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.
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.
Check out ASA's March newsletter for news and links on the federal rules for hemp and the cannabis bills pending in many states, as well as the ASA First 100 Days campaign, new webinars, the 2021 Unity Conference agenda, and ASA's updated website.
You'll also hear the story of how many risks patients still face in the activist profile of Katree Saunders in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The newsletter is where you will always find links to ASA Action Alerts -- quick and easy steps you can take to make a difference for medical cannabis patients everywhere -- and a downloadable PDF of the newsletter you can print and share with others.
Despite the fact that 36 states have reformed their laws to provide for safe and legal access to cannabis for qualifying patients, veterans living across these states still face a confusing system of federal and state laws regarding physician engagement and affordable access. For example, veterans who rely on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as their primary healthcare provider are unable to receive medical cannabis recommendations from their doctors even if they live in a state with a medical cannabis program. Veterans who use medical cannabis to treat their condition must also pay for this medication out-of-pocket with no financial support or subsidy from the VA.
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.