Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access (ASA)"

  • ASA Works to Build the Base in MT

    [caption id="attachment_1329" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer"]

    ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer testified before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in opposition to HB 161, a bill that would repeal the state’s six-year old medical cannabis law, before setting off on a three-day tour of the state.  Judiciary Committee members delayed a vote on the bill, which has already been approved by the full House of Representatives. ASA is opposing HB 161 to preserve access for patients in Montana, and calling on lawmakers there to properly regulate medical cannabis instead of repealing it.

    Ms. Sherer is visiting cities around the state this weekend to hold stakeholder’s meetings to talk about how to push back on HB 161. Grassroots opposition to the bill is essential. Research and experience show that lawmakers are more likely to respond to a broad and genuine citizen’s movement than lobbyists in St. Helena. ASA works on the frontlines with patients and providers, because medical cannabis patients advocating for their own needs are the most effective advocates for their own rights. That is why ASA makes training and skills building priorities in our work.

    We ignore the repeal effort in Montana at great risk to patients. Medical cannabis opponents are exploiting growing public ambivalence about medical cannabis nationwide, and this has a real impact on policies that effect patients’ welfare. Opponents are also trying to repeal medical cannabis laws in New Mexico and Oregon. Other states may follow.  This battle will take place at the local level, too, where cities and counties in the fifteen medical cannabis states consider ordinances that severely limit or prohibit safe access to medicine.

    I hope you will support ASA in our efforts to build the powerful and effective grassroots movement to push back on opposition like what we are seeing in Montana – and to push forward in the work of protect and expanding patients’ rights nationwide.
  • Maryland Legislator Fights for Patients’ Right to Cultivate

    Aimed at establishing the right for patients to reliably and affordably obtain medical marijuana, Maryland House Deputy Majority Whip Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) introduced an amendment today to a proposed bill to ensure that patients have the right to cultivate their own medicine. House Bill 291 would protect patients from arrest and prosecution, and set up a state-run production and distribution system, but it fails to provide alternatives like self-cultivation for patients who don’t live near a distribution center or who cannot afford the high prices seen at facilities in other states. Before introducing her amendment to HB 291, Delegate Glenn said:
    I’ve had two loved ones succumb to the ravages of cancer -- my mother passed away in June and my brother-in-law passed away 6 years ago. Both of them got to the point where they couldn’t eat and their doctors wished they could recommend medical marijuana to stimulate their appetite. I also know what it’s like to live in poverty and to not be able to afford desperately needed medicine. People should not be denied access to medical marijuana because they cannot afford it or because they cannot travel to locations where it's dispensed. Of course we should control it and regulate it, but we should not shut out people who need it.
    Patient cultivation is currently a right of hundreds of thousands of patients in 14 of the country’s 15 medical marijuana states. New Jersey is the only state to deny its patients the right to cultivate. Now, more than a year after the bill was passed, New Jersey has not registered a single patient, nor has it licensed a single producer or distributor. Subsequently, no patient is able to obtain medical marijuana legally in New Jersey. The Maryland Health and Government Operations Committee and the Judiciary Committee will hear HB 291 at 1pm on Monday, February 28th. Delegate Glenn's amendment will be heard by committee members at that time, as will testimony from patients, doctors and other experts. In preparation for the hearing, Americans for Safe Access issued a brief report on the importance and necessity of patient cultivation. The report points legislators to certain needs that would go unmet if patients were prevented from cultivating, such as affordability, reliability, consistency and quality. For additional information, see ASA’s press release.
  • Excerpt from Boot Camp: Realizing the Vision

    [caption id="attachment_1288" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Activist Boot Camp in LA"]

    This is an excerpt from the openning chapter of the 200-page workbook from ASA's Activist Boot Camp. The next nationwide events will be Marh 19-20. look for local announcements.

    --- from "The Medical Cannabis Advocate's Handbook" ---

    Almost fifteen years of experimenting with state-based medical cannabis laws has made one thing clear: adopting state laws is only the first step in a long and often expensive process to meet the legitimate needs of patients. Some states have taken nearly a decade to enact legislation designed to correct the shortcomings of early victories, ensure access, and guarantee the protection of patients' rights. In other states, however, patients are still waiting for programs that meet their needs.

    The policymaking process continues long after a law has been adopted by a state legislature or citizen initiative, and usually includes the development of rules and regulations for safe access. A vast array of factors can affect the successful implementation of a state medical cannabis law, including legislative intent, administrative capacity, political support, and interest group activity. While adopting new laws may be challenging, ASA believes that the true test of success is whether those laws are properly implemented and the patient community has achieved safe and legal access.

    The implementation of statewide medical cannabis laws is challenging for a number of reasons. First, and most notable, is that administrative agencies are forced to create and enforce regulations that arguably conflict with federal law. Second, statewide medical cannabis laws continue to be laboratories of democracy in our federalist system - and sometimes these experiments fail. And finally, the processes by which many of these laws have been adopted exclude both the development and participation of a local grassroots movement. As a result, policymakers usually do not feel an urgency to implement the law until there is a perceived emergency, and often do not understand the impact of politically expedient compromises on patients’ welfare.

    Thirty years of intransigence by federal authorities has resulted in the patchwork of state laws that underlies our strategy for moving forward. The overwhelming majority of arrests and prosecutions for cannabis-related activity occur at the state and local level, so these Compassionate Use laws offer significant protection to the patients. However, considerable disparities exist among the state laws. For example, California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 leaves determination about the specific conditions for which medical cannabis should be used to the professional judgment of physicians, while other states narrowly restrict the use of cannabis to a list of specific medical conditions. Theses narrow lists sometimes exclude serious and chronic illnesses for which research has shown cannabis may be helpful.

    Some state laws do provide civil protections for qualified individuals, but in most states, individuals who use or provide medical cannabis continue to suffer pervasive discrimination in employment, child custody, housing, health care, public accommodation, and the like.  A few states have even established production and distribution systems to ensure qualified individuals have access to medical cannabis from licensed distributors, while patients in other states are forced to acquire or grow cannabis on their own. However, because medical cannabis possession, production, and distribution remain illegal under federal law, patients and their providers remain vulnerable to federal raids, arrest, and prosecution, and have no defense in federal court or remedy for the loss of property or freedoms.

    The necessary and proper implementation of state medical cannabis laws and regulation of dispensaries has been frustrated by federal interference, including hundreds of raids and a variety of intimidating tactics (asset forfeitures, threats to landlords, bank account closures, IRS audits, etc.). Even in situations where local officials and governments were in good faith seeking to regulate access to cannabis, the federal government chose to respond with interference and intimidation.
  • Activist Boot Camp


    This weekend, patients and advocates in more than twenty cities and nine different states will participate in ASA’s National Call to Action: Activist Boot Camp, the nation’s first virtual skills-building conference for medical cannabis activists. The Activist Boot Camp is a part of ASA’s commitment to educating, training, and empowering a powerful grassroots base nationwide. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have medical cannabis laws today, but patients inside and outside those states continue to struggle for access and fight for their rights. Please take a minute to register for ASA’s Activist Boot Camp today, so that you can be a part of that powerful grassroots base.

    More than fourteen years of experience with medical cannabis laws in the United States has made one thing clear: the adoption of state laws the first steps in a long and hard process to meet the legitimate needs of patients. ASA believes that the true test of success is whether those laws are properly implemented, and the legitimate patient community has achieved safe and legal access. We are well on our way, but challenges remain.

    That is why the Activist Boot Camp is so important. State and federal lawmakers rarely hear from their constituents about medical cannabis. It will take a strategic and persistent effort to reverse that trend. If ASA can mobilize that grassroots base, we can show lawmakers that there is a political safe space for supporting good legislation, and a potential downside to standing in its way. They key to achieving this is to put the voices of those invested, empowered patients at the front of the debate in 20011 and 2012. So sign up for the Activist Boot Camp nearest you today!
  • Trouble in Montana

    Medical cannabis patients and advocates all over the country should be paying attention to what is happening in Montana right now. The House of Representatives voted to repeal the state’s medical cannabis law on Thursday. If the Senate follows suit, Montana’s seven year old voter initiative could be gone on July 1st. The push to roll back safe access in the state comes amid hand-wringing over familiar topics – lenient doctors and a growing number of dispensaries. While patients and advocates rally to oppose the measure, the rest of the country should learn a lesson about how fragile support for medical cannabis can be.

    Passing state medical cannabis laws is the first step in a long and expensive process. Advocates must follow up with legislation and rules to fully implement the laws before our increasingly-sophisticated opponents use anecdotes of abuse, real and imagined, to erode support. Research conducted by Americans for Safe Access beginning in 2005 clearly shows that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around medical cannabis facilities. The implication is clear – regulations are our best strategy for diffusing opposition.

    The repeal of Montana’s medical cannabis initiative is not certain. Americans for Safe Access is talking with activists on the ground about solutions – a proactive media campaign, self-regulation, and old-fashioned grassroots opposition. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Helena are vetting numerous “fix it” bills to address ambivalence about the state’s rapidly expanding program. Patients there hope that cooler heads prevail, and the legislature opts for a middle ground.
  • Melissa Etheridge picks ASA

    Singer, songwriter, and medical cannabis patient Melissa Etheridge picked Americans for Safe Access (ASA) to be her charity partner in promoting a groundbreaking new documentary about women and breast cancer. You can pick ASA to receive 10% of the proceeds when you buy a copy of Namrata Singh Gujral’s powerful new documentary, 1 a Minute. Visit the film’s website today to learn more about this important film and help raise money for ASA. You can buy a copy of the DVD and support ASA online right now. Over 200,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States in 2010, and more than 40,000 died. A growing number of those living with breast cancer are turning to medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of the disease and the harsh side effects of therapy. ASA is working hard to be sure that everyone who needs medical cannabis has access and to promote advanced clinical research into this remarkable medicine. We appreciate Ms. Etheridge’s support for ASA and our work. Please take a moment to join her by picking ASA as your designated charity when you buy a copy of 1 a Minute.  An impressive list of stars narrate Ms. Gujral’s account of her journey from prevention, to diagnosis, treatment, and survival – Mellissa Etheridge, Olivia Newton-John, Kelly McGillis, Jaclyn Smith, and more. The Director writes about 1 a Minute:
    With 1 a Minute ®, I hope to shed light on the seriousness and urgency of this nasty disease. I hope to raise funds for a cure and I hope to bring awareness to the cause. But mostly I hope to support my sisters (and brothers) who very quickly understand why the fight is called "battling" cancer and why one qualifies as a "survivor" in the aftermath. Simply put, it is a journey that is tough to walk but equally tough to comprehend. So, my hope is to also provide families and friends with a glimpse of their loved ones "real" journey...not a scripted screenplay that some Hollywood writer churned out on a rainy afternoon.
    We know this important DVD will help patients, their loved ones, and others understand the complicated and difficult journey which women with breast cancer must take. Visit the film’s web site today to learn more, buy a copy, and pick ASA as your designated charity.
  • SB 129 – Stop Workplace Discrimination

    [caption id="attachment_1222" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="CA Senator Mark Leno"]

    Employers in California can fire a legal medical cannabis patient, even if he or she does not use medicine in the workplace or come to work impaired. Patients facing termination or random drug screenings call Americans for Safe Access (ASA) every week looking for help, and there is no way to know how many more live in silent fear of losing their jobs every day. California Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) has just introduced ASA-sponsored legislation to finally protect responsible, law abiding patients from employment discrimination. Now we need your help to be sure SB 129 is adopted and signed by the Governor this year.

    In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in Ross v. Ragingwire Communications that the termination of a 45-year old veteran solely for medical cannabis use was legal. In what California Lawyer Magazine called one of the “worst decisions of the year,” the Court held that voters did not intend to protect patients’ civil rights when they adopted Proposition 215. Less than one week after that unfortunate decision, then-Assemblymember Leno introduced legislation to clearly establish protections for employment rights. The legislature adopted AB 2279, but it was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – leaving patients unprotected.

    ASA and Senator Leno are ready to finish this important work. SB 129 will prevent discrimination against patients in hiring, termination, or any term of employment, except in the case of safety-sensitive positions. However, the bill does not require an employer to accommodate cannabis impairment or use in the workplace, and does not require the employer to violate any state or federal laws.

    The policy of this state should be to encourage gainful employment for those patients who are able to work. That is already the law in other states where medical cannabis is legal, including Arizona, Maine, and Rhode Island.  Adopting SB 129 is a matter of basic fairness in employment. It is also important because patients who lose their jobs could become an additional burden for state general assistance, MediCal, and other social service programs that are already stressed by the economic crisis.

    SB `129 is a reasonable solution that protects patients, employers, and public safety. ASA needs your help to be sure it is adopted. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be asking you to contact lawmakers and help us build a powerful coalition of support behind the bill. With your help, we can pass this bill again (just like we did in 2008!) and get the new Governor’s signature. When SB 129 is the law, you can be proud of the fact that you helped stop those calls from frightened patients – and helped to protect and expand patients’ rights in California.
  • Steph Sherer on Patient Privacy in the Huffington Post

    ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer talks about the priority of medical cannabis patient privacy in state regulations. Read what she has to say about the proposed regulations in Colorado in "Patient Privacy Should be at the Heart of Medical Marijuana Regulations" -
    This past November, Arizona became the 15th state to adopt a medical marijuana law. Even with medical marijuana laws in nearly a third of the country, ever-increasing scientific evidence of efficacy, and popular American support at over 80 percent, patients' rights are still threatened. As long as medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, patients everywhere are vulnerable. In fact, the discordance between federal and state laws makes it especially important to protect the privacy of patients. This week, the Colorado Department of Revenue Licensing Authority will be hearing public comment on proposed regulations addressing recent amendments to the state's medical marijuana law. Leading up to these hearings, members of our organization in CO have reached out to us with legitimate concerns about their privacy as patients. Unfortunately, in the rush to regulate Colorado's burgeoning medical marijuana distribution system, it is the privacy rights of patients in particular that have so far been either ignored or disregarded. While there are many issues that the Department of Revenue must deal with, patient privacy should be at the forefront...
    Read the entire article on today’s Huffington Post.
  • Montel Williams in LA

    Talk show host and medical cannabis patient Montel Williams told the Los Angeles City Council on Friday that an amendment to the city’s Medical Cannabis Ordinance (MCO) establishing a lottery to select one hundred patients’ collectives will do little to identify the best qualified applicants. The Los Angeles Times reports that Mr. Williams met privately with City Council Members on Thursday.

    At Friday’s meeting, Special Assistant to the City Attorney Jane Usher told City Council Members that they must adopt the amendments – including the lottery – in response to a Preliminary Injunction blocking enforcement of portions of the MCO. Ms. Usher said the judge has “put our feet to the fire,” and she urged the City Council to adopt the unpopular provision. Mr. Williams, who uses medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, responded:
    "Holding feet to the fire? Let me explain something to you. For the last 10 years, from morning til night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, I have absolute neuropathic pain through my feet, my shins, my side and my face," he said, his voice quavering. "You walk in and out of here every day and don't think about your feet. Mine I have to think about every second of the day."
    (quoted from the LA Times)

    Mr. Williams is to be commended for reminding City Council Members that patients need and deserve the best possible collectives. It is unfortunate that Council Members deferred again the City Attorney, and adopted a selection process that ignores longevity, performance, and goodwill. Time will tell if patients get lucky in the lottery.

    There is some good news for patients. Friday’s amendments removed the two-year sunset clause, which might have forced every collective to close in 2012. The changes also provide more protection for patients’ medical records. These are hard-won victories in the multi-year struggle to regulate safe access in the state’s largest city.

    Most importantly, the latest amendments should make a motion by City Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry to ban collectives outright unnecessary. Like his predecessor, Rocky Delgadillo, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has steadfastly supported a ban on collectives. But the Parks/Perry motion, seconded by Council Member Greig Smith, is the first sign that banning collectives has any traction on the City Council. The latest amendments should reassure City Council Members that they can successfully regulate access to medical cannabis – without banning collectives.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has worked with officials in Los Angeles to promote sensible regulations since 2005. The adoption of an ordinance, despite its flaws, is a victory for patients. Our research and experience show that regulations reduce crime and complaints around collectives, while preserving access for legal patients. We know that this work is not finished. New lawsuits by disenfranchised collectives are inevitable, and there are still improvements to make in the state’s toughest ordinance. ASA is committed to standing up for patients in Los Angeles at City Hall and in the courtroom until this work is finished.
  • ASA protests in MI and NV

    Medical cannabis patients in Michigan are upset that the US Department of Justice wants the state to turn over the names of legal medical cannabis patients in that state. This latest escalation in federal interference and intimidation brought protesters out into the streets Lansing and Grand Rapids this week. ASA is grateful to Michigan Chapter Coordinator Robin Schneider for braving the cold weather to let lawmakers know that patients’ privacy must be protected. (Video from Las Vegas - click More.)

    Meanwhile in Las Vegas, ASA Chapter Coordinator Eric Woodson rallied in opposition to recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids and arrests in the city. According to the DEA, the most recent arrests were connected to dispensary raids conducted in September of last year. Nevada law does not provide for community-based access programs, leaving many legal patients who cannot or will not grow medicine with no legal option.