Since 2002, Americans for Safe Access and our members have been working with policymakers and regulators at every level of government to create safe and legal access for patients and researchers. Today we see a majority of states in the US passing medical cannabis laws, federal policies prohibiting legal action against medical cannabis states, and over 5 million legal medical cannabis patients nationwide. Every year we get closer to our goal of safe and legal access for all patients, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis means:

  • International, federal and state laws and regulations recognized cannabis as a legal medicine.
  • Medical professionals can prescribe medical cannabis options as a frontline treatment option or an adjunct therapy.
  • Patients and their caregivers have the information they need to make educated choices about medical cannabis therapies.
  • Patients and medical professionals can incorporate a diverse group of products and delivery methods to create required personalized treatment regimen.
  • Patients can trust labels on products and that medicines are free of pesticides and contaminants.
  • Patients and medical professionals can access the medical cannabis market knowing there are legal protections in place. 
  • Medical cannabis treatments are covered by insurance.

Meeting these goals require a deep dive into all laws and regulations that touch cannabis as well as issues that restrict patients’ access to safe cannabis products. While states continue to develop policy, one critical piece of the legislative puzzle is missing: the role of the federal government.

For 25 years state governments have implemented medical cannabis laws despite a federal prohibition. In the beginning of this experiment, the clash in laws meant navigating paramilitary raids on medical cannabis patients and their providers, fighting subpoenas of patient records, finding creative ways to create business licensing infrastructures. It has also meant that states have had to silo these businesses from other industries and have had to use state resources to create product safety standards, testing protocols and agricultural guidance, often on their own. This approach has created large disparities between these states, with no uniformity among laws or safety standards. For patients, their level of care and protection depends wholly on which state they are in.

In 2016, Americans for Safe Access successfully passed an amendment to the Department of Justice budget prohibiting the use of federal funds in prosecuting medical cannabis patients and their providers. This victory took the most visible issue of federal prohibition off the table.

Today, 38 states and 5 territories have created medical cannabis programs. The federal prohibition continues to create a burden for states, patients and the businesses providing medical cannabis. These states have worked diligently to pass laws and regulations to improve the lives of medical cannabis patients. However, until the federal prohibition of medical cannabis is overturned, states can only do so much. Today over 45 countries have passed

federal medical cannabis laws and the UN has rescheduled cannabis allowing for its medical use internationally. National support for medical cannabis is over 90% and local lawmakers and regulators have long been seeking answers and clarity from the federal government.

Comprehensive federal legislation would include 2 major elements: 1) Changing the schedule of cannabis into a newly created schedule (Schedule VI or exempting it from the Controlled Substances Act and 2) the creation of the Office of Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoid Control. Today, effective federal regulation of cannabis is strained by nearly a dozen agencies playing a role in the policy decision-making process. The Office of Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoid Control would create a central authority within the U.S. Government to work with state governments to regulate medical cannabis.

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ASA Policy Positions

Learn about ASA's policy position on medical marijuana

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ASA State of the States Report

ASA State of the States Report

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ASA Model Federal Legislation

Good medical cannabis laws are key to protecting patients. This is a model of such legislation to be used in lobbying

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Model State Legislation

This is ASA's principles of Legislating Compassion put into legislative form. This template for state-level legislation includes criminal and civil protections for patients. It also allows for personal cultivation and a dispensing center program. Our Dream Bill!

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Federal Briefing book

Federal Briefing book

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Medical Cannabis as a Tool to Combat Pain and Opioid Crisis

Using medical cannabis to treat chronic pain is supported by research and medical professionals, and has demonstrated positive public health outcomes.

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Resources for Policymakers and Regulators

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Resources for Advocates