ASA Activist Newsletter - November 2020

November 17, 2020 | William Dolphin

In the November 2020 Issue

  • Voters in 5 States Pass Cannabis Measures
  • Veterans and Medical Cannabis Roundtable
  • Pediatric Medical Cannabis Access in Schools
  • Upcoming PFC Event and Comment Opportunity
  • CannaSafe Analytics First to Achieve Dual PFC Certifications
  • Viridis Labs Achieves Dual PFC/ISO 17025 Certification
  • ASA Joins Forces with Leaf411 on Patient Affordability Program
  • ACTION ALERT: Time to Vote for the MORE Act! Contact Your Rep

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Voters in 5 States Pass Cannabis Measures

Voters in five states overwhelmingly approved cannabis ballot initiatives on November 3. The results mean 35 states and the District of Columbia now allow safe access to medical cannabis for qualified patients. Legal adult use has now expanded to 14 of those states, plus the District of Columbia.

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%. Adult use was approved by voters in Arizona, Montana and New Jersey – all states with existing medical cannabis programs – plus South Dakota, where voters approved separate medical and adult use initiatives.

In Mississippi, voters navigated a multi-step voting process and a competing initiative. To pass the medical cannabis measure, voters first needed to approve a qualifying question before choosing between Initiative 65 and a more restrictive measure placed on the ballot by opponents. Voters overwhelmingly chose 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. The state’s adult use law will allow anyone 21 years of age or older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis.

In Arizona, adult-use Proposition 207 passed with 59.8% support. The measure goes 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. The law allows for expungement of certain cannabis and paraphernalia offences.  

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 goes 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. License applications for retail operations are not required to be available for an additional year.

For more details, see the ASA blog at safeaccessnow.org/election_2020_1.

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Veterans and Medical Cannabis Roundtable

To commemorate Veteran’s Day, Americans for Safe Access and key veterans groups across the U.S. hosted an online medical cannabis roundtable. Panelists discussed a wide range of topics affecting veterans who use medical cannabis, including barriers to access, employment challenges, new federal legislation for veterans, policies that can help veterans, and how to advocate at the Department of Defense and Veteran's Affairs.

Roundtable panelists included:

  • Jose Belen, Florida Mission Zero
  • Abbie Bennett, journalist at Connecting Vets
  • Philip Blair, Chief Medical Advisor, Harvest 360
  • Representative Lou Correa, responsible for the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act
  • Cherissa Jackson, AMVETS
  • Michael Krawitz, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access
  • Todd Larkin, Texoma Veterans Alliance
  • Todd Scattini, CEO Harvest360
  • Eryck Stamper, Veterans22 Initiative
  • Matt Zorn, Attorney for veteran PTSD research study

Thank you to our sponsors at Weedmaps and Eaze for supporting this important event!

The event can be viewed at safeaccessnow.org/vets20_video.

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Pediatric Medical Cannabis Access in Schools

State medical cannabis programs recognize the importance of access for children, but many states still do not include provisions for minors to access their medication at the place they spend the most time outside the home--their school. Only 12 states currently allow minors to access their medication at school.

Due to school restrictions, in order to allow pediatric patients access to their medicine during school hours, most state programs require caregivers to sign out the child from school, remove them from school grounds, administer their medication at home, return them to school and sign them back in.

Laws about drug-free school zones are the reason. Even as states have legalized cannabis, these school zone laws have remained. Only California, Colorado, DC, and Virginia actually allow school staff to administer cannabis, while the other states require cannabis to be administered by a caregiver. Even in these states, the law also features language that allows individual schools to opt out of allowing pediatric treatment if they feel under threat of losing federal funding.

The fight against the school zone policy has been led by parents and students who have lived that experience and whose names are often attached to the legislation they have championed.

Below are links to the existing legislation affecting pediatric access in schools.

California - SB 1127 “Jojo’s Act”

Colorado - HB 1286 School Nurse Give Medical Marijuana At School

Delaware - The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act

District of Columbia - Restrictions on the use of Medical Marijuana

Illinois - HB 4870 “Ashley’s Law”

Maine - Authorized Conduct for the use of Medical Marijuana

Maryland - HB 617 Connor and Regina’s Law

New Mexico - SB 204 Medical Marijuana in Schools

Pennsylvania - DoH Guidance for Schools and School Districts

Virginia - Cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil; possession or distribution at public school

Washington state - HB 1095

For more information, see ASA’s blog at safeaccessnow.org/pediatric_medical_cannabis_access_in_schools

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Upcoming PFC Event and Comment Opportunity

ASA will have a free virtual booth at the Abilities Expo Virtual Event 2020, happening from November 20-22. There will also be an introductory session on cannabis for the Abilities Community presented by PFC Director Heather Despres. https://www.abilities.com/virtual/events.html

The public comment period on the PFC Standard will be closing on November 23, 2020. PFC is committed to maintaining the standard that sets the bar for the cannabis and hemp industries. The PFC Standard is the foundation for PFC business certifications and we look forward to receiving all comments. Comments will be reviewed by the PFC Review Board keeping our commitment to an independent review process. https://safeaccess2.org/patientfocusedcertification/standards/

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CannaSafe Analytics First to Achieve Dual PFC Certifications

ASA’s Patient First Certification (PFC) program has certified CannaSafe Analytics of Van Nuys, California for laboratory analysis of cannabis products. CannaSafe Analytics also becomes the first facility in the country to receive the PFC Health and Sanitation Certification.

The Health and Sanitation certification was recently added to address current issues of health and safety during the corona virus pandemic.

“The work ASA has done over the decades is crucial to safe access for all patients, and PFC’s cannabis specific scope gives patients confidence that the lab isn’t producing fraudulent results,” said Antonio Frazier, President of CannaSafe. “CannaSafe hopes that more of the industry will pursue certification beyond the basic requirements, which simply aren’t robust enough at this time.”

CannaSafe joins a growing list of PFC certified businesses since the program was officially launched in 2014. 

“This achievement demonstrates CannaSafe’s continued commitment to cannabis product safety for patients and consumers, along with a commitment to operate safely and guard their employees health and wellbeing'' said Heather Despres, PFC Program Director. “CannaSafe continues to adhere to not only the standards set by PFC but also the requirements of the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California.” 

PFC is the only nonprofit third-party certification program for the cannabis industry based on quality standards issued by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP).

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Viridis Labs Achieves Dual PFC/ISO 17025 Certification

Viridis Laboratories of Lansing, Michigan has been certified for laboratory analysis of cannabis products under PFC’s dual PFC/ISO 17025 laboratory accreditation program in partnership with the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA).

“Through our agreement with A2LA, Viridis Laboratories has become the first laboratory in Michigan to obtain this cannabis specific certification and only the fourth in the US'' said Heather Despres, PFC Program Director. “Viridis continues to adhere to the rigorous standards set forth by both the PFC Standard and the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency.” 

ISO 17025 is an internationally recognized laboratory standard for Testing and Calibration Laboratories, and is a required standard for many cannabis testing labs. Working with A2LA, PFC has combined the standards into the most complete laboratory certification available.

“Our company is incredibly proud of achieving national recognition through Americans for Safe Access Patient Focused Certification program,” said Greg Michaud, Viridis Laboratories’ CEO. “ASA’s Patient Focused Certification strengthens our A2LA ISO 17025 accreditation, helping further solidify our position as Michigan’s premier cannabis testing laboratory. Their patient-first focus aligns perfectly with our mission of ‘Ensuring Health & Safety Within Michigan’s Cannabis Industry.’ We look forward to furthering our partnership with the ASA in bringing awareness and confidence to Michigan’s cannabis patients and their caregivers.”

PFC is a way for patients, healthcare providers, companies, and regulators to identify reliable, high-quality medical cannabis, businesses, products, and services. We encourage everyone to ask their local cannabis businesses (dispensary, lab, cultivation, manufacture facility or anywhere hemp or CBD is sold) if they are PFC certified. For more information on the PFC program or to get your company certified, please email Heather@safeaccessnow.org.

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ASA Joins Forces with Leaf411 on Patient Affordability Program

ASA has partnered with Leaf411 to offer low-income medical cannabis patients financial support in helping them to obtain their medicine.  Leaf411 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis (marijuana & hemp. 

The Leaf411 Affordability program provides donated medical cannabis products to low-income medical cannabis patients and financial scholarships to qualifying patients that cannot afford physician evaluations for cannabis medical cards. Through this partnership, ASA will be able to provide a trusted resource to their members and supporters who cannot afford access to cannabis.

“Every year, ASA’s medical cannabis patient feedback survey cites the high cost of medical cannabis as one of the leading barriers to access across the country.” said Debbie Churgai, executive director of ASA. “Through  Leaf411’s Affordability program, ASA will be able to offer our members and supporters a trusted resource to use when financial support is needed to access their medicine. We are excited to have found a great partner to help low-income patients across the U.S. find affordable access.”

“Leaf411 is honored to announce our partnership with American's for Safe Access (ASA),” said Katherine Golden, CEO and co-founder of Leaf411. “Our organizations have come together to assist those in need gain access to vetted, legal and compliant products and services that have been donated via the Leaf411 Affordability Program.  This partnership's mission is to help ensure the accessibility and affordability of safe and effective legal cannabis for those patients in need. Our shared goals are to provide support for low income patients and viable options where access to physician evaluations can be cost prohibitive.”  

For more information on the program, visit: www.safeaccessnow.org/leaf411

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Two New ASA Cannabis Enigma Podcasts

Two new episodes of the Cannabis Enigma Podcast, co-produced by The Cannigma and Americans for Safe Access, are now available.  

Writing the Book on CBD includes a pre-election alalysis with ASA’s Executive Director Debbie Churgai and ASA’s Interim Policy Director Dustin McDonald and an interview with Mary Biles, author of THE CBD Book: The Essential Guide to CBD Oil.   The Endocannabinoid System Demystified includes an interview with Dr. Rachel Knox from the Cannabis Conversation podcast.  

Stay tuned for a special post-election analysis epiosode with Steph Sherer, which will post Thursday, November 19.

Check out these and ASA’s other podcasts done in partnership with cannigma.com at https://www.safeaccessnow.org/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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ASA Activist Profile: Cherissa Jackson, Maryland

In 2013, Capt. Cherissa Jackson, RN, retired from the U.S. Air Force after 23 years of service. Her fourth deployment had included a near-death experience in combat, so when the orders came for a fifth deployment, she decided it was time to get out.

She had been working with wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helping them recovery from injury, pain and mental health challenges as they reacclimated. At the same time, she was dealing with similar trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, but without much support.

“I coped alone and in silence,” she says.

Over the next year, she pursued therapy and consulted with doctors, who prescribed her handfuls of medication to manage the effects of her PTSD.

“As a nurse, I knew what all the pills could do,” Cherissa says. “I didn’t want that.”

Antidepressants and Ambien helped her cope with the hyper-vigilance and sleep problems. But what she came to rely on was her spirituality, therapy, and lots of exercise – running, cycling and weight training -- and alternative therapies. She ran her first half marathon that year.

Her advocacy and educational work on behalf of veterans and others with PTSD has included writing for and being featured in various publications about the insights she’s gained, including Prevention Magazine and Forbes. In 2016 she published At Peace, Not in Pieces, her journal of the seven principles she used to cope with PTSD, her transition out of the military, and dealing with divorce and single parenthood.

Early last year, Cherissa became Chief Medical Executive for the Heal Program of AMVETS, a Congressionally chartered nonpartisan, national organization for veterans founded in 1944. She began educating herself about cannabis last year, too.

“In my role, I’m focused on how we heal veterans,” Cherissa says. “That includes making sure they have access to options for pain and mental health, and cannabis should be one of those.”

Cherissa’s personal desire to help veterans gain safe access to cannabis has prompted her to help veterans have the conversation with their providers.  AMVETS currently has a resolution supporting cannabis research on treating PTSD.

In May, Cherissa became a certified medicinal cannabis user herself. She finds cannabis products help her sleep and manage other PTSD symptoms. That experience drives her advocacy and efforts to educate veterans. She’s developing guidance for veterans and spearheading discussions with other female veterans around coping with sexual trauma and other issues.

“The gospel I preach is other options than more pills,” says Cherissa. “Veterans need to know they have choices, and they have rights.”

The mother of 26-year-old twins, Cherissa’s service extends beyond helping veterans. She’s also active in Project Give Hope, travelling to Africa to bring low-cost gynecological care to combat cervical cancer in women there.

Cherissa’s tireless work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Star Nurse Nightingale Award, a Vetty (Veteran Awards) for the HEAL Program, the 2019 Hill Vet Award, and the 2019 American Veterans Ball Passion Award.

Cherissa was one of the featured panelists for ASA’s Veterans Day Roundtable earlier this month. That program can be seen at safeaccessnow.org/vets20_video.

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ACTION ALERT: Time for a Vote on the MORE Act! Contact Your Rep

Your Representative needs to hear how to vote on the MORE Act (HR 3884) now that it’s finally coming up for a vote. ASA supports the MORE Act because it would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and benefit the medical cannabis community in several ways. With a vote coming soon, your members of Congress need to hear from you as soon as possible about why they should vote to help medical cannabis patients. Take action today at  https://www.safeaccessnow.org/more.

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