ASA Activist Newsletter - January 2021
- UN Recognizes Medical Value of Cannabis
- House Passes MORE Act, Includes Provisions for Veterans
- Medical Marijuana Research Act Passes House
- ASA's 6th Annual Report on State Programs
- Five States Pass Cannabis Initiatives in November Election
- Louisiana Legislature Expands Medical Cannabis Program
- Updated Medical Cannabis Travel Guide
- A Solution to Cannabis Research Block
- ASA COVID Response Expands Access
- Tools for Educating Healthcare Providers
- CDC Meeting on Chronic Pain
ASA Webinars, Events & Podcasts
- National Unity Conference and Lobby Day Go Online
- Virtual Symposium on Neurological Conditions
- Medical Cannabis Journaling
- Cannabis Education and Standards
- Podcast Partnership with The Cannigma
Patient Focused Certification
- PFC at Natural Products ExpoWest
- April Online Training for DC Compliance
- Webinar on Extraction Analysis
- Webinars on Safety and Regulations
- Virtual Abilities Expo
- Strategic Planning Meeting for ASA Members
- Share Your Support for Improved Access
UN Recognizes Medical Value of Cannabis
In December, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) reclassified cannabis to recognize its medical value. By a slim majority, the 53 member states of the CND adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation on the change. ASA and its program the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC) have been fighting to deschedule cannabis at the United Nations for over a decade. In 2016 ASA and the IMCPC produced an independent critical review of the science on cannabis that was delivered to the UN, showing that cannabis and its derivatives were improperly classified. The CND decision to reclassify puts pressure on US federal agencies and elected officials to reconsider the 50-year-old law on cannabis, which does not recognize the differences between medical and recreational use and makes activities authorized by state medical cannabis programs federal crimes.
House Passes MORE Act, Includes Provisions for Veterans
On December 4, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the first major cannabis reform bill, the bipartisan Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). The bill, HR 3884, was sent to the Senate, but no action was taken. The bill would have decriminalized cannabis at the federal level and allowed patients to travel across state lines with their cannabis without fear of punitive law enforcement intervention, fines, or jail time. ASA worked to add a provision that authorizes research on the mental and physical health applications of cannabis to veterans, mirroring the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019, HR 712, which had not received a vote. The MORE Act would have provided federal oversight over key components of medical cannabis policy that states have struggled with, such as laboratory testing, labeling standards, and businesses practices. The bill will be reintroduced in the new Congress, where it will have a better chance of getting a vote in the Senate.
House Passes the Medical Marijuana Research Act
On December 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a voice vote HR 3797, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019, and sent it to the Senate, where no hearing or vote was scheduled. If enacted, the bipartisan legislation would remove many existing barriers to research that can benefit patients. Researchers would be able to study the cannabis products that patients and consumers are using in state programs, and the act would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to issue a report on the results of medical cannabis research. The Medical Marijuana Research Act will be reintroduced in the new Congress.
ASA's 6th Annual Report on State Programs
On September 10, ASA released its annual report, the “2020 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States” which grades state programs from a patient perspective. The 2020 report found COVID had a big impact, but it wasn’t all bad news. Thanks in part to ASA’s efforts, governors and medical cannabis directors in several states put in place temporary regulations that further protected patients while also guaranteeing no disruption to safe access to medical cannabis for patients. Curbside pickup, delivery, and telehealth were temporary regulations many states put in place to ensure continued access to medicine. These COVID solutions also addressed some of the pre-existing needs for patients.
Oregon and Oklahoma received top marks for their medical cannabis programs, receiving an ‘A’ and ‘B’ respectively. Meanwhile, the 14 states that limit access to CBD oil or low THC oil received ‘F’s. These highly restrictive systems are all failing to meet the needs of medical cannabis patients. Even states with more robust programs have areas where they are failing to meet patient needs , including some states which have legalized cannabis for adult use.
ASA’s recommendations on how to end the federal conflict through an Office of Medical Cannabis federal oversight is included in the Model Federal Legislation report.
Link to full report: www.SafeAccessNow.org/SoS
Link to blog on Top 5 Key Takeaways from SoS Report: www.SafeAccessNow.org/SoS20_blog
5 States Pass Cannabis Initiatives in November
Voters in five states overwhelmingly approved cannabis ballot initiatives on November 3. The new medical cannabis states are Mississippi, where Initiative 65 got 74.1% of the vote, and South Dakota, where Measure 26 received 69.2%. For more details, see the ASA blog at safeaccessnow.org/election_2020_1.
In Mississippi, voters picked between competing initiatives, choosing the less restrictive option. The initiative will allow possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for patients qualifying with one or more of 22 conditions. Patient registry cards are to be issued by August 15, 2021.
In South Dakota, voters ended cannabis prohibition altogether, approving both medical cannabis Measure 26 and adult-use Amendment A. Measure 26 authorizes qualifying patients to purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis, with no more than 8 grams to be in a concentrated form, and grow up to three cannabis plants if no cannabis retailers are licensed by a resident’s local jurisdiction. The South Dakota Department of Health must have rules in place by October 28, 2021, and have patient identification cards available by November 18, 2021.
In Arizona, adult-use Proposition 207 passed with 59.8% support. The measure went into immediate effect, allowing Arizona residents 21 years of age or older to grow up to six plants and to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis and five grams of cannabis concentrates.
In New Jersey voters approved adult-use initiative Question 1 with 66.9% support. The constitutional amendment, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2021, imposes taxes but leaves rulemaking up to state lawmakers.
In Montana, adult-use Initiative 190 passed with 56.5% support. The law went into effect January 1, 2021, and allows anyone 21 years of age or older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis or eight grams of concentrate, and grow up to four mature cannabis plants and four seedlings.
Louisiana Expands Medical Cannabis Program
Louisiana's highly restrictive medical cannabis program was expanded to be more effective in 2020. Physicians can now recommend cannabis to treat any “debilitating” medical condition. Cannabis businesses may access more financial services, as legislation now prohibits state banking regulators from penalizing banks and credit unions for working with the industry. Lastly, physicians and medical centers are explicitly protected by state law for recommending cannabis or working with patients who use it.
A Solution to Cannabis Research Block
In 2020, Americans for Safe Access proposed the creation of a new agency dedicated to cannabis regulation and oversight. The Office of Medical Cannabis Control (OMCC) would oversee the research program and enable state-licensed cultivators to provide medical cannabis to researchers. The proposal was part of a report, Ending the Federal Conflict: Changing the Paradigm on Medical Cannabis, calling for either descheduling cannabis or rescheduling it to a new classification that would allow for cannabis to be used as a frontline medication.
ASA’s model legislation provides a new regulatory framework for cannabis and removes restrictions on research. The proposed OMCC would establish consistent national oversight of operating licenses, minimum standards for labeling and packaging, standards for cultivation, and standards for testing for pesticides, heavy metals, contaminants, adulterants, and other potential threats to health. States would have to meet the proposed new federal standards, and those with more stringent rules than the federal guidelines would be allowed to keep them in place. The proposed legislation would also streamline research access for medical cannabis by centralizing study approval under the new OMCC. Under ASA’s proposal, the new OMCC would establish at least one federally funded medical cannabis research and development center, establish a federal system of laboratory standards, and create a program for certifying research on medical cannabis. To learn more and view the full report and draft legislation, please visit safeaccessnow.org/omcc.
ASA COVID Response Expands Access
When dispensaries and other cannabis businesses were ordered closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, 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. Local ASA chapters and other patient advocates have been instrumental in reversing ill-considered restrictions or lobbying officials to do so. ASA's resource page with recommendations and guidelines is at: www.safeaccessnow.org/COVID-19.
Updated Medical Cannabis Travel Guide
In November, ASA updated its Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for US Travel with the new changes in state laws and reciprocity between states. Following the 2020 general election, there are now 48 US states and four territories with some form of a medical cannabis access, as well as 13 states and the District of Columbia that now permit adult-use. Patients who travel for personal or employment reasons can find answers about how to access medical cannabis in an unfamiliar place at www.safeaccessnow.org/travel.
Tools for Educating Healthcare Providers
Americans for Safe Access made available two free educational resources in collaboration with TheAnswerPage.com, which provides accredited education to healthcare professionals, on medical cannabis information. The “Healthcare Provider Letter” invites your medical professionals to increase their cannabis knowledge, earn continuing education credits (CME), and receive Cannabis Care Certification (CCC). TheAnswerPage.com and ASA also published a short online video, “The Endocannabinoid System and Medical Marijuana in 15 minutes!” This peer-reviewed educational resource introduces the basics of how cannabis interacts with the body. TheAnswerPage.com and ASA work together to provide high-quality unbiased medical cannabis education.
CDC Meeting on Chronic Pain
ASA provided insights on using cannabis for pain management as part of a stakeholders’ discussion with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC asked patients, caregivers and physicians to share their experiences with use of opioids for pain management versus alternative treatment options as part of their ongoing effort to update the Centers’ 2016 internal guidance. ASA highlighted information on medical cannabis treatment options, challenges faced by patients in securing access and the many educational and training resources ASA has available for lawmakers, regulators, researchers, physicians, caregivers and patients on medical cannabis.
ASA WEBINARS & PODCASTS
National Unity Conference and Lobby Day Online
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. The conference proceedings can be viewed at http://www.asaunity.org/watch.
Virtual Symposium on Neurological Conditions
In September, ASA hosted the Second Annual Cannabis Pediatric Neurological Symposium in partnership with the Sonoma Chapter of Americans for Safe Access. Participants learned about the therapeutics of cannabis for pediatric use. The symposium included medical and legal information, family testimonials, company profiles, resources beyond pediatrics and support for caregivers.
Medical Cannabis Journaling
In July ASA partnered with Mindbuzz and Tetragram to host a free webinar called “Take Control of your Medical Cannabis Journey with Journaling.” The webinar featured a behind-the-scenes look at Tetragram’s new journaling app, as well as two medical cannabis patients sharing their journeys and conversation with a panel of experts, followed by a question and answer session.
Cannabis Education and Standards
On October 21, ASA presented “State of the States Unmasked: The Status of U.S. Medical Cannabis Policy Amidst a Global Pandemic” at the ASTM International’s D37 Cannabis Committee’s Global Workshop on Cannabis/Hemp Standardization. ASTM International is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.
ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai participated in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Virtual Fall Symposium, facilitating professional networking sessions on September 30 and October 7.
On October 3, ASA’s Patient Focused Certification Director Heather Despres contributed to an online roundtable discussion of Regulatory Considerations for Clinical Practice & Research as part of the CannaBizMD Cannabis Science + Therapeutics Provider Education Forum, which was a virtual event.
Podcast Partnership with The Cannigma
ASA is now co-producing an informational podcast for cannabis patients, caregivers, providers and supporters. The twice-a-month podcast with The Cannigma, an educational website dedicated to the healing properties of cannabis, includes segments during each episode dedicated to highlight ASA’s advocacy. The Cannabis Enigma podcast provides insight from medical cannabis researchers, doctors, and patients sharing new developments, educational information, and personal stories. The podcast is available on multiple platforms. Listen today at the ASA website.
PATIENT FOCUSED CERTIFICATION
ASA/PFC Submit Comments to USDA on Hemp Program
ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program submitted comments on a proposed national domestic hemp program. PFC, a leader in regulatory and testing standards, addressed in the comments additional requirements for measurement uncertainty and the use of sound scientific methodology when quantitatively determining THC content. This is the second set of comments submitted to the USDA by ASA/PFC. Review the comments ASA/PFC submitted to the USDA.
PFC at Natural Products ExpoWest, March 3
On March 3, ASA's Heather Despres, director of ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program, presented on a panel at the 2020 Natural Products ExpoWest conference as part of a day-long summit on hemp and CBD.
April Online Training for DC Compliance
On April 17 PFC offered a two-hour compliance training for businesses operating in Washington, D.C. 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.
Webinar on Extraction Analysis
PFC Director Heather Despres presented information for manufacturing operations on June 18 as part of the Science of Cannabis Extraction Online Symposium. Despres explained Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and third-party certification and auditing as a tool for cannabis and hemp businesses.
PFC hosted a free COVID-19 safety training for cannabis workers on April 17th. The course is also available on the PFC website at www.safeaccessnow.org/sanitation. This one-hour webinar provides information on health and sanitation best practices for cannabis industry workers that have been deemed essential. The training covers cleaning, personal hygiene and measures such as social distancing. The training guides students through the differences between general cleaning, sanitation and sterilization.
Safety training was the focus of a webinar in September presented by ASA’s PFC Director Heather Despres. The safety training for volunteers at The Social Impact Center who are helping with National Expungement Week, guided volunteers through proper use of personal protective equipment and prepare them to interact with people during National Expungement Week. The training can be found at: www.safeaccessnow.org/covid_safety_training_webinar
Despres will also be participating in a roundtable discussion as part of a CannaBizMD event on October 3. The panel, Regulatory Considerations for Clinical Practice, addressed the unique challenges for U.S. healthcare providers in navigating professional ethics, regulations, public policy, and the impact on public health as medical cannabis programs expand.
Virtual Abilities Expo
ASA had a virtual booth at the Abilities Expo Virtual Event 2020, November 20-22, as well as an introductory session on cannabis for the Abilities Community presented by PFC Director Heather Despres.
Strategic Planning Meeting for ASA Members
On February 10th ASA will be hosting a 2021 Strategic Planning Member Meeting at 3 pm ET (noon PT). This members-only meeting will give our members the opportunity to help us shape our 2021 agenda and our priorities in state, federal and international advocacy. While membership is normally only $35 a year, for the next few weeks only, we are offering a special discounted membership. Sign up today at www.safeaccessnow.org/member21 to receive our members-only emails which will include more information about the meeting.
Share Your Support for Improved Access
ASA and other medical cannabis advocates successfully lobbied state and local officials to ease restrictions on access in light of the COVID pandemic. The improvements patients obtained should not be lost when the pandemic ends. Take action today on social media to show your support for maintaining the gains. Just go to safeaccessnow.org/maintain.
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