Nichole Snow, Massachusetts - ASA Activist of the Year

Nichole Snow first started learning about cannabis in 2008, after Massachusetts voters decriminalized cannabis, and it became safer to talk about over the watercooler at work. 

As she heard more about it, she thought about her grandfather. She’d lived with him with him before his death from bladder cancer in 2000, and she wondered if cannabis could have helped him. Since cannabis is often used as an adjunct therapy in cancer treatment, she did not understand why doctors in Massachusetts had not been able to recommend it for him.

When she noticed a state legislative hearing on medical cannabis was being held near her work, she went. She met caregivers, parents and advocates and heard the stories of patients with dire need for access to medical cannabis. What she learned at that hearing grabbed her attention. The more she learned, the more drawn into the process of changing the law she became.

She made a point to be at all the hearings on medical cannabis she could. Soon, patients started calling her, asking for help coordinating lobbying efforts. The state’s voters approved Question 3 with more than 63% in favor, but Massachusetts, like many states, has struggled to move from passing a law to getting medicine in the hands of patients. Nichole’s tireless work on implementation under the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick.

Nichole’s work with the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance began in 2014. After serving as deputy director, she became executive director of the organization in 2015 and is still traveling the state working on implementation. She has also emerged as a go-to spokesperson for Massachusetts patients, with dozens of stories quoting her in the Boston Globe alone. As she developed an ever-more effective relationship with media, she came to realize what an agent for change she could be.

The state started with 20 dispensary licenses to be issued in 2013, which was then reduced to 17 and delayed. When the administration changed in 2015 to Gov. Charlie Baker (R), implementation improved.  Currently, 10 dispensaries are serving patients in the state but Nichole reports that 105 provisional licenses are in the pipeline. From approximately 150 registered patients in 2014, the Massachusetts state program has expanded to 39,800 registered patients as of this February. Registered patients may obtain up to 10 ounces every two months and cultivate a limited number of plants at home.

“How far we’ve come is exciting,” Nichole says. “We’re focused on keeping the momentum going in Massachusetts.”Nichole is to be honored as Patient Advocate of the Year at ASA’s annual award dinner on Monday night in Washington, D.C. at the Omni Shoreham

This profile was originally published in the April 2017 ASA Activist Newsletter