ASA Activist Newsletter - October 2018

In the October 2018 issue:

  • Vote Medical Marijuana Guide Released
  • CBD Drug Placed in Least Restrictive Category
  • ASA Author to Present on Stigma at Denver Conference Oct 16
  • Improved PFC Website Launches
  • ASA Presents at Abilities Expo and Medical Conference
  • New ASA Webinars: Patient Experience and Analytic Methods
  • Save the Date: Unity Conference March 18-20
  • Activist Profile: New Los Angeles ASA Chapter
  • Action Alert: Vote Medical Marijuana!


ASA’s Vote Medical Marijuana Guide Released

On October 4, Americans for Safe Access launched its 2018 Vote Medical Marijuana voter guide. This annual campaign to educate voters features an interactive online guide that grades members of Congress on their support for medical cannabis legislation, including votes and sponsored bills.

ASA’s Voter Guide provides voters with a complete analysis of the current political landscape of medical cannabis in the U.S. Congress, and key state races across the nation. The site also includes a downloadable candidate card so that voters can make a guide to take with them to the polls.

 “ASA created the Vote Medical Marijuana campaign to help educate supporters and the general public about where their legislators stand on these issues," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "It is critical for advocates to vote in this year’s midterm elections to strengthen medical cannabis laws at both the state and national levels.”

Vote Medical Marijuana can help medical cannabis patients, caregivers, and supporters determine if their elected representatives are doing everything possible to protect medical cannabis programs and participants from federal interference. While neither the House nor Senate held a full vote on cannabis legislation in the past year, 2018 has seen increasing support for the issue in Congress, with nearly 50 medical cannabis bills introduced. The CJS Amendment that shields state medical cannabis programs and participants was also renewed for the fourth time.

Grading criteria for the guide was based on support for bipartisan legislation such as the CARERS Act and the CJS budget amendments of the past three years. For the Senate, CARERS and the STATES Act were ranked as the most important for patients, so support for those conferred the most points. In the House, the CJS Amendment was the top point category.

No matter how the elections turnout, Congress will look very different in 2019. Between the House and the Senate, 56 members (and counting) have announced they are not seeking reelection due to resignation, retirement, ethics issues, or seeking higher office. As a result, the 116th Congress will include over four dozen individuals who have never voted on federal cannabis policy. The 2018 midterm elections have the possibility to permanently change the federal government's stance on medical cannabis.

Cannabis policy will also have an important role on state level politics. Utah, Missouri, and some counties in Wisconsin will have medical cannabis on the ballot in November. Michigan will have an adult use initiative on the ballot, which may mean new rules and regulations for patients and patient access. Many gubernatorial candidates, like those in Maryland, and other state office holders have made cannabis policy central components of their campaign.

For more information on the campaign, visit: 

CBD Drug Placed in Least Restrictive Category

In late September, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) placed the cannabidiol (CBD) medication Epidiolex in Schedule V, the least restrictive category. Cannabis and its constituents, including CBD, remain illegal under federal law as Schedule I substances.

Epidiolex was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June for the treatment of two rare pediatric seizure disorders. This is the first time a cannabis-based medicine has been approved since cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1942 after having been a recognized medicine for 90 years.

 “Now that Epiodiolex has been approved by the FDA, it has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” wrote Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon in the DEA’s formal notice, who also noted that “any non-FDA-approved CBD extract … remains a schedule I controlled substance under the CSA.”

The DEA decision was triggered by the FDA’s findings on the successful clinical trials of Epidiolex. But leaving all other CBD medicines in Schedule I conflicts with the FDA’s recommendation that CBD be completely descheduled and removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The DEA has cited the United State’s treaty obligations as the reason for maintaining the scheduling of CBD and placing Epidiolex in Schedule V.

The FDA recommendation on CBD was conveyed in an internal letter to the DEA in May. The FDA noted that CBD products “do not have a significant potential for abuse and could be removed from the CSA.”

Under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the US is obliged to keep marijuana and its extracts illegal except for research. The World Health Organization (WHO), with prompting from ASA and an international coalition of patient groups, has concluded that CBD can be made available for medical use. The WHO will be conducting a critical review of cannabis, THC, and other plant constituents in the next few months. Its recommendations will then go to the United Nations.

More information:
DEA Press Release on Epidiolex scheduling
DEA Federal Register filing on Epidiolex
DHS letter to DEA on why CBD should not be scheduled


ASA Author to Present on Stigma at Denver Conference Oct 16

The effects of stigma and stereotype on how patients access medical cannabis will be the topic of a breakout session at the annual Marijuana for Medical Professionals Conference (MJ for MDs) in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, October 16 at 12:30pm. ASA’s new Colorado chapter will also have a table at the event.The Medicalization of Marijuana

The presentation by Michelle Newhart PhD and ASA’s William Dolphin draws on the research findings from their new book, The Medicalization of Marijuana: Legitimacy, Stigma, and the Patient Experience (Routledge).  Following the session, they will be doing a book signing.

Dolphin and Newhart will also be discussing what they discovered about the experiences of patients in an online ASA webinar on Wednesday, October 24 at 8:30pm Eastern.

The MJ for MDs conference, which includes many CME credit courses for physicians and other professionals, runs from Oct. 14-16 at the Marriot Hotel Denver Tech Center.

See for more information.


Patient Focused Certification has New Director and Updated Website

ASA’s Patient Focused Certification team last month welcomed a new director, Heather Despres, who has been working in the cannabis industry for over 10 years. Despres brings with her a goal to make customer service PFC’s #1 priority.  This starts with an updated website that includes additional business services and training options to better help cannabis businesses succeed.

The updated site now includes:

  • New Business Services(application and SOP review/writing/drafting, LOI for aps, consultation)
  • Individual Training Coursesavailable for purchase
  • List of PFC Certified Companies
  • Calendar of Events
  • Link to full PFC Course Guide
  • Patient and Caregiver Education Course
  • CME Courses for Medical Professionals

Visit the easy-to-navigate to see all the new services. Contact PFC at [email protected] for more information.


ASA Presents at Boston Abilities Expo and Medical University of South Carolina

On September 21-23, ASA Associate Director Debbie Churgai presented a workshop on "How Medical Cannabis Can Help People with Disabilities" at the Boston Abilities Expo. The presentation explained how cannabis can be an option for treating a variety of conditions and how qualifying patients can access it where they live. The presentation, which organizers said was the best-attended talk, also covered how new patients can learn more about medical cannabis from ASA’s Cannabis Care Certification program. 

Churgai was joined at the booth by Massachusetts advocate Nichole Snow (pictured right), who was recognized as ASA’s Activist of the Year in 2017 for her work with the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA). Upcoming Abilities Expos are scheduled for Houston, Boston, San Mateo, Toronto and New York. If you are interested in volunteering at an Abilities Expo in your area, please contact [email protected].

On September 28, ASA's Director of Government Affairs David Mangone joined top researchers, lawyers and South Carolina lawmakers in Charleston at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for the inaugural Update on Medical Cannabis. Speaking to an audience of over 100 registrants, Mangone spoke about the obstacles from the federal government states face when implementing medical cannabis programs. Other highlights from the conference included updates on current cannabis research, the role of nurses in medical cannabis programs, cancer clinical case observations, and the treatment of PTSD in veterans. 

Under a bill led by Senator Tom Davis, the South Carolina legislature is poised to take up discussions about a comprehensive medical cannabis program in early 2019. The date for next year's MUSC conference has been set for September 27, 2019. Read more here for an agenda of the full conference


Two Free ASA Webinars: Patient Research and Method Validation

Upcoming ASA webinars cover groundbreaking new research on the patient experience (Oct. 24), and how “method validation” can help standardize all types of cannabis operations (Nov. 7). Both webinars are free to attend online.

Tune in Wednesday, Oct. 24, as Michelle Newhart, PhD and William Dolphin discuss their new book, The Medicalization of Marijuana: Legitimacy, Stigma, and the Patient Experience. Learn what their research on mid-life patients in Colorado reveals about what it means to participate in a state medical cannabis program. Hear how patient experiences with medical cannabis fit with that of other medicines -- and don’t -- and how that's changing as medicalization marches forward alongside competing "recreational" definitions that complicate the issue. The webinar covers:

  • Challenges in sorting accurate information about cannabis
  • Trends in doctor-patient interactions around cannabis
  • Patterns for managing medical cannabis use, and defining what is "medical"
  • Differences between medical and non-medical patterns of use
  • Risks to patients and how they combat stigma
  • Cannabis in the context of medicine, health, and Big Pharma

This free webinar will be live Wednesday, October 24, at 8:30pm Eastern (5:30 Pacific). For more information about logging in, RSVP and get a discount code for 20% off their book at

PFC Director Heather DespresOn Nov. 7, join Patient Focused Certification Director Heather Despres for “Method Validation – Not Just for Labs!” This webinar will review what method validation is, how method validation can be achieved, and how method validation is necessary for many different types of operations.  We’ll also review how validation fits into a well-rounded quality system and discuss strategies for validating various processes.

This webinar will be live on Wednesday, November 7, at 5:00pm Eastern. For more information about logging in, RSVP for this webinar at


Save the Date: ASA Unity Conference 2019

ASA has announced the dates for the 2019 National Unity Conference. Advocates and experts will gather in Washington D.C. for panel discussions, educational sessions, networking and citizen lobbying from March 18-20. Put the dates in your calendar, and stay tuned for a full agenda and more details.


Activist Profile: ASA Los Angeles Chapter

Americans for Safe Access is welcoming a new chapter in the world’s largest cannabis market, Los Angeles, California. The two principal organizers, Chris Malcolm and Antonio Frazier, were each working independently on the idea this past year, without knowing what the other was up to. That would not be surprising, since Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world. But when they each contacted ASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. about starting a chapter, and staff suggested they work together, it turned out to be easier than might be expected. The two were already golfing buddies. They just hadn’t been talking about their ideas for getting more involved with patient advocacy.

Both Chris and Antonio are long-time members of the cannabis industry. Antonio is one of the principals at the analytical laboratory CannaSafe, which recently received its PFC certification from ASA and was featured in last month’s newsletter.

Antonio Frazier“Chris has been testing with us for some time, even before compliance was enforced, so we have a great relationship,” says Antonio (pictured left). “We had no idea they were working on this at the same time until recently. We call this industry "the wild west", and like any good western, the good guys end up working together.”

Chris, who has worked in commercial real estate and property management for 22 years, operates two dispensaries in the LA area and helped found a local cannabis industry trade organization in 2016 called United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA). Through UCBA, a group of 16 of the original permitted dispensaries in LA under the 2013 Proposition D as well as four partner businesses, Chris has worked with the City of Los Angeles on crafting sensible regulations for the past four years and helped draft Measure N, a tax and regulation initiative, in 2017.

Chris MalcolmChris first became interested in medical cannabis because of a very good friend’s family medical problems and his own herniated disc, both of which were helped by it. In fact, medical cannabis has allowed Chris to keep playing golf. Chris’s parents are even on board at this point, having discovered that cannabis tinctures work well in the aftermath of knee replacement surgeries, though it took them a while to understand why Chris felt compelled to spread the word about cannabis.

“Why do you have to tell everyone?” Chris recalls them asking, to which he would reply, “We’re not part of the problem. We’re part of the solution.”

That solution includes advocacy. For Antonio, advocacy is built into the business model.

“CannaSafe's mission is based on consumer safety,” Antonio says. “We want to push cannabis science towards standardization so that it can gain the trust of its patients and regulators.” 

Antonio met ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer at the first event he attended after being hired by CannaSafe.

“After spending the last 5 years in DC, I immediately realized how important it would be to build a relationship with ASA. Steph connected me to PFC, and we became PFC certified.”

 “After we became PFC certified, we realized there was no ASA chapter in LA, so I started reaching out to get one started,” Antonio says. “We want to bring that level of advocacy right into the hot bed of LA.” 

Chris and Antonio filed their formal chapter papers with ASA and have now applied for federal 501(c)4 status with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization that advocates for social welfare. They expect to have that complete by year end and start holding chapter meetings.

“We’re going to have an active chapter,” Chris says.

They’re both looking forward to what they can achieve in the next year.

“We really hope to educate the community on the importance of consuming safe products,” says Antonio. “We also hope this chapter will encourage the other good players in LA to come onboard and help us bring standardization to all facets of this industry.” 

“We may not always agree,” Chris says, “but we’re all fighting the same fight.”


Action Alert: Register to Vote and Vote Medical Marijuana!

The political change the November 6 elections will bring are an opportunity for patients and advocates to be heard. Dozens of new members of Congress will have a chance to reform federal policies, so make sure you’re registered to vote and then choose carefully. Go to to find out where your candidates stand on medical cannabis issues. Share the information with friends and family, and make sure they’re registered and voting, too. Ever vote makes a difference, particularly when you Vote Medical Marijuana! Get the resources today at


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