Why I Started the ASA Challenge: Bringing Funds and Awareness to the Urgent Need for Medical Cannabis Access

I became passionate about medical cannabis when I saw remarkable results using cannabis in treating my son Zach’s severe refractory epilepsy. He went from sleeping most of every day, barely speaking or comprehending being spoken to, having a life filled with seizures, to being alert, interactive, and seizure free for most of the year. My passion drove me to pursue a Master’s degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics and to pursue a career in advocacy helping other families like my own.

I started volunteering some time for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest non-profit patient advocacy organization promoting safe and legal access to medical cannabis. Helping to secure funding for an organization that has done so much to help patients was an honor and an exciting opportunity I couldn’t wait to make the most of. However, I was surprised to find that an industry that was struggling because of constraints like 280e and lack of interstate commerce had a much more narrow focus which centers on marketing efforts to drive profits, rather than focusing on removing these barriers to profitability.

After weeks of being turned down again and again from major businesses, I felt alone and discouraged. I had heard a friend of mine remind folks that industry stands on the shoulders of advocates, but accepting that boards of directors of major cannabis and ancillary companies are perfectly willing to let struggling advocates bear the load alone was a hard pill to swallow.  What a shame to stand on the shoulders of adults and children that are challenged to stand at all!  Images of activists rolling up a hill in wheelchairs, and moms and dads carrying their children, sometimes stopping to deal with seizures or other disease related difficulties, with a select few from industry helping to push a heavy load up the hill replayed through my mind. All the while, boards of directors, armed with what they need, funding, cheering them on from the sidelines, seeing them weary from the fight, but not willing to pitch in, just waiting for the work to be done.  As a mom that is just doing whatever I can do to help her son, I decided I needed to bring back the focus to patients and create more awareness of this issue that was so near and dear to my heart.

I conceptualize the ASA Challenge/Air Shred for ASA to raise awareness and help bring in financial support to an organization that means so much to me and that needs more support to continue its important advocacy work. Air Shred for ASA is a grassroots campaign created to increase awareness of the need for safe and legal access to medical cannabis and to bring attention back to the patient. Individuals and companies can participate by creating a short video of them air shredding to a song (or shredding anything really) and by donating $10 to Americans for Safe Access and by nominating 4 people to join the challenge.

Unfortunately, Zach still experiences very difficult relapses for a few months out of every year. As a result, Zach has missed trick or treating with friends, Christmas mornings, birthdays, water sports and activities, tons of school and extracurricular activities, and all of the friendships and confidence that comes with these restrictions. Zach is not a candidate for surgery, because his epilepsy is both multifocal and generalized. He has exhausted countless medications, with each new medication only carrying a 2% chance that it will improve his prognosis.

This disorder doesn’t just affect Zach, though. His older brother bears an unfair burden of concern for his brother’s well-being. His disorder causes financial and emotional stress on the family. His teachers, young friends and their families have expressed that this is something that is very emotionally difficult for them to witness on a regular basis. His life touches so many and he is not alone.

How many children who are struggling with diseases and disorders that currently have little or no effective treatment protocols could be helped by medical cannabis? With more than 160 novel cannabinoids, both major and minor, that have little, or no drug discovery work or other research having been done, how many cures are we leaving under lock and key? When will our families’ circumstances and our children’s urgent needs be recognized as a legislative priority? When will they get a fair shot at life because we are willing to explore new boundaries?

In order to give Zach, and all of the other current and potential medical cannabis patients the best chance at life and all that it has to offer, we need greater access for all patients, everywhere. We also need access to research which will help us to understand how best to medicate with cannabis. We need the type of research and funding for research that will only come from moving cannabis out of Schedule I. Americans for Safe Access has been working towards this very goal for 20 years!

This is about creating critical mass on medical cannabis legislation and sending medical cannabis patients to DC on Dec 13 during ASA's National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference Lobby Day to advocate for medical cannabis in person to members of Congress. It's time to get federal comprehensive access to medical cannabis!

We need your help to see it through, in whatever way you are able to give. If you would like to join, Simply say "I just gave $10 to Americans for Safe Access, I challenge (name 3 individuals). This is how I shred" and then post your ASA Challenge video on (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to keep the challenge going! And please don’t forget to donate!


Take the ASA Challenge!