Action Policy and Advocacy
- In January, ASA held an event to raise awareness of the life-saving role that medical cannabis can play in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Since 2017, ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives (EPNL) campaign has worked to remove barriers to safe access for people with pain, chronic pain, and opioid use disorder. The campaign has been educating medical professionals, legislators, service providers, and patients about medical cannabis as a safer alternative for pain management. The fundraiser and awareness event featured bands and speakers, including ASA’s Steph Sherer and Debbie Churgai, and Ellen Lennox Smith from the U.S. Pain Foundation.
- In March, ASA held our 7th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference and Lobby Day, once again bringing physicians, scientists, patients, advocates and industry professionals together to learn, network and make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. The theme, “The Price of Being a Medical Cannabis Patient” focused not only around issues of affordability but also to the price that patients must face just from choosing to take a medicine that is safer than many alternatives. Potentially losing one's job, being kicked out of housing, leaving their home and family because they have to move out of state, losing their children, and having to worry about consistency and safety of their medicine were just a few examples.
- During Unity’s Lobby Day, over 150 meetings were set up on Capitol Hill with conference participants and their state representatives. In the last 7 years that ASA has held our Unity conference, we have set up over 1000 face-to-face meetings with patients, advocates, physicians, and concerned citizens and their state representatives.
- In March, ASA also had the pleasure of announcing our new Board with Founder Steph Sherer as Board President and Debbie Churgai taking over as Interim Executive Director.
- In April, Advocates with Georgia’s Hope (an ASA affiliate group) were able to pass legislation to enhance their medical cannabis law by creating a commission and allowing in-state production and distribution.
- April also saw the passage of New Mexico’s SB 204, allowing for the administration of medical cannabis in schools. This law would not have been possible without ASA’s hardworking NM chapter advocates. The District of Columbia recently followed suite.
- In May, ASA held their annual California Citizen Lobby Day co-sponsored with Cal NORML, in Sacramento. Advocates from all over California met face-to-face with elected representatives and staff to talk about issues that matter to medical cannabis patients. Lobby day participants advocated for lower taxes on medical cannabis and expanded compassion programs. Advocates also tryied to stop efforts to curtail delivery statewide and to prevent employment discrimination against patients. The Lobby Day began with a legislative briefing and training before going to the capital in the afternoon to meet with lawmakers and staff. In September SB 34 was signed by the Governor, allowing patients with limited resources to receive donated medical cannabis and by exempting that donated cannabis from certain state taxes, including the steep excise tax.
- In May, ASA was selected to testify before the Food and Drug Administration regarding cannabis and cannabis derived products. The testimony was well received and the panel specifically requested further written testimony. ASA also provided over 20 pages of written comments to help support the oral comments that were delivered.
- In May, with the help of advocates from ASA’s Colorado Chapter, the passage of SB-013 by the state of Colorado brought improvements to their medical cannabis program including the adoption of a process allowing physicians to recommend cannabis to patients who already utilize opioids for pain relief. ASA made this very recommendation as a part of our model legislation we presented at the Nation Conference of State Legislatures.
- In August, we debuted the 2019 State of the States report at the National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. This gave us the chance to distribute printed copies directly into the hands of lawmakers. We also hosted two events at the conference that gave us the chance to network with legislators from across the country. This report also debuted our new Federal oversight resolution, the Office of Medical Cannabis Control, a new approach to the federal oversight of medical cannabis that is effective and provides for safe cannabis, without being overly burdensome on existing state regulatory frameworks.
- In September, ASA sent emails to California residents asking them to Urge Governor Newsom to Sign SB 34, reviving the right for medical cannabis businesses to make cannabis donations to patients in need. Due to our strong chapter support in California, the bill was signed in September. The gifting program is an important component especially while cannabis remains uncovered by medical insurance.
- Last year ASA distributed model language surrounding ways to combat the opioid epidemic to state officials all over the country. Through ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives campaign ASA has been educating policy makers and the public that cannabis is a viable alternative to opioids in pain treatment.This year New Jersey joined other neighboring New York and Pennsylvania and other states in recognizing opioid addiction as a qualifying condition. Illinois also now allows patients to substitute medical cannabis for an opioid prescription before developing a dependence. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is unique in giving pain patients the option of medical cannabis without requiring a specific recommendation for it.
- In January, ASA travelled to Prague, Czech Republic to join experts from around the world for the Annual Global Network Meeting of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute (ICCI). During the meeting ICCI staff and strategic partners, such as ASA, were presented with an overview of current projects and new initiatives for 2019. ASA's Patient Focused Certification (PFC) and Cannabis Care Certification (CCC) projects were among the topics discussed.
- In December, ASA traveled to Vienna, Austria to attend the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting. There, our International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC) held an advocacy training for advocates from several different countries and an evening reception for CND member states and NGO reps. We conducted an advocacy training efforts on behalf of rescheduling initiatives, inviting potential speakers for the onsite event and planned for the onsite event itself by negotiating and securing the space and catering for the event, in addition to producing event materials. We also created an open letter that will be sent to CND representatives all over the world recommending they modify the scheduling status of cannabis and cannabis-related substances.
- considered by the CND during its session in March 2020.
- This is the 3rd CND meeting ASA has attended with representatives from IMCPC.
Education, Training, and Product Safety
- In January, ASA’s Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program, expanded certification services to include hemp and CBD businesses.
- In July, ASA’s Cannabis Care Certification (CCC) program updated their Continuing Medical Professional (CME) courses for medical professionals approved under the latest rules for dealing with controversial subjects in CME programs. The new CME course provides physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and psychologists with accredited educational content focused on medical marijuana and the endocannabinoid system. The content provides Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and American Psychological Association (APA) credits.
- This september we were honored to have ASA testify before the Food and Drug Administration regarding cannabis and cannabinoid products. With the vaping crisis looming large in the media, we took that opportunity to speak to the existing product safety standards for cannabis and the need for stronger testing programs.
- PFC and the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) renewed their partnership to conduct dual ISO/IEC 17025/PFC accreditation. ISO 17025 is a requirement for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories and is the main ISO standard used by testing and calibration laboratories. In most countries, ISO/IEC 17025 is the standard for which labs must hold accreditation in order to be deemed technically competent. In July Stillwater Laboratory became the first dual accredited company.
- Throughout 2019, ASA’s PFC program updated our Core Cannabis Training staff courses. We also added several new state regulation courses including California, Michigan, and New Jersey and updated our Maryland, Pennsylvania and DC courses.
- In early 2019, PFC started the process for ISO 17065 accreditation through A2LA, which will be completed in 2020. This accreditation is a requirement for bodies certifying products, processes and services.
- In December, ASA hosted an educational event at MJBizCon in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our event, "Ensuring Product Safety, Compliance and Social Responsibility in the Cannabis Industry" featured speakers Chris Day (MJBizDaily), Nic Easley (3C Cannabis Consulting), Antonio Franzier (CannaSafe Analytics), Steph Sherer (ICCI), and Heather Despres (ASA).
- ASA hosted 2 live PFC trainings this year in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
- In June, ASA created The Patient’s Guide to CBD in response to the FDA hearing and their concern regarding products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds. The guide is a comprehensive resource that covers a wide range of topics, including, available forms for use, what to look for on package labels, how to read a certificate of analysis, how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, the current state of research, the compound’s legal status, and how to talk to one’s doctor about CBD.
- In August, ASA created The Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel to address frequently asked questions around the struggles of traveling as a medical cannabis patient. The guide introduces readers to concepts like reciprocity and explains why crossing state lines with cannabis is a problem. It includes information and examples of corporate policies regarding cannabis in the transportation industry and compares and details reciprocity regulations throughout the U.S.
- In August, ASA also released our Annual State of the States Report. Besides covering more states and territories than ever before, the report included a few new updates as well. For the first time ever the report included grading based on the states response to the ongoing opioid overdose crisis in line with our End Pain - Not Lives campaign. We are happy to report that for the first time ever we were able to award an A grade. Twice, in fact. We also streamlined the publication by moving the scoring rubric into an online supplemental and converting our state eligible condition chart into a living online tool.