ASA Activist Newsletter - September 2021

In the September 2021 Issue:

  • ASA Urges Patient-Focused Changes to Senate Cannabis Bill
  • PFC State and National Training Updates
  • World Anti-Doping Agency to Revisit Cannabis Ban
  • ASA Provides New Benefits for Members
  • ASA Partnership with CannaKeys Announced
  • Upcoming ASA Events
  • Activist Profile: Jamie Lowell, Detroit, Michigan
  • Action Alert: Sign the Petition to Let Olympians Use Cannabis

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ASA Urges Patient-Focused Changes to Senate Cannabis Bill

Patient needs will not be met by the Senate’s draft cannabis reform legislation, according to the comments submitted by Americans for Safe Access. ASA’s letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) explained why and suggested substantive changes to the proposed Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).

The Senate trio’s draft bill represents an ambitious step forward in federal cannabis policy reform, offering the most comprehensive approach yet contemplated by federal lawmakers. If enacted, it would address a wide range of cannabis issues, ranging from the conflict between federal and state cannabis law to removing barriers to research and taking steps toward restorative justice. ASA’s comments and suggestions focus on patient priorities the draft fails to meet.

“We look forward to working with Senators Schumer, Wyden and Booker to ensure that this important bill does not leave medical cannabis patients behind,” said ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai. “We thank them for their efforts and believe this bill can be crafted to better serve medical cannabis patients in addition to other cannabis consumers and victims of the War on Drugs.”

CAOA Draft SummarySpecifically, ASA recommends that federal regulators work with key leaders in cannabis medicine, including patients and caregivers, to establish a federal office that would facilitate making cannabis a recognized medicine at the federal level.

ASA encourages the senators to include key members of the medical community on the legislation’s proposed Advisory Committee, including professionals from neurology, psychology, pediatrics, palliative medicine, addiction and emergency medicine who have experience treating patients with cannabis. Such a group could provide recommendations on reorganizing federal departments and agencies to facilitate cannabis research and improve health outcomes for all patients.

ASA’s comments also highlight the need for a physician education curriculum that covers applications of cannabis medicine. Surveys of physicians and medical students consistently find that they lack knowledge and training to answer patient questions and advise them on cannabis therapeutics.

Ending federal discrimination on cannabis patients was also a focus of ASA comments. ASA has requested clarification regarding non-discrimination of federal programs related to cannabis possession and use. Specifically, ASA would like this section to direct Housing and Urban Development to protect housing assistance and require Health and Human Services and the Veteran’s Administration to collaborate on physician education. 

ASA’s comments also point out the need for federal leadership to establish uniform regulations governing laboratory testing of cannabis products to ensure patient safety and consistency of medicine. Currently, each state maintains different testing requirements, leaving cannabis patients without uniform medicine held to consistent standards. ASA urges Senators Schumer, Wyden, and Booker to work with cannabis regulator groups, practicing cannabis researchers, cannabis testing laboratory operators and scientists to identify appropriate testing and product specification requirements, such as the ones in ASA's PFC program

More information: ASA’s full Comment Letter.

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PFC State and National Training Updates

ASA’s PFC program will have updates to all four National Cannabis Standards Training classes (Cultivation, Manufacturing, Dispensary, and Laboratory) completed at the end of the month. Guest trainers will include Dr. Debra Kimless (manufacturing), Don Duncan (dispensary) and Ben Gelt (cultivation), while PFC Director Heather Despres will be conducting the laboratory trainings.

In PFC state training and certification news, PFC is submitting an application to be a state training provider for Ohio this month. PFC’s application for the Responsible Vendor Training program in Illinois is pending approval. New York is set to announce its hemp GMP certifiers, which will include PFC.  

PFC Director Despres also did another training video for National Expungement Week volunteers, this time a safety training for their workers for COVID prevention and safe food handling.

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World Anti-Doping Agency to Revisit Cannabis Ban

WADA LogoThe international body responsible for doping regulations in sport has announced that they are reconsidering their ban on cannabis use by athletes. The World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) announced this month that following that they had received requests for a review from a number of stakeholders and that their List Expert Advisory Group recommended that they revisit the status of cannabis.

That prohibition received criticism in the run up to the Olympics after sprinter Sha-Carri Richardson was left off the American team due to a failed drug test for cannabis.

For a substance to be added to the WADA Prohibited List, it must meet two of the three criteria:  a) it poses a health risk to athletes b) it has the potential to enhance performance and c) it violates the spirit of sport. WADA claims all three are true of cannabis.  They explained their rationale in a paper published in 2011.

Cannabis is currently prohibited in competition and will continue to be in 2022. A violation is determined by a urine test showing THC metabolite concentration in excess of 150ng/mL.

The cannabis ban does not apply to cannabidiol (CBD), so it can be used both in and out of competition.

More information: https://www.usada.org/athletes/substances/marijuana-faq/

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ASA Provides New Benefits for Members

Recently ASA added even more benefits for its members. Now, ASA Membership includes::

  • Free access to our Cannabis Care Certification Patient and Caregiver online education (5 hour online video course designed for patients and caregivers)
  • 20% discount on all training courses from Patient Focused Certification (PFC), the first and onlyISO accredited cannabis standard-setting body in the US. Courses include cultivation, distribution, laboratory and manufacturing. 
  • Discount on tickets to ASA conferences and events.
  • 30% Discount on a subscription to CannaKeys
  • Free annual subscription to Cannabis Patient Care Magazine
  • Discounts on car rentals, hotels, entertainment venues and tickets

In addition to these perks, ASA members receive the benefit of knowing that they are actively supporting an organization that has helped millions of patients gain better and safer access to medical cannabis. These benefits come with memberships for as little as $35 a year or $5 a month and support ASA’s mission of safe and legal access to cannabis. Visit www.safeaccessnow.org/membership to renew or sign up to become a member

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ASA Partnership with CannaKeys Announced

Americans for Safe Access and CannaKeys are partnering to help broaden access to cannabis research and demystify the science of cannabis to support improved patient outcomes. CannaKeys  platforms and services support education on the cannabinoid health sciences and the effective and consistent use of these therapies.

CannaKeys logo“CannaKeys is thrilled to be working with ASA to increase the pace of change and support their ongoing work by providing platforms that quickly aggregates the science of cannabis and supports improved patient outcomes,” said Douglas Reil, co-founder and CEO of CannaKeys.

As part of this partnership, all ASA members will receive a 30% discount on the CannaKeys 360 platform. In addition, ASA and CannaKeys will be working together on educational activities to help accelerate the use and safe adoption of cannabinoid therapeutics.

The CannaKeys 360° platform provides easy access to published science, aggregated critical data points, and guidance to practitioners and patients. CannaKeys provides over 3,500 cannabis related studies across 240+ medical conditions.

ASA will be using the CannaKeys platform to help identify data and scientific references for ASA’s educational materials, reports, and federal and state comments.

"Being able to have immediate access to evidence-based research will help us inform policy recommendations that improve policies for patients," said Debbie Churgai, executive director of ASA. "Healthcare workers, researchers, educators, policymakers, businesses and cannabis patients and consumers can all greatly benefit from access to this extensive and growing database. ASA is excited to broaden access to this important resource to all our members.”

To learn more about how science can inform policies for patients, participants can sign up for a free joint webinar with ASA and CannaKeys at www.safeaccessnow.org/research_webinar. This webinar will explore how to utilize research to advance medical cannabis policy and acceptance for cannabis as a medicine. Registration is free and all are welcomed to attend.

Thank you to our sponsors at The Cannigma, Weedmaps, and Dr. Bronner’s. If you would like to sponsor this webinar, please contact [email protected]

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Upcoming ASA Events

MJBizCon 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada

ASA has been invited, once again, to participate in MJBizCon's Associations Day. This event brings cannabis non-profit advocacy and association groups into the spotlight for a day at this major cannabis industry conference, held October 20-22 in Las Vegas, Nevada. ASA supporters can register now for MJBiz using discount code AD2021ASA and add on the free Associations Day event.

Hemp for Victory Mixer in Arlington, Texas

Join Texas veterans to celebrate and learn more about their quest for full access to medical cannabis. The event will take place on November 6 from 2-5 PM CT, in Arlington, Texas, at Texas Live! Presented by Weedmaps, registration is free but donations are encouraged. Proceeds will benefit ASA. RSVP at www.safeaccessnow.org/hfv

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Activist Profile: Jamie Lowell, Detroit, Michigan

After more than a dozen years as a cannabis activist in Michigan, Jamie Lowell has seen the environment in his state evolve dramatically, but some things remain the same. Threats to safe access continue to emerge, and the diverse cannabis stakeholders and advocacy groups in the state still come together to combat them.

When the Michigan ASA chapter was profiled in the newsletter 7 years ago, activists there had just held a rally against recent federal prison sentences handed down to Michigan patients. This month, Jamie and a few hundred other activists were again out in force at the state capitol, this time protesting a proposed change in state law that threatens caregivers and home cultivation. Instead of imploring law makers to stop sending patients to jail, now the focus is on resisting the influence of big money interests trying to expand their share of the cannabis market by making state law more restrictive.

Michigan activists got tipped off that the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA), a trade group of large cannabis businesses, was not just lobbying state lawmakers to limit the rights of patients and caregivers but had been circulating legislative language that would, if enacted, force more consumers to access cannabis through retail storefronts.

“We’ve known that this big money group with somewhat secret membership has been trying to grab market share using local regulation and state law,” says Jamie. “They’re gunning for caregivers by trying to lower plant counts, require expensive testing, and impose seed-to-sale tracking and other burdens.”

Currently more than 30,000 caregivers are registered with the state, helping provide cannabis directly to Michigan’s nearly 250,000 qualified patients. For many years, Michigan cannabis patients relied exclusively on a caregiver network of cultivators. From 2008 to 2016, state law did not allow for cannabis dispensary operations.

Jamie and other activists had hoped that rallies and protests would not be needed in Michigan any more, after they worked to elect a governor and attorney general who are allies on the cannabis issue.

 “It’s not like rallies are my first go to anymore. You do it to get attention and press, but a lot of us have figured out how to go directly to lawmakers and get heard. That’s what next wave activism looks like,” says Jamie. “But with this, people didn’t have a voice anymore. Everyone working on this needed a rally to have their voices heard.”

Numerous media outlets covered the capitol rally and interviewed activists, and a current state lawmaker, Cynthia Johnson, joined them in support. Jamie is hopeful the attention will help deter lawmakers from undermining the place of caregivers in Michigan’s system.

Caregivers have been central to Jamie’s work since Michigan’s initiative passed in 2008. As that low-key medical cannabis campaign unfolded, the opportunities all started to make sense to Jamie. His long career as a real estate appraiser had cratered with the housing market, and he had been a regular attendee at Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash -- held every April since 1972 -- so he was ready to dive in.

He read the new law, which was based on personal cultivation and caregivers who could cultivate for patients. He read California’s similar affirmative-defense initiative. He started making connections between patients and caregivers and looking for a central location. Jamie opened Third Coast Compassion Center, a dispensary named after his former appraisal company, in Ypsilanti in the summer of 2009.

“We were lucky to be in a favorable area,” Jamie says. “The city decided to permit us and do a local license, so we were one of the first to work transparently. We were figuring it out as we went.”

In the years since then, Jamie has seen groups and organizations form and splinter. But even with the infighting, there was also sharing of information and a sense of common purpose.

“Anytime there’s a threat, we go shoulder to shoulder,” Jamie says. It didn’t take long for the threats to materialize. “The feds were able to get to the municipal league and townships to stop proper implementation. They made it a way for police to shoot fish in a barrel.”

Jamie became politically active with the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers. In 2010, he was part of the first big rally at the state capitol, protesting federal raids and arrests. In 2018, he saw the initiative he helped author make cannabis legal for all adults in the state.

As much as things have improved over the years, there are still people in Michigan being arrested and getting their children taken away, so Jamie keeps working.

 “We’re introducing a bill to deschedule cannabis in Michigan. Currently it’s Schedule I and Schedule II simultaneously,” he says. “If we get this passed, it will no longer be in the criminal code. People won’t get arrested for $40 transactions.”

Jamie is also working to fix the damage done by the war on drugs, serving on the steering committee for a foundation to help get expungements and assist people with reentry. He is also on the policy committee for the Michigan Cannabis Freedom Coalition, which is working on reentry and preventing incarceration, and a member of the Cannabis Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Jamies is currently the Directory of Advocacy of Social Equity for The Botanical Company, a vertically integrated operation with three retail locations and a soon-to-open analytic lab. The company is completing PFC certification.

Jamie is excited to see the revitalization of the Michigan ASA chapter, of which he was co-chair 7 years ago.

“I’ve been inspired by many people, but the glue for ASA in Michigan has been Brandy Zink,” Jamie says. “Her long experience with ASA and passion for the message explains the history and why ASA is important and credible.”

“One of the motivations for ASA’s return is to keep the patient focus in adult-use,” Jamie says.

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Sign the WADA petitionAction Alert: Sign the Petition to Let Olympians Use Cannabis

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is meeting right now to determine whether to remove cannabis from their prohibited substances list for Olympic sports. As medical cannabis patients and advocates, you know first-hand the benefits of cannabis as a safe treatment option. Sign the petition to help protect athletes worldwide! If you're ahead of the pack and have already signed this important petition, please share it with your family, friends and network. Take action today at www.safeaccessnow.org/wada.

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