Blog Voices from the Frontlines

May 122011

Cannabis and Pain - Americans for Safe Access

  • May 12, 2011 10:17 AM
Chronic pain conditions are the most prevalent form of disease in many countries. In the US, the American Pain Foundation estimates that 76.5 million people suffer from persistent pain. With few alternatives and a lack of safe and effective treatments for disabling pain, millions will continue struggling to function in their daily lives. Many people suffering from chronic pain have turned to medical cannabis, but the practice is still frowned upon by some lawmakers.

Montana recently passed a law to restrict the number of people living with chronic pain from taking part in the state’s medical cannabis program. Some states, such as New Jersey, arbitrarily prohibit the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain due to a failure by public officials to grasp the therapeutic benefits in this area.



Several new scientific articles examined the ability of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat pain. Clinical trials using cannabis in various forms (smoked, extracts, oral THC, synthetic analogues) were reviewed by different research teams. Three recent reviews of the clinical trials on cannabinoids and pain, demonstrate that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for treating certain types of chronic pain with acceptable side effects.

After reviewing the scientific evidence, researchers from Canada concluded, that:
overall the quality of trials was excellent. Fifteen of the eighteen trials that met inclusion criteria demonstrated a significant analgesic effect of cannabinoid as compared to placebo, several reported significant improvements in sleep. There were no serious adverse effects. Adverse effects most commonly reported were generally well tolerated, mild to moderate in severity and led to withdrawal from the studies in only a few cases (Lynch et al).

These researchers go on to say:
this systematic review of 18 recent good quality randomized trials demonstrates that cannabinoids are a modestly effective and safe treatment option for chronic non-cancer (predominantly neuropathic) pain (Lynch et al).

Another research group from the University of Pennsylvania published a similar review concluding that:
there is strong evidence for a moderate analgesic effect in peripheral neuropathic and central pain conditions, and conflicting evidence for their use in nociceptive pain. For spasticity, most controlled studies demonstrate significant improvement. Adverse effects are not uncommon with cannabinoids, though most are not serious and self-limiting.

Both groups call for trials with cannabis or cannabinoids for the treatment of pain. Furthermore, a review on the treatments for HIV neuropathic pain concluded that:
evidence of efficacy exists only for capsaicin, smoked cannabis and rhNGF. However, rhNGF is clinically unavailable and smoked cannabis cannot be recommended as routine therapy (Phillips et al).

Meaning, the only medications that have been shown to effectively alleviate HIV/AIDS neuropathic pain are not available on the market. Notably, smoked cannabis was shown to be effective for the treatment of HIV neuropathy, a condition that affects upwards of 40% of the estimated 33 million people currently living with HIV (Phillips et al).

Neuropathic pain, pain from multiple sclerosis, various chronic pain conditions, and often cancer pain are routinely treated with opiates, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants (Russo 2008), but are difficult types of pain to treat. Cannabis extracts have been shown to treat difficult-to-manage pain in patients that is non-responsive to more conventional treatments. Furthermore, medical cannabis researcher Ethan Russo suggests that the use of Cannabis preparations offers "side benefits" due to the presence of additional compounds:
These include anti-emetic effects, well established with THC, but additionally demonstrated for CBD (Pertwee 2005), the ability of THC and CBD to produce apoptosis in malignant cells and inhibit cancer-induced angiogenesis (Kogan 2005; Ligresti et al 2006), as well as the neuroprotective antioxidant properties of the two substances (Hampson et al 1998), and improvements in symptomatic insomnia (Russo et al 2007).

The therapeutic benefits of cannabis for pain are evident both scientifically and anecdotally. Public officials should develop policies that correspond to such benefits and stop restricting access for people with debilitating pain.

This guest blog was written by Jahan Marcu, a researcher in the field of cannabinoid pharmacology, vice-chair of the medical and scientific advisory board of Americans for Safe Access, and science editor at freedomisgreen.com. He was part of a research team which published a study in the journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics on how CBD can enhance the anti-cancer effects of THC in aggressive brain cancer in 2010.
May 082011

Protect Patients' Right to Work - Support SB 129 - Americans for Safe Access



The California Senate will soon vote on SB 129, a bill sponsored by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) that will protect responsible, law abiding patients from discrimination in the workplace. Can you take minute right now to call your Senator and ask him or her to support SB 129?

Employers in California can fire an employee just for being a medical cannabis patient – even if the employee does not use medical cannabis at work. That is not fair, and ASA needs your help to stop it. Senator Mark Leno’s (D-SF) SB 129 will prevent discrimination in hiring, promotion of any term of employment. But the bill does not allow patients to use medical cannabis in the workplace or be impaired by cannabis during work hours. SB 129 simply establishes the same rights for medical cannabis patients as those that prescription drug users already enjoy.



ASA needs your help today to pass SB 129 in the Senate and move on to the Assembly. Our Online Action Center makes it easy to identify and contact your Senator right now. Make the call and make a difference!

SB 129 is part of ASA’s ongoing effort to protect and expand patients’ rights. Our successful advocacy, media, and legal campaigns have resulted in important court precedents, new sentencing standards, and more compassionate community guidelines. Please make a donation to help ASA can keep fighting for patients’ rights in California.

Visit the SB 129 page to learn more about the bill and download a useful Fact Sheet. Thank you for your participation and support!
May 032011

Activists rally against the imprisonment of patients & in defiance of increased federal attacks in medical marijuana states - Americans for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) staged rallies yesterday in Sacramento, California and Washington, DC to bring attention to the unnecessary incarceration of more medical marijuana patients and to defy what has become an escalated federal attack on medical marijuana states. As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA members and supporters also delivered "Cease & Desist" orders to federal authorities in 10 medical marijuana states.





The rally in Sacramento was to support Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer as they surrendered to federal authorities, beginning a new chapter to their decade-long battle with the federal government. After being raided in 2001, despite approval to cultivate and repeated inspections by the local sheriff, they were eventually charged in 2005. Denied a medical defense in federal court, Fry and Schafer were convicted in 2007 of manufacturing, and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They appealed their sentence, but it was vigorously fought by the Obama Administration. Be sure to urge Obama to grant Fry and Schafer clemency.

Additional photos of the Sacramento rally can be seen here and here.

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The same day, activists rallied in front of the Justice Department in Washington, DC chanting, "Obama be bolder, put a leash on Holder!" In recent weeks, raids in medical marijuana states have been on the rise. Since the Justice Department memo was issued in October 2009, discouraging federal enforcement actions in medical marijuana states, the Obama administration has conducted more than 90 aggressive SWAT-style raids against patients and their providers.

The most recent tactic being used by the Obama administration to undermine state medical marijuana laws is for U.S. Attorneys to send letters to local and state officials threatening them with criminal prosecution if they implement well-planned out production and distribution licensing schemes. Justice Department letters have so far been sent to officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington. The letters have commonly been timed to coincide with legislative actions, which in several cases have had the effect of curtailing patients' rights and access to their medication. To help bring attention to this unwarranted harassment and intimidation, ASA gave President Obama a failing grade in a report card it issued in March.

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Rallies also occurred in Los Angeles, Detroit and a handful of other cities.

Focusing on medical marijuana states, ASA coordinated the delivery of "Cease and Desist" orders to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Attorneys' offices throughout the country, including in Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), Colorado (Denver), Maine (Portland), Michigan (Detroit, Lansing), Montana (Billings), Nevada (Las Vegas), Oregon (Eugene, Portland), Rhode Island (Providence), and Washington (Everett, Seattle, Spokane).

Last week, as Washington Governor Gregoire was vetoing provisions of a bill that would have licensed distribution facilities in that state, she said she wanted to discuss this issue with other governors to urge the Obama administration to reschedule medical marijuana. ASA is taking that proposal seriously and intends to follow up with governors from medical marijuana states to educate them on the rescheduling issue and how there has been a pending petition which has gone unanswered for 9 years.
May 022011

Washington, DC Solidarity Rally: Sick and Tired! - Americans for Safe Access

  • May 02, 2011 2:26 PM
Twenty five medical cannabis patients, activists and concerned citizens rallied outside of the Department of Justice in Washington, DC today to stand in solidarity with fellow community members across the country.  “We’re sick, We’re tired, Obama is a liar!” advocates cried while handing out literature and raising community awareness. Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, led a moment of silence for those brothers and sisters in our community who have been most affected by federal interference.   Sherer was specifically referring Dale Schafer and Dr. Mollie Fry who turned themselves over to federal authorities today to serve their respective five-year mandatory minimum sentences, leaving patients and advocates alike wondering when the federal persecution will end. Just last week, our community witnessed raids in Washington State and U.S. Attorneys have sent letters to public officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington, threatening them with criminal prosecution for their production and/or distribution laws. It is because of these inconsistencies with the promises Obama made to our community that we stand in solidarity to spread a common message to all federal agencies: We are sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic or debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients. [gallery]
Apr 302011

May 2: Order the DEA to Cease and Desist, Rally for Patients' Rights! - Americans for Safe Access

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Stand in solidarity with me for a National Day of Action this Monday, May 2, 2011.  Our community is sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic or debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients. 



After previously giving us a false sense of security, the Obama administration now continues to ignore state laws and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities, while creating new ways to marginalize our community, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suit against state employees who participate in upholding state law. This community is still under attack. 

Just yesterday, our community witnessed raid activity in Washington State and on Monday, our community will lose two more of our brothers and sisters to the failed war on drugs.  Dale Shafer and Dr. Mollie fry will turn themselves over to federal agents to serve five-year mandatory minimum sentences for legally participating in state sanctioned medical cannabis programs.  Enough is enough and Monday, May 2, 2011 is our time to take stand against federal interference! 

Fellow community members and local activists are preparing to deliver ASA’s Cease and Desist to local DEA offices and federal buildings across the country.  Commit to do the same. Join activists in several cities across the country.  Locations include, but are not limited to, the following areas: Washington State, Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado, Montana, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, Washington, DC, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Maryland.  To find out what is going on in your area, email action@safeaccessnow.org, or print out the Cease and Desist Order and take it to a local DEA Office or Federal Building near you on Monday!! Remember: if you don’t stand up for safe access, who will?

Special Patients' Rights Rallies will be occurring in both Washington, DC outside of the Department of Justice at 12pEST (event flyer) and outside of the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento, CA at 12pPST for Dale Schafer and Dr. Mollie Fry (event flyer).

It's thanks to the support from our members that ASA is able to hold Days of Action like this one. Please consider making a donation to ASA today, so we can continue to strengthen our fight for safe access.

I look forward to participating in our National Day of Action for patients' rights with you on Monday, May 2, 2011.
Apr 222011

We are Sick and Tired - Americans for Safe Access

  • April 22, 2011 6:11 AM
Obama’s administration has taken its gloves off. After giving the medical cannabis community a false sense of security, Obama’s administration continues to ignore state laws, intimidate state officials, and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities.

This month, ASA launched our new national campaign, and we are sending a clear message to President Obama from the medical cannabis community: We are sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic and debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients.

ASA’s Sick and Tired Campaign involves approaching the federal government from several angles, and we need your help to reach every corner of Obama’s administration.

Yesterday, ASA released the Obama Report Card. This details federal interference in medical cannabis laws under the Obama administration, and Obama fails. Even though he promised to not use federal resources to interfere with states’ medical cannabis laws, Obama’s administration has continued raiding legal patients and facilities. Additionally, the administration has launched new tactics and constructed new roadblocks for patients, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suite against state employees who participate in upholding state law.

Join us in calling on Obama to keep his promise. Sign ASA's petition urging Obama to end federal interference in existing medical cannabis programs, and legitimize medical cannabis for the sick and dying across the country.

But we’re not stopping there. ASA is hosting a National Day of Action on May 2, centered on Dale Schafer and Mollie Fry’s surrender date in Sacramento, CA. Mollie and Dale are legal patients and were arrested and convicted without a defense under President Bush. They appealed their sentence, which was vigorously fought by the Obama administration in the Ninth Circuit. Mollie and Dale's sentences were upheld in November. Additionally, a clemency petition was filed this week in an effort to shorten Mollie's sentence. Please mark your calendar to join ASA on May 2 and keep an eye out for Information about a rally near you.

ASA’s Sick and Tired Campaign will bring new accountability to Obama’s administration. Please help ASA hold Obama to his word and protect patients across the nation.

We are sick and tired, but we won’t give up until there’s safe access.

Sincerely,
Steph Sherer
Apr 212011

Action Alert: Call The San Diego Mayor Today Urge Him to Veto - Americans for Safe Access


Earlier this month, over the most unprecedented public opposition to an ordinance the City Council has seen to date, they voted for a second time to approve an ordinance that the forces all collectives currently operating in the city to shutter their doors, taking away access to medical cannabis from over 50,000 patients.

The displaced and disenfranchised patients wishing to comply with the new rules, prior to reopening must apply for a Conditional Use Permit Process 3 and find a location only in a limited number of far flung industrial areas of the City that are 600 feet away from schools, churches, parks, child care facilities, youth service facilities, libraries, playgrounds, and other collectives.



The new ordinance did not address any compliance period for existing locations and zoned access out of the areas of the city containing the highest patient populations. City Council asked the Mayor to come up with a price tag for the new permits as well as to propose an enforcement and regulatory structure for collectives within thirty days.

Following the final legislative act by the City Council on this ordinance the Mayor has ten days to either veto the legislation or sign it into law. If he lets the 10 days go by without a signature, then the ordinance automatically becomes law and he is no longer able to issue a veto.

Call the Mayor’s office today at 619-236-6330 and urge him to veto this overly restrictive ordinance and fix the City Council’s mistake.

Use the sample script below:

"Mayor Sanders:
I am outraged at the San Diego City Council’s vote on the medical marijuana dispensary ordinance and the impact it will have on the community in San Diego. Medical marijuana patients and providers should not be zoned out of the city into far flung industrial areas and forced to go through an overly restrictive compliance process.

I strongly urge you to amend the ordinance with the following:

  1. Create a two year compliance period for collectives currently in operation.

  2. Add all commercial and industrial areas back in to the list of allowed zones.

  3. Reduce the proximity restriction to 600 feet away from schools as the only sensitivity use.

  4. Reduce Process three to Process one “By Right”, the same land use requirements imposed on pharmacies in the City of San Diego.

It is unnecessary and burdensome for patients and dispensaries, to restrict dispensaries to industrial corners, far away from public transit and other services. Depending on a city's population density, it can also be extremely detrimental to set excessive proximity restrictions (to schools or other facilities) that can make it impossible for dispensaries to locate anywhere within the city limits. It is important to balance patient needs with neighborhood concerns in this process.

Thank you for your time."

After calling, click here to send the Mayor an email:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/182/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6378

San Diego Americans for Safe Access | www.SafeAccessSD.org

Get Involved, get active, make a difference!
Join ASA - www.safeaccessnow.org
Apr 142011

MT Governor vetoes repeal, but the fight continues - Americans for Safe Access

 

[caption id="attachment_1391" align="alignnone" width="275" caption="Governor Schweitzer "]
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Medical cannabis patients in Montana scored a victory yesterday, when Governor Schweitzer vetoed a bill that would have repealed that state’s seven-year old medical cannabis law, but there is little time to celebrate. The state House of Representatives just approved SB 423, a bill that would gut the state’s medical cannabis law and severely limit patients’ access. The bill is now in a joint committee for final revisions before going to the governor’s desk, so we must work for another veto.

The debate in Montana matters for medical cannabis patients nationwide. Powerful out-of-state lobby organizations are using the effort to repeal or severely curtail the state’s law as a rallying point in a nationwide push against safe access. If we do not draw the line in Montana, patients may soon be fighting to hold ground nationwide. ASA needs your help to ensure we keep moving forward, not backward.



It doesn't have to be this way. I was in Montana in March, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided 26 dispensaries, gardens, and homes. I toured the state organizing local resistance and energizing grassroots action. Newly trained and empowered patients in Montana are pushing back and making a difference.

If ASA had the resources, we could do the same in every state where medical cannabis opponents are attacking safe access. We need your help now more than ever to fight for medical cannabis in the states. Will you make a special contribution to ASA today?

Thank you for supporting ASA and helping us fight for safe access nationwide!
Apr 122011

The Feds are Here! - Americans for Safe Access



The feds are here, and they are making their presence known. In March alone, the DEA raided 26 medical cannabis facilities in Montana, two licensed dispensaries in California, and a doctor’s clinic in Michigan. We need to fight back and prepare for our response as a movement to future raids – and unfortunately the DEA has shown it’s just a matter of time.

ASA’s Emergency Raid Response program prepares patients, providers, and the community how to act and react during a raid, because when it comes to raids, preparation is essential for an effective response effort. We’re expanding the program to all medical cannabis states, and in order to do that, we need your help.


Our text message alert system is vital to informing local activists when a raid is happening in their area. This creates a visible community protesting the raid. Sign up for ASA’s raid alerts, so you can help show the nation that federal intervention will not be tolerated.

ASA has orchestrated over two hundred Emergency Raid Response efforts, which have protected countless victims, shortened raids, and helped frame this issue as a patients’ rights issue in the media. We do this by training staff at dispensing centers, preparing action plans for victims, contacting attorneys for raid victims, turning out protestors on the day of the raid, and framing media coverage in response to raids. Your support is vital to ensuring this program reaches patients and providers across the county at little to no cost.

With federal raids on the rise and recent warnings from US Attorney Michael Ormsby to landlords of medical cannabis facilities in Spokane, Wash., of federal intervention, an immediate response is required. We must prepare patients and providers for the potential of raids and have effective response methods in place before the next wave of raids hits.

Please help ASA expand our Emergency Raid Response program across the nation. Together, we will bring national attention to Obama’s Administration’s interference in states’ laws.
Apr 112011

ASA trains medical cannabis professionals - Americans for Safe Access

[caption id="attachment_1373" align="alignnone" width="263" caption="Dr. Amanda Reiman"]
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More than forty medical cannabis advocates attended this weekend’s “Putting Patients First” training in Pasadena, California. This innovative new ASA training is designed to teach important professional skills for those in the field of medical cannabis. The standing-room-only crowd at the MCC Directory building in Pasadena learned about the bio-psycho-social model of health care from Dr. Amanda Reiman. Dr. Reiman is currently the Director of Research for Berkeley Patients Group, a lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, and the Chairwoman of the Medical Cannabis Commission for the city of Berkeley. Trainees also explored the evolving political and legal issues surrounding the field.

The training is part of ASA’s commitment to building skills in our grassroots base – a cornerstone of our ongoing work to protect and expand patients’ rights. Be sure to sign up for email alerts so that you know when the next “Putting Patients First” or other ASA training is scheduled near you. Thanks to Liz McDuffie and the team at the MCC Directory for hosting the training!