ASA members made 2015 the most historic year for medical cannabis policy yet!
ASA engaged, empowered, and deployed thousands of grassroots advocates to talk to elected officials about medical cannabis.
ASA members helped bring over one thousand patient advocates to citizen lobby days in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols, including thousands of meetings with elected officials and staff. ASA supporters generated over one hundred thousand emails and signatures for various campaigns nation-wide. ASA trained thousands of patient advocates in civic participation. Our members testified at dozens of public hearings and briefings.
It takes thousands of hours of human power from ASA staff and volunteers to make these meetings happen. Every meeting that ASA staff arranges with an elected official requires the creation of materials to request the meeting, coordinating schedules of patient advocates and the elected official, prepping advocate for the meeting, and following up with advocates after the meeting. Every ASA lobby day event includes trainings for advocates meeting with elected officials and strategy plans for follow up.
As a result of this work, ASA passed federal and state legislation protecting patients’ and expanding access to medicine and increasing product safety.
ASA passed federal legislation to extend the Federal “cease fire” on medical cannabis patients.
For the second year in a row, we passed federal medical cannabis legislation! The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with those acting in accordance with their state medical cannabis laws. Adopting legislation like this was a long-term strategy for ending the state\federal conflict over medical cannabis, and ASA stayed committed to this tactic until it finally paid off!
This year the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment passed in the House by a vote of 242-186, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it 21-9. The amendment means state legislators, patients, and their providers will enjoy another year of “Cease Fire” – no federal interference in state medical cannabis laws. The amendment passed through direct lobbying, ASA member meetings and thousands of action alerts.
ASA worked with Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) to send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice questioning whether the continued medical cannabis prosecutions in federal court violated the budget amendment. Pushing for full compliance with the amendment is working. A federal judge in California accepted a legal theory articulated by ASA in California, ruling that the federal injunction against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana violates the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment.
Patients, providers, lawmakers, and other stakeholders have unprecedented protection from federal interference and intimidation as a result of this work.
ASA introduced and supported comprehensive federal medical cannabis legislation, the CARERS Act.
The bipartisan Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS) Act of 2015, sponsored in the Senate by Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and in the House by Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK). CARERS is the most comprehensive piece of medical cannabis legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress and would remedy the state-federal conflict over medical cannabis law. CARERS will protect patients from federal prosecution in states where medical cannabis is legal, reschedule cannabis under federal law, allow legal access to veterans, facilitate research, and more.
ASA was honored to have played a role in shaping the direction of the bill, and many of the patient-focused issues brought up in our feedback were addressed in the final legislation. ASA hosted Senate and Congressional briefings, directly lobbied on Capitol Hill, coordinated over 1000 representative meetings with ASA members, and launched targeted campaigns to key committee members. Thanks to the support from our base, we are confident we have enough votes to pass the CARERS Act in the House and Senate if we can get the bill through committee.
As a result of our work on the CARERS Act, we are closer than ever to finally changing federal medical cannabis law and bringing safe and legal access to everyone who needs it.
Congressional and Regulatory Oversight
As of December 2015, every federal agency except the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has stopped ignoring medical cannabis. The Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs have each issued internal memos providing guidance on medical cannabis policies. Information being disseminated to the public has also improved, including the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) DrugFacts: Is Marijuana Medicine?, the Food and Drug Administration’s FDA and Marijuana: Questions and Answers and the National Cancer Institute’s Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Research barriers began to fall this year, with the Office of National Drug Control Policy lifting the Public Health Service (PHS) review, a hurdle only cannabis researchers had to clear. Likewise, NIDA head Nora Volkow indicating she now supports letting other research centers grow research cannabis, ending the NIDA monopoly
Congressional support for medical cannabis has never been stronger. In addition to the CARERS Act and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, ASA worked with U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to pass the amendment to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to have access to banking services. We also secured a landslide vote to the add the Veterans Equal Access Amendment (VEAA) to the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which sets the budget for the Veterans Administration (VA).
ASA staff spend thousands of hours each year monitoring Congressional and agency activity, working with elected officials on drafting and analyzing bills and regulations and providing expert testimony and materials. ASA members send thousands of emails, make phone calls, sign petitions, and go to meetings to influence policy makers and regulators at the federal level.
ASA Campaigns mean Congressional Support and Federal Agency Recognition has never been stronger!
ASA helped to advance product safety protections for patients.
Product safety standards can prevent unsafe products from entering the marketplace, as well as require a mechanism for removing them from the shelves when necessary. This is a common practice for other medical and human-consumption products on the market today. Implementing product safety protocols is not only important for patient health; our ability to properly regulate medical cannabis programs to address product safety protocols will have a great impact on the landscape of available products for patients in the future and how federal agencies will interact with state medical cannabis programs post-prohibition.
Thanks to ASA’s Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program, we have created the tools necessary for states to adopt laws and regulations based on expert analysis and science. These tool are based on our work on the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Cannabis Monograph that provides standards for the plant's identity, purity, quality, and botanical properties; and the American Herbal Products Association Recommendations for Regulators covers distribution, cultivation, analytics, and manufacturing, packaging and labeling to create programs that provide safe products for patients. In 2015, ASA worked with the Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS) of the American Chemical Society to form the Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision (CANN) that will be an additional resource for the ongoing product safety standard development.
States across the country adopted laws and regulations that included these important industry standards and companies across the country are voluntarily enrolling in PFC certification programs to ensure the safe products for the patients they serve. PFC was selected to provide training for Maryland compliance inspectors operating under the authority of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
As a result of this work, patients can have more confidence than ever that the cannabis and cannabis products they receive from the growing medical cannabis industry are safe, effective, and accurately labeled as result of this work.
ASA passed, monitored, and improved legislation and regulations across the country
2015 was the busiest years for medical cannabis at the state level. Today, forty states have passed laws that allow the medical use of cannabis in some form. This year alone six new states passed legislation, three states passed comprehensive distribution regulations, twelve states adopted product safety regulations, and seventeen more states introduced legislation that did not pass.
For every law and regulatory process, ASA offered language, analysis, constituent support and/or expert testimony. We met with elected officials and alerted our membership across the country. ASA staff testified in California, Georgia, DC, Maryland, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington and dozens of cities and provided testimony and comments in dozens more. ASA campaigns blocked bad legislation from advancing across the country and fought hard to preserve safe access. ASA passed life saving legislation in California, through The California Senate approved AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, to prohibit discrimination against medical cannabis patients. . AB 258 has already helped legal patients get back on the organ transplant waiting list, giving them a chance for survival. We helped open condition lists for more eligible patients in DC and Minnesota.
As a result of this work, we are expanding safe access nation-wide.
ASA engaged in an international process to change United Nations treaties on drugs.
International policies like those created in the UN Single Convention Treaty of 1961 have an impact on how countries can regulate cannabis. In April 2016, the UN has called a special session to discuss international drug policy. In preparation for these meetings ASA along with medical cannabis patients from thirteen countries, established the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC) that now represents thirty-four countries, delivered a declaration from thirteen countries to the United Nations Narcotic Drug Committee, in Vienna, and testified before the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.
We are 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. As part of this effort, ASA’s Executive Director, Steph Sherer, addressed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) in Geneva, in hopes of reshaping international policies that affect the health and safety of millions of patients using cannabis and cannabis products worldwide.
As a result of this effort, we are bringing the voices of patients world-wide to participate in this crucial process to create a viable path towards safe and legal access to medical cannabis globally.
Millions of medical cannabis stakeholders used ASA reports and educational materials.
ASA’s website serves as a resource for millions of visitors that utilize the site’s up-to-date guide for those trying to navigate the changing medical cannabis laws and regulations and looking for more information on using cannabis therapeutically. ASA’s publications were cited in hundreds of news stories and delivered to state and federal lawmakers, regulators, and advocates nationwide.
Our report comprehensive report, “Medical Marijuana Access in the US,” provided state policy makers tools to improve their laws in 2015. “Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?” a white paper on the impact of medical cannabis dispensaries on patients, teen cannabis use, crime and communities was distributed to cities and counties crafting rules to create local medical cannabis access across the country.
Work like this keeps our 100,000 members, policy makers and untold others up to date and ready to be effective medical cannabis advocates at the local, state, and federal level.
ASA helped move medical cannabis research forward.
For over a decade, ASA has been working to remove barriers from the ability of scientists to study cannabis. On the policy level, ASA made strides in the US through the repeal of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) Public Health Service cannabis research review process, which created roadblocks for research. ASA hosted Congressional Briefing with Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on federal barriers faced by researchers working to understand the medical uses of cannabis. The briefing provided expert insights on how federal policy has undermined medical cannabis research, the state of contemporary medical cannabis research and the impact of reform proposals.
On the research front, ASA launched the first Center of Excellence for cannabis studies, the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute (ICCI). ICCI will identify, coordinate and support global research priorities for the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid treatments through a multidiscipline evidence based approach that incorporates innovative tools and approaches. ICCI will promote shared learning, create needed tools, offer guidance, and deploy resources in these fields. A collaborative project of non-profit, for-profit and government institutions, the ICCI will be an international research and educational hub designed to meet global demand.
As a result of this work, ASA anticipates that medical cannabis research in the US and globally will accelerate.
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Patient advocacy has been key in gaining rights for individuals to use cannabis under the care of a physician world-wide. Patient advocates must over come cultural fears of the cannabis plant, the illegal status of the use of cannabis as a medicine, and the gap in education for patients and medical professionals. While we may speak different languages and live under varying governmental structures; compassion, science and human health are the same in every language, in every country, and in every doctors office.
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