Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access (ASA)"

  • DEA Chief on Medical Cannabis use by Navy vet: "that's between him and his doctor"

    During today's Drug Enforcement Administration Oversight Hearing, Representative Steve Cohen (D - TN) asked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart whether or not it would be permissible for a Navy veteran to use medical cannabis to help with severe weight loss. The head of DEA responded by saying, "I think that's between him and his doctor". (begins at 0:50:30)

    Americans for Safe Access absolutely agrees with the candid statement by DEA Administrator Leonhart. Unfortunately, for the Navy veteran that Rep. Cohen brought up, until Leonhart and the Obama Administration stop raiding compliant dispensaries, that veteran may be forced to obtain medical cannabis through unsafe and unreliable means. Worst still for the Navy vet, currently Veterans Administration policy forbids VA doctors from discussing or filling out paperwork associated with state-approved medical cannabis programs. On behalf our ASA's members, I urge DEA Administrator Leonhart, please do not back down from your stated position, in fact taking a stronger stand for safe access has been demonstrated to not the least bit politically dangerous.

    Please contact the DEA (202.307.1000) to thank Administrator Leonhart for to encourage her to follow through with her statement by ending the raids on medical cannabis dispensaries in compliance with state law.

    UPDATE (5:21pm, EDT): Out of curiosity, I poked around to see what Leonhart has said in the past about medical cannabis, and here is what she had to say during her Senate confirmation. No word yet on the "social cost" of thwarting safe access to medical cannabis for American veteran-patients such as the one Rep. Cohen described.
  • Closing Dispensaries Harms Patients: Rally for Safe Access in Sacramento!

    Since last fall, many of California's dispensaries have been forced to close their doors due to the Justice Department's crackdown on medical cannabis. This unfortunate situation worsened last week as we witnessed two dispensaries in California face DEA raids: G3 Holistic in Upland and El Camino Wellness in Sacramento.

    Statewide, patients are concerned over the loss of their dispensaries and are asking loud and clear, "Where will we get our medicine?"

    Imagine a patient who, in their lifetime, has never been exposed to the culture or experiences of cannabis. They’ve never called a friend for an 1/8th or contemplated what clones to plant for a new season. One doctor’s visit can change a life - and now this person is faced with a laundry list of decisions, one of them likely relating to medical cannabis.

    Patient #2 lives in an apartment and for their own laundry list of reasons is not able to cultivate. Either they are not home enough to nurture and protect that endeavor. Or maybe they have a black thumb or the inability to balance pets, children and cultivation.

    Patient #3 has spent two weeks in the hospital, 1 of them in intensive care. Released to go home with severe restrictions, a family member has filled the patient’s prescriptions, gathered groceries and transports the patient back home for recovery. Or maybe even end-of-life care. The caregiver doesn't have the expertise, and the patient doesn't have the time, to wait months to harvest medicine for palliative care.

    Dispensaries provide a logical answer for getting medical cannabis into the hands of those with a valid recommendation.

    Dispensaries give patients the respect of being able to obtain their medicine in a safe, accountable and professional environment rather than endure risky encounters with strangers. Patients are sick and tired and they want to avoid all of the obstacles between them and their medicine. Patients also want to be treated with respect, not like criminals. Many patients have unique needs, and want a variety of choices of cannabis strains and means of delivery.

    Join other patients and concerned citizens coming out in protest over the DEA actions against our state's medical cannabis program.

    Hundreds of dispensaries across the state have closed down while many more face threat of closure. Closing dispensaries hurts patients. The time to stand up for patients' rights is now!

    What: Rally to protest the June 11th DEA raid on El Camino Wellness Center and widespread federal intimidation
    When: Wednesday, June 20th at 1:30pm
    Where: Federal Courthouse, 501 I Street, Sacramento

    Wear sunscreen and a hat, bring water and make signs of protest. Use talking points like:

    DEA Closes Legal Dispensaries
    Closing Collectives Hurts Patients
    Respect CA State Laws

    Courtney Sheats is ASA’s Sacramento Community Liason.
  • NY Assembly Passes Comprehensive Safe Access Legislation

    On Wednesday, the New York State Assembly took an earnest attempt at providing a comprehensive medical cannabis program to patients in the Empire State by passing A 7347 by the wide margin of 90-50. While the legislation is now up to the Senate, it seems all but certain the Senate will fail to bring the bill to a vote. That's a shame, because while A 7347 is not perfect, it would create a comprehensive system that deserves a second look, both by New York senators and patients.

    Patient Protections and "Reasonable" Flexibility

    Mid-Atlantic legislatures which passed medical cannabis legislation (NJ, DC, DE) felt that it was prudent to come up with restrictive rules and strictly-limited qualifying conditions. This deference to regulation at the expense of wellness has hurt patients greatly. In the time since each of the bills passed, not a single patient in any of these locations has safe and legal access to medical cannabis.

    The New York law, by contrast, has built-in mechanisms that would provide concrete legal protections and encourage the state to quickly move to implement the registration and access system. The law would allow patients who obtain written certification from their medical practitioner to have full protection from arrest if the state is not issuing registration cards within one year of the law's effective date. Even better for patients, once the state begins accepting registration applications, patients possessing a valid certification who do not wish to enroll in the registry are still eligible for an affirmative defense. The law also would provide explicit protection against patient discrimination pertaining to child custody, education, organ transplant, and landlord/tenant matters - issues which we've seen confront patients in states like California.

    Beyond these important patient protections, A 7347 also grants the Department of Health (DOH) discretionary ability to avoid unjust outcomes with certain aspects of the bill. Lawmakers resisted the urge to play doctor by determining from afar who can and can't obtain medicine; instead, they have provided guidance for doctors. In another example of flexibility, the law calls for all registered caregivers to be over the age of 21, however if a "sufficient showing is made to the department that [a person under 21] should be permitted to serve as a designated caregiver," the DOH may do so. For a sick elderly person who is being taken care of by a college-age family member or for parent who is under 21 and needs to care for their seriously ill young child, this provision could make a major difference.

    Good, But Not Perfect

    For all the wonderful clauses in A 7347, there are still some parts that run counter to safe access. The registry system has some privacy protections, but law enforcement could potentially have the ability to harass patients, much like we have seen in Michigan. The requirement that each medical cannabis purchase made must be recorded with the patient or caregiver's name is a threat to the privacy and security of patient confidentiality. The bill's provision to tax the gross receipts of medical cannabis sales at the excessive rate of 7.1% could make it difficult for dispensaries to establish themselves, meaning patients would not only have to pay unnecessarily exorbitant prices for medicine, but also may be forced to deal with an inconsistent supply as result of the instability.

    Patients in NY should urge Senate Health Committee Chairperson Kemp Hannon and other committee members to take the steps necessary to bring the senate version of the bill, SB 7283, up for a vote before the full senate.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.
  • LA at a Crossroads

    The Los Angeles City Council will choose between two competing motions concerning medical cannabis in the near future, and the outcome will have long-term implications for legal patients in the city. One path leads to an outright ban on patients’ cooperatives and collectives; while the other may settle dozens of lawsuits, complies with existing case law, and fulfils the voters’ will for a safe and regulated access program. It should be an easy choice. But everything about medical cannabis is controversial in the state’s largest city, and what happens here could have repercussions around the state and nation. That is why Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and a growing coalition of advocates, organized labor, and other stakeholders are gearing up for what may be the last battle for safe access at City Hall.

    ASA has been working with the city since 2005 to stop a ban on legal cooperatives and collectives and adopt workable regulations. This is an important, because research conducted by ASA and the experience of the last sixteen years show that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints, while preserving access for patients. That is what voters want. A poll conducted by EMC Research last November demonstrated that seventy-seven percent of voters favor the regulation and control of medical cannabis.

    City Council Members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander made a motion to ban all medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city – even those that have tried in good faith to comply with the city’s troubled regulatory scheme. Council Members Huizar and Englander call their motion the “gentle ban,” because it would “allow” legal patients to grow their own medicine at home. That right is already guaranteed under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and further protected by the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420). The term “gentle ban” is a face-saving euphemism. The Huizar-Englander motion would create an ordinance that bans all patients’ associations, but gives no other option to the large majority of patients who do not or cannot grow their own medicine.

    There is an alternative. Council Member Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson have introduced a competing measure that would allow for approximately one hundred patients’ cooperatives and collectives distributed throughout the city. Their motion complies with a recent Appellate Court decision, Pack v. City of Long Beach, which if upheld by the California Supreme Court, will prevent cities from authorizing conduct prohibited under federal law (like providing medical cannabis). This “limited immunity” approach may also help settle dozens of lawsuit brought by the City of Los Angeles and patients’ associations. Better still, the Koretz-Wesson motion would create an ordinance that finally regulates medical cannabis provision in the city – something most Angelinos still want to see.

    Which option the City Council chooses may depend on what patients and advocates do right now. The City Council could consider one or both of the motions at any time. Public outcry has prevented medical cannabis opponents on the City Council and at the City Attorney’s office from fast-tracking the so-called “gentle ban” and derailing the “limited immunity” option so far. The growing coalition of medical cannabis allies now includes the influential UFCW Local 770, which represents workers at more than twenty Los Angeles patients’ associations. UFCW Local 770 hosted a press conference on the issue at City Hall last week, and their action alert for City Council Members is helping keep pressure on City Hall. The voice of organized labor is just one of many to join a growing coalition committed to defeating the “gentle ban” or overturning it with a voter referendum.

    This is a fight Angelinos have to fight, but everyone should be paying attention. If medical cannabis opponents succeed in banning patients’ cooperatives and collectives here, it will be a green light for other jurisdictions. We need to stop the momentum for bans in Los Angeles, before it reaches a critical mass. The City of Los Angeles is a trend setter, for better of for worse. Patients and advocates nationwide will suffer if the story of Los Angeles is one of confusion, delay, litigation, and finally a ban. The Koretz-Wesson motion is a chance to take back the momentum and get this influential city back on track. But it will not happen if those of us in the city do not dig in our heels and fight before the choice is made.

    What can you do? Use the UFCW Local 770’s online action alert to send a message to City Hall right now. Then plan to join the Los Angeles Chapter of ASA on Saturday to plan the next steps. The LA-ASA meeting is at 1:00 PM on Saturday, June 16, in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • D.C. Health Dept Approves 4 Dispensaries

    After a long application and review process, the D.C. Department of Health announced today that four medical cannabis dispensaries have been approved and may now apply for business licenses and other regulatory requirements for opening. This announcement, which came a week or two earlier than expected, is welcome news to the District's patient population, as it has been two years since the D.C Council approved the local medical cannabis bill, B18-622, in May, 2012.

    Faith in the Public Safety of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

    At times during the application review process, some local community members raised concerns about the public safety of dispensaries coming to their community. The efforts of dispensary applicants, along with support from groups like Safe Access DC and a growing number of residents, demonstrated to community leaders and District officials that medical cannabis dispensaries are hardly a threat to public safety. ASA published a white paper which it distributed to community leaders and public officials. Moreover, yet another study suggests that medical cannabis dispensaries are not associated with increasing crime or violence, and may have a crime-reducing effect. 

    Safe Access is on the Horizon in D.C.

    Although D.C. voters first approved medical cannabis in 1998 - implementation of which was barred by Congress until 2009 - it will still be still be several months until D.C.'s licensed cultivation sites will be able to provide medicine to the approved dispensaries. Some are saying as early as August, although B18-622 co-sponsor David Cantania has estimated safe access to begin closer to year's end. If you'd like to join the effort to create safe access to medical cannabis in the District, including urging the Department of Health to create a process to verify patient status, check out
  • Medical Marijuana Reading - June 11th 2012

    Catch up on the latest news about medical marijuana throughout the county.
    • Feds Attack California’s Medical Marijuana Trade - Again (Reuters)
    • Mass. Medical Marijuana Opponents Mobilize Efforts (Bloomberg)
    • Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Linked to Neighborhood Crime (US News and World Report)
    • Cedars-Sinai Again Denies Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient (Opposing Views)
    • DEA Raids Sacramento Pot Shop (SacBee)
    • New blog by Hearst Media - Smell the Truth.
  • Will New Hampshire live up to its state motto by adopting compassionate use?

    Over the past twelve years, New Hampshire has attempted several times to legislate the usage of cannabis for medical purposes. A 2009 bill was vetoed by Governor John Lynch. From 2000 to 2007 there were four attempts but the measure did not pass the New Hampshire House. But yesterday's passage of SB 409 through the State Senate and House conference committee is a new opportunity.

    The New Hampshire state motto is “Live Free or Die,” however to those who live in New Hampshire and are sick, hurt and longing for a better quality of life, the state motto may feel like the “To Live or Die” state. But we can change that now.

    SB 409, the 2012 New Hampshire Medical Marijuana Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Forsythe, differs from previous attempts. The language is different, the key politicians are different, the activism is different. In the end, will the result be same or is 2012 the year to achieve success?

    We think this may be the best chance we have!

    New Hampshire has the largest state legislature in the union with 400 House members and 24 Senators. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the legislature, but, perhaps ironically, medical marijuana has found great support among Republicans.

    Legislators who in the past voted against medical marijuana, such as Senator Jeb Bradley, Gary Lambert and Peter Bragdon, now support SB 409. Senator Bradley even publicly stated to New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association representative Richard Crate at the Senate hearing that their opposition to the issue, “does not reflect the fact that for some, medical marijuana works.”

    NH Compassion Executive Director Kirk McNeil and Matt Simon, a Marijuana Policy Project [9] Legislative Analyst, have been working alongside activists like me and other various groups to pass the bill. We built a broad coalition including NH Students for Sensible Drug Policy led by Jennifer Hall, NH Disabled American Veterans, NH Vets for Peace, and Americans for Safe Access, just to name a few.

    Patients, veterans and students bravely gave public testimony

    Over the past few months members of the public have testified at open public hearings on the effectiveness of medical marijuana in helping them battle disease and disability. The most dramatic and passionate testimony has come from New Hampshire veterans, many of whom have said without the ability to use cannabis for medical reasons, they and their families would have been destroyed. The one thing that frightens them and the main reason why they are speaking out is because in order to get medical marijuana, the patient must put their family members at risk to procure the medicine.

    Governor Lynch cites the federal ban on cannabis as listed on CSA schedule 1 - that cannabis has no accepted medicinal use - as the reason why he continues to oppose a compassionate use law. Well, with the Food and Drug Administration allows international companies like GW Pharmaceuticals in England to offer a phase III clinical study on human patients in the United States And of course there is the famous Compassionate Individual New Drug Program, the federal program that allows qualifying patients to use cannabis for palliative and therapeutic relief. Today there are only two surviving patients out of the initial 34 patients who receive 200 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes a month. One vocal program member, Irvin Rosenfeld, attended a press conference and met with legislators in Concord in May to discuss this program and support state efforts on SB 409.

    While our own federal government ignores these studies and continues to put sick patients, veterans and others behind bars for using or providing medical cannabis, our state legislators are attempting to help New Hampshire residents to have a better quality of life. Pharmaceuticals which have been prescribed by doctors and pushed by the “Big Pharma” can have unacceptable side affects or not work well for everyone. The opportunity to legally use cannabis for medical purposes is a chance to allow our sick the ability to be productive parents, husbands and wives - not to mention a healthier person.

    How can Governor Lynch continue to say he is the leader of New Hampshire, the original freedom-loving state, when he fails to lead in being compassionate to the sick? Do the special interests of big business, health care networks and others mean more to him than the ability for a NH veteran or a single mother of three to be healthier individuals using medical cannabis as an alternative medicine?

    Without compassion toward suffering patients who want to use medical cannabis, The “Live Free or Die” state is not practicing what the state motto preaches. Until the Governor changes his position, New Hampshire residents will just have to “Live or Die.” It is obvious over the past twelve years that New Hampshire has been walking down a road to legalize medical marijuana. With 71% of New Hampshire residents supporting safe access, how can the governor maintain his heartless position?

    If you live in New Hampshire, please contact Governor Lynch at 603-271-2121, or tweet at him @GovJohnLynch, and ask him to have compassion for patients and sign SB 409 into law.

    Gregory Pawlowski is a patient and advocate in New Hampshire.
  • California's Unity Vigil: supporting medical cannabis POWs

    The recent California Unity Conference provided an opportunity for California’s medical cannabis patients, caregivers, allies and associates to come together to initiate a successful, informative and vital discussion with our community and our lawmakers. But while we focused on the future of our movement, we also took time to mourn those we have lost.

    Sunday night before the Lobby Day, Unity Conference participants gathered at the Sacramento Federal Courthouse, coming together in vigil for medical marijuana prisoners of war, the aggressive forced closures of our state's dispensaries, and brave patients who have passed away before seeing an end to this struggle. Sacramento patients had been mobilizing weekly at the Federal Courthouse since the first week of this year, supporting each other and the victims of the drug war. But this gathering was especially bittersweet, and not just because we were joined by our brothers and sisters from across the state.

    We Sacramento area advocates recently learned the crushing news of the passing of our dear friend and activist Joy Cole. Among numerous projects that Joy had spearheaded with our local ASA Chapter, Sac Patients, was organizing the weekly candlelight vigil group. Joy had also stood up in support of POWs Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer, rallying before their surrender to federal marshals while ASA organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials in 10 medical marijuana states, as part of our “Sick & Tired” campaign. Despite the effects of battling cancer, Joy was a constant voice for patient rights - whether behind a sign, behind a microphone before city and county officials, or behind a pen, writing to lawmakers and newspaper editors.

    Unity Conference gatherers took a moment of silence for all of our brothers and sisters who can longer fight for safe access, having lost their life or their freedom. We closed the evening inspired to continue the momentum of our movement.

    We hope you have the opportunity to find inspiration in supporting fellow patients and standing up for medical cannabis prisoners and those awaiting trial. Check out Supporting POWs in ASA's training center. Reach out to local ASA Chapters, Ambassadors and Allied Organizations to coordinate court support, and if you live in California, sign up to receive ASA's California Roundup, a weekly email highlighting news and actions from around the state.

    Courtney Sheats is ASA’s Sacramento Community Liason.
  • Medical Cannabis News Roundup

    For your perusing pleasure, here are several recent articles about the medical cannabis movement.
  • Connecticut becomes 17th Medical Cannabis State: A Patient's Perspective

    Safe access to medical cannabis became law in Connecticut today, when HB 5389 was signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy. The compassionate use bill will take effect on October 1st, 2012. Below is a perspective from a Connecticut patient who testified in support of the bill this Spring.

    The Bumpy Road We Faced

    I am proud to see medical cannabis legalized in my home state of Connecticut. The path to compassion was not an easy one - the bill's passage in the Senate was contentious. The vote came only after over 10 hours of debate, about 9 of which were entirely taken up by Senator Toni Boucher (R-143rd District), who made no one but Strom Thurmond's ghost happy with her marathon filibuster attempt, which was filled with "reefer madness" scare tactics, misinformation, and easily contradicted statistics. None of her 48(!) proposed amendments passed, the handful that were brought up were soundly rejected.

    May 5, 2012 was a long day for me. Several friends, fellow advocates and I were home watching CT-N starting at 4pm sharp, when the Senate debate on the bill was supposed to begin (it officially began around 4:20pm, interestingly enough). It soon became clear that it would not be what time will the bill receive a vote, but what day. The first person to speak was the Judiciary Committee Chair, Sen. Eric Coleman (D-Hartford/Bloomfield/Windsor). The second was Deputy Minority Leader John Kissel (R-7th District). Both men heartily approved of the bill, making well known the positive implications of the bill far outweighed the negatives, and how the bill was about helping sick people, not turning healthy people sick.

    I and a few other UConn students (and many, many more patients and safe access advocates) went and spoke in favor of this bill during the Judiciary Committee hearing this past March, and Coleman and Kissel were quick to vocalize their understanding of the challenges facing patients and their loved ones. Several other members of the committee spoke up in admirable and passionate support of the bill throughout the day, but Senators Kissel and Coleman engaged patients, including myself, in a way that I hope all patients experience when testifying at a committee hearing. I appreciate what they and others (Representative Fox-D, Rep Bacchiochi-R, and more) have done to aid their constituents more than they will ever know, and I will not soon forget it.

    This Medicine Really Works Better Than Other Options

    Living with a chronic disease, as I have lived with Crohn's disease for nearly my entire life, is no cakewalk. It ranks as the most difficult thing I've had to overcome in my life, and the pain and stress has been nothing but exacerbated by doctor after doctor, treatment after treatment, pill after prescribed pill (including dangerous opiates), all doing very little to help in the end to ease my symptoms. Cannabis brings back my appetite, relieves swelling and pain, regulates my sleep schedule, and provides a welcome respite from the stress all these maladies plus a typical contemporary college life have bestowed upon me. Is the bill perfect? No. Does cannabis absolutely cure my illness? No. Is the passage of this bill, and the subsequent freedom of CHOICE that myself and my doctors may now exercise to use medicine that truly helps a step in the right direction? The answer is a loud and unparalleled yes!

    This is, in a nutshell, what I told the judiciary committee late that night in the Capitol. I can't speak for all of them, but they, as legislators spoke for us with their votes. The senate and house were somewhat divided, but the law is now clear: Medical cannabis is coming to Connecticut. Chronic pain, watch your back!

    A Great Step Forward, But Improvements Are Necessary

    Senator Boucher did manage to say one thing I'll concede to her when she boasted, "I could go on about this forever", which she said no less than four times over her 9-hour sprint-to-nowhere. It feels very surreal and unfortunate to know far more about cannabis than some of the legislators who are legislating our safe access to medical cannabis. It feels even stranger to see legislators deciding medical worth in any capacity, but thankfully my state was fortunate to have legislators pass a medical law.

    This good fortune is not absolute, however, and improvements to the bill will need to be made. Patients should be able to grow their own medicine, children under 18 should not have to suffer when medical cannabis therapy is appropriate for them and parents grant informed consent, privacy and civil protections for patients should be improved, overly cautious regulations on dispensaries ought to be relaxed, and many more conditions should be permitted. But if recent legislation is any indication of the future, we may be headed in such a promising direction.

    Sal Sodaro is a student and a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Connecticut.