ASA’s DC Conference is underway!

Photo: Jim Tozzi, former OMB and regulatory expert, is the first speaker at the ASA conf @safeaccess #unity14 #mmot #mmjASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is underway at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in the heart of Washington, DC. More than two hundred and fifty patients, scientists, industry workers, and other stakeholders will meet for a second day today, before taking their message to the halls of Congress tomorrow afternoon.

The opening speaker yesterday morning acknowledged that the standing-room only crowd might be surprised to see someone like him at a conference like this. Jim Tozzi, PhD., who holds a Doctorate degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Florida, is a national expert in the politics and practice of government regulation. Dr. Tozzi is an influential player in Washington, DC. He worked for five consecutive Presidential Administrations, including service as the senior regulatory policy official at the White House Office of Budget and Management; and was appointed to the Administrative Conference of the United States, the administrative agency responsible for overseeing the federal regulatory process.

Dr. Tozzi is also the author of the Data Quality Act, a law that requires government regulation to be based on good science. ASA sued the Department of Health and Human Services using the Data Quality Act in 2004. Although that lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, it marked an important milestone in our efforts to influence the administrative agencies in hopes of harmonizing federal policies with the laws of the states that already permit medical cannabis use. It was also the beginning of an important association between Dr. Tozzi and ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. Steph regards this unlikely ally as a mentor, and when a reporter asked Dr. Tozzi in 2004 what he thought of Steph’s work, he replied “She is doing God’s work.”

Yesterday’s agenda also included an informative panel discussion on the history of botanical medicines in the United States. Lyle Craker, PhD., discussed the long term trends regarding plant based medicine in the 20th Century – from acceptance, to their gradual replacement by pharmaceuticals, to their reassessment and ultimate return to the mainstream in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Dr. Craker is no stranger to fighting for plant based medicine. Dr. Craker has spent many years fighting for a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration to grow medical cannabis for research. ASA is proud to have supported that effort.

The conference also included updates on the “State of the States” from representatives from California, Massachusetts, Washington, Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, and New Jersey. There was a short, but lively, discussion of myths and fact about cannabidiol (CBD) with panelists Dean Petkanas from Kanna Life, Jahan Marcu, Ph.D. from ASA’s Multidisciplinary Scientific Advisory Board, Martin Lee from Project CBD, and Eric Steenstra from the Hemp Industries Association.

Conference participants broke into stakeholder groups for in depth discussions at the end of the day. Spokespeople representing medical professionals and researchers, industry, patients, veterans, organized labor, and parents will report back to the full conference today. Last night closed with a VIP reception and Unity Awards Banquet. You can see who won what on our web page.

Look for more news, pictures, and video from the conference here and on our social media sites soon.