Despite the fact that a wide majority of 36 states have now created comprehensive programs to allow legal access to medical cannabis treatment, there are still vital conflicts in the web of state and federal regulations stemming from remaining federal prohibition. From addressing challenges faced by patients in federally subsidized housing to veterans whose doctors are prohibited from recommending cannabis as a treatment option, the executive branch can accomplish meaningful change for patients without legislative action. That’s why at ASA, we were disappointed when President Biden’s first 100 days plan included no action on cannabis reform.
This is the first in a series of blogs promoting our new campaign titled: Biden-Harris Can Do It: No Patient Left Behind!. With each blog, we aim to highlight a federal policy conflict that affects millions of patients across the country who are at risk of being penalized for their cannabis use or are denied safe and legal access altogether. These are issues which can largely be solved through direct action by the Biden administration and his cabinet.
Americans for Safe Access is excited to announce the 9th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference on April 29-30, 2021. Unity 2021 is the event to learn best practices, exchange ideas, and grow the medical cannabis movement. Attendees will be joined by other patients, caregivers, students, veterans, advocates, and medical and legal professionals from around the country who are working to protect and expand access for all patients. Unity 2021 will be our most accessible yet, with numerous “Pay What You Can” options, guaranteeing that no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
This online conference will feature panel discussions with question time, breakout sessions for attendees, and expert-led workshops. Some panel topics you can expect during this 2 day conference are:
There is a widespread perception that the first 100 days of a new presidential administration are a test of what to expect for the remainder of their term. While the unexpected can always change the course of an administration it is true that for the next 100 days the Biden administration will be focused on the very important task of choosing directors and leaders of agencies and setting policy priorities that will potentially impact the lives of millions of patients.
Early this morning in Vienna, Austria, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) made a historic decision to adopt the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation to remove cannabis and its resin from Schedule IV under the United Nations (UN) Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.
In the wake of the election many patients have questions about the priorities of the incoming Congress. 4.4 million cannabis patients across the country are stuck under conflicting federal and state cannabis policy, with veterans comprising the largest contingent of them. Despite their numbers and influence, many veterans face considerable obstacles to legally accessing medical cannabis directly resulting from the patchwork of federal and state cannabis laws that patients have to navigate.
What bills did the 116th congress propose to advance veterans cannabis access, and what legislation might we see again when the 117th congress convenes in January? All actions on cannabis by Congress for veterans have taken a bipartisan approach, attracting significantly more Republican support than cannabis-related legislation where veterans are not involved by name. There were about half a dozen bills floated seeking to address some aspects of veterans' access. One of these bills made it out of congressional committee, a first for veteran cannabis access at the federal level.
While many 2020 general election results remain a mystery until all votes are counted, voters were clear in expressing their support for all five statewide cannabis ballot initiatives offered this cycle. This continues a trend from 2016, when eight out of nine statewide cannabis ballot initiatives were successful. Voter support for cannabis policy reforms remains strong, with a November 2019 Pew Research Poll finding that a full two-thirds of Americans support making cannabis legal, with 78% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents agreeing that cannabis should be legal, and 55% of Republicans in favor of legalizing cannabis access. Last night's results have brought the number of states allowing possession, use, and sale of medical cannabis to 35, and adult-use states to 14 + the District of Columbia.
With the November general election approaching and Congress looking to wrap up legislative work for the year in December, it is a good time to assess the status of cannabis reform. The 2019-2020 congressional session has certainly provided some hope for the future of federal cannabis reform, with the 2019 House passage of the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) and a 2020 vote still likely on the MORE Act (HR 3884) in the post-election lame duck session. We also saw successful efforts to maintain and expand protection of state cannabis models through amendments to annual appropriations bills.
A national perspective on safe access for students
At ASA, our goal is to ensure that every state has sensible cannabis policies that create safe and legal access for all patients. This means we believe that patients who medicate with cannabis should receive treatment equal to that of patients who medicate with any other drug.
One of the major factors that has spurred the development of state medical cannabis programs has been first-hand experiences with patients whose lives have changed dramatically thanks to cannabis. Many of which have been pediatric patients. Facing things like cancer or seizures, these children have experienced vast improvements in their quality of life thanks to medical cannabis. While state medical cannabis programs recognize the importance of access for children, many states still do not include provisions for minors to access their medication at the place they spend the most time outside the home; their school.
The United States Department of Agriculture closed its comment period after requesting information on the establishment of a domestic hemp program. ASA/PFC submitted comments for the 12 questions being asked, which included additional requirements for measurement uncertainty and requiring the use of sound scientific methodology when quantitatively determining THC content.
This is the second set of comments submitted to USDA by ASA/PFC and we look forward to results of this comment period in order to continue to improve the PFC program so that certification clients know they are getting the most up to date assessment.
Review the comments we submitted to the USDA.
Take a look at all the comments submitted to the USDA.
Every year, Americans for Safe Access spends months comparing every medical cannabis program in the United States with the purpose of analyzing what each program is doing well, where it is failing, and how the state program can improve to best serve the needs of patients. In 2020, this meant assessing the medical cannabis programs of 47 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories. The nearly 200-page report 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 medical cannabis programs grow throughout the country, states are still failing to provide programs that fulfill the needs of all patients.