ASA Activist Newsletter: April 2020 ASA Activist Newsletter - April 2020

April 11, 2020 | William Dolphin

In the April 2020 Issue:

  • Patient Advocates Tell States Cannabis Businesses are “Essential Services”
  • Charlotte Figi, Young Patient Who Inspired a Movement, Dies at 13
  • ASA’s National Unity Conference and Lobby Day Go Online
  • ASA Launches “No Patient Left Behind” Campaign with Design Contest
  • PFC April Online Training for DC Compliance is 20% Off
  • PFC Essential Cannabis Workers Stay Safe Training Webinar
  • Highstream 420 Festival to Benefit ASA
  • ASA Activist Profile: Dan Stockwell Jr., Dublin, New Hampshire
  • Action Alert: Tell Your Governor and Mayor Cannabis is Essential Business

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Patient Advocates Tell States Cannabis Businesses are “Essential Services”

Dispensaries and other cannabis businesses in many parts of the country were ordered closed last month as state and local leaders issued stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) responded immediately in coordination with key stakeholders, holding an emergency national meeting to gather information about issues that are affecting patients and businesses. 

On March 16, ASA sent a letter to elected officials and medical cannabis program directors urging them to take action to protect patient access and the medical cannabis supply chain, including classifying cannabis businesses as “essential services.” Among the other recommendations are tax relief for patients and cannabis businesses, guidance for dispensaries on temporary changes such as deliveries and increased purchase limits, and extension of program identification card expiration dates.

ASA has also created a resource page with recommendations for patients, guidelines for officials and a call to action, as well as a way for people to share how businesses are responding to COVID-19 in their area: www.safeaccessnow.org/COVID-19

“In light of the current state of COVID-19 and the CDC’s actions, Americans for Safe Access has been monitoring the situation to make sure that medical cannabis patients are not forgotten," said ASA Founder and President Steph Sherer. “We want to ensure that dispensaries are seen as essential businesses that will remain open for patients.”

Local ASA chapters and other patient advocates have been instrumental in reversing ill-considered restrictions or lobbying officials to do so.

When San Francisco sent out a notice to close dispensaries because they were not considered an essential business, the local ASA chapter, Bay Area Americans for Safe Access, jumped into action. Chapter members immediately started organizing, doing outreach to San Francisco officials and building a coalition. A sign-on letter and petition went out the next morning. With the help of Nina Parks, chair of the San Francisco Cannabis Oversight Committee, Ramon Garcia, co-founder of SF Equity Working Group, and Distribution Manager Padre Mu and CEO Andrea Brooks of Sava, activists were able to get almost two dozen companies and organizations to sign on to the letter by 3 pm. Meanwhile, the petition on change.org quickly gathered more than 2,000 signatures, and activists worked back channels with city officials. By late afternoon that day, the mayor and the Department of Health reversed course and announced cannabis businesses would be allowed to operate.

 “More than 3 million medical cannabis patients rely on dispensaries to provide them with medication, which for many can be life-saving,” said ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai. “The health and safety of patients, dispensary staff and the community as a whole is our priority and we hope that Governors and state regulators will allow some important flexibility for medical cannabis patients during this time of need.” 

 The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance is encouraging the State of Massachusetts to safeguard safe access and expand remote services for patients and caregivers to medical cannabis as it is medically essential healthcare.

“Eighteen states have now declared cannabis businesses essential and many others are following other ASA recommendations,” said Sherer. “We applaud these efforts at the state level and are honored to serve governments and medical cannabis stakeholders on behalf of patients.” 

For updates on how states and businesses are responding, ASA’s recommendations to patients, and steps advocates can take to educate officials, see ASA’s COVID-19 resource page at www.safeaccessnow.org/COVID-19.

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Charlotte Figi, Young Patient Who Inspired a Movement, Dies at 13

Charlotte Figi, the young girl whose story was featured in 2013 on CNN, died Tuesday, April 7, of cardiac arrest following a seizure. She and her family had been sick with a serious flu that was presumed to be coronavirus, but Charlotte tested negative during a short stay at the hospital and had been discharged two days before.  

ASA released the following statement: "We are heartbroken over the news of Charlotte Figi's passing. Our lives are forever changed because of this amazing little girl, her family, and their fight for rights of all to use medical cannabis. Charlotte's work will never be forgotten, and we will continue the fight for safe access in her honor until everybody on this planet has safe access to this medicine. Thank you, Charlotte, for making the world a better place for us all."

Charlotte’s mother had turned to a high-CBD cannabis extract to treat her daughter’s Dravet Syndrome, a rare childhood form of epilepsy, that was causing up to 300 seizures a week. With the CBD extract, the seizures were reduced to 2-3 a month.

Her remarkable success story reached CNN’s medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as he was preparing his first special report on medical cannabis, and he flew to Colorado to meet her. In a CNN story on her death and in a moving tribute, Gupta credits Charlotte and her courageous family with convincing him that cannabis has therapeutic value. He was not alone.  

Parents in states with no safe access to medical cannabis began lobbying state lawmakers. Within little more than a year following the airing of the 2013 special report, 17 states that had resisted cannabis reform had passed laws allowing the use of CBD extracts, including Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi.

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ASA’s National Unity Conference and Lobby Day Go Online

While many conferences have been canceled or postponed, Americans for Safe Access held its 8th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity conference online on March 27, 2020. The change to an online format allowed ASA to make the conference even more accessible by lowering the cost of attendance and making recordings of the expert panels available to watch any time.

Panels covered the latest developments in medical cannabis, barriers to medical cannabis access, ideas about how to navigate medical cannabis policy nationally and globally in a changing political landscape, and ways to demand action from state and federal elected officials.

Instead of the annual Lobby Day with meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and their staff, ASA arranged for participants to engage in citizen lobbying from home. More than 200 letters and tweets have been sent, urging Congress to pass legislation to encourage medical research and ensure safe access nationwide, including the creation of a new national agency to oversee cannabis matters.

The conference proceedings can be viewed at http://www.asaunity.org/watch. The video is free for all conference participants, or $25 for those that did not attend the live event.

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ASA Launches “No Patient Left Behind” Campaign with Design Contest

Early in April, ASA announced the launch of a new campaign: No Patient Left Behind. The focus of this campaign is to help raise awareness of the millions of people who should be able to obtain and use cannabis for medical purposes, yet still find themselves without access. To support it, ASA is urging everyone to sign the No Patient Left Behind petition. 

Patients affected by barriers to safe access include: federal employees; veterans; people in jurisdictions with restrictive lists of qualifying conditions; employees subject to drug testing in jurisdictions that don’t provide employment protections for medical cannabis patients; patients in treatment or hospice centers; patients who need to travel across state lines; people living in underserved areas; people living in poverty; minor qualifying patients whose educational institutions don’t permit them to consume their medication on school grounds; and people on organ transplant lists where explicit patient protections are not written into law.

ASA is kicking off this campaign with an April design contest. ASA is looking for images or graphics representing the various barriers patients face. The winning designs will be featured on campaign materials, with credit on the ASA website. To submit a graphic, please send your designs to info@safeaccessnow.org by May 3 with the subject line “No Patient Left Behind”. 

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UPCOMING ONLINE EVENTS

PFC April Online Training for DC Compliance is 20% Off

On April 17 ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program is offering a two-hour compliance training from 2-4pm EDT(11am-1pm PDT) for businesses operating in Washington, D.C. The training is available at a 20% discount off its regular price, as are all other online PFC training courses for the month of April.

PFC is the only licensed training provider for cannabis operations located in Washington, D.C. This course provides an overview of the District’s cannabis rules and regulations and shows how to get into compliance. The course is designed to give individuals a comprehensive foundation of knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern day-to-day cannabis operations. The D.C. compliance course is broken into two components: state and local laws & state and local regulations.

To register for the D.C. course, go to www.safeaccessnow.org/pfc_dc_training_4-17-20. For a look at PFC’s additional courses, visit www.PFCtraining.org.

PFC Essential Cannabis Workers Stay Safe Training Webinar 

PFC will be hosting a free COVID-19 safety training for cannabis workers on April 17th from 12-1pm EDT (9-10am PDT). Following the live webinar, the course will be available on the PFC website. Participants may register there to take the online course, complete the course exam and print out a certificate of completion to provide their employer. 

This one-hour webinar is designed to provide information on health and sanitation best practices for cannabis industry workers that have been deemed essential. Attendees will learn about general types of cleaning, personal hygiene andmeasures such as social distancing. The training will guide students through the differences between general cleaning, sanitation and sterilization.

Register today for this free safety webinar at www.safeaccessnow.org/sanitation.

Highstream 420 Festival to Benefit ASA

On April 20, The National Cannabis FestivalThe Emerald Cup, and nugs.tv are presenting the  Highstream 420 Festival. This free online festival offers a full day of music performances, online workshops, demos, and interactive panels. Proceeds from advertising will benefit Americans for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Alliance and Crew Nation. RSVP to watch free at: Highstreamtv.com.

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ASA Activist Profile: Dan Stockwell, Dublin, New Hampshire

Dan Stockwell has been a public advocate for medical cannabis for more than 30 years. He discovered its therapeutic value at age 14, a decade before he got the diagnosis that helped explain why it helped. Despite a great family life and high academic achievement, Dan had experienced emotional challenges his whole life. Cannabis changed that.

“When I first tried marijuana when I was 14, it was a realization and enlightenment in how it affected me,” Dan recalls. “I stepped out of suicidality and depression for the first time.”

Dan’s first thought was that he wanted to know what the danger associated with cannabis was. Just as immediately, he thought, “This is what I need.”

As he was finishing high school in 1985, the Rolling Stone review of Jack Herer’s just-published book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, caught his attention. He already knew a lot about the history of cannabis from the family Encyclopedia Britannica, but Herer’s account put it all together for him. When he left for college the next year and encountered Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On Civil Disobedience,” he found his calling.

“I realized this is what I believed in: I had a human right to marijuana, and it was a life-or-death thing,” Dan says. “I knew this gave me immediate breakthrough relief. Just in that respect, it told me everyone should have access.”

Dan struggled with his place and purpose in the world at Bates College, but he enjoyed the respect of his peers on campus, where he framed his open cannabis use as civil disobedience. After he graduated in 1989, he embarked on self-treatment experiments with a number of alternative substances to boost his mood, including l-tryptophan for a year until it was banned nationally after a bad batch came out.

“Those were my early lessons in the politics of mind chemistry,” Dan says.

Out of college, eager to show he could handle responsibility, Dan became an outdoor education leader, first as an instructor with NOLS, then working with emotionally disturbed boys in New Hampshire and a Massachusetts outdoor program for juveniles in lock up.

“I always tried to be as public as possible about my marijuana use,” Dan says. “That was tricky working for the court system with children, but I managed to do it.”

Through college, Dan had been breeding his own cannabis and self-medicating, so he rarely needed to use the underground market. Over the next seven years, Dan worked all over the country – California, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Maine. Massachusetts, Vermont. As he traveled, cannabis was his calling card.

“My cannabis use allowed me close personal connection and brought me in people’s homes,” Dan recalls. “Along the way, I was getting seeds from best cannabis available. All my genetics were from before test-driven high-THC development, so more medicinal qualities are in them.”

Three of Dan’s phenotypes are now registered with Phylos.

Once back in New Hampshire, Dan continued to work in the shadows. A conservative state on cannabis policy, New Hampshire finally established a restrictive medical program in 2013, but the law does not include the condition Dan was finally diagnosed with as an adult: Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. In the last few years, 15 states have recognized Dan’s diagnosis as a qualifying condition -- based on patient petitions and research showing cannabis can treat even severe forms of autism that involve self-injury – but not New Hampshire.

“At the time, I didn’t feel comfortable at the statehouse because what I thought I knew of activism was more focused on recreational, which just didn’t resonate with me,” Dan recalls. “I had never been involved in 'the movement,' whatever that was in New Hampshire, because I believed it was hurting progress on legal therapeutic access.” He was determined to present himself as engaged in civil disobedience until the state added Asperger’s as a qualifying condition.

That changed last year when a 17mm kidney stone landed him in the hospital for what should have been a simple surgery. A medical mistake resulted in pleurisy in his lung, a succession of five chest tubes, and forcible restraints – an experience that left him down 40 pounds and with PTSD, a qualifying condition. Now he’s a registered patient in New Hampshire and has a registered nurse, Lisa Powers, as a designated caregiver.

“Dan has been an activist for freeing cannabis and ending the stigma for 30 or 40 years,” says Lisa, who co-administers with Dan the New Hampshire Affordable Safe Access Project (NHASAP) group he started on Facebook. “He’s always at the statehouse supporting patients and working for better laws. We’re trying to get personal cultivation now.”

Dan got involved with ASA in 2015, when he got a scholarship to attend the annual Unity conference in Washington, D.C. There he connected with other patient advocates and discovered a community that understood his experience (pictured with fellow New Hampshire advocate Heather Marie Brown at ASA's 2019 Lobby Day). He’s attended every year since, including this year’s online conference.

“ASA has been key to feeling validated,” Dan says. “The forces of cannabis prohibition here are real, but it is so clear that this is the keystone state on this issue. We’re the last stand in the northeast. Once it goes, the borders may go away.”

Dan has also been exploring hemp cultivation the past couple of years. After taking a course at Sterling College and other learning seminars, while attending a Northeast Organic Farming Association in Massachusetts (NOFA/Mass) event Dan became involved in a group to create a CBD-to-scale network that can compete with big ag. This group organized and became Northeast Sustainable Hemp Project (NOSHA), which functions primarily as a state-level advocacy group for small-scale hemp farming in Massachusetts.

It was at the founding NOSHA meeting that Dan connected with a group of Connecticut hemp farmers and later provided expert help with their cultivation problems throughout the 2019 season.

When he discovered that New Hampshire’s failure to apply for federal approval of a state hemp program meant he could get a hemp cultivation license directly from the US Department of Agriculture, he jumped at the chance.

“Dragging their feet on hemp backfired,” Dan says.

He is waiting for his FBI background check to clear so he can  apply for a USDA Hemp Producer license, and now he’s organizing others in New Hampshire to apply for licenses, as well. His friend and caregiver Lisa is one of them.

“He’s one of the smart ones, educating people with careful, factual information,” Lisa says. “It can be hard to keep up with him.”

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Action Alert: Tell Your Governor and Mayor Cannabis is Essential Business

As stay-at-home orders shut non-essential businesses in states and cities in the U.S., some have failed to designate cannabis businesses as essential services that are allowed to operate. ASA has been educating elected officials on how critical these businesses are to public health, and you can help. Go to ASA’s Covid-19 page and send you governor and mayor all the reasons why cannabis businesses are essential to patients. Take action now at www.safeaccessnow.org/COVID-19.



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