Blog Voices from the Frontlines
ASA’s California Weekly Roundup is your way to stay on top of medical cannabis news, events, action alerts, court support, and more.
There are only 29 days left until the California Citizen Lobby Day in Sacramento. Get registered today!
Last week ASA…
Get all the news, events, action alerts, & more...
Take a look at ASA's special anniversary Activist Newsletter.
In it you'll find out about the latest on what happened at the big UN drug policy meetings, the new law in Pennsylvania and important Senate action on medical cannabis, not to mention the 2016 Unity Conference, modifications to three state laws, and ASA's 14th anniversary.
Read it all online or download a PDF of this newsletter to print and share
In honor of ASA's birthday this week, you can take advantage of a special half-price registration offer for Unity 2017!
I am in New York this week to take part at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) where leaders from all over the world are joining together to discuss global drug policies, including what to do about medical Cannabis. This historic meeting will produce important ramifications for national and international medical Cannabis policy.
I am here with members of the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC), and we are meeting with UN officials in order to help in the effort of making UNGASS 2016 the starting point for the change in the scheduling status of Cannabis.
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote again on the Mikulski Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. The amendment protects medical cannabis programs and patients. We ask you to take action and write your senators on the committee to vote YES on the Mikulski medical cannabis amendment.
The CJS Appropriations bill funds the Department of Justice, including federal prosecutors and the DEA. The Mikulski Amendment is the Senate version of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with people abiding by their state medical cannabis laws. Last year, the committee approved the amendment by a vote of 21-9 but it needs to be passed yearly.
It’s time to get registered for the biggest medical cannabis lobby day in California! ASA will host our 5th annual California Citizen Lobby Day in Sacramento on Monday, May 23. This is your chance to join 300 other patients and advocates to talk face-to-face with lawmakers and regulators about medical cannabis in California.
We are excited to announce some very special guest speakers from the new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation this year. Chief Lori Ajax and Senior Policy Advisor An-Chi Tsou will be at our morning briefing to talk about the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) and what comes next for commercial medical cannabis regulation in the state.
The California Campaign for Safe Access (CCSA) is Americans for Safe Access’ oldest and largest state campaign. This California Weekly Roundup is your way to stay on top of medical cannabis news, events, action alerts, court support, and more.
Last week ASA…
Get all the news, events, action alerts, & more...
On Sunday afternoon, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed SB 3, making Pennsylvania the 24th medical cannabis state in the country. And with 17 other states offering legal protections for low-THC medical cannabis, there are now 300 million Americans living where their state law is at odds with federal law. The addition of PA as a medical cannabis state will no doubt help the federal picture, but for Pennsylvanian patients who need access to this medicine, the focus now shifts to implementation of the program.
ASA has observed that it typically takes a state anywhere between 18 and 36 months to get their medical cannabis program up and running once their law goes into effect. The challenge for advocates and state officials will be to make sure the program is implemented as swiftly as possible, but without cutting corners or rushing overly-cautious regulations that may harm patient access.
There are essentially three phases that a new medical cannabis state goes through when implementing a new program, (1) drafting regulations; (2) licensing cultivators, processors, labs, and dispensaries; (3) and registering patients and caregivers. To accomplish the first stage, ASA recommends that Pennsylvania looks to the American Herbal Products Association's guidelines for cannabis regulators. States such as Maryland, Nevada, and many others have used these guidelines to draft excellent regulations that ensure product safety. ASA plans to be actively involved with the process to help generate the most patient-focused set of regulations possible.
On Wednesday, the East Bay Express reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped its appeal against Lynette Shaw in the federal civil action against her which forced the closure of her dispensary, the Marin Alliance of Medical Marijuana (MAMM). In dropping it's appeal, the DOJ accepts the October 2015 ruling by Judge Charles Breyer that Congress had forbidden the DOJ with interfering MAMM and Shaw unless it could show a violation of state law. Shaw has said that she intends to reopen her dispensary, restoring the access to patients that was cut of by federal interference.
By dropping the appeal, the DOJ has essentially conceded that there was no violation of state law, but also that it recognizes that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment (aka the Mikulski Amendment) has practical value. When the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was first signed into law in 2014, it was widely misconstrued by people on both sides of the federal issue. Some were saying the amendment was the end of federal marijuana prohibition, while many in the movement bizarrely sided with the DOJ interpretation that it was symbolic but meaningless.
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate approved the final version of SB 3, nearly a year after the Senate passed its original version of the bill. The bill introduced by Senators Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and Daylin Leach (D-King of Prussia) is widely expected to be signed by Governor Tom Wolf, which will make Pennsylvania the 24th state in the country to adopt a comprehensive medical cannabis program.
The bill underwent a tortured ordeal to get to a floor vote on the House side, particularly from Health Committee Chair Matt Baker (R-Tioga County) who attempted to the kill the bill until a rarely utilized procedural move stripped the bill from his committee. Recently, the bill had several amendment votes prior to making to the floor, which are well covered by the Daily Chronic. The most notable of these was the successful removal of a 10% THC cap, which would have severely limited treatment options for patients in need of THC-rich products, such as pain and cancer patients.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment as part of the full committee markup of the MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill. The amendment will be reintroduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) and would allow VHA physicians to make written recommendations to veteran patients in states with medical cannabis programs. Current VHA policy forbids their physicians from recommending or even discussing the benefits of medical cannabis.
The policy is set by VHA Directive 2011-004. This directive was set to expire on January 31, 2016; however, the policy remains in effect. This means that Congress must take action to fix the problem. The Veterans Equal Access Amendment would help lift this “gag order” that is currently being imposed on VHA physicians. Like the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that protect state medical cannabis programs, this amendment would have to be renewed on an annual basis.
Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include the amendment with solid bipartisan support, as 4 Republicans joined 14 Democrats. We need to make sure that everyone who voted for the amendment last year votes does so again, as well as work to pick up additional votes in favor of the amendment. A stronger showing of bipartisan support for the amendment will help increase the chances of pass of the CARERS Act, which would permanently resolved the issue preventing veterans from having equal access to state medical cannabis programs.
If you live in a state with a member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, please take action to email your senator to vote yes on the Daines-Merkley Veterans Equal Access Amendment. You can find out if you live in a state with a senator on the committee on the alert page.