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In the December 2019 Issue:
- Historic Cannabis Reform Passes House Committee
- Health Officials Say Prohibition Stymies Vape Response
- DEA Increases Research Cannabis Quota
- Join ASA at MJBizCon in Las Vegas
- New Incentive for Participating in ASA's Research Partnership
- Unity 2020 Theme and Scholarship Info Released
- ASA Keynote on Patients’ Rights at CannaWest Summit
- Check the Patient’s Travel Guide before Holiday Travel
- Activist Profile: Cherron Perry-Thomas, Philadelphia
- Action Alert: Tell Your Rep to Support the MORE Act
Historic Cannabis Reform Passes House Committee
For the first time, a measure to remove federal restrictions on cannabis has not just received a vote in a House committee but passed. Introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D, NY-10, pictured at right), H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) passed on a bipartisan vote of 24-10 in the House Judiciary Committee on November 19.
The bill can now be brought to the floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives. If it passes, it will then be sent to the Senate.
The act, which includes elements from several cannabis-reform bills recently put forward in Congress, would deschedule cannabis, allow expungement of certain cannabis offenses for individuals, and impose a 5 percent tax that would be reinvested in communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) currently classifies cannabis under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a designation given to substances that have a high potential for abuse and no medical value. It is illegal under federal law for any Schedule I substance to be “prescribed, dispensed, or administered for medical use.” Other Schedule I substances include LSD and heroin. Cocaine and methamphetamine are classified as Schedule II, so they can be prescribed.
A key provision in the MORE Act would deschedule cannabis, meaning it would be removed entirely from the Controlled Substances Act. ASA has been advocating for the descheduling of cannabis since the organization’s inception in 2002.
“This groundbreaking legislation would eliminate barriers to cannabis research and provide access for patients throughout the entire country,” said ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai. “It is time our federal government steps up to provide relief so that patients everywhere can medicate without fear of losing any of their civil rights and protections, including while in federal housing or healthcare settings, such as hospices.”
If the MORE Act is signed into law, it will remove a barrier to insurance companies covering the costs of cannabis for patients. ASA’s survey of over 500 medical cannabis patients found that affordability remains a significant challenge in states with medical cannabis programs, as described in ASA's “2019 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States.”
“For far too long we’ve treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health,” said Rep. Nadler. “Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”
Health Officials Say Prohibition Stymies Vape Response
An official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told congress last month that their investigation into vaping-related lung injuries and deaths has been hampered by the Schedule I status of cannabis.
CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told a Senate committee that they have had difficulty shipping samples for testing due to cannabis being illegal under federal law and that legal barriers were “delaying” the agency’s analysis. The CDC has been working with various state health departments to identify hazards in vaping products, but those products need to be shipped to be analyzed.
More than 2,000 people have been reported to have lung injuries associated with vaping, and at least 39 have died. At the beginning of November, the CDC announced that vitamin E acetate was found in the lungs of 29 affected individuals in 10 states and has been identified as a “strong culprit” in the illness. Vitamin E acetate has been found in some illicit-market THC vape cartridges, but the FDA reports finding THC in only 70% of the nearly 600 vaping products linked to the disease that they have tested.
At the same hearing, an official from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) suggested that if they could identify responsible parties, which is unlikely for any operating in the illicit market, they might pursue them under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
On October 1, Americans for Safe Access issued patient-focused recommendations on cannabis vaping products. An independent analysis performed by CannaSafe, a PFC-certified lab in California, found that 10 types of underground market cannabis vape cartridges all contained myclobutanil, a pesticide that becomes poisonous hydrogen cyanide when heated. Heavy metals have also been identified in some cartridge designs.
DEA Increases Research Cannabis Quota
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will authorize a 30 percent increase in research cannabis cultivation from what was produced in 2019. The DEA noted that the number of registered researchers requesting cannabis for studies increased more than 40 percent last year to 542 individuals.
Medical research studies approved by the Food and Drug Administration are limited to using cannabis provided by the DEA from the one licensed source in the U.S., a farm at the University of Mississippi run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
For several years, the DEA has faced criticism for limiting access to research cannabis. The NIDA cannabis has also been criticized for being of substantially lower quality and potency than the cannabis commonly available in the U.S.
Court cases and petitions have sought to create additional licenses for the cultivation of research cannabis, but despite a ruling from a DEA administrative law judge that issuing such licenses would be in the public interest, no new licenses have been approved. It has been more than three years since DEA announced it would approve more licenses and began taking applications, but the Department of Justice has not processed any of the more than two dozen filed.
Join ASA at MJBizCon in Las Vegas
MJBizCon is hosting an event with ASA in Las Vegas during their Association's Day on December 10, 2019 from noon to 4:30 p.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center. ASA will be holding a Patient Focused Certification training in product safety and compliance as well as a roundtable discussion on social responsibility.
ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai will introduce the event, followed by a presentation from ASA founder and Board President Steph Sherer on research studies being conducted by the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI), of which Sherer is also founder and president.
Nic Easley, CEO of 3C Consulting, LLC (Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting) and Multiverse Capital CEO/Managing Director will present next on compliance and social responsibility, followed by Chris Day, VP of External Relations at Marijuana Business Daily and Anne Holland Ventures Inc., who will discuss “How Industry Should Give Back to Advocacy.”
After a break, Antonio Frazier, VP of Operations at the PFC-certified analytical lab CannaSafe will present their vape report and address corporate responsibility. PFC Director Heather Despres will conclude the program with a presentation on the importance of third-party testing in the cannabis industry. The event will be followed by networking time for attendees.
This event is made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of CannaSafe, Eaze, 3C Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting, Dioscorides, ICCI, and You Gro Gurl.
New Incentive for Participating in ASA's Research Partnership
Last month ASA announced a new medical cannabis patient research program in partnership with Aurelius Data. As a gesture of gratitude for helping with this research, anyone who completes the survey by January 31, 2020, will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 gift card or a free VIP registration for ASA’s 2020 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, DC March 25-28.
Participants in this short survey (most finish in about 5 minutes) will not only be helping to expand knowledge of medical cannabis patients, but will also become eligible for the raffle. To participate in the anonymous medical cannabis patient research survey, go to https://research.aureliusdata.com/asanews.
Unity 2020 Theme and Scholarship Info Released
ASA has announced the theme and opened scholarship applications for the 2020 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference: “Campaigning for Cannabis: Making Policies Work for Patients.”
Each year ASA extends full and partial scholarships to patients and advocates all over the country to attend the Unity conference so their voices and stories are heard in Congress and during the conference. Part of the mission at Americans for Safe Access is to ensure that medical cannabis patients can engage in the political process regardless of their financial situation.
“During Unity I made friends that will last a lifetime!” says 2019 scholarship recipient Tonya San. “Uniting advocates from all over the United States for one common goal, ASA gave us the tools to really get out there and make a difference and save people's lives!”
The scholarship deadline is January 5, 2020. To qualify for a scholarship, applicants must commit to attending ASA’s congressional lobby day during the conference in March, and applicants must have taken action or attended an event with ASA in the last year. Scholarship recipients will be contacted regarding scholarships by January 18, 2020.
Funding for the conference scholarship program is limited, so this year ASA may have to award scholarships to only one attendee per state. However, if you would like to guarantee a scholarship for yourself, we have created a "Sponsor a Patient" sponsorship level. Any company or individual that makes a $1,500 donation can name you as a scholarship recipient. In return, ASA will list that organization or individual in our conference program guide and on signage during the conference. Please consider finding someone to support your scholarship. If you have questions about this program, please email Reenal Doshi.
Unity is the largest conference for patients, caregivers, providers, students, advocates, and medical and legal professionals that promote safe and legal access to cannabis for medical use and research. It is the leading place to learn best practices, exchange ideas, and learn how to navigate medical cannabis in an ever-evolving political landscape.
ASA Keynote on Patients’ Rights at CannaWest Summit
ASA’s William Dolphin will deliver the keynote address at the seventh CannaWest Compliance Summit in Los Angeles, California, on Friday, January 24 from 8:30-9:00 AM. Dolphin’s presentation on “Medical vs. Recreational—Patients’ Rights and Other Considerations” opens day two of the summit. The day will be devoted to medical issues, research and development, and Hemp and CBD.
Speakers at the summit include Holly Johnson, PhD, chief science officer for American Herbal Products Association; Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s; Brad Rowe, policy director at the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative; as well as state officials from Oregon and California; city oversight officers from Detroit, Denver, Portland, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; and operation officers from leading cannabis companies. Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association will deliver the keynote on day one of the summit.
On Wednesday, January 22, the day before the compliance summit, conference organizers are offering a “cannabis master class” on business matters. The CannaWest summit will be held January 22-24, 2020 at the LA Grand Hotel Downtown, in Los Angeles, California.
ASA is a supporting organization of the event, so ASA newsletter subscribers can use code 200219 and save 10% on registration .
Check the Patient’s Travel Guide before Holiday Travel
The holidays are a peak travel time, and patients traveling out of state need to know if medicine will be available in the states they visit. ASA’s Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel outlines cannabis laws in states and territories in which they may be eligible. It also includes information on patient rights, tips for travel, storing cannabis, and using a retail dispensary.
The laws and regulations reported in this guide were last updated on September 1, 2019. Before traveling, it is important to review the most up-to-date information for the places they will be visiting, as laws and regulations are subject to change.
ASA’s Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel is a free online resource that can be shared with anyone who might find it helpful while traveling.
Activist Profile: Cherron Perry-Thomas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cherron Perry-Thomas says she has long lived by Nelson Mandela’s adage that “a threat to justice to anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” After more than a dozen years in the natural products industry, Cherron came to realize that part of that threat is not having access to medical cannabis.
“My mission has been to give people alternatives for their wellness goals,” Cherron says. “If you have a headache, you may think tylenol is the only avenue to go down, if you don’t know about white willow bark or other alternatives.”
After teaching vegan nutrition classes out of her home, in 2005 Cherron started Green Dandelion Marketing, a sales and marketing company that has helped introduce almost 2,000 innovative plant-based products in grocery and health stores in the mid-Atlantic region.
Her interest in the therapeutic potential of cannabis began even earlier, when a neighbor disclosed that using Marinol, the synthetic THC pills that can be prescribed, was the only way to control the vomiting from cancer treatment, but the medicine was very expensive, and cannabis would be cheaper but was illegal and hard for the neighbor to obtain.
“Being a law-abiding citizen, cannabis was something I knew little about and had never wanted to pursue, but that was the first connection with treatment I made,” Cherron says. It was eye-opening.”
At the time, Pennsylvania had no medical cannabis law, but Cherron says she knew she the herbal remedies she had were not going to help her neighbor. So when advocates and legislators in the state started to talk about medical cannabis, she paid attention to the moms with children with severe conditions and the patients who were lobbying for it. She still didn’t see herself in it, but her background equipped her to understand how it important it was.
“I knew there are many viable solutions to wellness,” Cherron says, “And it’s a plant. It’s a plant. It shouldn’t be viewed as it is, as something evil.”
When Pennsylvania in 2016 enacted a medical cannabis law recognizing 23 qualifying conditions, Cherron had come to understand it holistically – medical, nutritionally – and historically.
“People could go in a pharmacy 83 years ago and buy a THC product, but then that got prohibited due to racism, which made me angry,” Cherron recalls. “People had something they used but then lost due to bad policies.”
Through her company, she had a wealth of experience working with biodynamic plants and medicine made from plants. She says she had a “gradual bonding” with the possibilities of cannabis, once Pennsylvanians could apply for a card from the state, and decided to continue with the education she had been doing with herbs, just now with cannabis, too.
“The more I talked to black and brown communities, it was clear they were not making the connection that they can use this plant for their conditions,” Cherron recalls.
Outreach was the answer. In 2018, Cherron cofounded with Desiree Ivey the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities (DACO), the first minority-owned cannabis conference on the East Coast. DACO offers a conference workshop format geared to black and brown communities where experts and professionals—doctors, researchers, dispensary owners—cover wellness, education. The 2019 DACO conference was a free two-day event September 27-28 at Temple University in Philadelphia, with a legislative day Friday and seminars Saturday.
“People need to see this is something lawmakers are engaged with and they can be involved,” Cherron says. “We need to reach people over 40, those who vote and who officials listen to. One way is through church, the other through politicians.”
The cost of medicine is still at the front of Cherron’s concerns. She’s been working this session in support of SB 350, an adult use bill, which would allow co-ops where people can grow together. “Allowing personal cultivation would have major economic benefit,” Cherron says. “I know one family where three people are working to provide for the mother.”
Her experience working with plants has shown her that reduced cost is not the only benefit.
“The garden can be a holistic space,” Cherron says. “The plant can be therapeutic, but taking care of the plant can also be therapeutic for the caregiver and the patients.”
Last June, Cherron was part of a rally in the state capital of Harrisburg for legislators to see communities harmed by the war on drugs, asking for equity and inclusion. She’s currently chair for the Plant Medicine Community and is part of All Together Now PA, which is uniting urban and rural communities to build regional economies that work for all.
“We need to support and promote a local supply chain,” says Cherron. “As we move forward with new laws, it’s important to have language that protects local farmers.”
Action Alert: Tell Your Representative to Support the MORE Act
There’s cause for celebration with the historic passage of the MORE Act in the House Judiciary committee. We are one step closer to ending the federal prohibition of cannabis once and for all. ASA supports the MORE Act because it would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and benefit the medical cannabis community in several ways.
Take action today to tell your Representative to support the MORE Act. We’ve made it easy with an online tool at safeaccessnow.org/more.