ASA Activist Newsletter - July 2022
- Senate Omnibus Cannabis Bill Introduced
- ASA Unity Conference: 20 Years of Activism
- Highlights from 20 Years of ASA Activism
- Ask the Doctor Webinar – August 3
- California State Fair Features Cannabis Pavilion
- First Terpene Tournament to be Held in Oakland August 5
- Why Meeting Your Representative Matters
- Activist Profile: Rita Lynn Lawrence, Edgewater, Maryland
- Action Alert: Make an Appointment with your Representative
Senate Omnibus Cannabis Bill Introduced
After more than a year of feedback and development, on July 21 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The 296-page omnibus bill that would legalize cannabis for adult use federally and address social equity issues received more than 1,800 public comments, including feedback from ASA on how to meet the needs of patients.
Among the important changes that resulted from comments is a redefinition of what counts as legal hemp, increasing the permissible THC level to 0.7% dry weight from the current 0.3%. The process for expunging cannabis criminal records will now be easier and no longer require a hearing. The introduced bill is substantially longer than the draft, but the major elements of the bill remain, and many mirror provisions in cannabis reform bills passed by the House, such as the SAFE banking bill and the MORE Act.
Leader Schumer has blocked consideration in the Senate of those reform bills in hopes of passing this larger bill that covers everything from banking to research, as well as establishing programs to redress the disproportionate impact of the drug war on certain communities.
Central provisions of the bill include removing cannabis from federal scheduling control and expungement of criminal records for low-level cannabis offenses. The Small Business Administration will be tasked with supporting cannabis businesses through a Cannabis Opportunity Program, and the Equitable Licensing Grant Program will provide funds to states and cities to remove barriers to cannabis business licensing for those who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs. If enacted, the CAOA will allow states to set their own policies on the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis, and licensed cannabis business will be able to access banks and other financial services.
Five days after introducing the CAOA, Sen. Booker held a hearing on “Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms” before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism he chairs. The July 26 hearing included testimony from law enforcement, public officials and Weldon Angelos, a music producer who was sentenced to 55 years for cannabis-related offenses but was released after 13 years following a campaign by celebrities and public officials.
ASA Unity Conference: 20 Years of Activism
After 2 years of virtual conferences, ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference will again be held in person this year. The 10th annual conference will be December 12-14, 2022 at the Omni Hotel in Washington, D.C.
This year's conference theme is “Celebrating 20 Years of Medical Cannabis Advocacy.” While the conference will celebrate how far safe access has come, ASA will also be sharing strategies to overcome the final hurdles to safe access. The 2022 Unity Conference will include expert panel discussions, an awards dinner, a press conference, and a Lobby Day for participants to meet with their elected representatives and staffs.
Anyone interested in receiving a scholarship to attend the conference should fill out the form at https://www.asaunity.org/scholarship_interest to receive more information about applications.
ASA is seeking sponsors to help shape the conference by joining the Host Committee, which is only $1000 and supports a scholarship recipient. Those interested in joining the Host Committee can find out more at https://www.asaunity.org/unity22_host_committee_donate.
For more information on sponsorship opportunities, see https://www.asaunity.org/sponsor.
Highlights from 20 Years of ASA Activism
For the next few months, ASA will be highlighting some of the organization’s past accomplishments over 20 years of advocacy. This month ASA is highlighting a report from 2004: Patients in the Crossfire: Casualties in the War on Medical Marijuana.
Patients in the Crossfire highlights how federal interference with state medical cannabis programs had patients and providers caught in the middle. The report tells the personal stories of people whose lives were uprooted by prohibition. The casualties in the war on marijuana have too often been the people who are helped by it — those with cancer, MS, chronic pain, AIDS, and glaucoma who have to choose between their health and prison. Their stories illustrate how the refusal to acknowledge medical science and the pleas of doctors and patients destroyed lives. These are the stories of people who deserve compassion, not federal prison.
Check out the full report at www.safeaccessnow.org/patients_in_the_crossfire
Ask the Doctor Webathon – August 3
Join Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists (ACS) on August 3, 2022, at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific for an Ask the Doctor Webathon.
This free patient-focused, evidence-based educational forum will provide guidance to patients and health care professionals who have questions about cannabis and cannabinoid treatment of common illnesses. This online event will address facts versus fiction about cannabinoid medicine and provide opportunities to hear from specialists on specific topics of interest in break-out rooms.
Julia Arnsten, MD, will discuss dosing and approaches to pain management. Jordan Rishler, MD, will discuss cannabinoids, dosing, and approaches to mental health issues. Bonni Goldstein, MD, will discuss issue around pediatric care and use of cannabinoids with special emphasis on CBD for pediatric epilepsy. Suraj Tandon, MD, will focus on cannabinoids in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as MS, ALS, Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s, and others.
There is no cost to attend but your generous donations are kindly appreciated as each organization continues to push their missions forward focused on patients, patient care and the science behind the therapeutic use of cannabis.
For more information on the expert physicians and to register for this online event, visit https://www.safeaccessnow.org/ask_the_doctor_webathon.
California State Fair Features Cannabis Pavilion
For the first time, the California State Fair featured a cannabis pavilion with awards for cultivars and an exhibit about the history of cannabis in California, including the work of Americans for Safe Access.
The exhibit celebrates California’s award-winning cultivators and honors the history, craft, and story of California cannabis today.
Organizers created a display featuring Americans for Safe Access, and ASA activists from various California chapters have been participating in events throughout the fair. Pictured here is longtime ASA activist Richard Miller of Sacramento in front of the display.
The fair is in Sacramento through July 31st, and the cannabis exhibit is in Expo Center Building One. Access is age-restricted to those 21 years of age or older.
First Terpene Tournament to be Held in Oakland August 5
Bay Area ASA is working with the first ever Terpene Tournament, to be held in Oakland on August 5, 2022. The event is a blind terpene tasting and medical cannabis benefit that also highlights legacy, equity, and compassion.
“Whether you're a patient looking for answers, a group of friends looking for a better experience, or a dispensary owner looking for a better way to curate cannabis experiences, this event is sure to be a hit,” says long-time ASA activist Tony Bowles. “Terplandia is bringing their whole terpene experience. They have terpene fog bubbles and infusions I feel will be a huge hit, and their products, terpene diffusers will be great fit at event.”
The Werc Shop Laboratory is providing custom Terpene Vape Carts. Beard Bros Pharms are an official media sponsor, and Oaksterdam is doing cross promotion of their anniversary in September.
The Terpene Tournament is even featured on Oakland's Official Tourism Website, Visit Oakland https://www.visitoakland.com/event/terpene-tournament/29145/.
For more information, see https://www.eventhi.io/event/terpene-tournament-6160.
Why Meeting Your Representatives Matters
Americans for Safe Access has always been a grassroots advocacy organization that believes patient stories can change public policy. With Congress starting its August recess, this is an ideal time to schedule meetings with the offices of Representatives and Senators.
ASA’s latest blog explains why citizen lobbying is so effective and shows just how easy it is. Check it out at https://www.safeaccessnow.org/augustrecess22_blog
Activist Profile: Rita Lynn Lawrence, Edgewater, Maryland
Rita Lynn Lawrence has faced a life-long struggle with painful congenital medical conditions that have proven difficult to treat. Even accepting the diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and the winged scapula that resulted from weakened back muscles was difficult. Doctors could offer no real treatment of medical solution, just palliative care.
“I said yes to everything they recommended, but my health declined,” Rita Lynn says. “I was in lots of pain, losing function, and couldn’t drive. I tried to focus on parenting my children, but even that was a struggle.”
Rita Lynn was living in Wisconsin then. One evening in 2013, some friends were over for dinner, and one said she was going outside to smoke. Rita Lynn expressed surprise and asked why. Her friend said to come outside and she’d tell her.
“She had health issues and she said this particular cigarette helped with her issues,” Rita Lynn remembers. “I said, I’ve never heard of that. I will try that! And it did! It immediately reduced pains and struggles I’d had since childhood and had never had an answer to.”
That evening was a turning point for Rita Lynn. She was very active in her church and worked with religious non-profits because she really wanted to help people and practicing some sort of spirituality was how she knew to do that. Her experience with cannabis was a revelation.
“That’s when I realized there are things on this earth that can provide that,” Rita Lynn remembers. “People say, I need a miracle, and that’s how I felt for years. I had to believe something miraculous could happen and take me out of this pain, something other than taking my own life.
“As a parent, I knew I couldn’t do that. I was a mom,” Rita Lynn says. “I had to learn what to do to still function and continue to be a parent. Cannabis took me out of the mindset that I just couldn’t do this. It brought hope.”
Her experience with cannabis gave her a new sense of possibility and spirituality. Rita Lynn started doing research, trying to figure out what this plant is, how it was working for her, if it was healthy. Since she lived then in Wisconsin, she had no legal way to obtain cannabis. She was also on a fixed disability income, so she had to rely on the kindness of friends to help her try this medicine that no insurance would cover. She was fortunate to have people who could loan her money until she got her disability payment at the end of the month.
After two years, she learned that lawmakers in Maryland had approved a medical cannabis program. Fortuitously, Rita Lynn already owned a house in Maryland that she was renting out, so once the bill was signed in 2015, she immediately made plans to leave Wisconsin and move there.
“Once I saw the Maryland medical cannabis program would begin, I began my process, because once this program is live, I want to be there to try it out, I need to get legit,” Rita Lynn remembers. “I was scared. With family and kids, I felt I had unsafe access.”
Rita Lynn visited Maryland dispensaries before they opened and met with owners, and once she found one near her house there, she relocated with her family to be there the week they opened in 2016. In those early days of the Maryland program, patient education was a priority, and there were many events to inform people about cannabis.
“I had known for years it was working, but I didn’t know why,” Rita Lynn says. “I didn’t know how to access the real studies. Once I saw the education programs, I knew I wanted to be more involved.”
Rita Lynn invested time and energy in sorting through the various people and organizations in the industry in Maryland to find the people who are in it to help others. In 2019, Rita Lynn became a caregiver to help others access cannabis.
“That’s just a service I offer for patients,” Rita Lynn says. “I can cook with their medicine in their kitchen, and that’s just really beautiful because I can work with them to make their experience of the plant a positive one. I care that people have safe access.”
In 2020, she became a patient care specialist for a local dispensary.
“It’s beautiful that I feel like I’ve found my place. I’m in a community and industry that really do care,” Rita Lynn says. “Americans for Safe access has come into my life as part of this ecosystem.”
Rita Lynn describes herself as on a new path of life, comforted by being with nurses and doctors who care enough to share the truth, even when it may threaten their professional standing.
“They could have their licenses revoked; they’re putting they’re life on the line. I compare this to the US Marine Corps, and their ‘no soldier left behind,” Rita Lynn says. “ASA reminded me of that with the No Patient Left Behind campaign. This is the same thing. We’re at war, not with people but with pain, with suicide, with depression, with anxiety, with covid.”
Now that Rita Lynn’s three children are all in school, she has more time and is using it to get more serious about advocacy. She has become a voice for patients in Maryland and is working on outreach events with her dispensary and local nonprofit to help more people see the benefits of cannabis.
“I was so limited in my disability thinking, and I really struggled with my surgeries. There was a time when there was no hope for the future,” says Rita Lynn. “The future is bright. I can actually feel merry. There is so much opportunity for me now. This is an industry where there is opportunity for all of us.”
Action Alert: Make an Appointment with your Representative
With lawmakers heading home for the August Recess and cannabis reform in the conversation when they head back to D.C., now is a great time to share your story with your Senator and Representatives. We want them to know that they have medical cannabis patients as constituents and that we will be paying attention to their votes.
Please call their office to schedule an appointment in your home district to share your story. Once you have a meeting all you need to do is go in and politely share your experience as a medical cannabis patient and encourage them to keep patients in mind when they head back to Washington.
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