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In the December 2021 Issue:
- Malta Legalizes Cannabis, First Nation in Europe
- Congress Strips Cannabis Reform from DOD Budget
- ASA Alerts California Healthcare Centers on New Access Law
- ASA Blog Features Holiday Travel Advice
- PFC Offers Holiday Deal, Free Guide
- New Cannabis Enigma Episode Drops
- Four Ways to Help ASA Help Patients
- Activist Profile: Chris Conrad & Mikki Norris, California
- Action Alert: No Patient Left Behind!
Malta Legalizes Cannabis, First Nation in Europe
In mid-December, Malta became the first European country to legalize cannabis for anyone 18 or older, on a parliamentary vote of 36-27. Cannabis has been decriminalized for personal use in several other European nations, including Portugal, Austria, Italy and others.
The groundbreaking harm-reduction law permits residents of the small Mediterranean island to legally cultivate four plants, keep up to 50 grams at home and possess 7 grams in public.
Anyone convicted of a cannabis offense now considered legal will be able to expunge it from their record without going to court.
The nation’s half-a-million citizens will be able to legally access cannabis products and seeds through non-commercial cannabis clubs with up to 500 members.
Possession of more than 7 grams but less than ounce of cannabis will be a non-criminal infraction subject to no more than a fine of 50-100 Euro. Minors caught with cannabis will be referred to counseling.
Congress Strips Cannabis Reform from DOD Budget
A budget amendment that would have given state-licensed cannabis businesses access to banking and other financial services was killed in the Senate. The House amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill incorporated language from the SAFE Banking bill, which would allow state-licensed cannabis business to legally access financial services. The SAFE Banking bill has passed the House but languished in the Senate.
Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY), who was reportedly responsible for stripping the banking amendment from the defense bill, issued a statement saying he is working with Sens. Corey Booker (D, NJ) and Ron Wyden (D, OR) to pass the comprehensive Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which contains similar provisions along with a host of other reforms.
Both Republican and Democrat members of the House publicly urged President Biden to take executive action to immediately reform federal cannabis law.
ASA Alerts California Healthcare Centers on New Access Law
ASA launched a campaign this month to help implement California’s SB311 or “Ryan’s Law,” which requires all healthcare facilities in the state to allow terminal patients to use cannabis on site. ASA notified state facilities that the law goes into effect January 1, 2022, and provided tools to help them comply.
Ryan’s Law applies to all California healthcare facilities, including acute care hospitals, special hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, congregate living health facilities, and hospice providers. Physicians with terminally ill patients need only to provide the same recommendation that is written for qualification of The Compassionate Use Act.
“California physicians need to know that medical cannabis is an effective palliative care treatment and should aid their patients in utilizing Ryan's Law to improve their quality in end of life care," said Dr. Larry Bedard, an emergency physician on the Marin Health Care Board of Directors who testified on behalf of Ryan's Law before the Senate and Assembly Health Committees.
Ryan’s law was passed in honor of Ryan Bartell, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer at the age of 41. As his condition progressed, he was admitted to the palliative wing of a hospital where he was given the powerful opioid fentanyl to treat his pain for a month, but the hospital refused to let him use cannabis. Fortunately, his family was able to locate a hospital that would allow Ryan to use cannabis. There, he was able to spend the last two-and half weeks of his life lucid and free of suffering.
“After months of research in all 50 States, I found no laws that regulated the use of medical cannabis in hospitals,” said Jim Bartell, Ryan’s father and champion of Ryan’s Law. “Working with attorney Ken Sobel and Senator Ben Hueso, we drafted Ryan’s Law. I am working with doctors and nurses in the other 49 States to get Ryan’s Law passed nationwide. It will allow millions of other families of terminally ill patients to provide their loved ones a quality of life during their final days.”
ASA’s Ryan’s Law implementation guide was sent to more than 2,000 California healthcare facilities. It includes a summary of the law, sample policies and documents, and standard operating procedures to aid in their compliance.
ASA has also created resources for physicians and their patients to help navigate the new law, including information on patient requirements, links to sample written recommendations, and CME courses on cannabis. For patients who encounter facilities refusing to comply, ASA has set up an online reporting system and a designated email account [email protected].
ASA Blog Features Holiday Travel Advice
The patchwork of differing cannabis laws in the US makes travel between states leaves many medical cannabis patients with questions: Am I allowed to travel to other states with medical cannabis? Can I bring my cannabis on a plane or train? Can I legally buy cannabis in another state?
Patients traveling for the holidays can consult ASA’s travel blog to plan how to access their medicine. The blog covers trip planning, including states that allow unrestricted adult access and those that extend reciprocity to patients registered in other states, as well as tips for what to do while in transit.
For more advice for traveling as a medical cannabis patient, visit ASA’s Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel.
PFC Offers 25% Holiday Discount and Free Guide
ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program is offering a special holiday discount on all trainings. Use code HOLIDAY25 to receive 25% off any PFC training when you sign up online.
In response to a spate of recent robberies of cannabis businesses, PFC is also providing free access to the Robbery Preparedness materials that are a part of the PFC Business Operations training. The Robbery Preparedness Guide was created to aid businesses in developing plans to stay safe during robberies and adopt policies to help prevent robberies and burglaries.
In event news, PFC Director Heather Despres was at the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball in California this month, distributing materials and meeting with industry stakeholders. This spring, she will be speaking at the Cannabis Science Conference in February and at A2LA's Technical Forum in April.
New Cannabis Enigma Podcast Drops
A new episode of the Cannabis Enigma podcast is now available at www.safeaccessnow.org/podcasts.
In the latest episode, Itai Rogel, VP of Business Development at Bazelet, an Israeli cannabis company, talks about developments in Israel and the cannabis industry at large, and explains what happened with the legalization measures that were meant to be passed a year ago.
ASA’s Executive Director Debbie Churgai is featured in the regulation segment following the interview with Rogel.
Sneak Peek at ASA’s New State Scoring System
As ASA prepares to release in January its annual State of the States Report on medical cannabis access in the US, it is previewing for policy makers and activists the new scoring system that determines each state’s grade.
“We have come a long way since the first medical cannabis law passed in 1996, but we must also recognize that no state law is ideal from a patient’s standpoint.” said ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai. “That is why this year we decided to introduce a new grading rubric for the scorecards to better reflect the issues that are still affecting patient access, even in states with medical and adult use programs.”
There are currently no states that include the entire range of protections and rights that should be afforded to patients under the law, with some lagging far behind others. Because of these differences and deficiencies, patients have argued that the laws do not function equitably and are often poorly designed, poorly implemented, or both. Even well-organized programs can fail to deliver safe or legal access in states with laws that allow local governments to ban medical cannabis businesses from operating, leaving thousands of patients without the access state law was intended to create.
One of the most important markers of a well-designed state program is whether all patients who would benefit from medical cannabis will have safe and legal access to their medicine without fear of losing any civil rights and protections. This year's report places more emphasis on patient rights, consumer protections and product safety.
The new grading system also assumes cannabis patients should be afforded the same rights and protections that they receive under the traditional health care system. For example, scoring states on whether they provide state insurance or health aid coverage or provide access to minors on school grounds.
Four Ways to Help ASA Help Patients
For 20 years, Americans for Safe Access has relied on grassroots support and organizing to bring the patient voice to policy debates about cannabis. ASA members and affiliates have been part of the state-by-state spread of medical cannabis laws across the U.S.
For 2022, ASA will focus on federal reform that prioritizes America's medical cannabis patients and creates a dedicated federal office to encourage medical cannabis research and access.
“We need the support of everyone who cares about safe access in order to win this fight,” said ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai. “With your help, we can make safe access work for all Americans.”
Simple steps like sharing ASA posts and choosing where to shop make a difference. ASA’s blog, Four Ways to Help, explains how you can support and build ASA in 2022.
Activists Profile: Chris Conrad & Mikki Norris, SF Bay Area, California
The San Francisco Bay Area holds a place in history as the center of grassroots organizing that made medical cannabis legal – first in the city and county, then in the state of California and much of the rest of the United States. Among the committed activists who propelled that movement are Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, a couple who have each contributed their ideas and talents in a wide variety of ways, including working with Americans for Safe Access.
For nearly four decades, Chris and Mikki, aka "the Power Couple of Pot," have taken a three-pronged approach, devising separate strategies to legalize hemp, medical access, and adult use. They contributed to the campaigns to pass the first state medical cannabis law, California’s Proposition 215, in 1996 and others since then.
“In war, the first thing you do is get the wounded off the field of battle,” Chris says. “The sick and the dying shouldn’t be in the line of fire in the drug war.”
Prop 215 made personal use, possession and cultivation of cannabis legal under California law for qualified patients, but the means of distribution and other details were left vague in the voter initiative, so years of litigation and criminal cases ensued. As state courts mapped the limits of the law, Chris was a central player, testifying as an expert witness in hundreds of cases that shaped California’s nascent medical cannabis program, including the precedent-setting decisions in Mower (2002) and Kelly (2010).
Chris was able to fill that role because of his unusual experience working for years in Europe, including the legal cannabis market in the Netherlands, left him uniquely situated to provide testimony on plant counts and canopy yields. Since then, he has worked on more than 2,500 cases and testified before more than 350 state, federal and military courts. Advocating for people who use cannabis medicinally is a priority.
“Lots of people had experience with cannabis cultivation then, but almost no one in the U.S. had done so legally,” says Chris. “Because I had worked in the Netherlands, where it was legal, prosecutors couldn’t discredit me on the stand as a criminal.”
Educating people about the many uses of cannabis hemp has been central to their efforts since 1988. His first book, Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, followed his editing and design of the late Jack Herer’s iconic The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and curation of the Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum in Amsterdam with groundbreaking cannabis entrepreneurs Ben and Alan Dronkers. The year Prop 215 went into effect, Chris published his second book, Hemp for Health, since translated into six languages. He has published multiple editions of Cannabis Yields and Dosage. His latest book, coauthored with Jeremy Daw, is the Newbies Guide to Cannabis and the Industry.
In addition to pamphlets and books, Chris and Mikki also helped share cannabis-related news with other activists and the general public. From 2008 to 2013, they published The West Coast Leaf newspaper and now host theLeafOnline.
Education remains at the core of their work. Together they founded Friends of Prop 64 to support the campaign for California’s adult-use initiative, which won with 57% of the vote. Chris has taught in a variety of capacities, including Oaksterdam University and courses that provide continuing education credits for attorneys (CLEs) and medical professionals (CMEs). Mikki has taught advocacy classes at OU as well.
Organizing was another key to Chris and Mikki’s work. They formed the American Hemp Council, Family Council on Drug Awareness and Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp in the late 1980s and helped found the Hemp Industries Association in 1994.
Following raids on patients, Chris formed Safe Access Now to establish a reasonable “Safe Harbor” for patient grows and full implementation of California’s medical cannabis law. When they went to register a URL, they discovered that someone had just claimed safeaccessnow.org, so they got safeaccessnow.net. Just days later, at a Bay Area meeting for medical cannabis activists, they learned who had the .org URL – a new patient advocacy organization called Americans for Safe Access!
“It was a funny moment at that meeting when Steph Sherer announced the website,” says Chris. “‘So, you guys got it!’ What are the odds we’d both pop up with it at the same time and place?”
That coincidental convergence of ideas was just the start of collaboration and cross-pollination of strategies between ASA and Chris and Mikki.
Back in 1995, the couple had created the Human Rights and the Drug War photo exhibit, with the late Virginia Resner, to put faces on the individuals whose lives had been ruined by law enforcement. They traveled the US and Europe with that exhibit and then turned it into the book Shattered Lives: Portraits from America’s Drug War.
Working with ASA, Mikki created a similar publication focused on medical cannabis patients: Patients in the Crossfire: Casualties in the War on Medical Marijuana. Amplifying the dramatic stories of the individual patients and other people caught up in the criminal prosecutions of the drug war, it served as a lobbying tool for successful state campaigns across the US. Mikki continued on that tack with the Cannabis Consumers Campaign, which encourages people to help breakdown stigma by coming out of the cannabis closet and showing the diversity of cannabis users.
“I’ve always thought about cannabis and other drugs as a human rights issue,” says Mikki. “We still have work to do to secure our civil rights. People shouldn’t lose the right to employment, housing, or being a parent because of cannabis, but that’s still happening.”
The changes in law and growing normalization of cannabis use have updated their concerns. To balance the over commercialization of cannabis and recognize the many gifts the plant brings to people’s lives, Chris and Mikki they have been leading Cannamaste ceremonies focused on cannabis spirituality, or Cantheism.
Yet they also recognize that the work they’ve begun remains undone.
“We have to get the prisoners out,” says Mikki. “No one should be in prison for cannabis.”
Action Alert: No Patient Left Behind!
This holiday season we are reminded once again of the millions of people who should be able to obtain and use cannabis for medical purposes but due to a myriad of reasons such as lack of civil protections, affordability, or product availability are still without access.
In 2022 we must all do our part to ensure that laws are changed to expand medical cannabis access to the extent possible, ensure that patients are prioritized with regard to access to product and quality of product, and otherwise protect medical cannabis patients nationwide. ALL Americans should have safe, legal, and affordable access to medical cannabis in 2022.
Take action now at No patient Left Behind. #NoPatientLeftBehind