Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Every year the ASA team and I spend a considerable amount of time formally comparing every medical cannabis program in the United States. In 2019 this meant assessing the medical cannabis programs of 47 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories. The nearly 200-page report we created provides a detailed analysis of the state of medical cannabis programs around the country. Access to medical cannabis has come a long way since California passed Proposition 215 in 1996. However this report shows us that while the national trend is towards better medical cannabis laws, many states still need significant improvements in their programs to ensure that all patients have access to the medicine they need.
In July 2017, four medical cannabis patients joined other advocates in filing a lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Second District of New York. The plaintiffs in the case (originally Washington v. Sessions, now Washington v. Barr) sought a declaration that the placement of cannabis in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act was unconstitutional because it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the fundamental right to travel.
The judge expressed sympathy to the plaintiffs and pointedly noted that his dismissal of the case was not a ruling on the merits of their claims regarding the medical efficacy of cannabis, but he upheld the constitutionality of cannabis’ scheduling status and ruled that the plaintiffs were required to exhaust administrative options, including petitioning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis, before filing suit. The plaintiffs appealed his decision.
Last week, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize cannabis for both medical and non-medical purposes. This move by Illinois is significant because it is the first state to legalize the adult use of cannabis through the legislature, rather than through a citizen initiative. By moving a legalization bill through its legislature, it is possible that Illinois will serve as a model for other states that are considering legalization, but may not wish to put the question before voters or may lack an initiative process. The bill takes effect January 1, 2020.
While the legalization bill in Illinois covers issues from criminal justice reform to the creation of new sets of licenses, it is also expansive (the final text of the bill runs more than 600 pages) and includes several new provisions for medical cannabis. Here a few things patients should know:
Americans for Safe Access Wants to Help You Navigate the Federal Regulatory Process
Earlier this spring, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice in the Federal Register that invited the public to submit scientific information and comments on cannabis and cannabis products. This is not the first time that the FDA has called for comments. In 2018, the FDA solicited public comments to help determine the United States’ position on the rescheduling of CBD and other cannabis compounds under international law. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been a shift in the FDA’s attitude about cannabis. Currently, their website acknowledges that states are developing their own programs and that there is medical value to, at a minimum, isolated components of the cannabis plant, marking a shift from previous years when the agency outright ignored the progress being made at the state level.
Regulatory comments are a good way for activists to make their voices heard. However, unlike typical grassroots campaign activities that rely on building coalitions and generating large scale support, regulatory comments do not benefit from a large number of people saying the same thing. In fact, the FDA itself specifies that the FDA comment process is not a popularity contest in which the agency will adopt the policy position promoted by the greatest number of commenters. What the FDA and other regulatory agencies look for during the commenting process are concise, well-thought-out responses that cite scientific research and make recommendations for sound public policy.
On May 15, 2019, the National Public Radio (NPR) program All Things Considered included a segment about high-potency cannabis. A corresponding article, "Highly Potent Weed Has Swept the Market, Raising Concerns About Health Risks," was posted to NPR's website. Unfortunately, NPR presented a one-sided view of the topic and made assertions that are not supported by the available evidence. We are reproducing below the letter that ASA's William Dolphin sent to NPR in response to this misleading segment.
With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the framework was put in place for states to pass laws legalizing the production and distribution of industrial hemp. But what does that mean for CBD and products containing CBD? A search for “CBD” on the website of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) brings up a list of warning letters that have been issued to companies. In 2015, the FDA issued 18 warning letters and conducted a study on label claims for CBD content. This study showed that only one product came close to the labeled CBD content, while a number contained no cannabinoids, and many contained THC despite not advising so on the label.
New Mexico is now the 8th Medical Cannabis State to allow Safe Access to Medical Cannabis at Schools - Americans for Safe Access
By Jason Barker for Cannabis News Journal
On Thursday, April 4th 2019, Governor Lujan Grisham made history for the state of New Mexico by signing into law Senate Bill 204, Medical Cannabis in Schools.
Currently there are now eight states and one capital city with comprehensive medical cannabis programs allowing medical cannabis in schools: Oklahoma City and these states; NEW MEXICO, New Jersey, Maine, Washington, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois. All have successfully set forth rules and regulations for allowing safe access to medical cannabis while attending public schools.
No school or school district in the US has ever lost any federal funding for allowing safe access to medical cannabis at school, nor has there been any problems.
California, New York, Virginia and Washington all have active 2019 Legislation for Allowing Safe Access to Medical Cannabis in School that is expected to pass into law.
June 14th 2019 is the effective date of this new law now allowing safe access to medical cannabis at schools for New Mexico.
Lobbying in D.C. with Americans for Safe Access at the 2019 Unity Conference - Americans for Safe Access
The Americans for Safe Access 2019 Unity Conference, themed The Price of Being a Medical Cannabis Patient, featured over a hundred patients from all over America visiting their representatives in Congress and the Senate to promote the Medical Cannabis Control Act of 2019.
There are numerous legislative proposals in the current 116th Congress that seek to deschedule or reschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, but what happens after that? At least five federal agencies currently have juristiction when it comes to cannabis policy; The DOJ, the DEA, the FDA, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and, the Department of Health and Human Services. What is going to happen when cannabis policy changes occur at the federal level? Which agency will have authority over medical cannabis policy? Will they all continue to play a role, as they have in the past?
This morning the World Health Organization (WHO) made an announcement that has the potential to change the status of medical cannabis globally. The WHO has determined that cannabis and cannabis resin should be removed from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (which is different than the U.S. Controlled Substances Act scheduling) and divided into more specific categories in lower schedules. For, example compound pharmaceutical preparations containing THC would be placed in Schedule III and CBD preparations would be removed from scheduling entirely.
Trump Administration’s First National Drug Control Strategy Emphasizes Opioid Crisis, Makes No Mention of State-Legal Cannabis Regimes - Americans for Safe Access
The Trump Administration’s White House Office of Drug Control Policy released its first National Drug Control Strategy on Thursday, January 31, 2019. The document outlines President Trump’s priorities regarding drug trafficking and drug use and provides strategic direction to federal agencies involved in preventing initiates to illicit drug use, treating those suffering from substance abuse disorder, and enforcing laws regarding illicit drug production, trafficking, and distribution.