ASA Activist Newsletter - November 2021
In this issue:
- Congress Slips Cannabis Reforms into Big Bills
- PFC Approved as New York Hemp GMP Certifier
- New Episode of the Cannabis Enigma Podcast
- Texas “Hemp for Victory” Event a Success
- ASA Unveils New State Report Cards at National Conference
- State of the States Report Coming Soon
- New Issue of Cannabis Patient Care Magazine Covers Breast Cancer
- Activist Profile: Robert Head, Dallas, Texas
- Action Alert: Urge Congress to Protect Veterans
Congress Slips Cannabis Reforms into Big Bills
With action on cannabis reform bills stalled, members of Congress have been adding provisions from the proposals as amendments to other big, must-pass bills. The recently signed infrastructure bill marked the first success of that strategy, as it opens up opportunities for more and better research on cannabis.
Under the new law, researchers will for the first time be able to use real-world commercial cannabis obtained from state-licensed dispensaries. Until now, any federally approved research study was required to use cannabis provided by the government farm run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Researchers routinely faced long delays, and the cannabis provided is of notoriously low quality and limited varieties.
Two years from now, the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services will be required to produce a public report with recommendations on improving researchers’ access to more types of cannabis, including a way for researchers everywhere in the country to share cannabis samples, even in states that have not legalized medical or adult-use access.
The next big must-pass bill that may include cannabis measures is for funding the military. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 (NDAA) will see amendments offered to address safe banking and veterans issues.
The House version of the bill already includes language from the SAFE Banking bill, which would remove federal restrictions on financial institutions working with state-licensed cannabis businesses. Several senators have voiced support for including it in the Senate version of the NDAA, and banking reform has the support of the financial services industry.
Veterans may also benefit, as eight Democratic Senators are offering an amendment to the NDAA that would add all the provisions of the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, which was introduced in April by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
If the amendment gets through the Senate and survives the reconciliation process with the House version of the NDAA, military veterans could legally use cannabis under federal law as part of a state cannabis program.
The amendment would also allow Veterans Health Administration physicians to provide the recommendations and paperwork veterans need to register with those medical cannabis programs.
PFC Approved for NY Hemp GMP Certifier
Americans for Safe Access’ PFC program has been approved by the New York Department of Health as part of the Cannabinoid Hemp GMP Certifier program. All hemp processors must obtain GMP certification prior to releasing products for sale and PFC has been approved to provide that certification.
“GMP certification represents the next steps in standardization of the cannabis and hemp industries,” said PFC Director Heather Despres. "PFC is excited to be able to provide this high-level certification to New York hemp processors."
The PFC Certification Program became ISO 17065 accredited (Certificate #5284.01) this year as a certifying body for products, processes and services.
In addition to the mandatory certification in New York, PFC provides business certifications throughout the US to all legally licensed and operating cannabis and hemp businesses. For more info, please contact [email protected] or visit www.patientfocusedcertification.org.
New Episode of the Cannabis Enigma Podcast
A new episode of the Cannabis Enigma podcast, produced by The Cannigma in partnership with ASA, is available. The latest episode features Otha Smith III, the CEO of Tetragram, a free app that makes it easy for patients to track cannabis varieties and their effects in a digital journal.
Each episode of the Cannabis Enigma podcast also features a 5-minute segment by ASA at the end. The most recent episode concludes with an update on international policy from ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai.
All episodes of the Cannabis Enigma podcast are available at www.safeaccessnow.org/podcasts or wherever you download podcasts.
Texas “Hemp for Victory” Event a Success
On Saturday, November 6, ASA hosted an Army vs Air Force post-game mixer and fundraising event for Texas veterans and cannabis supporters to celebrate and learn more about their quest for full access to medical cannabis.
“Thank you to Robert Head, Todd Scattini, our TX ASA Chapter, and Green Light Events who all helped make this event so successful!” said ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai.
For more information on the event and organizer Robert Head, see the Activist Profile in this month's newsletter below.
ASA Unveils New State Report Cards at National Conference
On November 2, ASA held a welcome reception for lawmakers and their staffs at the National Conference of State Legislators in Tampa, Florida. Over 100 state legislators from around the country heard from ASA about medical cannabis access across the states and the need to improve programs for patients.
During the event, ASA unveiled the new and improved report card for the 2021 State of the States report, which features several new scoring sections such as Affordability and Social and Health Equity.
The keynote speech at ASA’s event was presented by Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control in Illinois. Legislators also heard a presentation by Pennsylvania State Representative Chris Rabb, a Medical Cannabis 101 presentation by Dr. Kelly King, and a state overview by ASA's new Director of Government Affairs, Abbey Roudebush.
State of the States Report Coming Soon
The 2021 State of the States Report will be released soon. This is the biggest and most utilized report ASA creates every year.
ASA’s annual report evaluates the effectiveness for patients of each state cannabis program and assigns a grade using a rubric that reflects the key issues affecting medical users. This allows activists and lawmakers to compare how states are doing and lobby effectively for better medical cannabis policy and programs.
ASA distributes the report each year to state legislators, members of Congress, and regulators in every state, as well as hundreds of health organizations, patient orgs, and media outlets across the entire country.
“We need donations to help us print this 150+ page report,” said ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai. “If you or your organization can help us with the cost of printing, we will include your name or your company's name and logo in the report with a special thank you.”
To help get ASA’s annual State of the States Report printed and distributed, contact [email protected].
New Issue of Cannabis Patient Care Magazine Covers Breast Cancer
The latest issue of Cannabis Patient Care Magazine is focused on "Tackling Breast Cancer with Medical Cannabis" and features the first article from ASA’s Executive Director, Debbie Churgai.
In it, Churgai sits down with Dr. Marisa Weiss, the founder and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org. Dr. Weiss gives advice on how patients can start the conversation about the therapeutic use of cannabis for breast cancer and shares how cannabis can be utilized for symptom management before, during, and after breast cancer treatment.
ASA is now partnering with Cannabis Patient Care Magazine to help ensure the spread of more news and information focused on medical cannabis from the patient perspective. All ASA members can receive a free subscription to Cannabis Patient Care Magazine.
If you’re an ASA member and haven't already activated your free subscription, please take a moment to claim this free member benefit now. If you are not an ASA member, you can join now for as little as $35 a year or $5 a month. Access to this magazine is just one of the new member benefits ASA has added, so make sure you are not missing out.
Activist Profile: Robert Head, Dallas, Texas
Six years ago, Robert Head, a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army Infantry, was having a hard time with pain in his knees and feet. To manage it, he was taking painkillers, including 10-15 ibuprofen each day, and drinking a fifth of whiskey. But he knew it wasn’t sustainable. He was increasingly irritable and having issues with his family, including his young son and daughter, then ages 8 and 3. He was struggling to monitor the pills and drinking.
So he reached out on social media for advice on alternatives. Cannabis was the recommendation from several people, and one friend sent him cannabis oil pills. He didn’t want to get high, just better, but decided this was part of the journey, so he tried one.
“I was getting my daughter out of the bath when I realized my body felt really good,” Robert remembers. “My knees weren’t hurting, and my sleep was really solid.”
Over a few weeks with the cannabis oil, Robert suddenly realized he was undergoing a dramatic change.
“I realized I was going days without drinking without realizing it,” he says. “Suddenly, it was much more water and less alcohol and soda.”
As he detoxed, he turned to researching cannabis and, like many people, became fascinated with the plant. He discovered that a friend from the Army was a caregiver in Maine, growing cannabis for patients. Robert took a trip there to check it out. After that visit, Robert decided to invest in creating a small farm with his friend. He would fly out from Texas to work the farm, cultivating and harvesting cannabis for himself and other patients.
“It was so enlightening being part of an organic business like this. Then I’d come back to Texas, and it’s completely illegal,” says Robert. “But Texas is my home state, where I spend 99% of my time, so I became an activist here.”
Robert went to Austin to lobby state politicians, attended rallies, and slowly started to see a little movement. Then he began putting on events.
“I want to get knowledge out to people who don’t care about cannabis,” Robert says. “Lots of events preach to the choir, but so many different types of people come together around the plant.”
Robert began reaching out to police groups and community organizations, explaining the different cannabis markets. And he spent time thinking about why Texans might oppose legal cannabis. As a conservative, he was ready to argue with Republicans, but he also knows Texas is a unique state.
“We need to get people on board who influence the state – big businesses, including those moving here,” he says. “They don’t need to endanger their employees by testing them. They don’t have to fire people for using medical cannabis and affect their business.”
Earlier this year, a retired lieutenant colonel approached Robert about putting on a party for veterans after the Air Force-Army football game to promote safe access. They decided on Texas Live, a big venue in Arlington, midway between Fort Worth and Dallas. The venue operators were nervous, but willing to talk. They had to ask if they were going to be selling anything, Robert remembers with a laugh.
Robert is currently a speaker and event producer working with many veterans’ organizations to bring ideas together. He is looking for organizations to help, and was glad to get Weedmaps to help sponsor his Hemp for Victory event at Texas Live (pictured at right), which also had the support of ASA.
“Like many people, when I got into this I said I wanted to make money, but after 6 years of doing this work, I just want to get my community better, and that’s vets,”
Robert is planning a rooftop party to highlight veterans’ groups during South by Southwest, the annual tech-music-arts festival in Austin. He is also working on a documentary called Leaves of Passion about what Texas veterans go through to use the plant and how it helps them. That project features professors from Texas A&M and other schools, the Houston district attorney, and state legislators covering the history of the issue and the current federal-state conflict.
Filming is done, but Robert is looking for sponsors to help pay for the editing to finish it and get it distributed so people can see what veterans confront.
“I hear from vets 4 or 5 times a year who are at the end of their rope, begging for help,” Robert says. “Why should I have to break the law to save someone’s life? It’s not right.”
“War benefits politicians, not soldiers; war creates veterans,” Robert says. “I think they owe them the legalization of cannabis.”
Action Alert: Urge Lawmakers to Protect Veterans
Take action today to urge Congress and the Biden Administration to provide safe access to veterans! Now is the time to remind lawmakers what they can do now to protect those who have served our nation. These two actions can make a difference for veterans by changing Veterans Administration policies. safeaccessnow.org/bidenva and safeaccessnow.org/va_research
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