Los Angeles ASA Chapter

Americans for Safe Access is welcoming a new chapter in the world’s largest cannabis market, Los Angeles, California. The two principal organizers, Chris Malcolm and Antonio Frazier, were each working independently on the idea this past year, without knowing what the other was up to.

That is not surprising, since Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world. But when they each contacted ASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. about starting a chapter, and staff suggested they work together, it turned out to be easier than might be expected. The two were already golfing buddies. They just hadn’t been talking about their ideas for getting more involved with patient advocacy.

Both Chris and Antonio are long-time members of the cannabis industry. Antonio is one of the principals at the analytical laboratory CannaSafe, which recently received its PFC certification from ASA and was featured in last month’s newsletter.

Antonio Frazier“Chris has been testing with us for some time, even before compliance was enforced, so we have a great relationship,” says Antonio (pictured left). “We had no idea they were working on this at the same time until recently. We call this industry "the wild west", and like any good western, the good guys end up working together.”

Chris, who has worked in commercial real estate and property management for 22 years, operates two dispensaries in the LA area and helped found a local cannabis industry trade organization in 2016 called United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA). Through UCBA, a group of 16 of the original permitted dispensaries in LA under the 2013 Proposition D as well as four partner businesses, Chris has worked with the City of Los Angeles on crafting sensible regulations for the past four years and helped draft Measure N, a tax and regulation initiative, in 2017.

Chris MalcolmChris first became interested in medical cannabis because of a very good friend’s family medical problems and his own herniated disc, both of which were helped by it. In fact, medical cannabis has allowed Chris to keep playing golf. Chris’s parents are even on board at this point, having discovered that cannabis tinctures work well in the aftermath of knee replacement surgeries, though it took them a while to understand why Chris felt compelled to spread the word about cannabis.

“Why do you have to tell everyone?” Chris recalls them asking, to which he would reply, “We’re not part of the problem. We’re part of the solution.”

That solution includes advocacy. For Antonio, advocacy is built into the business model.

“CannaSafe's mission is based on consumer safety,” Antonio says. “We want to push cannabis science towards standardization so that it can gain the trust of its patients and regulators.” 

Antonio met ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer at the first event he attended after being hired by CannaSafe.

“After spending the last 5 years in DC, I immediately realized how important it would be to build a relationship with ASA. Steph connected me to PFC, and we became PFC certified.”

 “After we became PFC certified, we realized there was no ASA chapter in LA, so I started reaching out to get one started,” Antonio says. “We want to bring that level of advocacy right into the hot bed of LA.” 

Chris and Antonio filed their formal chapter papers with ASA and have now applied for federal 501(c)4 status with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization that advocates for social welfare. They expect to have that complete by year end and start holding chapter meetings.

“We’re going to have an active chapter,” Chris says.

They’re both looking forward to what they can achieve in the next year.

“We really hope to educate the community on the importance of consuming safe products,” says Antonio. “We also hope this chapter will encourage the other good players in LA to come onboard and help us bring standardization to all facets of this industry.” 

“We may not always agree,” Chris says, “but we’re all fighting the same fight.

This profile was originally published in the October 2018 ASA Activist Newsletter