Pages tagged "Congress"

  • Appellate decision puts the ball in your court

    The US appellate court in Washington, DC, denied our appeal to reschedule cannabis under federal law today, agreeing with the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) position that "adequate and well-controlled studies" on the medical efficacy of medical cannabis do not exist. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) strongly disagrees with the court’s opinion. Our briefs referenced two hundred peer-reviewed scientific studies proving the medical value of cannabis.

    The Obama Administration keeps changing the definition of medical efficacy.  Politics have trumped medical science on this issue. ASA can point to a research approval process for medical cannabis, controlled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is unique, overly rigorous, and hinders meaningful therapeutic research. ASA argued in its appeal brief that the DEA has no "license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case."



    The decision in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration is disappointing, but not the end of the road. ASA will seek an en banc review, asking all nine judges to review the two-to-one decision by a three-judge panel that heard oral arguments in October of last year. If the full nine-member panel does not reverse the decision, we will ask the US Supreme Court to hear the case. In the meantime, the ball is in your court. We must now turn to Congress to do what the courts have not. ASA is calling on patients and advocates to join us in Washington, DC, February 22-25, for our national conference and historic citizen lobby day.

    The conference, called “Bridging the Gap between Public and Policy,” is a chance to network with other activists from around the country, attend panels and workshops to improve your skills and increase your knowledge, and to engage in direct citizen-lobbying efforts in the halls of Congress on Monday, February 25. Our goals are to bring medical cannabis into the mainstream political conversation in the nation’s capitol and to send an army of motivated and empowered activists back home to work at the local and state level. The courts may not be ready to acknowledge that cannabis is medicine – but we are going to be sure Congress and the Obama Administration get the message. Do not miss your chance to be a part of it. Register for the conference today!

    ASA’s national conference is sponsored by the International Association of Cannabinoid Medicines, Patients Out of Time, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, the American Herbal Products Association, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Scholarships are made possible by a generous matching funds contribution from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

    See you in Washington, DC!
  • ASA's Year in Review 2012

    This is the time of year when I take some time to reflect over the past twelve months and prepare myself for the opportunities that lay ahead in the New Year.

    2012 was bittersweet. On one hand, we moved the fight for safe access to medical cannabis forward – adding two new medical cannabis states, Connecticut and Massachusetts; legislatures in a dozen states considered medical cannabis bills; current medical cannabis states tried to tackle regulation and implementation; new and influential allies joined the fight, like the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Americans Herbal Products association (AHPA); and the election brought with it new allies in the Senate and House.

    But nineteen of our brothers and sisters spent their holidays in prison, and a half a dozen more will be joining them in the next few months. Millions of patients are left without access following aggressive raids and landlord threats. US Attorneys seem to be hell bent on destroying access models built by states and cities across the country.

    Despite all this, I cannot help but to look at 2012 and see a movement of resistance and courage. As I think about 2013, I am filled with a great sense of hope. As a member of ASA, you helped us do so much this year:

    I know that, if we can pool our resources, we can change federal law. We start 2013 with a President in his second term, a more sympathetic Congress, and 106 million Americans living in states with medical cannabis laws. We are going to greet our federal elected officials in 2013 with the largest gathering of medical cannabis advocates ever seen in Washington, DC, at our Bridging the Gap Between Public and Policy Conference February 22-25.

    Also in 2013, we will hear from the courts on our rescheduling lawsuit, we will be working on new legislation in a dozen states, we will be preparing for initiatives in 2014 in Arkansas and California (to name a few), we will be working with current medical cannabis states on passing access laws and implementing new laws, and all of this while we continue to provide free legal support and other resources for patients and providers.

    Let’s play to win in 2013! Start off by joining or renewing your membership to ASA, and making plans to join us at our national conference.

    Happy New Year!

    Steph Sherer is the co-founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access.
  • Congressional Medical Cannabis Champions Win Big in Reelection & Senate Bids



    One of the least reported stories coming out of this year's Election Day results was the strong showing that medical cannabis champions had in their reelection bids this year. Even better for medical cannabis patients, 2013 will mark the first time that the public supporters of safe access will be joining United States Senate. Overall, the 40 strongest safe access champion candidates received 66.7% percent of the vote! What makes these victories more impressive is that they came in an election season when President Obama refused to come to terms with his current anti-safe access policy on medical cannabis.

    In the US House of Representatives, ASA had 37 champions running for reelection to Congress in 2013. When we refer to a Member of Congress as a "champion," this means that ASA has developed a relationship these offices and they are reliably the voices on the Hill that not only speak out, but take action on behalf of safe access, by introducing, cosponsoring, or working behind the scenes to get other reps on board. Of these champion candidates, 35 will be returning to DC! Having a strong base of support like this coming into the new conference is going to be especially important in February, when ASA and its members will descend upon the Capitol for a lobbying day following our national conference. In fact, we hope to grow our list of champions when patients and safe access activists come to the Hill to engage in citizen lobbying.

    Some of the most exciting news for safe access on Election Day came in the US Senate races. While there are a handful of current US Senators who are sympathetic to the issue of safe access, they support, grateful as we are to have it, has largely been silent. Tuesday night's result changes all of that. When the new Senate is sworn in this January, two incoming senators have publicly embraced safe access. In Wisconsin, one of ASA's strongest champions in the House, Tammy Baldwin, won her bid to become not only the first openly gay member of the Senate, but also the first senator who has cosponsored safe access federal legislation in the past. Over in Massachusetts, where the electorate gave landslide approval to the state's medical cannabis ballot measure, Question 3, voters elected Elizabeth Warren to the replace Scott Brown. Warren spoke during the campaign about her father's struggle with cancer and how she strongly feels patients in that position need access to medicine that works.

    Unfortunately, not all of the news on Election Day was so fortunate. Two of ASA's long-time champions in California lost their reelection bids. Congressman Pete Stark, one of ASA's strongest and most determined champions on the Hill was unsuccessful, losing to a fellow Democrat, thanks to California's bizarre top-two election process. Congressman Stark and his staff were extremely helpful and important this summer when ASA was working with Congresswoman Lee's office to help introduce HR 6335. Another champion fell victim to political circumstance when Howard Berman was forced to run against fellow champion incumbent Ben Sherman in a hotly contested race that was the result of redistricting. While Sherman's record has been slightly stronger than Berman's, his and Stark's voices will be sorely missed.

    Additionally, several of ASA's longtime champions will not be returning in 2013 due to retirement. Four of the greatest champions for safe access in Congressional history, Barney Frank, Ron Paul, Maurice Hinchey, and Denis Kucinich will not be returning. These four greats introduced and cosponsored much of the safe access legislation in the past decade and their incoming members have large shoes to fill. Will it's a bit soon to tell how their replacements will be, we have confidence other incoming members to Congress, such Beto O'Rourke, will help fill the void. Additionally, new leaders such as Jared Polis and Justin Amash are emerging, and other champions such as Steve Cohen and Jerrold Nadler (to name just a few) are speaking out louder and more forcefully with each Congressional session.

    President Obama may not have come reconciled his 2008 promised to end the federal war on safe access, but the 113th Congress may perhaps turn out to be the federal agent of change for medical cannabis patients. If that is going to happen, we need citizen lobbyists to be speaking with their members of Congress to make safe access to medical cannabis a top priority in 2013.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.
  • Medical Marijuana Advocates Take Fight to DC

    As the Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, it’s my privilege to meet and facilitate the work of medical cannabis advocates throughout the nation. In the week before yesterday’s election, I drove all over Arkansas, visiting counties to drop off signs and connect with activists. This is an amazing movement, made up of compassionate people and patients willing to fight for their health. Last night we learned of many victories for patients who can be helped by cannabis, at both the state and federal levels. Most directly, the voters of Massachusetts overwhelmingly supported a compassionate use law, bringing the total number of medical marijuana states to 18 (plus the District of Columbia)! The results for Congress were especially positive for our movement. 95% of our Congressional champions who ran were reelected. Patients and their supporters are excited to welcome medical cannabis supporters Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin to the Senate. Fresh faces in the House and Senate mean that new champions of the cause can emerge, and Americans for Safe Access and other organizations will be working hard to provide Congressmen and women with plenty of opportunities to stand up for patients. The lead-up to last night’s results was an exciting campaign season for medical marijuana patients and advocates. In response to President Obama’s crackdown on medical marijuana states, we organized voters throughout the nation with Camp WakeUpObama, bringing our message to Obama campaign headquarters and events in nationwide and local actions. In October, the Appeals Court heard our lawsuit challenging the federal government’s policy of marijuana as “without accepted medical use,” and the forthcoming court decision may set the agenda in the coming year. We’ve further deepened our relationships with the scientific and medical community. Superstring theorist Dr. John Schwarz wrote an op-ed in favor of treating the science of marijuana fairly, and medical associations have been increasingly outspoken in opposing laws against medical marijuana, with the California Medical Association recently calling on Governor Jerry Brown to support rescheduling the drug to make it more available. We now have a second term of the Obama Administration, led by a President that has publicly expressed support for state medical marijuana laws, yet overseen an unprecedented federal attack on them. We have new state legislators who will join the nation-wide conversation happening in state capitals from coast to coast. We have new Senators and Congressman who are empowered to end the federal state divide. And an additional state now recognizes the medical need for cannabis. Though the voters of Arkansas did not pass a medical marijuana initiative, organizers in the state are fired up and ready to take the issue up with their legislature. This movement is ready for the second Obama administration. We are ready for a House with an unchanged partisan dynamic, but many new faces, Republican and Democratic, who support medical cannabis. We are ready for a Senate that includes supporters of our cause. Because of these victories, Americans for Safe Access will start the new year with a strong focus on the federal government. In February, medical cannabis advocates, researchers, doctors and legal professionals will come to together to work to end the federal-state divide over cannabis access. Our National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference will bring the fight for access from the statehouses to the Capitol. The lawmakers elected yesterday will be the ones we will meet with, and we are eager to begin the dialogue. See you in February! Steph Sherer is the Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. This was originally posted at the Huffington Post.
  • A Plaintiff Speaks: Why I'm Suing for Safe Access

    I am a disabled United States Air Force veteran who is one of the plaintiffs suing over the placement of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, in the ASA v DEA case which will be heard by the United States Court of Appeal for the DC Circuit on October 16th. In order to understand why I would be willing to put my name on the line in this lawsuit over the schedule number of cannabis it is first important to review a little bit of history.

    Most people know that marihuana (spelled just that way) was the subject of a national law called the Marihuana Tax Act but less known is the fact that this law was based upon the Machine Gun Tax Act. It was legal trickery at best, as the whole point of the new law was to prohibit the sale and possession without the bother of a Constitutional Amendment as was done with alcohol prohibition.

    I think the chief drug bureaucrat at the time, Harry Anslinger, knew full well that the Marijuana Tax Act was on shaky Constitutional ground as he made it his life's work to sure up the law. In the 1960¹s he succeeded with the Single Convention treaty and thereby sought a back door Constitutional authority for his prohibition because it is written in our Constitution that treaties, once ratified, become “the supreme law of the land.”

    The United States Supreme Court wasn¹t impressed with Mr. Anslinger¹s efforts. however, and in 1969 they sided with Dr. Timothy Leary and ruled the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. This opened the door for Congress to create a new federal law on marihuana using the Interstate Commerce Clause to define their jurisdiction and the new treaty system as part of its basic constitutional authority.

    The new federal law, the Controlled Substances Act, is a basically good law that allows for fairly seamless control of and access to thousands of medicinal substances, but unfortunately the arbitrary inclusion of marihuana in the most restrictive category - Schedule I - makes this good law as bad at the Marihuana Tax Act in practice.

    Every day the federal government maintains marihuana's Schedule I status, the more damage it causes to our system of government. It is no surprise that this Schedule I placement of marihuana is now causing a serious rift between many states and the federal government that to an outside observer appears to be an extraordinary conflict, even a constitutional crisis.

    The definition of cannabis as Schedule I has caused my fellow patients to be imprisoned, denied work, housing, right to own a firearm, a place on a transplant list, and of greatest concern to me, is the latest casualty of the drug war, my VA doctor. My Veterans Affairs Medical Center doctor is now prohibited from recommending cannabis to me and instead the VA has explicitly relegated their sovereign power to the state to handle all aspects of a veteran¹s medical treatment with cannabis. Since the recommendation of cannabis has been shown by court cases in the 9th Circuit to be a free speech activity crucial to the doctor patient relationship it is now apparent that the VA can not effectively operate while this conflict between state and federal law exists.

    That is why I am very proud to put my name on this effort to right a wrong and acknowledge that cannabis does in fact have accepted medical use in the United States.

    Michael Krawitz is a plaintiff in the case ASA v DEA.
  • Cannabis News Around the Nation

    Two weeks of medical cannabis news in review.
    • Congresswoman Introduces Bill to Protect Landlords of Compliant Medical Marijuana Businesses - ASA PR
    • Michigan court rules localities cannot use federal law as an excuse for violating state laws protecting medical cannabis patients - The Detroit News
    • Case on Benefits of Marijuana Heads to Court - Huffington Post
    • LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl comes out at as a medical cannabis patient - LA Times
    • Detailed Rules for Medical Marijuana Proposed in Maine - Kennebec Journal
    • Pharmacy Shutdown Hoax Revealed - San Diego ASA
    • Medical Marijuana Advocates Mourn Pot Club Closures with Mock Funeral - SF Weekly
    • Arizona prosecutors urge Governor Jan Brewer to end the medical marijuana program, citing threats from federal prosecutors. The Governor declined to intervene - Arizona Republic
    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director.
  • National News in Review

    A week of national news about medical cannabis, in review. If you live in Northern California, be part of making the news by protesting Obama's crackdown on state-legal dispensaries when he visits Oakland on Monday.
    • Federal Judge Orders Defendant to Stop Taking Marinol - Toke of the Town
    • University of Saskatchewan researchers have discovered the chemical pathway that Cannabis sativa uses to create bioactive compounds called cannabinoids - Phys.org
    • Obama’s Pot Problem - Salon.com
    • Most Active Constitutional Cannabis Lawyer - East Bay Express
    • Truth In Trials Act, Medical Marijuana Protection Bill, Proposed By Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers - The Huffington Post
    • One in eight with fibromyalgia uses cannabis as medicine - Reuters
    • Obama's Attorney Has Come Unhinged: Melinda Haag's Crusade Against Medical Pot Jeopardizes California's Safety - Steph Sherer in the Huffington Post
  • DEA’s Leonhart says “We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction,” but what about medical marijuana?



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Administrator Michele Leonhart has created quite a controversy with her comments on medical marijuana made last Wednesday during a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) House oversight hearing. From her bumbling response to Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on the issue of addiction and comparing medical marijuana to the harmful effects of other Schedule I substances like heroin or methamphetamine, to her commonsense response to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on leaving the question of medical marijuana treatment, “between [a patient] and his doctor,” Leonhart illustrated her illogical approach to medical marijuana as a public health issue.

    Notably, toward the end of Rep. Polis’s examination, he asked Leonhart if she was “willing to look at the use of medical marijuana as a way of reducing abuse of prescription drugs,” given that reducing prescription drug abuse is the DEA’s top priority. Leonhart candidly responded:
    We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction.

    Well, Administrator Leonhart, you’re in luck. There is indeed evidence that shows patients using medical marijuana to reduce or eliminate their addictive and often-harmful pharmaceutical drug regimen.

    Just this month, eminent medical marijuana researcher Philippe Lucas, M.A. published an article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs called, “Cannabis as an Adjunct to or Substitute for Opiates in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” According to Lucas, “Evidence is growing that cannabis [medical marijuana] can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, presenting a safe and viable alternative or adjunct to pharmaceutical opiates.”

    As if directly addressing Leonhart’s statement to Rep. Polis, and her concern over prioritizing prescription drug addiction, Lucas notes that:
    Addiction to pharmaceutical opiates has been noted by the medical community as one of the common side-effects of extended use by patients (such as those suffering from chronic pain), and a growing body of research suggests that some of the biological actions of cannabis and cannabinoids may be useful in reducing this dependence.

    Lucas further argues that, “[R]esearch on substitution effect suggests that cannabis may be effective in reducing the use and dependence of other substances of abuse such as illicit opiates, stimulants and alcohol.”
    As such, there is reason to believe that a strategy aiming to maximize the therapeutic potential benefits of both cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids by expanding their availability and use could potentially lead to a reduction in the prescription use of opiates, as well as other potentially dangerous pharmaceutical analgesics, licit and illicit substances, and thus a reduction in associated harms.

    Another article on the effects of medical marijuana “substitution” was published in December 2009 by the Harm Reduction Journal. Researcher Amanda Reiman MSW, PhD notes that medical marijuana patients have long been engaging in substitution by using it as an alternative to alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. In a study Reiman conducted with 350 medical marijuana patients, she found that 40 percent reported using medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, twenty-six percent reported using it as a substitute for illicit drugs, and nearly 66 percent use it as a substitute for prescription drugs.
    [S]ixty five percent reported using cannabis as a substitute because it has less adverse side effects than alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, 34% use it as a substitute because it has less withdrawal potential…57.4% use it as a substitute because cannabis provides better symptom management.

    If Leonhart is serious about combating prescription drug abuse, she should heed the conclusions of researchers like Lucas and Reiman and pay attention to the evidence. Answers to two important public health concerns -- medical marijuana and prescription drug abuse -- lie at her feet waiting to be addressed.
  • Another Signal to Washington - Opposing Safe Access is a Losing Strategy

    Voters in El Paso, TX sent a strong message to Washington yesterday by electing safe access supporter Beto O'Rourke as the Democratic nominee to the state's 16th District Congressional seat by a substantial 6-point margin - ousting an eight-term, anti-cannabis incumbent. This result should put both Congress and the White House on notice: supporting safe access = win; belittling cannabis support = defeat.

    O'Rourke's opponent, Silvestre Reyes, provided a clear contrast on safe access. Backed by both President Obama and former President Clinton, Reyes denounced the very idea of reform as something beneath the intellect of a child. Not only did Reyes grossly misjudge his constituency, he apparently insulted them (or more accurately, O'Rourke's message inspired them) such that voter turnout was nearly 50% higher than in 2010.

    Opposing Safe Access is Bad Politics

    While safe access may once have been a so-called "3rd rail" issue, that is no longer the case in many parts of the country, a trend is only going to continue to grow. Last week, Oregonians chose safe access supporter Ellen Rosenblum over former US Attorney and warrior against safe access, Dwight Holton. In 2010, ASA made news by leading the charge in the successful defeat of medical cannabis hater Steve Cooley with our "Not Cooley" campaign. In fact, President Obama himself ran as a supporter of safe access during the 2008 race, and was elected to the highest office in the land! Still a 3rd rail issue? Only if you have a time machine or a have no backbone.

    Supporting Safe Access is Wise Even in Key Battleground States

    Why is campaigning against safe access bad campaign strategy, particular for Obama in 2012? Take Ohio for example, quite possibly the most important battleground state in any recent presidential election. In 2009 (the most recent state poll available), medical cannabis polled very favorably, with 72% of registered voters supporting safe access. While seniors were least likely to favor safe access, nearly two-thirds (64%) were in favor of medical cannabis access.

    With poll numbers like that, and a growing track record of elections decided on the issue of medical marijuana, a politician would be foolish not to embrace a safe access platform.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director. If you are a resident of the El Paso area, be sure to follow Beto O'Rourke on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Congress takes historic vote against federal raids

    Wednesday night, the House voted on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-McClintock-Farr amendment, to end the federal crackdown on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. While the amendment failed, it received more votes than a similar bill in 2007 (when Democrats controlled the House). Thank you so much for reaching out to your representatives to support safe access. In less than a week, we generated thousands of phone calls, emails, and tweets urging Congress to adopt the bill. We came close because your voices were heard loud and clear. Make no mistake about it - this vote was a great victory for our movement. 73% of Democrats voted to end President Obama’s policy of cracking down on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. 12% of Republicans voted for this bipartisan amendment to the Justice appropriations bill, a significant increase from 2007 - even as pundits say the House has grown more conservative. Your voice counted for so much in the run up to the vote - and it will continue to make a difference. Please take a minute to let your Congressional Representative know how you feel about their vote, yea or nay, using our Online Action Center. Watch your Congressman speak safe access It was an amazing debate. A bipartisan, coast-to-coast group of nine representatives spoke strongly in favor of the amendment, and only one, Frank Wolf (R-VA), spoke against it. You are probably not as much of a C-SPAN junkie as I am, but I want to share with you five great speeches which show what this amendment was all about: protecting safe access to medical cannabis for vulnerable patients. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, spoke of his experience as an Assistant US Attorney, and how scarce resources force federal law enforcement to choose between prosecuting medical cannabis dispensaries or large-scale international drug traffickers. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, spoke for states’ rights and the needs of patients. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, spoke about the crackdowns in her district, including the recent closing of Berkeley Patients Group. Co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) quoted ASA, saying that there have been 170 raids, and praising the therapeutic value of cannabis. And co-sponsor Sam Farr (D-CA), points out that the Republican-controlled House favors states' rights on all issues - except compassionate use. Thanks again for your support, and you can look forward to more state and federal legislation for safe access in the coming months. Don't forget to thank your Representative!