Educating State Legislators at NCSL
August 12, 2017 | David Mangone
From August 6 through August 9, Americans for Safe Access was in Boston attending and exhibiting at the 2017 National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Legislative Summit.
The NCSL conference is one of the largest annual gatherings of state legislators, legislative staff, government officials and advocates. With over 6,700 attendees, we had a great time educating state legislators about safe access to medical cannabis.
NCSL provides an opportunity for state legislators to share ideas, and hear what is and what is not working in states around the country. It also provides a platform for advocacy groups to reach a large number of state legislatures at once. We had great conversations with legislators in states with well established programs like Colorado, but more importantly we were able to speak (and change the minds of) legislators in states like South Dakota, Idaho and Kansas. We were able to give out materials regarding the opioid crisis and cannabis, dispel misinformation published by the DEA, and provide briefing books to hundreds of state legislators. We also had productive conversations with staff from the DEA and FDA.
Americans for Safe Access was joined by our Tennessee chapter, Safe Access Tennessee, led by patient advocate David Hairston, at the Conference.
Cannabis was a popular topic of discussion at NCSL, and not just at the ASA exhibit booth. Over the course of the conference, there were three separate panels that focused exclusively on cannabis, and several others that focused on the opioid crisis. The cannabis panels were entitled “Financial Services for Marijuana”, “Marijuana Federalism”, and “Cannabis Crosses the Country.” The panels included state representatives who have worked tirelessly in their states to change and reform cannabis laws, academics, and professionals from the cannabis industry. Each cannabis panel was standing room only!
In addition to the panels on cannabis, legislators also discussed several resolutions related to cannabis. We worked closely with the Health and Human Services Committee of NCSL on a resolution proposing the use of cannabis as a tool in mitigating the opioid crisis. This resolution called on the federal government to make medical cannabis policy a national priority, and to expand access to affordable medicine. The resolution was discussed, but officials at NCSL opted to vote on it at a committee meeting later this year. Additionally, one resolution, which ultimately passed, called for the rescheduling of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act.
We were so excited to encounter so many legislators who share our passion for safe access to medical cannabis, and cannot wait to work with state legislators we met to make them cannabis champions!