We recently concluded our 9th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference. One of our favorite parts of Unity is where we get to honor the individuals and groups that made major contributions to medical cannabis over the previous year. These awardees achieved much through a very difficult year, and we'd like to take a few minutes to tell you about these remarkable winners.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has created the medical cannabis market through the crafting and monitoring of legislation and regulations at all levels of government. As a patient advocacy organization, product safety has been a top priority since our inception in 2002. ASA transformed the medical cannabis movement from a legal and political fight to a new legal marketplace for patients and cannabis providers. As cannabis production moved out of mostly home-grows into commercial settings, we knew we had a responsibility to make sure there was an avenue for all consumers to find safe medicine in this new arena. We also knew that in creating this marketplace outside of Federal oversight, proving this could be done safely would be a key element for this experiment to advance, especially for medical professionals, state governments and new medical cannabis patients.
Through ASA’s Patient Focused Cannabis (PFC) Program, we coordinated experts globally to create product safety standards for growing, processing, testing, and distributing cannabis for human consumption and developed robust education, training and certification to aid companies in meeting these standards for patients. PFC has helped companies and governments globally to navigate and implement product safety standards for cannabis and hemp products available for patients, adult use consumers, and pets. Infact, most states and many countries have adopted PFC standards in their regulations.
In our continued commitment to ensuring safe medication for patients, ASA has achieved accreditation to the ISO/IEC 17065:2012 (Certificate #5284.01) standard for certifying bodies, making our PFC program the first and only compliance program to obtain international accreditation specifically for cannabis! The process of becoming ISO accredited means that ASA’s policies and procedures have been vetted and validated by an internationally recognized organization by highly trained auditors.. While there is still a lot of work to do to ensure patients in the US (and globally) have access to cannabis therapeutics, this a crucial step in the acceptance and integration of cannabis into our society as a real medicine.
Check out ASA's April 2021 newsletter for the agenda for the upcoming Unity conference and info on more than 30 amazing speakers. Registration for Unity is sliding scale, so everyone has a chance to participate.
You'll also find news and links on 3 new adult-use states with expanded medical access, ASA's piece in The Hill about Biden's cannabis-related firings, a podcast with ASA founder and president Steph Sherer, upcoming ASA presentations, and a new patient's guide on contaminants from PFC. Plus much more, including an inspiring profile of New York activist Nikki Lawley!
Each month, Americans for Safe Access publishes a newsletter for advocates that covers important federal, state and local developments, what's happening with ASA, and inspiring stories of local activists. Delivered via email to subscribers, you can also see it each month here on ASA's website.
In 1970, President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, which updated and consolidated previously scattered narcotics legislation to form the federal guidelines on controlled substances used to this day. Cannabis was listed as a Schedule I substance, a category for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”; this is a stricter classification than even raw opium, which is Schedule II.
Since the first medical cannabis laws were introduced in California 25 years ago, 35 states have joined with California in defiance of the federal prohibition of cannabis as a medicine. Now, two-thirds of Americans live in states where medical cannabis is legal. Across these states, millions of patients are demonstrating cannabis’ medicinal value through their treatments every day. However, the federal government continues to lag behind with drug classifications from an era where computers were the size of school busses. This conflict between states that have allowed their citizens to access medical cannabis and the federal government, which maintains its punitive actions against medical cannabis, means that millions of potential patients are still without access to medical cannabis.
Since winning election in November, the Biden-Harris administration has been silent on the issue of federal medical cannabis reform. Rather than following through on campaign trail promises to support state medical cannabis programs and medical cannabis equity issues, patients have instead observed the administration backing away from this important work. Recently, we even witnessed the Biden administration opting against allowing several staffers who have used cannabis in the past to serve in the White House.
When questioned about why some staffers were let go due to their past cannabis use, Vice President Kamala Harris told the San Francisco Chronicle in an article published on March 28, “Honestly right now, we’ve been focused on getting people food, helping them stay in their apartments or in their homes, getting kids back to school, getting shots into arms… That has been all consuming.” The Vice President’s statement is painfully ironic due to the fact that many of the Americans she is trying to help stay in their homes are medical cannabis patients who rely on federal housing support and who are at risk of losing their housing if they use medical cannabis to treat their health conditions.
Eryck Stamper retired from the US Navy in 2013 as a decorated Senior Chief Petty Officer. After a few jobs in the Maryland Park Service and government contracting, he found his way into the cannabis industry as a budtender. He later founded Veterans Initiative 22, a Maryland based nonprofit organization that focuses on improving veteran’s mental health through medical cannabis advocacy, in October of 2017. Eryck also founded the Maryland Hemp Exchange which seeks to help convert farmers from traditional crops like corn or soybeans to grow industrial hemp. This is Eryck’s story:
Jose Belen is a native of Amsterdam, New York. At 19, he enlisted in the army and deployed to Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was honorably discharged in 2005 and eventually settled in Florida where he started a career in real estate and began to raise a family. For years he suffered the effects of PTSD in silence as the existing medical system for veterans failed to help. In 2017, he founded Florida Mission Zero with the help of his wife Danielle. The organization works to make sure that PTSD isn’t a death sentence for veterans through education campaigns and suicide prevention efforts. Today, Jose is a member of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition. This is Jose’s story:
We’re excited to announce our first round of featured speakers for the 9th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference April 29-30!
One of our major goals for our 2021 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is to bring the social and community aspects of past Unity conferences forward into a virtual conference. We want Unity 2021 to be a place for patients, advocates and professionals to meet and have conversations that will inform their work and life going forward. So, let us tell you about some of what we have planned for socializing and networking at Unity 2021!
While the Biden Administration has not publicly advertised how it intends to proceed on cannabis in its first 100 days or beyond, there is a need for the new administration to offer assurances that this administration intends to be proactive on approaching medical cannabis policy solutions to state-licensed cannabis businesses and the patients that rely on them for medicine. Although 36 states have organized medical cannabis access programs over the past 24 years, the federal government remains out of step with the majority of states where medical cannabis policy reforms are already in place.