ASA Activist Newsletter - November 2019
November 15, 2019 | William Dolphin
In the November Issue:
- Possible Cause of Vaping Illness Identified by CDC
- Check the Patient’s Travel Guide before Holiday Travel
- ASA Announces New Unity Sponsorships
- ASA and PFC Educational Events Include New Trainings
- ASA Launches New Patient Research Partnership
- Activist Profile: Eryck Stamper, Baltimore, Maryland
- Action Alert: Find a Sponsor
Possible Cause of Vaping Illness Identified by CDC
U.S. health officials have named a probable culprit in the vaping-related lung injuries that have affected more than 2,000 people and resulted in at least 39 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday, November 8, that researchers found Vitamin E acetate in the lung fluids in 29 people spread across 10 states. No other toxins were detected.
Tests were conducted for plant oils, petroleum distillates and other potentially hazardous chemicals. In 23 cases, THC or its metabolites were present, and 16 had nicotine in their lungs.
Vitamin E acetate has also been identified as an ingredient used to cut oils in some THC vape cartridges produced in the underground market. While vitamin E acetate, an oil made from the vitamin, is considered safe to consume in food products, it is not considered safe to inhale.
The CDC researchers called vitamin E acetate a “strong culprit” but acknowledged “it is possible that more than one compound or ingredient could be a cause of lung injury, and evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out contribution of other toxicants.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that 70% of the nearly 600 vaping products linked to the disease that they have tested contained THC. On October 1, Americans for Safe Access issued patient-focused recommendations on cannabis vaping products, noting that vitamin E acetate is implicated as a potential cause of illness and injury, but it has not been present in all samples, and an independent study of underground vape cartridges found other hazardous chemicals, too. The analysis of 10 types of underground market cannabis vape cartridges—performed by CannaSafe, a PFC-certified lab in California—found all contained myclobutanil, a pesticide that becomes poisonous hydrogen cyanide when heated. Heavy metals have also been identified in some cartridge designs.
Federal and state health officials are telling cannabis processors to not add vitamin E acetate to vaping products. The CDC and ASA both recommend ceasing use of cannabis-containing cartridges, particularly those obtained from the illicit market, until there is clarity as to what is causing these illnesses and deaths.
ASA recommends using only cannabis products that have undergone testing at an independent, third-party laboratory that has verified composition and potency and screened for adulterants, contaminants, heavy metals, residual solvents, chemical residues, and other health concerns, such as mold and bacteria.
“While we are relieved that the CDC is making progress in determining the cause of the vaping-related lung injuries, our main concern is ensuring patients still have access to safe medicine without interruption,” said Americans for Safe Access Interim Director Debbie Churgai. “This issue highlights the need for continued research, education, and regulations that promote patient and consumer safety so that we can safeguard against other harmful toxins.”
Check the Patient’s Travel Guide before Holiday Travel
Thanksgiving is a peak travel time in the U.S., with millions of Americans visiting loved ones. Patients traveling out of state may not know if their medicine will be available in the states they visit. ASA’s Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel helps patients understand laws in states and territories in which they may be eligible to obtain cannabis legally. 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. Laws and regulations change constantly, so patients should review current information on medical cannabis laws and regulations in the jurisdiction(s) they will be visiting before traveling across state lines. Before traveling, it is important for patients to review the most up-to-date information for the jurisdiction(s) 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.
ASA Announces New Unity Sponsorships
Americans for Safe Access announce last month two new sponsorship initiatives to help support ASA’s annual unity conference, to be held March 25-28 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. The new initiatives offer opportunities to sponsor a scholarship to help a medical cannabis patient attend the conference, as well as the chance for committed individuals to support the educational work of the conference.
History shows that cannabis policy moves forward when medical cannabis patients have a voice in the conversation about policies that affect their lives. That’s why each year ASA’s scholarship program brings patients from all over the country to Washington, D.C. to learn more about the issues affecting patients and lobby their representatives on Capitol Hill.
Unfortunately, many patients with a lot to contribute to the national dialogue cannot afford the trip to Capitol Hill. This year, ASA has created a Sponsor a Patient program. With a one-time donation of $1500, an individual or organization can guarantee a patient (of your choosing or one picked at random) receives a scholarship to the conference.
The donors name or organizational name will be listed on our conference website as well as a special thank you in the conference program.
The second initiative is for individual supporters, who can donate in any amount to support the conference. All donors have the option of receiving a special thank you in the conference program book.
ASA’s annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference brings patients, caregivers, scientists, researchers, advocates, and representatives from the cannabis industry to Washington, D.C. to hear the latest updates on medical cannabis and meet with members of Congress and their staff to urge them to legalize medical cannabis at the federal level.
For more information on the conference, visit www.ASAUnity.org.
ASA and PFC Educational Events Include New Trainings
Staff from Americans for Safe Access and ASA’s Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program presented information and trainings last month, with more in November and December.
MJBizCon is hosting an event with ASA in Las Vegas on December 10, 2019 from noon to 4:30 p.m. during their Association's Day. ASA will be holding an educational event for MJBiz conference attendees, titled “Ensuring Product Safety, Compliance and Social Responsibility in the Cannabis Industry.” This event will be free and open to all MJBiz registrants (space permitting). RSVP now to secure your spot for the day's programming and receive a discount code for $100 off MJBizCon registration.
Some of the speakers include: Chris Day, VP of External Relations at Marijuana Business Daily and Anne Holland Ventures Inc.; Nic Easley, CEO of 3C Consulting, LLC (Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting) and Multiverse Capital CEO/Managing Director; Antonio Frazier, VP of Operations, CannaSafe Lab; and Steph Sherer, Founder and President of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) and Founder and President of Americans for Safe Access. Email Reenal@safeaccessnow.org for more information and opportunities for sponsorship and speaking.
On November 8, ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai joined PFC Director Heather Despres and ASA board member Don Duncan for a one-day PFC training event in at the Eaze facility in Venice, California. The training was also broadcast online as a live webinar. The training included the newly updated Core Cannabis Training classes (Cannabinoids as Medicine, Business Operations, and Understanding Cannabis Law), and regulatory information on California state compliance standards.
Students attending the training day received an access code so that they may use the PFC online training portal to take course exams and get training certificates as well as take the National Cannabis Standards Training course (cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, or laboratory operations) of their choice online.
On November 13, PFC Director Heather Despres Spoke at the two-day Canna-Pharma Conference in San Diego. Despres’ talk “Importance of regulatory compliance in a changing regulatory environment,” covered best practices for managing the rapid evolution of standards in the cannabis industry. Also speaking at the Canna-Pharma conference was Ethan Russo, MD, Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI), who will be the keynote speaker for ASA’s Unity 2020 conference.
ASA Launches New Patient Research Partnership
ASA has launched a new medical cannabis patient research program in partnership with Aurelius Data. The survey-based research will help not only improve knowledge of the therapeutic use of cannabis and the experiences of patients and caregivers, but will also serve to enlighten lawmakers to help change cannabis policy.
Participants’ survey information will be anonymous and will only be shared for the purpose of helping to collect data that can prove helpful for medical cannabis research. No one’s name will be used in association with any data collected. All survey data will be stored securely and confidentially in compliance with HIPAA privacy guidelines.
“We hope to prove the need, and the real potential of cannabis for reducing harm, providing lasting symptom relief, and changing the course of disease. Your answers are the first important step in this process,” said Julie Armstrong, CEO of Aurelius Data. “We know that healthcare providers generally believe that medical cannabis is a legitimate medical therapy. Data about how medical cannabis improves patient quality of life is desperately needed, as this information can impact clinical decision-making.”
To participate in the anonymous medical cannabis patient research survey, go to https://research.aureliusdata.com/asanews.
Activist Profile: Eryck Stamper, Baltimore, Maryland
Eryck Stamper had no question about his career path. Military service is the family business. His parents, uncles, grandfather and great grandfather had served in the armed forces. When he committed at age 18 to join the U.S. Navy, he did a shot with his recruiter and his mother at the bar where she worked. By the end of a distinguished 23-year career in the Navy, including multiple naval deployments in support of Desert Shield/Enduring Freedom, Somalia, and multiple relief efforts, he was coming to grips with having become “a hardcore alcoholic.”
He quit drinking the summer of 2013 and switched to cannabis as soon as he retired that October. Cannabis helped him not just stay away from alcohol but also eliminate all but one of the 8 medications he had been prescribed to cope with the various physical and psychological injuries of his service.
When he enlisted straight out of high school in 1990, Eryck started at the bottom as an E-1 Seaman Recruit, swabbing decks and standing shipboard underway watches. Over his 23 years of service, he came to embody what the Navy calls “deck-plate leadership”—working your way up but never forgetting where you came from. As he rose to the rank of E-8 Senior Chief Petty Officer with a Top-Secret/Sensitive Compartment Information security clearance, managing radio and cryptographic communications, what he learned about leadership and personnel management solidified his path.
Eryck jokes that those who served say “Navy” stands for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself,” but his military training and his experience with the healing potential of cannabis combined to lead him to an advocacy role for cannabis and veterans. His advocacy started with employment in a Maryland dispensary, where the owner, whose father was a veteran, asked Eryck what they could do to help others who had served. After thinking long and hard, Eryck proposed a discount for veterans of 22%, a number that reflects the average number of veterans who commit suicide in the U.S. each day due to PTSD. It was a 30-second decision.
After implementing that discount where he worked, Eryck turned to other businesses and organizations, advocating for not just veterans but their families and first responders. Those efforts became Veterans Initiative 22, which has in less than two years convinced 50+ organizations to offer the 22% savings and hire veterans and retired first-responders. They also persuaded five medical cannabis doctors to offer recommendations for a $22 fee.
“For years after I left the Navy, I was embarrassed to ask for my veteran’s discount,” Eryck says. “Now, it’s second nature.”
The difference is he’s not just asking for himself now. Finding the confidence to advocate for veterans and cannabis took a little time, but Eryck has always had the acceptance of his family and the support of his mother and grandmother, who was proud to see him in uniform and now is proud of his work for others.
“I learned about advocacy from Americans for Safe Access and Maryland NORML,” Eryck says. “Now I’ve got my sights set on veterans, family and first responders—the tax advantages of hiring them, the training and discipline they can bring to any organization.”
He’s also been advocating for medical cannabis and alternative holistic health approaches with the Veterans Administration (VA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
“We’ve got the support of the VFW and the Legion, and we’re working with the VA on suicide prevention and a CBD suppository for prostate health and endometriosis,” Eryck says. “But we’re still dealing with a blue line on base, forcing family members to go off base for medical cannabis.”
Eryck has just graduated from organic farm school from Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland (TALMAR) under a Veterans Administration vocation and rehabilitation program and is focused on developing the Maryland Hemp Exchange.
“Right now, 65 farmers have been approved to grow hemp through the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and Maryland has just about 1,440 acres under cultivation,” Eryck says. “Hemp can create jobs, so our goal is to create an industrial hemp program in Maryland."
Action Alert: Find a Sponsor
With adult-use legalization being considered and the presidential election in full swing, we need to make sure that patients have a seat at the table for forthcoming changes to cannabis policy. This means we need to bring as many patients as possible to the 2020 Unity conference and lobby day next year.
By helping to find a sponsor for Unity, who can provide a one-time donation of $1,500 (or more), you can guarantee a scholarship to our 2020 National Medical Cannabis Unity conference. Any person or organization that donates can either choose to designate a scholarship to a specific recipient or contribute to our fund to award our most deserving applicants. To guarantee a scholarship spot, and a chance to change the minds of lawmakers in your state, find a donor today who will sponsor you! All donors will have the option of receiving a special thank you in the conference program book or can remain anonymous.
For more information visit, www.asaunity.org/send_a_patient_to_unity.