Blog Voices from the Frontlines
On May 31, 2016, Puerto Rico for Safe Access was officially welcomed by Americans for Safe Access as the first Chapter this organization has on the geographic areas encompassing the Caribbean and Latin America, thus expanding their reach and support outside the continental US. Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States of America. Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which is the largest non-profit member-based organization advocating for safe use and research of medical therapeutics. ASA has over 50,000 members, and the support of numerous sponsors, partners, and affiliates, ranging from patients, to doctors, lawyers, researchers and volunteers, who all share one common ground, which is to fight for and protect the right of every patient to benefit from medical cannabis therapies.
Gaining Momentum - Senate Judiciary Member Al Franken Signs onto CARERS Act - Americans for Safe Access
On Tuesday, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) became the 20th senator to sign on to the CARERS Act (S. 683). With the news, Franken has become the second senator on the Judiciary Committee in recent months to become a CARERS cosponsor, joining Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC). Last month, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also became a cosponsor. Franken also joins Judiciary member Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who became a cosponor last July.
The CARERS Act currently is stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Chuck Grassley has refused to give it a hearing. With growing support among Judiciary Committee senators, it will become more difficult for Grassley to continue to block the bill. ASA is currently organizing petition in Grassley home state of Iowa to urge him to give the bill a markup hearing with a vote.
A recent national poll has shown support for medical cannabis stands at 89%. The poll was conducted May 24 – 30 by Quinnipiac University, surveying 1,561 registered voters nationwide. This poll closely mirrors the results of a 2014 CNN/ORC national poll, which showed the support level at 88%.
In fact, the support was strong across all ages and party affiliations. While Republicans and older Americans have typically been the least likely to support legal access to medical cannabis therapy, their support levels were show at 81% and 89% respectively. Again, these results nearly replicate the 2014 CNN/ORC poll, in which 84% of Republicans and 84% of voters over age 65 stated their support. Unfortunately, the less than 20% of senior Republicans who oppose medical cannabis are disproportionately represented in Congressional committees.
Last week was a busy one in Sacramento. Hundreds of patients and advocates participated in our California Citizen Lobby Day on Monday. Check out my blog about which medical cannabis bills won and lost by the end of the week.
There is a new action alert this week… Tell your California Senator to vote no on SB 987, which adds an additional 15% tax to medical cannabis statewide.
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Medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders in California scored victories and suffered defeats in the state legislature today. The Appropriations Committees in the Assembly and Senate decided the fate of hundreds of bills today in their biannual “suspense hearings” – including important bills related to medical cannabis licensing, taxation, and patients’ rights.
The committee votes come just four days after more than one hundred and fifty medical cannabis patients and caregivers gathered in Sacramento to talk face-to-face with lawmakers and staff about medical cannabis bills. Participants in the California Citizen Lobby Day took more than 200 meetings with lawmakers and staff – including members who cast votes in today’s suspense hearings.
Ohio Set to Become 26th Medical Cannabis State, but Employment Language Raises Concerns - Americans for Safe Access
The Ohio Senate passed HB 523 on Wednesday by a vote of 18-15, which would create a retail dispensary medical cannabis program in state.The bill is expected to be signed by Governor John Kasich, which would make Ohio the 26th medical cannabis state in the country.
While the program that will be created under HB 523 is no doubt a step forward for patients in Ohio, the are still major concerns with the program. To give the legislature credit, the senate wisely amended the bill to remove potentially disastrous requirements on physicians and added commission appointments for representatives from the caregivers, nurses, and agriculture. Another reason to celebrate the bill’s passes is that the regulatory process will begin sooner. Given the delays that most state programs have encountered when issuing dispensary and cultivation licenses, the earlier state on regulations will certainly benefit patients. However, there are several areas of the bill that impose unnecessary and harmful burdens upon patients.
US House Approves Amendment to Create Access for Veterans to Medical Cannabis - Americans for Safe Access
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the Veterans Equal Access Amendment (VEAA) to the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilConVA) Appropriations bill, which sets the budget for the Veterans Administration (VA). The amendment, which creates a path to medical cannabis therapy for veterans receiving their healthcare through the VA, was approved by a vote of 233-189 with 57 Republicans and 176 Democrats. The amendment was sponsored again by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) with bipartisan co-sponsorship from Representatives Heck (R-NV), Farr (D-CA), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Reed (R-NY), Titus (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), Gallego (D-AZ), and Polis (D-CA).