Blog Voices from the Frontlines
With everything happening in the news lately, we want to present some scientific data to help medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers make informed decisions in regard to cannabis products available, product safety, and personal health. Each person’s health situation is unique, and medical cannabis patients should discuss with their doctor or healthcare provider the best approach to prevent and treat current illnesses while potentially battling influenza or coronavirus.
Office of Medical Cannabis Control: A New Way to End the State/Federal Conflict Regarding Medical Cannabis - Americans for Safe Access
There are now over 3 million medical cannabis patients across the country; ninety-one percent of Americans now live in states with some form of access to medical cannabis, while sixty-six of American adults are in favor of full legalization. Despite this, cannabis retains its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning the federal government considers it to be a dangerous, highly addictive substance with no medical value. This continues to cause numerous conflicts between the federal government and the states that have rolled out these health programs for their citizens. The only protection for these programs in federal law is the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment found in the Commerce Justice Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill which, as a budget bill, is subject to change each year. Plans for legalization at the federal level by different means have been introduced for years with little impact; H.R.3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, was the first and only bill of this nature to clear a Congressional committee. It is time for a new approach to end the federal conflict on cannabis policy.
The signing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) into law resulted in the descheduling of hemp and opened the door to the wide scale production of the crop. It also tasked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with establishing rules and regulations around hemp cultivation, including adherence to the legal limit of 0.3% THC by dry weight. USDA released its Interim Final Rule on Hemp on October 31, 2019. The team at Americans for Safe Access (along with almost 4,700 hundred other organizations and individuals) submitted comments on the new rule before the public comment period closed on January 29, 2020.
Update 11/8/2019: The CDC has confirmed that out of 29 samples of lung fluid from affected patients all samples tested positive for Vitamin E acetate. This has led the CDC to consider Vitamin E acetate to be a "chemical of concern."
Over the past two months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working with state and local departments of health around the country to identify cases of what has come to be known as Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI). As of 5:00 PM on September 25, the CDC had confirmed 805 cases of lung injury in 46 states and one U.S. territory. The CDC also confirmed a total of 12 deaths in 10 states.
While several states have issued recommendations to quit using vapes, other states have banned, or are currently looking into banning, vaporization products (for both nicotine and cannabis) altogether. Massachusetts has banned the sale of all vaporization products for four months, and New York and Michigan are banning sales of flavored vaping products. Other jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, are considering bans as well.
“The potential benefits that patients stand to gain from passage of the SAFE Banking Act are significant. Americans for Safe Access is proud to have supported this historic bill since its introduction and reiterates its call for swift passage in the Senate. Broader, more robust cannabis reform is still urgently needed, but the Act’s passage through the House is an encouraging sign that we are on the right path.”-Sean Khalepari, ASA Regulatory Affairs Coordinator
This week cannabis legislation made history. The first ever federal cannabis reform legislation was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 321-103. This bill will still need to pass the Senate and be signed into law, but it serves as a marker of the progress cannabis legislation has made.
We are happy to share this brief guide to State Cannabis Laws with you. Created with the talented designers of Centennial Media this guide serves as a bite-sized version of the full analysis of state laws available on our website under: "Legal Information By State & Federal Law."
A lot has changed for ASA (and this country) in the 17 years that we’ve been working for safe access to medical cannabis. Something that hasn’t changed is that we are still focused on serving patients and we are still absolutely dependant on the hard work and financial support of our members and activists. With major changes coming to the medical cannabis landscape in the near future we want to take this opportunity to ask for your support to keep ASA fighting for patients.
Recent news articles have shed light on a new problem that is being attributed to vape pens. The CDC has stated that “all reported cases have e-cigarette product use or ‘vaping.’” but that some patients have also acknowledged use of cannabis products containing THC. At this time there is no specific product that has been implicated in these adverse events, but we at ASA wanted to reach out and remind consumers and patients to be aware of the products they are consuming.
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.