ASA Activist Newsletter - February 2019

In the February 2019 Issue:

  • WHO Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis
  • Medical Cannabis Program Enacted in the U.S.V.I.
  • Opioid Addiction Now a Qualifying Condition in New Jersey
  • Arkansas Announces Dispensary Licenses
  • ASA Staff Attend ICCI Meetings in Prague
  • ASA Event Raises Awareness, Funds for Opioid Campaign
  • Unity Conference Announces Scholarships, Agenda
  • Patient Research to be Presented at Nurses Conference
  • ASA Activist Profile: Todd Scattini, Kansas City, Missouri
  • ACTION ALERT: Register Today for Unity 2019!


WHO Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis

In an historic move last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) told the world that cannabis should be classified as a medicine. The WHO accepted the recommendations of its Expert Committee on Narcotic Drugs and issued a statement saying cannabis and cannabis resin can be removed from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the classification reserved for highly dangerous substances with no medical use. 

Rescheduling cannabis under this international treaty would mean governments worldwide could no longer use it as a reason for blocking safe access and would have to ensure the adequate availability of cannabis for treatment of patients in their country.

The 1961 decision to include cannabis and cannabis resin in Schedule IV of the Single Convention was politically motivated and never vetted by scientists. Patient advocates have repeatedly urged WHO to carry out a critical review to fairly evaluate its therapeutic usefulness and place it in an appropriate schedule.

In March 2016, a group of world-renowned cannabis experts, convened by Americans for Safe Access, submitted to the WHO a comprehensive document describing the medical usefulness of cannabis, consistent with WHO guidelines. Eight months later, the WHO began the critical review.

United NationsThe WHO recommendations now go to the United Nations, which will put them to a vote in March during the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria. Fifty-three nations are members of this commission. A simple majority of the members present and voting is required to approve the change.

Since the 1990s, burgeoning scientific evidence of therapeutic potential and the determination of patients to fight for legal access have helped establish medical cannabis programs in many countries. But prohibitive cannabis laws based on the provisions of the Single Convention prevent millions of patients worldwide from using cannabis medicinally and treat those who do as criminals.

“We are extremely pleased that the World Health Organization has finally recognized cannabis and its derivatives as a safe and effective medicine,” said Steph Sherer, President and Founder of ASA. “With an international rescheduling or descheduling of cannabis, the U.S. government can no longer use the excuse that cannabis has no medical value.”

In addition to the recommendation on cannabis and cannabis resins, the WHO concluded dronabinol (Marinol) and other THC isomers should be removed from the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and added to the lowest classification of the 1961 Convention.

“It is now incumbent upon governments of the USA and other nations to eliminate the barriers to research on cannabis and allow its free commerce across state lines and international frontiers,” said Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI).

The WHO also recommended that cannabidiol (CBD) preparations containing not more than 0.2% of THC be exempted from all international control. None of these changes would modify the prohibition of cannabis for recreational use.

“These recommendations were inevitable, and their adoptions by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs would enhance public health globally,” said Dr. Pavel Pachta, ICCI’s International Regulatory Affairs Director and former Deputy Secretary of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). “We do not expect that the CND would vote against these recommendations as they come from scientific experts and are based on rigorous scientific review.”

More Information:
Video of Drs. Russo and Pachta discussing the implications of the WHO announcement.
The letter from the WHO to the United Nations.


Medical Cannabis Program Enacted in the U.S. Virgin Islands

USVI FlagThe will of the voters in the U.S. Virgin Islands is now reflected in law, as a medical cannabis program was enacted more than four years after voters passed a referendum calling for one. Protections will extend to medical cannabis patients visiting the islands who are registered in other states or possessions. 

Lawmakers approved a bill late last year, and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed it in January. The non-binding voter referendum passed in 2014 with 56% in favor. Senator Positive T.A. Nelson has reintroduced medical cannabis bills each year until finally achieving success last December.

The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act establishes licensing and regulations for cultivation, dispensaries, manufacturing and testing. Qualifying patients who are residents of the US Virgin Islands will be able to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use and possess up to four ounces of cannabis. Nonresident patients will be able to have up to three ounces.


Opioid Addiction Now a Qualifying Condition in New Jersey

New Jersey FlagNew Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced in late January that anyone in treatment for opioid addiction is qualified to use medical cannabis. The move was one of several steps announced to fight the opioid epidemic in the state and is consistent with recommendations Americans for Safe Access distributed to state officials last year.

ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives campaign has been educating policy makers and the public that cannabis is a viable alternative to opioids in pain treatment. Research shows cannabis can lower the effective dose of opioids and serve as an “exit drug” for those with opioid dependence.

Under Gov. Murphy, New Jersey has doubled the number of patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program. The previous governor, Chris Christie, opposed the program.

New Jersey officials report more than 3,000 people died of overdoses in the state last year, an increase of 15 percent.

In recognizing opioid addiction as a qualifying condition, New Jersey joins neighboring New York and Pennsylvania and other states.

Illinois now allows patients to substitute medical cannabis for an opioid prescription before developing a dependence. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is unique in giving pain patients the option of medical cannabis without requiring a specific recommendation for it.

To learn more about how you can help ASA promote this initiative in other states, check out our End Pain Not Lives campaign goals at


Arkansas Announces Dispensary Licenses

Arkansas FlagTwo years after voters approved a medical cannabis program for the state, Arkansas officials announce last month the 32 companies of the nearly 200 that had applied that will be licensed to provide medicine to patients. The state issued five cultivation licenses last year, but no medical cannabis is yet available there, frustrating patients and advocates. Nearly 7,000 Arkansas patients have been approved by the state Department of Health, which is to issue cards to them this month.

Arkansas officials estimate medical cannabis may be available by April. The years-long delay in Arkansas is in stark contrast to neighboring Oklahoma, where medical cannabis was available to patients within a few months of voter approval.


ASA Staff Attend ICCI Meetings in Prague

From January 30 to February 1, experts from around the world convened in Prague for the Annual Global Network Meeting of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute (ICCI). ASA President and Founder, Steph Sherer, ASA Deputy Director, Debbie Churgai, and PFC Director, Heather Despres were among the attendees of this meeting.

During the meeting ICCI staff and strategic partners, such as ASA, were presented with an overview of current projects and new initiates for 2019. ASA's Patient Focused Certification (PFC) and Cannabis Care Certification (CCC) projects being among the topics discussed.

ICCI was co-founded by ASA to help remove barriers to access for patients globally by bringing together the current knowledge base for cannabis research as it relates to biomedicine, life sciences, and policy sciences to create a platform for sharing, exploration, and education.


ASA Event Raises Awareness, Funds for Opioid Campaign

At the end of January, ASA held an event to raise awareness of the life-saving role that medical cannabis can play in the fight against the opioid epidemic. In partnership with the U.S. Pain Foundation, ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives (EPNL) campaign has worked to remove barriers to safe access for people with pain, chronic pain, and opioid use disorder. The campaign has been educating medical professionals, legislators, service providers, and patients about medical cannabis as a safer alternative for pain management.

The fundraiser and awareness event at a Washington, D.C. venue featured bands and speakers, including ASA’s Steph Sherer and Debbie Churgai, and Ellen Lennox Smith from the U.S. Pain Foundation, who was the featured activist in the March 2018 newsletter.

To learn more about this campaign and to donate, please visit,


Unity Conference Announces Scholarships, Agenda

ASA’s annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is getting closer, and the recipients of this year’s scholarships have just been announced. Thanks to the generosity of the conference’s sponsors, 50 patient advocates will be receiving scholarships to attend this year.

Held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. from March 18-20, the seventh annual conference features an agenda organized around the theme of “The Price of Being a Medical Cannabis Patient.” Panels will explore the financial and social barriers that medical cannabis patients face and discuss strategies to overcome them. Citizen Lobby Day provides a chance for advocates to meet with their congressional representatives and staffers to educate them on patient needs and urge federal action.

This year's Unity conference will include a special veteran focus, including a Veteran Roundtable discussion on Monday, March 18, as well as a new Veteran Advocate of the Year award. Several veterans will be featured speakers, and all veterans who attend will get a special ribbon to display on their badge. We are offering veterans 10% off registration this year. To receive the special discount code for 10%, please email [email protected].

Find out more and register today at


Patient Research to be Presented at Nurses Conference

The first day of the Cannabis Nurses Network Conference in San Diego will feature ASA’s William Dolphin and his co-author, Michelle Newhart PhD, presenting some of the research findings from their book, The Medicalization of Marijuana: Legitimacy, Stigma, and the Patient Experience. They will be discussing the effects of stigma on medical cannabis patients and how the use routines patients create for cannabis compare to other medications. The annual conference offers continuing education credit and runs this year from February 28 to March 2. 


Releaf AppReleaf and ASA Gathering Anonymous Treatment Data

ASA is excited to announce a new research initiative that you can be a part of! With your help, this year we will expand our information and education offerings by sharing real treatment outcome data. Help us provide more accurate information for patients like you by downloading Releaf App via this link and joining ASA’s private group, “SafeAccess”. All information is 100% anonymous and voluntary. By tracking your treatment outcomes you will both help improve your future treatments, and help us educate and inform other patients like you. Visit to sign up.


ASA Activist Profile: Todd Scattini, Kansas City, Missouri

Todd Scattini’s journey to medical cannabis activism began, improbably, in Afghanistan. An Army officer, Scattini was asked in 2011 to devise a plan to create an industry for the Afghans out of the resources they had. The three main resources they had were opium, rare minerals (which China had secured the rights to), and cannabis. He decided hemp would be perfect. The plant was not just well suited to the region’s environment and farming techniques but promised to dilute the prohibition market in drug cannabis through cross-pollination. His proposal fell on deaf ears, but his hemp research had exposed him to information about the potential of medical cannabis, and he was hearing from veterans that it could help with everything from PTSD to chronic pain. By the time he got to his final post, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, he was passionate about medical cannabis and determined to apply all he’d learned in an unusual military career.Todd Scattini

After enlisting in 1990, Scattini had been sent to the military language school in Monterey, then to West Point. He emerged an officer in the tank corps, speaking Czech, Slovak, Russian and German, and became a cavalry troop commander for the 1st Infantry Division stationed in Germany. He would go on to become a European Foreign Area Officer and defense attaché serving in six different countries, including the Czech Republic, Belgium, Bosnia, Slovenia, France and Afghanistan, where his liaison duties meant understanding not just the local language but the history, culture and politics of the place.

He would finish his military service teaching strategy at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, just across the river from Kansas City, Missouri.

“One of the first things I did at Ft. Leavenworth was go to the JAG office to ask if the Army would have any problem with me joining Kansas City NORML,” Scattini says. “They said I just couldn’t appear in uniform or use it myself.” So Scattini went to work raising awareness, speaking at every opportunity and engaging with veterans in Kansas City, which is home to the headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

“The medical properties of cannabis were important, but the more I learned, the social justice impacts became very important,” says Scattini. “At the roots of prohibition were serious racism and greed – things that seemed incredibly un-American – and I wanted to change that. It didn’t seem representative of the country I had signed up to defend.”

After 27 years of service, Scattini retired as a Lt. Colonel at midnight on December 31, 2017. “One second later, cannabis was legal in California,” says Scattini, who sees many parallels between his own life and what’s happened with cannabis in the U.S., from being born in 1970, the year Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, to graduating West Point the year the first state medical law was passed.

A native Californian, Scattini decided to stay in Kansas City after he left the Army because he saw an opportunity to affect the situation in Missouri, which is home to more than 450,000 veterans. Eleven months later, the state’s voters approved Amendment 2, enacting a medical cannabis program Scattini calls the best in the nation.

Now he is pushing to make Kansas City a leading center for medical cannabis research in the U.S., meeting regularly with the mayor’s office about how blighted urban area can be revitalized by welcoming research, manufacturing, and dispensaries. He’s found allies in other West Point grads working in the Mayor’s office, and he’s lobbying the Veterans Administration and the VFW to support more research and access for veterans.

“Cannabis can be an alternative to the methods we have been using to treat the injuries of combat,” he says. “It can help alleviate not just suicides and overdoses but the problems veterans face with education, employment, homelessness and addiction.”

The day after Missouri passed its medical cannabis initiative, Scattini created Cavalry Cannabis, the first of two cannabis companies he has now founded.

“Reconnaissance is the cavalry’s mission, and as the nation expanded, it was cavalry scouts from Ft. Leavenworth who would escort settlers West,” he says. “We’re on a new frontier of medicine, and veterans should be part of leading the way.”

He’s now in the process of pursuing a license for a fully integrated facility for research and development that he hopes will attract support from the VA and Department of Defense. His Harvest 360 Tech project is using analytics to create 3D maps of cannabis for therapeutic applications. He has also been working on The Athena Protocol a strategy to mitigate and treat Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), what he describes as his passion project.

“I had a platoon leader die from the effects of a head injury after five weeks,” he says. “Losing him was really painful for me. I’m convinced immediate treatment with cannabinoids might have saved him.”

Scattini is also convinced that Kansas City has the potential to be the leader for medical cannabis in the U.S.

“We’re in the geographic center of the country, we have so many veterans and services for them here, and we have the city government completely on board,” Scattini says. “We’re working with them to rebuild the infrastructure of the past to become a city of the future -- something they can be very proud of.”


ACTION ALERT: Register Today for Unity 2019!

Held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. from March 18-20, the seventh annual conference features an agenda organized around the theme of “The Price of Being a Medical Cannabis Patient.” Join us for a unique opportunity for patients, advocates and other stakeholders to get educated on critical issues and take action on behalf of Safe Access. Register for the conference today and spread the word.


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