAID so dangerous it’s banned in Europe. After the NFL was sued in 2011 by a dozen former players  over Toradol’s long-term side effects, the league’s physician task force told teams they should change how they use it. As a painkilling anti-inflammatory with remarkably few side effects, cannabis may prove the best alternative.

Cannabis also offers something no other drug can: protection for players’ brains. No other medication offers its combination of anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective qualities. For more than a decade, medical researchers have documented the drug’s powerful neuroprotective properties. Recent research has revealed that chemicals that mimic those in cannabis can reduce the effects of serious brain injury and keep badly head-injured people alive. The active chemicals in cannabis are also uniquely suited to fighting neurodegenerative diseases that can result from trauma, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- all of which NFL players are far more likely to get than the rest of us.

All of that is why the NFL should adopt a hands-off policy on cannabis therapeutics. Players already pay a high price for their time on the field. Penalizing them for using a safe, natural medication is just piling on.


Sep 152014

ASA California Weekly Roundup: September 15, 2014 - Americans for Safe Access


  • Message from the CA Director: Hangout with me on Thursday
  • State & Local News: National, state, and local news from communities all over California
  • Public Meetings & Events: Sacramento, Corcoran, Porterville, Richmond, San Francisco, Riverside, Ventura, Washington, DC, and online
  • Court Support: Oroville, Redding, and more
  • Take Action Now: Join ASA’s New California Discussion List and more
  • ASA Website Spotlight: Campaigns & Projects
  • Chapter & Affiliate Meetings: San Francisco and Lake County

I want to invite you to join me for a live Google Hangout on Thursday, September 18, at 7:00 PM. Don’t worry. You do not have to go anywhere. A Google Hangout is an interactive online event that you can join from you computer or mobile device.

What happened in the state legislature this year? What is likely to happen next year? What does the proposed voter initiative to legalize adult use of cannabis in 2016 mean for patients in California? Let’s talk. There is an interactive Q&A option. Feel free to email questions in advance, too. I’ll be hosting these interactive events monthly for the rest of the year.

Just log onto a little before 7:00 PM on Thursday to participate in the Q&A part of the broadcast. You can also watch on YouTube at

Sep 142014

Blogger Andrew Sullivan speaks out - Americans for Safe Access

Andrew Sullivan and Don DuncanPioneering blogger, journalist, and author Andrew Sullivan was the keynote speaker at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, OR, this weekend. His presence might seem surprising, but the issue of cannabis and medical cannabis dovetails with his peculiar brand of left/right hybrid politics. More importantly, his participation represents an important evolution in the field of medical cannabis. Our movement is stronger when visible support for safe and legal access to medicine expands outside our traditional filed of allies.

Pictured: Andrew Sullivan and me

Mr. Sullivan’s voice is firmly established in the mainstream. He was the Editor of the New Republic, one of the nation’s oldest and venerable voices in politics. He is also one of the most widely read and recognized political bloggers. His blog The Dish is influential in the liberal and conservative blogosphere alike. Mr. Sullivan  also writes for prestigious national media, including Time Magazine and The Atlanti Monthly, and has authored or edited six books. 

Sep 092014

Is Medical Marijuana the Solution for ALS? - Americans for Safe Access

Ice_Bucket_Meme.jpgThe ice bucket challenge has raised a huge amount of awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) -- popularly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.  With the help of celebrities, politicians and thousands of participants from across the country, the ALS Association raised $94.3 million dollars for research.  However, as awareness burgeons, many remain unaware of the significant benefits that medical marijuana has in treating ALS. 

The endocannabinoid system helps us to “Eat, sleep, relax, forget, and protect.” This article is about how the endocannabinoid system can be stimulated to “protect” motor-neurons, the nerves (brain-type cells) that control body movement (Abood 2001).

Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a fatal disease that affects degrades the neurons in the body that control movement. The hallmarks of ALS is a rapid progression of weakness and paralysis, death occurs within 3-5 years in most cases, and brain function remains intact (Rowland 2001) . The exact causes or pathogenesis of ALS is poorly understood, and while the pharmaceutical industry has made treatment options available, none of these treatments prevent disease progression and death. 

Sep 082014

ASA California Weekly Roundup: September 8, 2014 - Americans for Safe Access


  • Message from the CA Director: Let's talk
  • State & Local News: National, state, and local news from communities all over California
  • Public Meetings & Events: Cable TV, online, and Riverside
  • Court Support: Pasadena, Yuba City, and more
  • Take Action Now: Join ASA’s New California Discussion List and more
  • ASA Website Spotlight: National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference 2015
  • Chapter & Affiliate Meetings: San Diego, Sacramento, Nevada County, Yuba County

I want to invite you to join a new email discussion list ASA is launching to help facilitate conversations about medical cannabis issues in California. The ASA California Campaign for Safe Access (ASA-CCSA) mailing list will be a primary contact point for patients, advocates, and others to share ideas and constructive debate on state legislation, local ordinances, initiatives, and court cases.!forum/asa-ccsa

Sep 052014

Vote Medical Marijuana this November - Americans for Safe Access

It is less than two months until the 2014 elections. Do you know where the candidates stand on medical cannabis? It matters. Lawmakers at the local, state, and federal level are going to make important decisions about medical cannabis that affect your life in the next two years. Cities and counties will decide whether to ban or regulate patients’ collectives, the state legislature will vote again on commercial licensing and patients’ rights measures, and the new US Congress may decide whether or not to keep paying for medical cannabis enforcement.

Sep 042014

CNN Report on Kettle Falls 5 Airs Tonight - Americans for Safe Access

Kettle_Falls_Five_CNN_Special.jpgCNN rescheduled its report devoted to the pending federal trial of five Washington State patients. The program will air soon, so check your local listings. On "Erin Burnett OutFront," CNN's David Mattingly investigates the Kettle Falls 5 case, where despite all five family members being qualified patients registered with Washington State to legally use medical cannabis, now face charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences of ten years in federal prison.

Sep 022014

Another big win for patients in California - Americans for Safe Access

By Guest Blogger Lauren A. Vazquez, Esq.

The recent California Court of Appeal decision in People v. Baniani firmly establishes the right of patients to access medical cannabis through a collective or cooperative. The Court stated what medical cannabis advocates have always believed, state law protects members of a collective or cooperative who are qualified patients and are not engaged in a profit-making enterprise. The case is the culmination of over a decade of legal decisions and challenges by medical cannabis advocates.

Americans for Safe Access won a similar victory after appealing the conviction of a medical cannabis provider in San Diego in 2012. In People v. Jackson, the court ruled that medical marijuana patients do not have to actively participate in the cultivation of medical cannabis, and that financial support provided by collective members through medical cannabis purchases constitute sufficient involvement in a collective.

Sep 012014

ASA California Weekly Roundup: September 1, 2014 - Americans for Safe Access


  • Message from the CA Director: Grassroots power worked this year
  • State & Local News: National, state, and local news from communities all over California
  • Public Meetings & Events: Online, Riverside, and Washington, DC
  • Court Support: Sacramento
  • Take Action Now: Organ transplants and Measure S (Nevada County)
  • ASA Website Spotlight: National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference 2015
  • Chapter & Affiliate Meetings: San Francisco, Yuba County, Sonoma County, and Sacramento

Happy Labor Day, California. The state legislature has adjourned for the year, and on balance, it has been a good session for medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders. Your grassroots action helped stop some bad bills from becoming law this year:

  • AB 1588 would have increased the minimum buffer zone between legal patients’ cooperatives and collectives and schools statewide. We killed this bill in committee early in the session.
  • AB 2500 would have made it a crime for a legal patient to drive with even a tiny amount of cannabis detectable in their blood. ASA members and others defeated this bill in committee for the third year in a row.
  • SB 1193 was amended at the last minute to remove language beneficial to patients. ASA members generated more than 1,000 emails many phone calls in opposition to the amended bill in just one week.

We didn’t win every battle. SB 1029 would have expanded eligibility for public assistance to certain drug felons, including those convicted cannabis “crimes.” That bill died in committee.  The legislature also rejected two bills that would have regulated commercial medical cannabis activity – AB 1894 and SB 1262. Read more about that process in my blog from last week:

Aug 292014

ASA members score another win in CA - Americans for Safe Access

ASA members like you have scored one last victory in the final hours of this year’s state legislative session. We generated more than 1,000 emails and phone calls in opposition to a badly amended bill in less than one week – and it worked!

In response to that grassroots pressure, Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) will not call for a vote on SB 1193 in the Assembly. That means the bill will not be adopted this year. Well done!

Grassroots action works. Will you make a special contribution to support ASA today, so we can keep winning victories like this?