ASA Activist Newsletter - April 2018

April 13, 2018 | Paul Marini

In the April 2018 Issue:

  • Congress Acts to Protect Patients from AG Sessions
  • Advocates Descend on Annual UN Drug Meeting
  • Two Studies Show Safe Access Reduces Prescription Opioid Use
  • ASA’s National Unity Conference is just 6 Weeks Away
  • ASA to Host New Patient Education Course
  • ASA Workshop at New York Abilities Expo
  • Maryland Patients Benefit from Cannabis Care Certification
  • ASA Education and Training Has Global Reach
  • Activist Profile: Lisa Sublett, Kansas
  • ACTION ALERT: Urge your Senators to support CARERS!

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Congress Acts to Protect Patients from AG Sessions until September

Federal protections for medical cannabis patients and those who serve them in compliance with state law will continue uninterrupted after all, at least until the end of September. Congress acted on March 23 to pass an appropriations bill that included the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which for the fourth year prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis programs.

The vote by the House of Representatives on the omnibus spending bill, which funds the government through September 30, 2018, ended months of uncertainty, debate and continuing resolutions. House leadership had blocked the medical cannabis amendment from coming to a vote, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Obama Administration’s guidance to prosecutors that had discouraged prosecutions.

The amendment is the only thing that prevents federal raids and prosecutions targeting businesses and individuals complying with state medical cannabis laws.

Sessions lobbied to block the amendment. In a May 2017 letter to Congress, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.” Sessions has long been a vocal critic of cannabis reform efforts.

“The inclusion of the CJS Amendment in the House budget shows that Congress knows it must protect medical cannabis patients from AG Sessions and his Department of Justice. We are extremely grateful to the sponsors, Congressman Rohrabacher and Congressman Blumenauer, and the other members that showed leadership on the issue." said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access. “But this only buys us a few months. We need comprehensive legislation like the CARERS ACT.

Support for re-passage of the amendment was strong and diverse. In November 2017, 28 Republican and 38 Democrat members of the House signed a letter supporting continuation of protections for state medical cannabis programs.

The 2018 appropriations bill also includes several provisions protecting industrial hemp, and a significant number of provisions related to combating the opioid crisis.

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Advocates Descend on Annual UN Drug Meeting

In March, medical cannabis advocates, including ASA Executive Director, Steph Sherer (pictured with Tomas Sedlik from the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute), traveled to Vienna for the annual meeting of the United Nations Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CND). At issue are four critical review documents on cannabis that will be discussed at the 40th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) meeting June 4-8 in Geneva.

Those review documents inform scheduling recommendations the World Health Organization (WHO) makes to the UN committee. In December 2017, the ECDD released a critical review document on CBD that stated, “in its pure state, cannabidiol does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm” and recommended to the UN that it remain out of the scheduling scheme all together.

Last month’s agenda for the CND delegation includes the “Implementation of the international drug control treaties,” where they will discuss “changes in the scope of controlled substances,” but they did not vote on CBD’s international scheduling status.

Cannabis, including medical cannabis and its resin, is currently classified as Schedule I in the U.S. and IV under the UN Single Convention. This scheduling was determined based on a report created by the Health Committee of the League of Nations in 1935.

The June 4 meeting of the ECDD is a special session on cannabis that will include “pre-reviews” of the cannabis plant, extracts and tinctures, and THC and its isomers.

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Two Studies Show Safe Access Reduces Prescription Opioid Use

Two new research studies published in April by the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA Internal Medicine confirm that access to medical cannabis reduces opiate prescribing.

In the first study, which looked at state data from 2011-2016, researchers found that there were more than 5 percent fewer Medicaid opioid prescriptions following the passage of medical and recreational cannabis laws.  

Noting the relative safety of cannabis and its effectiveness in controlling pain, the study’s authors conclude that is can be “a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic.”

In the second study, which looked at state data from 2010-2015, researchers found states with medical cannabis laws have 8.5 percent fewer daily opioid doses filled under Medicare Part D than states without safe access. When medical cannabis in available through dispensaries, the number of opioid drug doses drops further, to 14.4 percent fewer.

The authors of that study endorse “considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.”

ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives campaign is working to convince policy makers to make medical cannabis more available as an alternative to opioids.

Attorney General Sessions has publically stated he believes cannabis use leads to opiate addiction rather than relieves it, and that aspirin is an adequate treatment for severe chronic pain.

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ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is just 6 Weeks Away

We are only six weeks away from our 2018 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, DC May 22-24. This year cannabis needs to be part of the national conversation about the opioid crisis, so we are demanding that our lawmakers End Pain, Not Lives. Panels include:

  • The CARERS Act and the Opioid Crisis
  • Intervention: How Government Can Save Lives
  • Preventing Poison: Consumer’s Role in Quality Assurance
  • Connect Four: Educating Patients, Physicians, Providers and Policy Makers
  • Addiction to Global Pain: How the World is Treating Pain with Medical Cannabis
  • People Over Process: Making Lives a Priority in Public Policy

We will also be offering a special Patient Focused Certification training course covering Federal Law Enforcement Interaction and Raid Preparedness. Check out http://www.nationalmedicalcannabisunityconference.org/website for updates to the agenda and speakers.

The Unity conference is a chance for you to meet with other patients, advocates, medical professionals, scientists, regulators and politicians for focused discussions of medical cannabis. Early registration rates are ending soon. Please also book your hotel as soon as possible, as hotel rates will double in price when our room block is full!

ASA is proud to announce the first two sponsors for the National Unity Medical Cannabis Conference, Dr. Bronner's and ForwardGro.  Dr. Bronner's is committed to making socially and environmentally responsible products of the best quality, dedicating their profits to help make a better world. ForwardGro, a PFC-certified company, has combined best in class greenhouse growing practices, business management, medical cannabis research, and patient advocacy to become one of Maryland’s premier growers of medical cannabis. 

Over the past six years, with the help of our Sponsors, ASA has brought over a thousand medical cannabis patients to DC to improve their advocacy skills and meet with their Senate and House representatives about federal legislation. If you would like to help sponsor the conference and bring medical patients to DC, please contact conference@safeaccessnow.org or visit http://www.nationalmedicalcannabisunityconference.org/sponsor_unity.

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ASA to Host New Patient Education Course at Cannabis Learn in Philadelphia

In less than one month, ASA will join university researchers, leading cannabis operators, investors, and patients at Greenhouse Ventures’ inaugural Cannabis Learn Conference and Expo in Philadelphia. Come talk to ASA staff at their exhibitor table or join their “Patient Education 101 for New Markets” course on Monday, April 30, from 12-12:50pm, which will cover a variety of topics tailored for patients who are considering cannabis therapeutics as a part of their healthcare regime.  ASA readers can save 20% on ticket price using promo code, GHVASA, and half the ticket cost will be donated by GHVASA back to ASA. To join ASA staff April 30 - May 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or to learn more details, visit CannabisLearn.com.

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ASA Workshop on Cannabis and Disabilities at New York Metro Expo

In May, you can join ASA at the next Abilities Expo at the New Jersey Convention & Expo Center on May 4-6. ASA will be tabling and presenting a workshop on "How Medical Cannabis Can Help People with Disabilities."

New York and New Jersey have well-established medical cannabis programs, but there is a lot to do in both states to ensure safe access to this important medicine for people with disabilities. Join us to learn more about medical cannabis and how it can be an option for a variety of conditions and symptoms. Discover how you can access medical cannabis where you live. This workshop is designed to be interactive and will include time for questions and answers.

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Maryland Patients Benefit from Cannabis Care Certification

Maryland patients will be able to access the educational benefits of ASA’s Cannabis Care Certification (CCC) program, now that the state has a dispensary that will be offering CCC’s Patient Education Program free to all its patients. MedLeaf, a PFC-certified dispensary located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is the first dispensary in Maryland to sign up for the CCC Patient Education program. 

Every MedLeaf patient will receive an overview of local laws, an information page to hand to their doctor, an 86-page patient’s guide, and access to 2.5 hours of educational videos. The educational videos cover topics from the endocannabinoid system and clinical research data to information on choosing, using, and storing medicine. Additional topics include the history of medical cannabis and how to manage in daily life.

For more information about the CCC Patient Education Program for dispensaries, clinics, or educational institutes, please visit http://cannabiscarecertification.org/ or contact info@safeaccessnow.org.

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ASA Education and Training Has Global Reach

Representatives from ASA’s Patient Focused Certification (PFC) and Cannabis Care Certification (CCC) programs are engaged in extensive outreach and educational efforts with professional organizations of many types both in the U.S. and abroad.

Last month, PFC presented information from ASA’s annual report on state medical cannabis programs, Medical Marijuana Access in the U.S., at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society Meeting.  The meeting included three days of symposiums related to cannabis co-organized with ASA, including one on women in the cannabis industry.

PFC also presented two invited talks to the International Pharmaceutical Academy meeting in Toronto, Canada, one on data from the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute and the other on worker safety and product standards.

This month, the Cannabis Care Certification program will be offering Continuing Medical Education credits to doctors in Edmonton, Canada on April 12, including information medical professionals need about the endocannabinoid system and medical cannabis. Additional CCC and PFC educational events and  trainings will be offered this spring, which can be found at www.safeaccessnow.org/events.

Patient Focused Certification for analytic laboratories has been adopted by the state of Nevada. Individual testing laboratories in several states are participating in the PFC program, which includes audits to ensure compliance with best-practice standards, including three in Pennsylvania, one in Delaware, and two in Colorado. PFC has been working with the international organization A2LA on establishing common standards for laboratories. The cannabis testing laboratory accreditation developed with ASA covers ISO/IEC 17025 standards for everything from flower and concentrates to hemp and hemp-derived products.

Other state-licensed cannabis businesses are also participating in PFC assessments, including two new dispensaries in Maryland, Town Center Wellness and MedLeaf, which have achieved certification and will open this spring.

The PFC program has been getting media attention, with an article in the Evening Express and an upcoming mention in the popular women’s magazine Cosmopolitan. PFC’s scientific leadership is also being recognized, with Dr. Marcu again being nominated to be president of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. At the upcoming ICRS annual symposium in the Netherlands at the end of June, PFC will be presenting three years of ASA data on state access regulation culled from the annual state access report.

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ASA Advocate Profile: Lisa Sublett, Kansas

What led Lisa Sublett to medical cannabis were the health issues she faced after the birth of her last child. Research was part of her career path in corporate marketing, so she set about investigating and soon found a YouTube video of a man with Parkinsonism that showed him trapped in his condition. She could see the suffering in his eyes, but also his intelligence. Then he took cannabis, and the video showed him now walking, talking and driving off.

“This was cannabis!” Lisa says. “I was totally incredulous. I didn’t believe it.”

But Lisa’s research continued, and she came to believe that millions had suffered needlessly because cannabis was not an option. She turned then to finding out who was working on this issue and started to reach out to others.

The group in her state of Kansas that she started out with six years ago turned to advocacy for full adult-use access, but Lisa wanted to achieve access for patients first.

“In my business career, you had to know your audience, so I applied that approach to this,” she says. “The target for persuasion in Kansas is a conservative voter, so we needed a professional, data-driven, evidence-based approach. My role models were ASA and Steve DeAngelo.”

Lisa is not opposed to cannabis culture, but she decided to steer clear of marijuana leaf icons and other imagery that might have counter-productive associations for the people she needed to convince.

That led her in 2014 to found Bleeding Kansas Inc., a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Soon she realized that non-profit status limited her political advocacy, so within two years she had launched Bleeding Kansas Advocates as a 501(c)4, a non-profit that can lobby. She also created the Bleeding Kansas Advocates PAC for political work.

Unlike most states, Kansas allows private citizens to write and submit bills to the legislature. Lisa and Bleeding Kansas Advocates have submitted medical cannabis bills, the Kansas Safe Access Act, in both the Kansas state House and Senate each of the last three years and gotten stalled in committee. After three years of no hearings in either chamber, last year legislators asked for an interim committee to study the issue over the summer, but that was denied.

Lisa and other advocates were promised a hearing this session but never got it, so last month their 116-page bill was brought as an amendment to another measure by Rep. Cindy Holscher,

 a champion in the state house. During debate, many lawmakers shared personal stories of support, pushing the amendment to within eight votes of passage. Many who voted no said they supported the bill but wanted a more complete process rather than as an amendment.

The effort got press and political attention, and local public television will be airing a show on medical cannabis in Kansas soon.

Shortly before that, lobbyists for a biosciences firm had convinced a pair of Kansas lawmakers to introduce a hemp-based CBD-only bill, but after researching the company and the limits of the proposed law, advocates successfully mobilized against it, sure that it would block any meaningful legislation from passing in the future.

For now, Lisa and Bleeding Kansas Advocates are turning attention to the June 1 candidate filing deadline, which will be the start of gathering information for their voter’s guide. Then will come voter registration and planning for the next legislative session. Rep. Holscher may be a sponsor of a revised bill, but with bipartisan support and new visibility for the issue in the state, a medical cannabis bill is destined to be resubmitted.

“You just can’t stop,” says Lisa.

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ACTION ALERT: Urge your Congressional Representatives to support CARERS!

The budget amendment protecting medical cannabis patients almost didn’t make it this year, and Attorney General Sessions is determined to roll back the clock on medical cannabis.  More than ever, your Senators and Representative need to hear from you about the CARERS Act, a bill that would respect the rights of states to manage medical cannabis programs for their citizens. Take a minute to urge them to sign on as co-sponsors today at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/carers2017.

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