Pages tagged "Medical Cannabis"

  • Democratic Party grassroots break with Obama on cannabis

    In a sign that the Obama Administration’s tough line on state medical cannabis laws is out of touch with his grassroots support, local Democratic Party organizations are formally endorsing medical marijuana laws - and even legalization.

    The North Carolina Democratic Party is formally in support of a compassionate use law in this key swing state. At the state’s June 16th convention, party officials adopted a resolution (PDF) titled, In Support of Legalizing Medical Marijuana in North Carolina. The state party also adopted a resolution in favor of industrial hemp growing.

    In California, the Democratic Central Committees of San Francisco and Alameda Counties, whose combined population is over two million, passed resolutions condemning federal government raids on local dispensaries. In addition to these statements from Democratic organizations in favor of medical cannabis, the Texas, Colorado, and Washington State Democratic Parties have adopted marijuana decriminalization or legalization resolutions.

    With the American electorate almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, President Obama needs the full support of Democratics to win reelection. Will grassroots opposition to the administration policy toward medical cannabis split the party? As national Democrats prepare to convene in September, we will watch for new developments.

    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Coordinator, as well as an officer of his local Democratic Club.
  • New Hampshire native: Allow compassionate use in the Granite State

    Note from Steph - this is an open letter to the New Hampshire legislature urging them to overturn Governor Lynch's veto of a compassionate use bill.

    Dear Senators,

    Experience is something legislators rely on when making important decisions. Please consider my significant medical experience with Crohn’s disease, cancer and Social Security disability when voting on to overturn Governor Lynch’s veto of SB 409, the medical marijuana bill.

    I am a New Hampshire native, born in 1948 in Whitefield, where I had many fond memories growing up. During the summer of my junior year of high school in 1964, we moved to northern Massachusetts. Within months of moving to Massachusetts, I became an alcoholic at age 16. I was kicked off the basketball team during my senior year in my new town, for drinking. Arrests for “minor in possession, fighting, siphoning gas”, etc. followed.So, at the encouragement of my parents, I joined the Navy, where I scored well on exams and was assigned to an Admiral’s staff in Oakland. I kept an apartment in San Francisco and continued to drink.

    It was on a Navy base in 1967 when I first experienced marijuana, but mostly I drank and used the methamphetamine capsules that the corpsmen passed out to us in large bottles, if we requested it. Amongst those three, marijuana always seemed the least destructive, but I preferred booze. By the time I was thirty five in 1985; I finally surrendered to the disease and entered an alcohol treatment program in San Diego. Thankfully, it worked; I haven’t had a drink or drug to for non-medical use since 1985.

    Experiences - disease, tradition medicine, and medical marijuana

    In 1996, I moved to Santa Fe, NM, where I soon had another disease to contend with, Crohn’s. I was stricken with a vicious attack on my body which continued for the next ten years. Hideous side effects were common, including a perianal fistula and five skin cancer surgeries, including a stage two melanoma. The VA hospital assembled a tumor board of five specialists and operated on my face quickly - I am so grateful the care I received.

    Most of my doctors agree with me (at least off-record) that the melanoma was likely because my immune system was so compromised from the years of drugs, drugs that were designed to suppress it. My Crohn’s reached a level that I was visiting my toilet about thirty times a day/night, for about a year - approximately 10,950 bowel experiences in a year. For the second time since 1999, I had lost 50 -60 pounds in a matter of weeks.

    In 2005, I closed my business in Santa Fe and moved 150 miles north to Pagosa Springs, CO, trying to continue my RE career. My savings were becoming depleted and I couldn’t work effectively. I had to apply for Social Security Disability in 2008 – after dealing with a severe case of Crohn’s (four surgeries) since 1999 – it was quickly granted. Again, I am grateful for the care I received.

    Even if Recovering from Alcoholism, Medical Cannabis is Good Medicine

    I had lived (and suffered) in Colorado for three and a half years before I heard of the medical marijuana law. Nothing else had helped, but I was leery of trying it, because of my problems with addictions. AA teaches that any mind altering substance can trigger those addictive impulses. Nevertheless, I was desperate. I called a doctor and he was willing to sign for me to get a medical marijuana card.

    At that time the only source I knew of for the medicine was a shadowy guy in Durango, literally in an alleyway apartment. I put on my Depends and drove over there –scared of the police and what might happen to my 23 years of continuous sobriety. Medical marijuana was supposed to be legal, but it sure didn’t feel like it to me back then before Colorado dispensaries became actual stores instead of alleyways.

    I went home and medicated. The vapors immediately started to open some of the blockages in my intestinal tract and I knew there was some hope, for the first time in 11 years. The VA recommended removing my colon and rectum, leaving a pouch, just months earlier - I’m certainly glad that I didn’t allow it. Within three months I was able to wean myself off of prescription drugs and I knew that I was going to reclaim my life from this disease.

    My VA doctors were initially skeptical about my new therapy, but they had no better suggestions – now they are pleased that I’m no longer dying a slow death, at taxpayer expense.

    Sick Patients Need an Override, not Another Excuse

    You have a huge decision before you and I implore you, please don’t deprive sick people of the opportunity that I had. Instead, please focus on the documented facts of people who have been healed, or helped in seventeen states and DC. If you, as Senators, accept it as a medicine, then you have to allow accessibility. Please don’t tease a dying person and not deliver a reality for them, we are so close to bringing relief to those who need it. Please vote to overturn Governorn Lynch’s veto of SB 409.

    I come from a large blended Irish family (eight kids) of mostly conservative, successful people – but they are sure glad that I’m not dying anymore. Please consider us, when voting.

    Yearning to return to the state of my birth - to live free, not die.

    Bill Delany

    Bill Delany is the owner of Good Earth Meds, a dispensary in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
  • 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.
  • Cannabis News Round Up

    News and views from around the world that may be of interest to ASA's members and supporters.
  • 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
  • Labor stands up for safe access in LA

    Organized labor spoke up on behalf of medical cannabis patients and workers in Los Angeles today. One hundred medical cannabis patients, workers, and advocates gathered on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall for a press conference hosted by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770, which represents workers at more than twenty of the most reputable patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. UFCW Local 770 called the press conference to oppose a motion by City Council Members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander calling for an outright ban on patients’ associations. The motion will be before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow, and may be before the full City Council within days.

    The Huizar-Englander motion is known by the euphemism “the gentle ban,” because the Author and the City Attorney claim the ordinance created by this motion would “allow” patients to grow their own medicine at home, but ban all other access in the city. But the right of patients and primary caregivers to grow medicine is already guaranteed under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420). The “gentle ban” takes away real access for most patients, but gives nothing in return. “There is nothing gentle about the gentle ban,” said UFCW Local 770 Director of Organizing Rigo Valdez.

    The City Council has another option. A competing motion by Council Member Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson would allow for a limited number of patients cooperatives and collectives in the city, provided they comply with as yet undetermined provisions. That motion is designed to settle numerous lawsuits and comply with the Appellate Court decision in Pack v. Long Beach, which if upheld, may bar the city from some kinds of regulation. Unfortunately, the Koretz-Wesson “limited immunity” motion is being ignored by committee members and city staff.

    The voice of organized labor is a welcome addition to the long and controversial debate about medical cannabis in Los Angeles. UFCW Local 770 is using its influence and experience to help to push the City Council away from the cynical “gentle ban” and towards an option that will preserve real access to medicine and good union jobs in Los Angeles. Patients and workers in Los Angeles hope lawmakers heard the voice of labor today, and will listen tomorrow at the Public Safety Committee hearing.