July 2007 Activist Newsletter
July 03, 2007
Volume 2, Issue 7
Patients group makes a difference in bill's passage
The Rhode Island medical marijuana law was made permanent on June 21, thanks in part to the Rhode Island Campaign for Safe Access (RICSA), a project of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition that has been supported by ASA grant funds.
Rhode Island legislators voted overwhelmingly to override the governor's veto of the bill, with the state Senate voting 29-4 to override and, a day later, the House following suit with a 58-11 vote. The bill the legislature passed last year was due to expire at the end of June because of a "sunset provision" in the law.
The strength of support from state lawmakers was a result of the hard work of RIPAC members. Over the past year, RICSA helped to organize the emerging community of patients and caregivers. Holding semi-monthly meetings open to patients and their caregivers, RICSA is working with the "Patient Union" model employed throughout California.
In the past three months, RICSA campaign staff helped push the legislation through the Senate and House. Campaign staff worked to secure the support of the Academy for Family Physicians, the Medical Society, the RI State Nurses Association, the ACLU, and AIDS Project RI. Staff also helped secure patient and doctor speakers for health committee hearings and made sure that patient voices were heard in the press.
In the past year, RIPAC affiliates have been featured in over 15 news items. One patient, Robert Love from Woonsocket, RI wrote to his local paper, "This program has helped restore my functionality, ending a long-term addiction to prescription painkillers, and has allowed me to participate in life after far too long a hiatus."
"We've seen key legislators change their position on medical marijuana in response to testimony from patients," said Jesse Stout, RIPAC's Executive Director. "We consider patients' personal stories to be the most powerful piece of the puzzle."
Since beginning as a coalition of health organizations in 2003, RIPAC has made inroads with physician's groups and Rhode Island hospitals, including developing and sponsoring the state's first Continuing Medical Education on medical marijuana. By facilitating dialogue and learning, RIPAC is teaching Rhode Island healthcare providers about the therapeutic applications for marijuana and its constituent components.
Now that a federal administrative law judge has recommended that the government allow FDA-approved researchers access to privately grown marijuana, ASA has been organizing support for what would be a major federal policy change.
That organizing is part of a new national campaign called Stop Gridlock, Demand Research! The campaign urges elected officials to call on the DEA to accept the recommendation of Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner and grant a license to Professor Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts Amherst to grow cannabis for approved medical research.
This past May, over 18 ASA Chapters and Affiliates met via a conference call to discuss the launch of the campaign. During the meeting, ASA leaders from all over the nation brainstormed innovative tactics and strategies to implement this campaign in their communities.
ASA's chapters and affiliates have been organizing local community members to contact their elected officials asking them to sign-on to a letter written by Congressional Representatives John Olver (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CS), urging DEA Administrator Karen Tandy to accept Judge Bittner's recommendations and grant Dr. Craker a license to produce research material.
ASA chapters and affiliates have been sponsoring friendly competitions between local groups, offering prizes to those who can organize the most constituent calls. ASA chapters have also been hosting meetings at local computer labs (public libraries, local universities, etc.) to send e-mails to their elected officials. In just a couple of weeks, these efforts have resulted in over 125 calls and e-mails to over a dozen Representatives. To access ASA's Stop Gridlock call script, visit AmericansForSafeAccess.org/StopGridlockScript.
ASA's goal is to make the Federal government listen to its boss, the people, and stop the gridlock on medical cannabis research. To be a part of this important campaign, find out more about Dr. Craker and the Stop Gridlock campaign at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/CrakerProject.
Cannabis was a popular remedy in the early twentieth century, commonly prescribed by doctors and widely available at pharmacies in several forms, including oral tinctures and topical salves. Today, scientists are inadvertently rediscovering the potential of cannabis preparations for treating skin problems, including allergic reactions.
Researchers working on a study with mice found by accident that the mice's skin healed - or didn't - based on how they processed cannabinoids. Researchers had blocked the ability of some of the mice to absorb the natural cannabinoids their bodies produce. Those mice developed skin irritation that did not heal where their identifying ear tags were attached. Mice without the cannabinoid blockers did not.
That discovery led to a study just published in the current issue of the journal Science that describes how the researchers think cannabinoids work to reduce inflammation.
While the researchers did not comment on it, their study also highlights the potential danger of proposed appetite-suppressing drugs that block cannabinoid absorption. Scientists know that the body's own cannabinoid system has a role in controlling how the immune system operates, but do not yet understand the implications of shutting down cannabinoid uptake.
It's time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on raiding state-licensed patients and providers. Congress can do it. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill instructs the Department of Justice to use its money wisely and specifically prohibits the Department from using appropriated funds to conduct raids or otherwise prevent the various states from implementing laws that authorize the therapeutic use of cannabis.
Tell your U.S. Representative that, if adopted, this amendment will do two things:
(1) Conserve taxpayers' money by eliminating funding for DEA raids aimed at state-certified medical cannabis patients and caregivers.
(2) Protect legal medical cannabis patients from having their homes and workspaces raided by the DEA.
For phone numbers of your representatives go to: www.house.gov or call the congressional switchboard at: (202) 224-3121.
E-mail your Representative using ASA's online action center: www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/HincheyAction.