Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Hello from Washington, DC. ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is underway! I am going to the US Capitol Building with almost 100 Californians tomorrow for our third annual Citizen Lobby Day to support the CARERS Act – an unprecedented bill that would finally end federal interference and intimidation in California.
While we lobby Congress tomorrow, our state and local lawmakers will still be trying to figure out what to do with medical cannabis in California. Sacramento Bee reporter Jim Araby argues it is time to regulate the state’s “Wild West” approach to medical cannabis, and a new study on water use and cannabis cultivation will pressure lawmakers to crack down. The state legislature has scheduled four hearings on medical cannabis bills – and more are on the way! Meanwhile, cities and counties all over the state continue the nineteen-year old debate about how to handle to medical cannabis.
Read about all the medical cannabis news, events, meetings, and court support requests in ASA’s California Weekly Roundup for Monday, March 30, 2015.
With the passage of HB1 in Georgia this week, the state will become the 36th state with some form of medical marijuana protection for patients, but the law falls short of making the state the 24th "medical marijuana state," in spite of stories to the contrary. The act was approved by both the Georgia House and Senate earlier this week and now moves to the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal where it is expected to be signed soon.
While definitions on what is and is not a medical marijuana state are clearly subjective, the newly passed Georgia law does not meet ASA's general requirements. While the bill does provide legal protections for possession and use for therapeutic purposes by patients, legal protections alone do not sufficiently meet the standard. Maryland had similar legal protections from prosecution for over 10 years with a wider range of conditions than HB1, yet nobody considered that affirmative defense law to make Maryland a true medical marijuana state. It only became recognized as such a state in 2014, when it passed a comprehensive program with access to state regulated dispensaries. Because there is no legal means for patients to purchase or grow their own medicine, Georgia patients must travel out of state to acquire their medicine, limiting access to far away places like Colorado or Maine.
California Senator Barbara Boxer is supporting the CARERS Act in Congress. It is great to see one of our state Senators standing up for our voter-approved medical cannabis laws! I will be with hundreds of other advocates in Washington, DC, this week to talk about the CARERS Act and much more at the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference and Citizen Lobby Day. Check FaceBook and Twitter for updates if you cannot make it.
Here in California, the City of Malibu is stalling on approving a dispensary permit, while Ocenside is pushing to close all of its facilities. And Fresno County keeps imposing exorbitant fines for cultivators. Not all the news is bad this week. Tulare County backed off a plan to toughen its medical cannabis regulations, and San Diego’s first legally permitted facility is finally open. Patients in Clearlake are fighting back against a cultivation ban in court.
Mark your calendar for important city council and legislative dates coming up in Vallejo and Sacramento. Get all the medical cannabis news, events, and court support dates in ASA’s California Weekly Roundup for Monday, March 23.
In part one of our in depth two-part series, we provided a synopsis of Legislative action to date. Now, we delve a bit deeper with a point-by-point analysis of the latest version of 5052, passed via a striking amendment in the House. While some improvements have been made, patients still stand to lose access to their supply of safe, affordable medicine.
The overly-complex nature of 5052 is one of many reasons the proposal is running into strong resistance. It’s indisputably difficult to comprehend, even for lawmakers and policy enthusiasts. ASA has long been committed to demystifying the political process and empowering advocates with the tools they need be effective. With that in mind, here is a birds-eye-view of the Cody-Schmick striker, focusing on how it alters the bill passed by the Senate.
We’re just past the halfway mark of the 2015 Legislative session in Washington state. When it comes to medical cannabis, the spotlight has been mainly focused on Senate Bill 5052. The overarching goal of the legislation is to funnel the existing medical cannabis industry into the experimental marketplace for recreational users. Under the plan spearheaded by Senator Ann Rivers, products designated by the Liquor Control Board (LCB) as “medical grade” would be eligible for an exemption from sales and use taxes. However, all excise taxes would still apply, currently set at 25 percent on 2-3 levels before the product ever reaches the consumer.
ASA has been repeatedly assured that Senator Rivers’ 60-page proposal known as the Cannabis Patient Protection Act is a “work in progress.” Unfortunately, 5052 does not represent what most patients consider “progress.” If the bill passes as written, few legitimate health care professionals will be willing to recommend medical cannabis. In a recent letter to the Legislature, renowned physician Dr. Greg Carter summed up the issues faced by health care professionals who recommend the use of medical cannabis:
“SB 5052 requires Doctors to violate the dictates of Conant and would expose Doctors and other health care professionals to criminal charges and to licensing violations and to a host of other consequences stemming from the act’s setup. Simply stated, Doctors and other health care professionals cannot perform what the act requires.”
– Gregory T. Carter, M.D.
Are you one of the Californians getting ready for ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference and Citizen Lobby Day in Washington, DC? I would like to see hundreds of patients, doctors, industry workers, and grassroots advocates at the conference and in the halls of Congress this year. Register today so you can meet the most important people in medical cannabis, get the latest information about science and politics, and help make a difference. ASA will make an appointment for you to meet your US Representative and Senator when you sign up. Do it now… Only twelve days left!
Meanwhile in California, the local debate about regulating medical cannabis goes on. Advocates in Costa Mesa are planning to sue after the city backed off on plans to regulate local access. We have two very different perspectives on medical cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles from last week – a pictorial essay on the city’s diverse facilities and the latest academic research on the implementation of Measure D from UCLA. The City of San Diego beat a legal challenge to its medical cannabis ordinance and approved two more dispensaries last week.
Get all the medical cannabis news, events, and court support requests in ASA’s CA Weekly Roundup for Monday, March 16, 2015.
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) became the forth U.S. Senator to sign on as a sponsor of S. 683, the CARERS Act. The bill, which was introduced yesterday at a press conference that received national attention, now has equal bi-partisan support, with Heller joining Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) as the second Republican to sponsor, along with Democratic Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).
The Nevada Senator had the following to say in support of the bill:
“The time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies. This bipartisan legislation puts Americans who are suffering first by allowing Nevada’s medical marijuana patients, providers, and businesses that are in compliance with state law, to no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.
“I look forward to working with Senators Booker, Paul, and Gillibrand on this legislation and to ensure states setting their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference becomes a reality.”
ASA applauds Senator Heller for supporting S. 683, which would protect all state-legal medical marijuana conduct, promote research, facilitate greater access to CBD products, grant access to banking services, and allow VA doctors to write recommendations for veterans in states with medical programs. One way you can help add cosponsors to the bill is by attending ASA's Congressional Lobby Day as part of the Unity 2015 Conference in Washington, D.C., March 27th-31st. ASA's patient lobby days in 2013 and 2014 played a significant role in getting the House to adopt the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment last year. We look forward to our members building upon their success by garnering even more cosponsors for S. 683.
Become a certified cannabis professional. This year at the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference we will be hosting a 1 day Cannabis Core Certification class on Monday, March 30, 2015 from 9:00am - 5:00pm at the Loews Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Core Cannabis Certification program is the standard in cannabis training. Designed to provide business owners, employees, and job applicants with fundamental knowledge on the subjects of cannabis law, medical application, and business operations.
Facilitated by Greta Carter (founder & chairman of Cannabis Training Institute), this 4-hour training program goes over the ASA-CTI Core Cannabis Training + Certification curriculum and is followed by a Q&A session. This training curriculum adheres to the D.C. Department of Health’s training/ certification standards mandated for ALL persons working in Washington D.C.’s medical marijuana industry (such as a cultivation facility, manufacturing site, cannabis testing laboratory, or dispensary).
U.S. Senators Introduce Unprecedented Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Legislation - Americans for Safe Access
Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act. The bill is unprecedented in being the first comprehensive piece of medical marijuana legislation to be introduced in the U.S. Senate. ASA was honored to have played a role in shaping direction of the bill, and many of the patient-focused issues brought up in our feedback were addressed in the final legislation introduced today.
The bill's introduction comes just a week after the trial of the remaining Kettle Falls Five defendants, and just a few months after passage of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which was guided through the conference committee by the leadership of Senator Mikulski (D-MD). The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment arguably should have defunded the KF5 prosecution, but the denial of their motion to dismiss shows that there is some legal dispute as to whether Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment would end federal prosecutions. There is no question that such prosecutions would end under the CARERS Act, which states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this title relating to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State law relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, or delivery of medical marihuana.
The protections created by the CARERS Act are not just limited to protected state-legal medical marijuana conduct. While each of these provisions may not be ideally crafted from the patient perspective, the bill creates an opportunity that never before existed in Senate offices. Previously when patient advocates have tried to bring up the issue of medical marijuana with their Senators, many offices have avoided taking an official position because there was no legislation in the Senate on the issue. Now Senators must confront it.
Patient advocates and other stakeholders have an opportunity to discuss each of the bill's issues in a substantive way. Rather than decry any perceived shortcomings, patient advocates can make strategic use of their time lending support to help get the bill heard before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and offering suggested amendments to improve the bill. To help better understand the bill, below is some section-by-section analysis (skipping Section 1, which is simply the title of the bill):
Medical Cannabis Groups from Thirteen Countries Form New "International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition" to Reform UN Policy - Americans for Safe Access
Medical cannabis (marijuana) patients from thirteen countries, including those represented by U.S. advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), established theInternational Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC) this past week while at the "Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Policy, Research and Medical Practice" conference in Prague from March 4-7th. IMCPC member countries include Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States.
The first action of the IMCPC was to ratify a declaration urging the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs to either: reclassify cannabis for medical use, convene a UN Special Convention on Cannabis, or simply exclude cannabis from the UN Single Convention on Narcotics. The IMCPC declaration will be delivered to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna this week by Pavel Bem, the Czech representative for the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
"The UN policy on cannabis is outdated and at odds with its mission concerning human rights, and the right to adequate health care in particular," said IMCPC co-founder, ASA Executive Director, and longtime medical cannabis patient Steph Sherer. "For centuries, we have known about and utilized the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant," continued Sherer. "Scientific studies conducted over the past three decades affirm the therapeutic value of cannabis, and should form the basis of international and domestic policies."