Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access (ASA)"

  • Reason TV on Cedars-Sinai denying liver transplant to medical marijuana patient Norman Smith

    The fight to get a liver transplant for Norman Smith took another big step today with a Reason TV expose, "Transplant Denied," featuring Smith and Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the group that’s throwing its weight behind the struggling medical marijuana patient. Smith, 63, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009 and was put on a transplant waiting list at the world-renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. However a year ago, after becoming eligible for a transplant, Smith was removed from the list for testing positive for medical marijuana use. It didn’t seem to matter that Smith’s oncologist at Cedars was the physician who had recommended its use. This moving piece by Reason TV accurately conveys the life of a man hanging in the balance between policies based on moral judgment and the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. At his wit’s end, Smith tells Reason TV:
    It’s only my life that I'm fighting for. What do I have to hide? I have nothing to hide.
    Smith called his chances a “long shot,” but still wanted to “effect a change:”
    It’s probably too late for me, but I hope it makes it easier for the next guy.
    Unfortunately, there are plenty of other medical marijuana patients in California and other states who are suffering the same fate as Smith. With the authority for such decisions left to Cedars and transplant centers like it, the push for policy change must be directed locally. As such, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford sent a letter to Cedars, urging it to immediately re-list Smith and change it policy with regard to medical marijuana. So far, Cedars has refused to budge. Stay tuned here at Voices from the Frontlines for next steps in the transplant case of Norman Smith and the outdated policies of Cedars-Sinai. In the meantime, view this additional video footage of Smith and his plight.
  • Medical Marijuana Week - Day 4: Protesting the federal crack down nationwide

    During Obama’s Presidency, his administration has used a series of familiar and new tactics to interfere with state medical cannabis laws including nearly 200 SWAT-style raids leading to more than 60 indictments, threat letters to landlords and government officials, gross manipulation of the tax code, denying medical cannabis patients the right to bear arms, seizing medical cannabis related bank accounts, and much more. Today, ASA Chapters and affiliates in 9 cities and 6 states rallied outside of federal buildings and other venues across the country to tell Obama that enough is enough.

    Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, protested with the San Francisco ASA Chpater in front of his campaign appearance there. She said:
    The literal and figurative assault on medical marijuana patients currently underway by the Obama Administration is unprecedented in this country's history, despite hollow proclamations to the contrary.  The intensity and breadth of the attacks has far surpassed anything we saw under the Bush Administration and has resulted in the roll-back of numerous local and state laws.



    The Obama Administration has also employed numerous federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, ATF, VA, and IRS to shut down access to medical marijuana, and cut-off services for, or otherwise discriminate against, literally hundreds of thousands of patients across the country.

    Patient advocates in San Francisco and across the country called on Obama to end his attacks on the medical marijuana community and begin to address this issue from a public health standpoint. In addition to keeping his pledge of deprioritizing enforcement, advocates are encouraging Obama to reschedule marijuana for medical use. ASA is currently litigating the rescheduling issue in the D.C. Circuit and has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration's violation of the Tenth Amendment by derailing state medical marijuana laws.
  • Medical Marijuana Week - Day 2: Congress can Protect Patients and Safe Access with HR 1983

    On May 25, 2011, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced HR 1983, a bill that in many respects would end the federal government's assault on safe access for patients. Known as the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, the legislation would force the executive branch to stop dragging their feet on reclassifying marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. It would also prevent the federal government from imposing penalties on anyone legitimately participating in a state medical marijuana program. The bill would further prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana through the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. While this fantastic bill was able to attract 21 cosponsors - several of whom signed a letter to Obama in support of HR 1983 - it has since languished after being referred to committee.

    The seemingly permanent classification of marijuana in Schedule I has got to be one of the most notable examples of the federal government sticking its head in the sand in recent US history. To keep marijuana under Schedule I, the federal government is literally saying that:

    1. Marijuana has a high potential for abuse.

    2. Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

    3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision.

    Really? Given that 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws, with at least another 16 states considering new legislation, it is patently absurd for the federal government to maintain that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” Indeed, countless doctors in these states have recommended marijuana as a treatment to their patients because they are confident in its safety and efficacy. In terms of potential for abuse, not a single medical marijuana patient has died as a result of using marijuana for medical purposes. What’s more is that several apparently safe drugs under Schedule III or lower have caused fatalities in patients, such as hydrocodone, vicodon or benzodiazepines. This situation might be laughable if not for all of the patients who must suffer at the mercy of a federal government which refuses to listen to reason and ever-mounting scientific evidence in favor of medical marijuana

    Congress should be embarrassed by its failure to protect safe access for patients. For Day 2 of Medical Marijuana Week, ASA is asking you to remind your members of Congress about this absurdity, so please take a moment to call Congress and demand your member’s support for HR 1983.  Americans for Safe Access is moving forward with the decade-long court battle with the federal government to marijuana rescheduling, but passage of HR 1983 would mean the government would have to complete the rescheduling process in 12 months. The election year presents a wonderful opportunity to put pressure on members of Congress, so please take time today to call, demand passage of HR 1983, and remind them that your vote is not to be taken for granted.

    ASA Fact Sheet on HR 1983: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/1983FactSheet.pdf

    National Action Alert - Urge Congress to Co-Sponsor HR1983: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7066

    Medical Marijuana Week: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=7061

     
  • ASA Launches Medical Marijuana Week in Response to 3 Years of Obama's Broken Promises

    UPDATE: Click here for today's detailed action alert.

    When President Obama was elected in 2008, the medical marijuana community was optimistic that the worst days of federal harassment were finally in the past. After all, he had once said, "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources." This caused patients and those who provide them with safe access to their medicine to be hopeful that the 200-plus medical
    marijuana dispensary raids under President Bush would be resigned to being a terrible memory, a dark chapter in America’s past never to be repeated. Hopeful, indeed.

    For a brief time, it seemed that Obama’s campaign promises would be followed through upon, with the issuing Holder Memo, which seemed to announce a federal ceasefire in the war on patients. Ultimately, the campaign pledges and Holder Memo turned out to be broken promises, with over 170 SWAT-style raids resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, causing great distress to patients seeking safe access to their medicine. After little more than 3 years in office, Obama is not only on track to surpass two terms worth of Bush raids in just half the time, his Department of Justice has initiated a vicious attack on state sovereignty, designed to destroy the means of safe access patients have come to rely on. Americans for Safe Access is calling on patients, their loved ones, and all concerned citizens to voice their unwillingness to accept Obama’s massive assault against safe access by taking part in Medical Marijuana Week.

    Things would be bad enough if the Obama DOJ had merely doubled Bush’s rate of raids, but instead, US Attorneys have escalated hostilities against safe access to include threats to public officials and landlords. Officials in at least ten states have no doubt experienced a chilling effect on their sovereignty after received threatening letters, such as the City Councils for Chico and Eureka California. This past week, Governor Markell of Delaware announced the suspension of the state's recently passed medical marijuana program. Even the US Attorney for Colorado, John Walsh, once considered relatively amicable towards medical marijuana has sent similar threat letters, boldly proclaiming them as “not a bluff.” Americans for Safe Access has filed a 10th Amendment lawsuit against the DOJ for their coercive tactics that have derailed medical marijuana legislation in several states. In a separate federal legal action, ASA has recently filed a brief in its petition against the arbitrary and capricious refusal by the government to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

    Now is the time to tell the White House that enough is enough. Americans for Safe Access is launching Medical Marijuana Week with an action alert to call the White House and demand that Obama end using federal resources to undermine state laws, and stop putting politics before science by acting immediately to reclassify marijuana as medicine. Remind President Obama about his campaign broken campaign promises, because if patients, their loved ones, and concerned citizens do not tell Obama that his medical marijuana policy must change, it will never improve. After calling the White House today, please continue to join ASA’s Medical Marijuana Week actions, culminating in several local rallies on Thursday February 16, 2012, and keep the pressure on Obama until his policy promotes safe access.

    ASA's Medical Marijuana Week: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=7061

    Action Alert to Call the White House: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7065

     

     

     
  • CA voters must take the lead in employment rights

    [caption id="attachment_2240" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="CA Senator Mark Leno"]
    [/caption]

    A bill by California Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) that would have prevented employment discrimination against legal medical cannabis patients will not be adopted by the California legislature this year. Senator Leno decided not to ask his colleagues to vote on SB 129 before today’s deadline for Senate approval. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) sponsored the bill and worked closely with the Author to build support for the SB 129. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure the majority of votes needed to guarantee a victory in the Senate.



    Then Assemblymember Leno first introduced this bill in 2008, following the California Supreme Court decision in Ross v. Ragingwire. The Ross decision held that medical cannabis patients are not protected from employment discrimination by Proposition 215. The state legislature approved AB 2279 that year, but it was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Senator Leno re-introduced the bill as SB 129 last year, in hopes that Governor Brown would be more sympathetic. Unfortunately, we have run out of time to persuade a handful of ambivalent Democrats to support the bill before today’s deadline for a vote on bills from last year.

    Senator Leno and other lawmakers may pick up the mantle of patients’ rights again in the future, but it is time now for voters to take the lead. The campaign to adopt the Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act of 2012 (MMCRT) will begin in earnest in February. This voter initiative will create a safe, regulated access model for medical cannabis, while preserving the rights of patients under Proposition 215. Additionally, the MMRCT will help to protects’ civil rights – including protection from employment discrimination. The MMRCT states that
    Persons using marijuana medicinally pursuant to Section 11362.5 [Proposition 215] are entitled to the same rights and protections from civil and criminal liability as users of prescription drugs under California law.

    ASA is committed to protecting patients’ rights, and the MMRCT is an important part of that effort. We have hit a roadblock in the legislature for now. That means it is time for the voters to lead on this issue again. The MMRCT will help address some long-standing issues for California patients – and it may serve to push lawmakers in the right direction. Look for news from ASA about what you can do to support MMRCT soon.

    You can join a constituents’ conference call about the voter initiative on Thursday, February 2, 2012, at 5:00 PM PST. Dial (832) 431-3335 to connect to the call, and then enter pass code 1618568# to join the conversation.

    On behalf of ASA, I want to thank Senator Leno and his staff for their leadership and hard work in protecting patients’ rights since 2008. I also want to thank the thousands of ASA members who supported the bill.
  • A cancer cure in waiting

    When people ask why I’m certain the federal laws preventing medical use of cannabis must change, my answer is simple: cancer. Curing it is the holy grail of modern medicine, and cannabinoids hold the most promise.

    The latest study showing the cancer-fighting properties of one of the constituent components of the cannabis plant is out of Italy, where University of Naples researchers demonstrated that cannabidiol, better known as CBD, helps prevent the spread of colon cancer in an animal model of the human disease. Since colon cancer affects millions of people, this is a big deal.

    But it’s not big news.



    Many, many other studies have demonstrated that CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as its ability to inhibit the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids, have a cancer-fighting effect. CBD has been shown to kill glioma cells (the most deadly form of brain cancer), reduce the growth of lung and breast cancer cells, and inhibit the spread of cancer. And that’s just CBD.

    Add in THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis available by prescription in synthetic form as dronabinol or Marinol, and scientists have demonstrated that the plant holds the potential to fight or prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, lung, uterus, cervix, pancreas, mouth and biliary track, as well as leukemia, neuroblastoma, thyroid epithelioma, and gastric adenocarcinoma. All by selectively targeting cancerous cells and leaving healthy cells alone.

    That’s in contrast to conventional cancer treatments that largely work by creating a toxic environment in the body with the hope that it kills the cancer before it kills the patient. And as hard as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are to tolerate, cannabinoid treatments have exceptionally low impact.

    Now, to be clear: we’re not talking about a patent-medicine approach that says cannabis will cure whatever ails you, and there have been no clinical studies done with cancer patients that would show us anything conclusive one way or another.

    But there is a mountain of evidence that the immune-modulating function of cannabinoids has everything to do with regulating how our bodies respond to cancers of all varieties. And it’s worth noting the federal government’s own National Cancer Institute recently published a guide for physicians that noted the cancer-fighting properties of cannabinoids and stated that cannabis could be a tool for controlling the disease.

    Five days of media attention later, the NCI removed that particular bit of guidance, but what we now know about the mechanisms of cannabinoids on cancers raises significant questions about when best to use cannabis therapeutics. Most wait until the disease reaches an advanced stage, and for them the role of cannabis or dronabinol is almost entirely palliative – a tool to ease the suffering and nausea. But we have compelling evidence that cannabinoids exercise a profound prophylactic effect – potentially preventing cancers from developing in the first place.

    So will people with family histories of cancer or other risk factors benefit from cannabinoids? Maybe. There are population studies that suggest so, but general results cannot predict outcomes for a particular individual. In other words, consuming lots of cannabis won’t necessarily protect you. Bob Marley died of cancer, after all.

    How much might help is a serious question. We know that many of the actions of cannabinoids are dose-specific, but without qualitatively different research, we can’t know how much might be optimal to achieve any particular biologic objective, even if we know categorically that cannabis is non-toxic and well-tolerated.

    Will we see that research soon? Seems likely. There’s a Nobel prize in it for someone. Sure, there are political and economic barriers. But it’s a politics of fear and an economics of greed. Neither can survive with millions of lives in the balance.

    Ironically, given the vast economic engine prohibition has wrought, cannabinoids are problematic for pharmaceutical company profits, since plants are not novel compounds they can patent for the purpose of extracting return on their research investment. That means real clinical research, the kind that can develop the cancer treatments current studies promise, requires massive public funding.

    Devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to cannabis every year may seem daunting. But we already do.

    We just spend it on eradication and incarceration instead of research and development.

    _________________________________
    Research study discussed:
    Aviello G, et al. Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2012 Jan 10.

    ASA’s booklet on Cannabis and Cancer
  • ASA Files Opening Brief in Rescheduling Case

    Today, ASA filed the opening brief in its effort to have marijuana rescheduled at the federal level.  The brief outlines some of the most egregious analytical errors made by the DEA, which led it to the the outlandish conclusion that that marijuana is even more harmful that methamphetamine and cocaine.  This denial was prompted by ASA's lawsuit to compel the DEA to give some response to a rescheduling petition filed by the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis  in 2002, which went unanswered for nearly eleven years.  The Petition (rightfully) requests that marijuana be rescheduled to Schedule III, IV, or V because it has an accepted medical use in the United States; it is safe for use under medical supervision; it has an abuse potential lower than Schedule I or II drugs; and it has a lower dependence liability than Schedule I or II drugs. Among the DEA's other errors, the agency deviated from its own criteria in assessing the abuse potential of scheduled substances and it flat out ignored more than two hundred scientific studies demonstrating the medical efficacy of marijuana.  Only by closing its eyes to these peer-reviewed studies could the DEA conclude that marijuana lacks a "currently accepted" medical use.
  • President Obama Makes Case Against His Own Medical Marijuana Policy During SOTU Address

    Over the years, President Obama has said some encouraging things about medical marijuana, but his policy has never matched up. To many, Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address will likely be remembered as the moment when he framed his 2012 campaign for reelection. The SOTU laid out his vision and goals on a number of issues, and while he may not have used the words “medical marijuana” during his speech, the goals and themes he called for in his second term are irreconcilable with certain actions (and inactions) taken by his administration related to safe access.

     “Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.”


    Here, Obama has stated a goal, having a treatment available that kills cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells. The potential for reaching this goal through medical marijuana has been known for at least several years, and even the National Institutes of Health has recognized this potential with the Physician Data Query issued by the National Cancer Institute last March. Although the government retracted certain parts of the PDQ in a politically motivated move, the post-retraction version still makes a compelling case for marijuana’s cancer-killing/healthy-cell-preserving potential by reporting that, “[c]annabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”

    Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not only ignored pursuing medical marijuana to achieve this goal, it has done nothing to make use of its own agency’s findings. This is not only irreconcilable with the goal he laid out in the SOTU, at best it is willful ignorance on the part of the Obama administration to let patients suffer without safe access to the best cancer treatments known.

     “There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.”


    One federal regulation Obama ought to reconsider as being outdated, lacking necessity, and being too costly is 21 CFR 1308.11. This regulation is the manifestation of the Controlled Substances Act in the Federal Record. The necessity of keeping marijuana under Schedule I was only to permit the Attorney General sufficient time to gain more complete scientific information about marijuana. That was four decades and several studies ago (the government’s own PDQ refers to several dozen of these studies), so this is clearly outdated and unnecessary. In terms of costliness, the toll of human suffering of cancer patients should be enough, but the economic drain related to cancer suffering is staggering as well.  The best way for Obama to revisit this regulation would be direct Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate the rescheduling process.

    “Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same.”


    Among the millions of Americans who work hard and wish to play by the rules are the thousands of providers of medical marijuana located in states that have approved the use and distribution of this medical treatment. Perhaps more than any community, these American entrepreneurs are quite willing to pay their share of business taxes that result from their work to provide safe access to medical marijuana patients who are unable to cultivate to their own medicine. However, in providing medical marijuana in accordance with state law to patients, dispensary operators must deal with a burden that no other legitimately run business have to face, Section 280E of the IRS Tax Code. This provision, which bars anyone from taking tax deductions for business expenses related to Schedule I and II substances, was originally intended to prevent cocaine kingpins from manipulating the tax code to launder their completely illicit profits, but instead the IRS is now manipulating the provision to attack state-approved businesses that provide safe access.

    President Obama should not only order Holder to initiate the process to reschedule marijuana, he should also instruct Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to promulgate a comment in the Treasury Regulations that excludes medical marijuana providers operating in good faith compliance with state law. This would be particularly helpful in the event that marijuana is rescheduled into Schedule II, which would still mean safe access would be in peril related to 280E.

    President Obama’s speech last night described the kind of America where safe access to medical marijuana should be readily available, but unfortunately his administration’s actions have been at odds with this goal. Rescheduling marijuana and removing unfair tax burdens on dispensary owners would go a long way in reconciling his goal of an America where patients have safe access to best the cancer treatments available.
  • CA Supreme Court Grants Review to Pack and Riverside, Local Lawmakers Should Take Note

    The California Supreme Court has made a move that should improve safe access by granting review for two controversial medical marijuana cases decided by lower appellate courts in 2011. As a result of this move, both Pack v. City of Long Beach (link to ASA blog on Pack), and Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, are effectively decertified until the court reaches its final decision, a process which some expect to go on for two years, as Ross v. RagingWire took two years to decide.

    The decisions by the lower appellate court in both of these cases have been harmful for patient access to medicine, but the Pack fallout has been particular damaging. The Pack ruling in October set off a firestorm of cities and counties moving to ban dispensaries throughout the state, even beyond the Second District of the CA Court of Appeals where the case was decided. These panicked reactions by lawmakers have resulted in weakened availability to medicine for Californian patients. As is stands now, Pack and Riverside are now dead letters.

    California Cityand County legislators should take note of the impact of this move by the state high court before moving forward with any further legislation as a result of lower court’s Pack ruling. A city or county presently considering a dispensary ban based upon Pack, such as the largest city in the state, ought to recognize that they would be undermining patients’ ability to obtain medicine they need, all in reaction to a case that no longer has legal authority. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Pack and Riverside decisions, making rash policy changes that are harmful to the health of Californians following the decertification of Pack seems like an unnecessary proposition at best.

    CA Court of Appeals Pack decision: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Pack_v_Long_Beach.pdf

    CA Court of Appeals Riverside decision: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E052400.PDF
  • Gov. Brewer Orders Arizona to Start Processing Dispensary Applications

    The good news that came out last week for Arizona medical cannabis patients got even better today. Having a week to digest the impact of having her lawsuit thrown out of federal court on Jan. 4th, AZ Gov. Jan Brewer has announced she will not re-file. More significant (and quite a pleasant surprise) was the following statement by Brewer:

    “I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the Department's medical marijuana rules is resolved."


    This is fantastic news, although any credit given to Brewer needs to be put in context. The AZ Governor has actively worked to prevent the program, and even qualified her encouraging statement above by saying, “[i]t is well-known that I did not support passage of Proposition 203.” With that in mind, it will be important to keep an eye on the response Brewer gets back from U.S. Attorney forArizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, asking for federal government’s position on state employees regulating dispensaries. However, last week’s resounding dismissal of Brewer’s case should be indicative that regardless of Scheel’s response, the program must still move forward.

    Medical cannabis dispensaries will finally be coming to Arizona. It’s still a question of when, but it looks like they’ll be arriving much sooner than anyone previously expected.

    CORRECTION: An earlier version of this entry stated that AZ would begin processing applications prior to completion of the state-level lawsuit. Applications will not be processed until completion of this lawsuit. Thank you to those who pointed out the error.

    Proposition 203 and Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: http://www.azdhs.gov/prop203/

    Pending Lawsuit: http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/dispensaries/CompassionFirst-v-Arizona.pdf