ASA Activist Newsletter - April 2019

In the April 2019 issue:

  • Unity Conference 2019 Brings Advocates to DC
  • ASA Announces New Board of Directors
  • Georgia Governor Gets Bill to Allow Cannabis Oil Production
  • Committee Passes Banking Bill, STATES Act Reintroduced
  • FDA to Hold Hearings on CBD Regulations
  • ICCI Webinar: Making Cannabis Safer and Better with Dr. Ethan Russo
  • California Lobby Day on May 6 in Sacramento
  • Upcoming: ASA at National Cannabis Festival, Cannabis Science Conference
  • Free ASA Webinar on the “Cascade of Care”
  • Pennsylvania Panel Takes on Recreational vs. Medical Issues
  • Activist Profile: Diana Dodson, ASA Courage Award
  • Action Alert: Give the FDA Your Perspective on CBD


Unity Conference 2019 Brings Advocates to DC

ASA’s 7th annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference, "The Price of Being a Medical Cannabis Patient," brought over 300 patients and advocates to Washington, D.C. in March to hear the latest updates on medical cannabis and meet with members of Congress and their staff. ASA scheduled a total of 147 meetings with conference participants and Congressional offices.

Advocates lobbied for ASA’s new federal legislation, the “Medical Cannabis Control Act of 2019” (MCCA), which would create a new agency to provide oversight of medical cannabis. The text of the legislation is available in Chapter 7 of Medical Cannabis in America: The Medical Cannabis Briefing Book, 116th Congress, which can be downloaded from ASA’s website.

At the start of the conference, ASA held two free workshops, a veterans’ roundtable discussion moderated by veteran Todd Larkin from Pure Wellness CBD and Cannabis 101 with Dr. William Trout from Harvest Dispensaries. Conference panels addressed barriers to patients, global CBD developments including hemp, and advocacy in the courts.

ASA’s annual awards banquet included two new awards, Veteran Advocate of the Year and Business Advocate of the Year. Patrick Seifert was named Veteran Advocate of the Year for his work toward advancing the national dialogue on veterans' access to medical cannabis. CannaSafe was Business Advocate of the Year for their great leadership in advancing accountability for product purity and identity.

Other awards were Patient Advocate of the Year, going to Todd Larkin for representing the patient perspective in every aspect of his work, and the Courage Award, which went to longtime activist Diana Dodson for consistently displaying great courage in the face of adversity. Her story is in this newsletter’s Activist Profile. ASA Chapter of the Year went to Safe Access Colorado, a new chapter that has distinguished itself with community involvement and education and fundraising events, as well as successful lobbying of the legislature.

Researcher of the Year went to Jeffrey Raber, PhD for contributing to analytic laboratory development. The Medical Professional of the Year was Cathleen Graham, who has displayed great leadership in the form of outreach, education, and research. Journalist of the Year was Tom Angell for reporting that raises the national dialogue regarding medical cannabis. Elected Official of the Year was Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) for fighting for patients' and caregiver's rights in the Maryland state legislature. 

ASA could not put this conference on without support from the community. A special thank you goes out to all who helped support it this year, especially all of the Unity Conference sponsors. With support from the conference sponsors, ASA's scholarship program was able to bring patients from all over the country to DC to attend the conference. Anyone interested in sponsoring next year’s conference can contact [email protected] to discuss sponsorship levels and benefits that extend all year long.

Check out a short video compilation of the conference at


ASA Announces New Board of Directors

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has announced its new Board of Directors for 2019. The new Board of Directors convened for the first time during ASA's annual National Medical Cannabis Unity conference. The Board includes physicians, patients, researchers, industry professionals and a U.S. Air Force veteran.

The 2019 Board of Directors includes founding members, Steph Sherer, who serves as Board President, and Don Duncan, a Los Angeles-based consultant who is ASA’s former California Director. The other seven board members are:

Ben Bronfman, a founding member of Global Thermostat, an atmospheric carbon capture firm with offices in New York and Menlo Park, CA.  He is also the co-founder of BIM a mobile payments start up with offices in New York and Atlanta. Bronfman is also a founding partner at Dioscorides Global Holdings. When not working on these projects, he enjoys making music and has produced tracks for Kanye West and others.

Nic Easley, the CEO and founder of 3C Cannabis Consulting, the world’s leading strategic cannabis consulting firm. 3C has helped hundreds of clients across 30 U.S. states and 13 different countries design, start-up, build, and optimize their cannabis companies. 3C provides strategic and tactical consulting to cultivation, manufacturing, retail, delivery, distribution, and other ancillary commercial cannabis operations.

Jayan Fazal-Karim, who serves as the Director of Alternative Investments at FK Group where he is in charge of sourcing new investments in “alternative” spaces, such as cannabis, technology, and renewable energy. He is also Managing Director at Think Green Consulting, where he consults high net worth individuals on how to invest in the cannabis industry in a socially conscious and impactful way. Previously, Fazal-Karim was the Lead Product Engineer at Cannabase, a B2B platform that centralizes and organizes the wholesale cannabis market.

Pavel Kubů, MD, one of the founders of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute and a founding member of International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition. He worked for the Intel World Ahead Program for Healthcare in Central and Eastern Europe for ten years, cofounded the bio-electronic R&D company Elon 2011, and was appointed chairman of the Ethical Commission at the Czech National Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Abuse in 2006.

Olga Obie, MD, an emergency physician board-certified in Texas, California and Louisiana. Dr. Obie began her path to naturopathy, the study and practice of natural medicine, after exploring native medicine in Central America, South America, and parts of Africa. She presently provides healing CBD-based expertise to Houston area patients as Texas’ cannabis laws slowly expand.

Carla Rossotti Vázquez, MD, who is very active with the Medical Cannabis Program in Puerto Rico. She was part of the first group of physicians to be certified by the Puerto Rico Health Department to write medical cannabis recommendations for qualifying patients. She is one of the founding members and current Vice-President of Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Ciencia y Medicina Cannábica (Puerto Rican Society of Science and Cannabinoid Medicine), and is also a founding member for Miembros de la Industria del Cannabis Medicinal (MICaM, Members of the Medical Cannabis Industry).

Nick Ventura, a co-founder of Venley, one of the largest apparel companies in the sports licensing space. Because of his initiatives, Venley forged productive, professional relationships with integral stakeholders, and orchestrated efforts in securing 400+ exclusive sports apparel licenses from WME/IMG, CAA, and Learfield.


Georgia Governor Gets Bill to Allow Production of Cannabis Oil

On April 2, the Georgia Legislature approved a bill that would allow for the in-state cultivation and production of medical cannabis. House Bill 324, which passed by a vote of 147-16 in the House and 34-20 in the Senate, still limits the amount of THC content that patients can possess, but allows in-state facilities to produce medicine. Currently, Georgia patients have no legal way to obtain medical cannabis products.

“After five years of hard work and many disappointing sessions, we were finally able to pass an in-state cultivation and distribution bill” said Sebastien Cotte, ASA Member and Co-Founder of Georgia's Hope. “It took a lot of work by so many people, but we are very excited to finally have created a pathway for Georgia patients to obtain their medical cannabis oil here at home and stop having to break federal laws by bringing medicine across state lines.”

The bill creates a Medical Cannabis Commission, testing standards and a distribution and production network for low-THC products. Georgia’s 8,400 registered patients will be able to purchase up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil. The bill also provides for university research and calls for equity in licensing distribution and cultivation businesses to ensure that minorities, women and veteran-owned businesses will be well represented.

“We applaud the efforts of Georgia advocates and patients in securing this victory. Having in-state access to medical cannabis will greatly improve the lives of patients,” said Steph Sherer, President and Founder of Americans for Safe Access. “However, like all state-based solutions, this bill is not without problems and further highlights the need for Congressional action to ensure safe access.”

Georgia is poised to become one of the first states in the southeast with an in-state distribution and cultivation system for low-THC cannabis oil. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Brian Kemp, who helped broker the legislation and is expected to sign it.


House Committee Passes Cannabis Banking Bill

On March 28, the first cannabis bill passed out of a committee in this congress. The House Financial Services Committee approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, which would create protections for banks and other institutions that provide financial services to state regulated cannabis businesses. Federal law currently prevents most state-licensed cannabis businesses from using the financial services on which businesses typically rely.

The new chair of the House Rules Committee, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), said the bill will make it to a full vote of the House.

“We will guide it to the House floor for a vote, which I think it will pass with an overwhelming vote. Democrats and a lot of Republicans as well,” Rep McGovern said. “I think if we have a strong bipartisan vote, that’ll increase the pressure on the Senate to do something.

Today, all but three states have some sort of medical cannabis law that is at odds with federal prohibition; the adult use of cannabis is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia; and four out of five U.S. territories are implementing medical cannabis programs. The SAFE Banking Act is the Federal Government’s most far-reaching step toward resolving the tension between federal and state laws regarding cannabis in the modern era.

“Hopefully, the SAFE Banking Act is the first step of many in reforming cannabis policies at the federal level,” said ASA Director of Government Affairs David Mangone. “Access to banking channels puts medical cannabis businesses one step closer to reducing costs for patients and, ultimately, allowing for health insurers to cover medical cannabis and medical cannabis products.”

The SAFE Act is not the only pending federal legislation that would support safe access. A bipartisan bill to shield state-licensed medical cannabis businesses from federal interference was reintroduced in both the House and Senate last month. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2019 is sponsored by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Other bills that would amend federal marijuana law to create exceptions for state medical cannabis programs include HR 493, the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act (Rep. Lou Correa, D-CA); HR 1455, the Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement & Regulations of Cannabis Act (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA); and HR 2012, the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act (Rep. Diane DeGette, D-CO).


FDA to Hold Hearing on CBD Regulations in May

How CBD will be regulated federally will be decided largely by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A public hearing next month will consider rules for how cannabidiol (CBD) will be integrated into consumer products such as foods and beverages. In addition to the hearing, the FDA is soliciting public comment. ASA is urging patient advocates to make their voices heard in those comments.

In announcing the public hearing, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement saying they intend to create "lawful pathways by which appropriate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds can be marketed."

The FDA has sent recent warning letters about health claims to several companies marketing CBD-based products. Currently, federal law prohibits adding CBD or other cannabinoid extracts to food or dietary supplements, even when derived from hemp.

The FDA has approved for sale a single CBD drug, Epidiolex. Evaluation of that medicine found it to be safe with negligible side effects, but Gottlieb’s statement claims "open questions remain regarding the safety" of CBD products.

The latest Farm Bill created a state-federal system for the legal production of hemp and extracts of it, including CBD. The FDA is considering standards for ensuring product quality and consistency as well as labeling.

For more on how to submit a public comment, see this month’s Action Alert.


ICCI Webinar: Making Cannabis Safer and Better

On April 9, ASA’s global research partner, the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, will present its first online webinar. In the webinar “Making Cannabis Safer and Better,” Dr. Ethan Russo will cover cannabis preparations, components, and pitfalls in cultivation; best practices and selective breeding for cannabis composition; and using cannabis to treat a variety of conditions, including information on dosage and methods of  administration.

The two hour webinar will start with a 90-minute presentation by Dr. Russo, followed by 30 minutes for questions and open discussion. The April 9 webinar is live at 11:00 am EDT and costs 30 Euro to register.   For more information, contact [email protected] or go to ICCI Webinars.


California Citizen Lobby Day on May 6 in Sacramento

The annual California Citizen Lobby Day sponsored by ASA and Cal NORML will be held on Monday, May 6, in Sacramento. Advocates will have a chance to meet face-to-face with elected representatives and staff to talk about issues that matter to medical cannabis patients. Lobby day participants will be advocating for lower taxes on medical cannabis and expanded compassion programs. Advocates are also trying to stop efforts to curtail delivery statewide and to prevent employment discrimination against patients. 

The California Citizen Lobby Day begins at 8:00am with a continental breakfast at the Citizen Hotel, followed by a legislative briefing and training before going to the capital in the afternoon to meet with lawmakers and staff. There will also be a special VIP Reception after the event. Advocates who register in advance will have appointments made for them with their representatives. The cost of registration is $25.


Upcoming Events: National Cannabis Festival and Cannabis Science Conference

On April 9-10, ASA staff will be at the Cannabis Science Conference  in Baltimore, Maryland. Come by booth 204 to talk to staff and get educational and lobbying materials.

On April 19-20, ASA will be at the National Cannabis Festival in Washington, D.C. ASA staff will present at two panels on cannabis policy on April 20. Government Affairs Director David Mangone will be on the “Key Barriers to Safe and Legal Access” panel at 2:45 PM, discussing issues ranging from the failure of state/local licensing models to delivery access to insurance issues and over-regulation of the industry. ASA’s Regulatory Affairs Coordinator Sean Khalepari will be on the East Coast Round Up panel at 4:00 PM talking about opportunities and concerns in the emerging East Coast cannabis industry in light of the West Coast experience.

ASA staff will also be providing educational materials at a table at the NCF Policy Summit on April 19 and at the festival on April 20 at the RFK Festival Grounds.


Free ASA Webinar on the “Cascade of Care”

On May 2 at 2:00pm ET, ASA will present a free webinar “Creating a Cascade of Care Model for Medical Cannabis: What it is and How it Can Help Patient Access”. The webinar with Grace E. Macalino, PhD, MPH, of Marimac Insight and ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai, MA will discuss how the model can identify gaps in services, develop strategies to improve engagement in care, and increase health outcomes. Everyone from patients and caregivers to providers and policy makers will benefit from a clear and simple framework to guide future medical cannabis research, interventions, education, and resources. There will be an interactive follow-up webinar two weeks later for participants to share their stories. To register, visit


Pennsylvania Panel Takes on Recreational vs. Medical Issues

On March 30-31, ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai, participated in a panel discussion on “Recreational vs. Medical: Examining the Laws, Programs and Use of Cannabis” at the Mind, Body, and Holistic Healing Expo and Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Joining her to discuss the medical, legal, social and political issues were Gisele Barreto Fetterman and state Reps. Jake Wheatley and Ed Gainey. The next day, Churgai presented “Top 10 Things All New Medical Cannabis Patients Should Know,” which included the importance of knowing your state laws, the endocannabinoid system and the difference between THC and CBD and other cannabinoids.


Activist Profile: Diana Dodson, Patient Advocate of the Year

Diana Dodson, recipient of this year’s ASA Courage Award, has demonstrated unyielding commitment to advocating for medical cannabis patients since before the first state law was passed. An early HIV/AIDS activist in San Francisco in the 1980s before the disease had a name, Diana was a Shanti counselor and worked with ACT-UP and pioneers such as Brownie Mary Rathbone to help get cannabis to people who needed it, including her brother, who died from AIDS in 1998.

Diana herself was diagnosed with AIDS in 1998, after contracting HIV from a blood product in 1985. Diana’s doctor first recommended cannabis for the nausea that came with taking her HIV medications, but Diana discovered that it also relieved her painful neuropathy.

The next year, she became a board member of California’s first patient collectives, the Women’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz, California. When the DEA raided the WAMM garden in 2002, Diana was operating the phone tree to get supporters on site, and she negotiated the release of WAMM leaders Valerie and Mike Corral after locking the garden’s gates on the federal agents. She remembers the day vividly.

“When I confronted the federal agents, they put the machine guns on me. I threw up. Then I spilled my bag of meds on purpose to stop them,” Diana recalls. “‘This garden takes care of people,’ I told them. ‘Do you know anyone with cancer?’ That got to some of them. One agent had a tear in his eye.”

That’s when the DEA ordered her to get on the other side of the property gate. Instead, she locked it on them, despite having guns pointed at her, and demanded to speak with the Corrals. Then she sat down on top of the sheriff’s car and smoked a joint.

Diana met ASA founder Steph Sherer after that raid. In the years since, she has participated in clinical trials with medical cannabis, including the 2002 neuropathy trial conducted by Donald Abrams. After that study was published in 2007, Diana took on an outspoken public role as a medical cannabis patient to get as much mileage out of it as possible, working with ASA and the Marijuana Policy Project. She developed a social media presence and contributed the patient perspective to blogs. She’s even cited in a DEA publication.

In recent years, Diana worked in Florida with United for Care to help pass Amendment 2, which created a robust medical cannabis program in the state. Diana was also a successful plaintiff against the state of Florida in a suit that established all patients can smoke cannabis as the medication delivery method of choice. She says her future activism will be around personal gardens.

“There have been times when I wonder if legalizing cannabis solely for medicinal purposes is the right thing when it should be part of our food and unregulated, but meeting the desperate need for patients to have safe access has always been my goal,” Diana says. “I’ve put my body on the line. But I understand that there is a process for educating people.”

“People need the root and leaf, and it’s healing just to grow something,” she says. “Regulations, yes, but I know what these mega corps are doing.”

Currently, Diana is working on transforming a beachfront lodge in Costa Rica that’s only accessible by boat into a cannabis-friendly healing center.


Action Alert: Give the FDA Your Perspective on CBD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a public hearing on May 31 on how to regulate CBD in products for human consumption such as foods, beverages, and dietary supplements. The FDA has also opened a public comment period on the issue. This is your chance to make an impact on important federal policy. Read ASA's suggestions for submitting regulatory comments and submit your own on the regulation of CBD here. Take action today at


Download a PDF of this newsletter to print and share