Pages tagged "Medical Cannabis"

  • Voters in Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana to Decide on Safe Access



    On Election Day this year, voters may bring about the 18th and 19th medical cannabis states and preserve safe access in an existing medical cannabis state. Arkansas' Issue 5 and Massachusetts's' Question 3 would bring about a regulated medical cannabis system to each state. By contrast, voters in Montana are voting on whether to largely restore the original medical cannabis program approved by ballot measure approved by state voters back in 2004. This year's Montana referendum, IR-124 will determine whether or not the sharp restrictions on access approved by SB 423 (2011) will be upheld.

    Below is a brief rundown of each of the 2012 statewide medical cannabis ballot measures.

    Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, "Issue 5"

    A "YES" vote will bring safe access to Arkansas. The AMMA was organized by Arkansans for Compassionate Care and would establish a system of up to 30 non-profit dispensaries throughout the state. Patients and their caregivers who get a recommendation from their doctor with whom they have a bonafide physician-patient relationship and then obtain a registration card from state Department of Health will be protected from arrest if they meet stay within the scope of law. Eligible conditions include: Cancer, Glaucoma, positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Hepatitis C, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Tourette’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Fibromyalgia, agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease or the treatment of chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or Wasting Syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than 6 months; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of Epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of Multiple Sclerosis. Patients who live more than 5 miles away from a dispensary have the option to cultivate their own cannabis.

    If passed, the AMMA will allow patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable medical cannabis, or it's equivalent in other prepared forms, such as edibles, tinctures and topicals. Patients and caregivers can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical within a 15-day period Stems, seeds, and non-cannabis ingredients in preparations do not count to the weight under this law. Dispensaries must operate in strict accordance with state regulation. Patients who live more than 5 miles from a dispensary may choose to cultivate their own medicine if they apply for designated status from the state. For those with designated cultivation statues, they may be in possession of up to 6 flowering cannabis plants, however, they are still subject to the limit of 2.5 ounces of usable medicine in their possession at any given time. Visiting patients who have legal status as a patient in their home state would be granted reciprocity for 30 days while visiting Arkansas.

    The AMMA contains provisions that prevent discrimination by employers, landlords, schools, as well protections for those on an organ transplant list. Physicians are also protected by the law and may be not be punished criminally or face professional sanction simply for recommending medical cannabis to their patients when appropriate. Physicians may recommend medical cannabis to patients under 18 years of age when their parent or legal guardian has been given informed consent and agrees to be their caregiver.

    Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, "Question 3"

    A "YES" vote will bring safe access to Massachusetts. Question 3 would allow qualifying patients and caregivers in Massachusetts who possess a valid state registration card to be protected from arrest if they are in possession of no more than 60-day supply of medicine. While a "60-day supply" is not determined by the law, the state Department of Public Health would be required to determine what a presumptive 60-day supply is within 4 months of passage of the initiative, however, patients who have a medical need for a greater 60-day supply than what the state declares for the presumptive minimum may possess whatever is medically necessary and is supported by evidence. While several conditions are specifically mentioned by the ballot language, the law would also permit for "other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician," meaning doctors, not bureaucrats, will decide when cannabis is most appropriate for medical therapy.

    The measure would allow up 35 non-profit dispensaries in the state, with a minimum of 1 per county, and a max of 5 per county. Patients who can demonstrate hardship need, such as financial, physical incapacity, or lack of reasonable proximity to a dispensary may apply for the right to cultivate cannabis at their own residence.

    If a patient or caregiver engages in fraud by using their medical cannabis registration card, they are subject to a $500 fine and up to 6 months in a house of correction. However, if misuse of a card includes illegal distribution, it can carry a 5-year prison sentence.

    Montana Medical Marijuana Veto Referendum, "IR-124"

    This situation in Montana is a bit confusing, as a "NO" vote on IR-124 will help restore the greatest level of safe access in Montana. A "NO" vote on this statewide referendum would repeal SB 423 (2011), which stripped away I-148, the 2004 voter approved medical cannabis law which permitted dispensaries. Patients for Reform, Not Repeal are encouraging patients to vote "NO" on IR-124.

    Until recently, a court injunction upheld the 2004 voter approved law, however, since the September 11th state supreme court ruling, the state has begun to enforce certain aspect of SB 423. Most notably, the state has begun to sending letters to caregivers informing them that they may only cultivate medicine for 3 patients. Another damaging aspect of SB 423 is its heighten requirements for patients suffering from chronic pain, as they must jump through several additional and burdensome hoops to acquire and maintain legal status as medical cannabis patient. Moreover, the dispensary system is effectively shut down by SB 423, as no medical cannabis can be exhanged for anything of value. As if that weren't bad enough, SB 423 could result in a chilling effect for doctors who are willing to recommend medical cannabis, as they now are subject to investigation should they recommend cannabis to more than 25 of their patients.

    The two major gubernatorial candidates have weighed in on the IR-124 question. It has been reported that current Attorney General Steve Bullock will vote against IR-124 while his Republican challenger, Rick Hill plans to vote in favor of IR-124.

    In order to restore safe access in Montana, patients and their loved ones must remember that a "NO" vote is necessary on IR-124.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.
  • A big win for ASA in San Diego

    California’s 4th District Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of San Diego medical cannabis provider Jovan Jackson today. The decision in People v. Jackson recognizes the right of medical cannabis dispensaries to exist and provide medicine to patient-members.  The decision further clarifies that members can participate in the association though financial contributions (sales) alone. This is an important milestone, because until now, some law enforcement and law makers all have refused to acknowledge that patients can organize cooperative and collective associations that sell medical marijuana. Today’s decision may have far-reaching implications for local and state implementation and regulation of medical marijuana.



    Jovan Jackson was first arrested for providing medical cannabis in the City of San Diego in 2008. He was prosecuted for cannabis possession and sales and acquitted by the jury. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a steadfast opponent of medical cannabis, retried him on the same charges in 2009. In that case, Superior Court Judge Howard Shore denied Mr. Jackson the right to use California’s medical cannabis laws as a defense in court. Judge Shore referred to medical cannabis as “dope” and called state medical cannabis laws a “sham” during the trial.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took Mr. Jackson’s appeal last year, because we knew this case was important for the future of safe access in California. Medical cannabis opponents have argued steadfastly that every member of a patients’ association must physically participate in the cultivation of plants and that no member can buy medicine. ASA disagreed, and this was just the case to settle the issue. Relying heavily on People v. Colvin, a prior appellate decision in the California’s 2nd District, the court ruled that
    "Jackson was only required to produce evidence which would create a reasonable doubt as to whether the defense provided by the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] had been established… the collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization. Thus, contrary to the trial court's ruling, the large membership of Jackson's collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense."

    The California Attorney General may decide to appeal the Jackson decision, and ASA will be ready to fight this case all the way to the state Supreme Court. Regardless of what comes next in court, patients should hope lawmakers are listening to court today. California votes called on state officials to “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana” when they approved Proposition 215 in 1996. State lawmakers tried to further clarify the issue when the adopted the Medical Marijuana Program Act in 2003. That bill explicitly allowed collective and cooperative associations and provided for reimbursements for medicine.  It is past time for prosecutors like Ms. Dumanis, local law makers, and state representatives to stop stall and start regulating.
  • Honoring Medical Cannabis Warriors

    [caption id="attachment_3287" align="aligncenter" width="270"]
    ASA v DEA plaintiffs (l-r) Michael Krawitz, Bill Britt, and Cathy Jordan receive the Courage Award from ASA.[/caption]

    On Tuesday evening, October 16th, Americans for Safe Access celebrated our 10th anniversary - and patients' day in court - with an awards dinner honoring the brave warriors for medical cannabis access who have fought for all patients.

    Executive Director Steph Sherer introduced the courageous champions, saying:
    I am honored to share this evening with all of you. Over the years, ASA has been blessed with a truly dynamic staff, dedicated volunteers, and courageous members. I am truly grateful to have been fighting this fight alongside all of you. I would especially like to thank our awardees. Dan Rush, who is accepting the Movement Building Award on behalf of UFCW and Michael McGuffin, who is accepting the Patient Partnership Award on behalf of the American Herbal Products Association, have been instrumental in cultivating exciting new partnerships which I truly believe are the future of the medical cannabis movement. Presented with the Spirit Award is Jon Gettman, and presented with our Courage Awards are the plaintiffs in ASA vs DEA Mary Lynn Mathre, Al Byrne, Bill Britt, Catherine Jordan, Michael Krawitz, and Rick Steed. Each one of these individuals has served as an inspiration for the work that is done every day as well as to me personally.

    The biographies of the plaintiffs, who were given our Courage Award, can be found here. The other awardees are:

    Spirit Award: Jon B. Gettman is a marijuana reform activist, a leader of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, and a former head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He has a PhD in public policy and regional economic development from George Mason University and is a longtime contributor to High Times magazine. Gettman filed a petition in 1995 to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act that was eventually denied. A second petition was filed in 2002, with the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, that remains under review by the Department of Health and Human Services. Gettman frequently publishes on the marijuana industry and teaches public administration at Shepherd University in West Virginia.

    Patient Partnership Award: Michael McGuffin is a leading expert on dietary supplement regulation. He has been published in scholarly and scientific journals, including the Food and Drug Law Journal and Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, and also wrote the highly-lauded publication AHPA's Annotated Final Rule on Dietary Supplement cGMP (2007). Additionally, Mr. McGuffin served as Managing Editor of AHPA's Botanical Safety Handbook (1997) and Herbs of Commerce, 2nd edition (2000). He speaks frequently on dietary supplement regulation in the U.S. and abroad. Michael McGuffin was honored in 2010 for over 20 years of dedicated service, having served as the President of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) since 1999 and a member of the Board of Trustee's for 10 years prior. Mr. McGuffin has represented the herbal industry at state and federal hearings on herbal regulatory issues. He has served as a member of the FDA's Food Advisory Committee Working Group on Good Manufacturing Practices for Dietary Supplements (1998-99), the FDA's Food Advisory Committee's Dietary Supplements Subcommittee (2003-5) and currently serves on California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Analysis Food Warning Workgroup and the Advisory Board of the USC School of Pharmacy Regulatory Science Master's Degree Program. He also serves on the boards of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and United Plant Savers.

    Movement Building Award: Dan Rush is the National Director for the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). UFCW is North America's Neighborhood Union with 1.3 million members standing together to improve the lives and livelihoods of workers, families, and communities. Mr. Rush is a medical cannabis industry pioneer and authority. He is the spokesperson for the Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana and the board secretary of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR). In 2010 he established UFCW5's Cannabis Division and organized the very first union members in the medical cannabis industry."UFCW is the union of retail, food processing and agricultural workers, and the medical cannabis industry is a retail, food pro- cessing and agricultural industry", says Mr. Rush. "Our union is bringing dignity, legitimacy, stability, standards and strength to both workers and employers. We advocate for a regu- lated industry that creates good jobs and significant tax revenue for our communities." Dan is a native of Oakland California. He is a Central Committee Delegate of the California Democratic Party and an expert on statewide ballot initiatives. He coordinates an annual National Labor-Community Awards in San Francisco, which is the largest event of its kind in the United States.

    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director.
  • DC Circuit Orders Supplemental Briefing in Landmark Federal Medical Marijuana Case



     

     

     

     

     

     

    Just hours after the U.S. Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in the federal landmark case Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, the court ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of “standing.” In a rare move for a case that has been covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, and others, the request for additional briefing indicates that the court is taking the issue of medical marijuana very seriously.

    Yesterday’s order asks the petitioners to provide the court with details about how plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a U.S. Air Force veteran, sustained harm as a result of the federal government’s refusal to recognize the therapeutic value of marijuana. During yesterday’s oral arguments, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Chief Counsel Joe Elford argued that Krawitz had been denied medical services and treatment from Veterans Administration physicians because of his status as a medical marijuana patient.

    Specifically, the court ordered ASA to file a brief not to exceed five pages in order to “clarify and amplify the assertions made [by] Michael Krawitz regarding his individual standing,” and “more fully explain precisely the nature of the injury that gives him standing.” The brief is due by Monday.

    If ASA can reasonably show that Krawitz has been harmed by a federal policy that holds marijuana has no medical value, the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group may also get the court to rule on the merits of the case -- whether the scientific evidence of medical efficacy is ample enough to reclassify marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance.

    We remain hopeful that the science on medical marijuana will prevail over politics in order to overcome the decades-long effort by the federal government to keep marijuana out of the reach of millions of Americans who would benefit from its use.
  • Appeals Court hears case on medical value of marijuana

    This morning, the federal Appeals Court for the DC Circuit heard an appeal in the case called Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is an appeal of the DEA's rejection of a petition filed in 2002 seeking to change the placement of marijuana as a Schedule I drug per the Controlled Substances Act. Based on the scientific evidence, ASA and our fellow plaintiffs feel that it is simply untrue that cannabis is a drug with a "high potential for abuse" and "without accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." The hearing today offered a glimpse at the Court's approach to this topic.

    In front of a packed courtroom in Washington, the three-judge panel questioned ASA's Chief Counsel Joe Elford and a federal lawyer about the merits of the scientific case, and the crucial legal issue of "standing." Standing is a legal concept that restricts the right to sue to injured parties - people who are directly hurt by what they are fighting, and can get relief from a legal judgement. The issue of standing has been the reason why two prior appeals of the DEA's classification of marijuana were rejected. In the past, patients have not been part of lawsuits against the Controlled Substances Act. The three judges were Merrick Garland, Karen Henderson, and Harry Edwards.

    ASA's Chief Counsel Joe Elford opened his appeal by arguing that the federal "Department of Health and Human Services plays a game of gotcha" by tightly controlling research access to cannabis and then claiming that there is not enough compelling research to justify reconsidering it as Schedule I. The Drug Enforcement Administration erred by determing that cannabis has a high potential for abuse when its findings determine its abuse and harm potential is less than other substances in less-controlled schedules, such as cocaine.

    Elford opened his arguments with the issue of standing. He pointed to the affidavit of plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a veteran denied access to Veterans Administration services because of his medically necessary use of marijuana. The Veterans Administrastion's harmful policy is based on marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance. He also spoke of the many members of Americans for Safe Access, who are fearful of the consequences of cultivating their own cannabis for their medical needs, and that a medical necessity defense in court could be allowed if marijuana were not in Schedule I.

    Elford then turned to the issue of the merits of the DEA's position on marijuana's medical value, to prove their position was "arbitrary and capricious" and therefore impermissible. The contention that there is not a complete consensus was argued to be an unreasonable interpretation of the regulatory standard, and that many of HHS's standards are inapplicable to an organic substance. Significantly, the lack of access to marijuana for medical research is a consequence of the scheduling, yet the lack of suitable research is cited by the DEA as a reason for maintaining the schedule. Despite this lack of research access, ASA cited a growing body of high-quality scientific and medical research into the benefits of marijuana.

    Judge Garland asked Elford if he was arguing that marijuana in fact meets HHS's standard for studies. ASA's counsel cited over 200 studies and argued that a circular standard is impossible to meet. He also said that, given that the schedule is relative, the DEA is ignoring even its own studies showing that marijuana has merely a "mild" potential for abuse.

    Joe Elford concluded by arguing that Schedule I was an inappropriate classification of marijuana and it caused harm to patients and prevented meaningful medical research. Rescheduling marijuana would allow for a reasonable policy solution for suffering patients and uphold the intent of the Controlled Substances Act.

    Judge Edwards asked about the standing of Mr. Krawitz, and his access to medical marijuana. The judges asked about access in medical states and noted that marijuana would not be legal just because it were rescheduled.

    Federal counsel Lena Watkins then presented her position against appealing the DEA's decision to continue cannabis in Schedule I. She noted that state legislatures or popular votes do not determine accepted medical use. She said that research is inadequate and has not progressed, and argued that the government does provide access for research.  Turning to the abuse potential, Watkins said, "marijuana is the most widely abused drug in America," and dependency is a factor in making that assessment.

    The judges questioned the level of access provided for research, and Watkins said that fifteen studies of a specific federal "quality" metric have been allowed. Pressed to explain why these studies haven't persuaded the DEA that marijuana has medical benefits, she said, "we don't have the final results yet." To many in the audience, the circular nature of the government's position on the science of marijuana was clear. The judges then invited Elford to give a rebuttal.

    Focusing on rebutting the government's claims about research, Elford argued that there has been adequate study and even more since this case was filed in 2002, and noted that he would like to admit additional evidence to the case. Summarizing by turning the government's "no substantial evidence" argument on its head, Elford said that both sides agree more research needs to be done and that research can only happen if marijuana is released from Schedule I. Requiring the DEA to make scientific determinations on a new schedule would lead to better policy and more relief for suffering patients.

    The patients spoke out at a well-attended press conference after the hearing, and Americans for Safe Access is proud to have given patients a day in court. Many observers felt the judges were willing to consider the argument of Michael Krawitz's direct harm from the Controlled Substances Act, and this issue of "standing" has been the Achilles heel of past lawsuits against Schedule I. However, Judge Garland asked at one point, "Don't we have to defer to the agency? We're not scientists. They are."

    We'll find out whether the judges felt the DEA's science is adequate, or if patients can sue for a medical necessity defense against harsh marijuana laws, when the judges rule. We don't expect it for a few months. This opportunity is thanks to the brave plaintiffs who took on the federal government on behalf of many others.

    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director. Recordings of any kind were not allowed in the courtroom.
  • Meet the Plaintiffs of ASA v DEA

    Tomorrow morning, the United States Court of Appeals in Washington DC will hear oral arguments in the landmark case, Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration. The case argues that the Drug Enforcement Administration acted irrationally in ruling that cannabis belongs in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The plaintiffs argue that this scheduling of marijuana has harmed them physically and financially. Below are the courageous patients and caregivers who have taken on the federal government in this important case.

    William "Bill" Britt is a 52-year-old resident of Long Beach, California, who developed polio as a child, which caused him to have scoliosis, a fused left ankle, shortened left leg, and bone degeneration in his left hip. Mr. Britt also suffers from epilepsy, depression and insomnia, and uses marijuana to treat chronic pain in his leg, back, and hip. Marijuana has reduced Mr. Britt's seizures and depression, and helps him sleep. Although Mr. Britt has taken prescription medication such as Marinol, Robaxin, Soma, and Xanax, none has proven as effective as marijuana. Read Mr. Britt's post about why he is suing for safe access.

    Al Byrne is co-founder and Secretary-Treasurer of Patients Out of Time, a national non-profit devoted to educating health care professionals and the general public about the therapeutic uses of marijuana. He works with five of the seven remaining federally supplied Cannabis patients, who are enrolled in the Compassionate Individual New Drug (IND) Program. As the son of a cancer patient who used Cannabis in 1966 to relieve the negative aspects of cancer chemotherapy, he has maintained activism in reforming Cannabis laws since that time. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) from 1989 to 1994 acting as Managing Director of the organization during 1991 and 1992 and as the National Secretary 1992 to 1994. Mr. Byrne is the United States representative of patient advocacy for the European based International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM). He sits on various Boards of Cannabis orientated organizations. He has moderated a number of debates and confer- ences about Cannabis reforms including the ongoing clinical conference series of Patients Out of Time. He is a consultant to several state representatives actively engaged in writing legislation to reform Cannabis prohibition.

    Catherine Jordan is a medical marijuana patient. When she turned 36, she was diagnosed with ALS and given 3-5 years to live. Catherine was told she would choke or drown in her own fluids or suffocate from the total collapse of her lungs and chest muscles. By 1989, the disease had devastated her body. While vacationing in Florida, Cathy tried a strain of cannabis called Myakka Gold. She went back home to Delaware and attempted to explain this to her neurologist, who immediately suggested she be institutionalized because she wasn't handling the bad news of her health well. After assuring him she would never speak of it again, he relented. Now she has seen 30 Neurologist, and been to 4 Universities. Not one doctor has suggested she stop smoking cannabis, though she has been warned that her use of cannabis would prevent her from getting a cure if one is found. In 2004, she met with doctors working on the theory that cannabis would slow the progression of ALS. While meeting with the doctors she realized she was living proof of their research. She soon contacted Gov. Jeb Bush that this issue, who said this was a federal matter that he had no control. So with the cards stacked against her, she committed herself to activism. Currently she is the president of FL CAN.

    Michael Krawitz is a 49-year-old resident of Elliston, Virginia, who suffered an automobile accident in 1984 while serving in the United States Air Force. Mr. Krawitz has been rated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as being totally and permanently disabled. Mr. Krawitz uses marijuana to treat chronic pain and trauma associated with his accident. He also uses marijuana to treat central serous retinopathy. However, because of Mr. Krawitz's medical marijuana use, he has been denied pain treatment by the VA. Read Mr. Krawitz's post about why he is suing for safe access.

    Mary Lynn Mathre received her BSN from the College of St. Teresa and began her nursing career in the US Navy Nurse Corps serving at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia and at the Naval Hospital in Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico. In 1985 she earned her MSN at Case Western Reserve University and began teaching at the University Of Virginia School Of Nursing. In 1987, she changed her specialty to addictions nursing and returned to clinical practice. She served as the charge nurse of an inpatient addictions treatment program and later as the addictions consultant for the UVA Health System. She then worked as the Executive Director of a private opioid treatment center and now works independently as an addictions consultant. Ms. Mathre's focus on medicinal cannabis began in 1985 with the completion of her graduate thesis, Disclosure of Marijuana Use to Health Care Professionals. Ms.Mathre served as the Director of NORML's Council on Marijuana & Health from 1986 - 1992 and on NORML's Board of Directors from 1988 - 94. Ms. Mathre is also a co-founder and President of Patients Out of Time. Ms. Mathre has written resolutions for several professional organizations in support of patient access to medical marijuana, including those of the Virginia Nurses Society on Addictions, the Virginia Nurses Association, the National Nurses Society on Addictions, and the American Public Health Association.

    Steph Sherer is a resident of Washington, D.C. and the founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). In April of 2000, Ms. Sherer suffered a physical attack that has caused her to suffer from a condition that produced inflammation, muscle spasms, pain throughout her body, and decreased mobility in her neck. Because of multiple pain medications she was prescribed, Ms. Sherer suffered kidney damage. After her doctor recommended medical marijuana, Ms. Sherer successfully reduced her inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. This prompted Ms. Sherer to found ASA in April of 2002 to share what she learned about the therapeutic value of marijuana and to change public policy.

    Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers by engaging a multifaceted strategy that incorporates public education, impact litigation, grassroots development and advocacy, media campaigns, and direct support services. The scheduling of cannabis as "without accepted medical use" forces ASA to spend its organizational resources fighting for patients.

    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director.
  • A Plaintiff Speaks: My Quest for Safe Access

    Shortly after California passed Prop. 215 in 1996, I asked the chief physician at my county clinic for a verbal or written recommendation to use cannabis medicinally. He told me that, while he had no problem with me using cannabis for my conditions, he was afraid to make any kind of recommendation without proper authorization and guidelines. He said as long as cannabis is a Schedule I drug, he could not prescribe it to me.

    Over the years living with epilepsy and Post-Polio Syndrome, I have been prescribed and used a myriad of over and under the counter medications for pain, seizures, inflammation, nausea (Marinol), anxiety, insomnia etc. and none of the medications I have taken are as effective, tolerable and free of side-effects (both short term and long term) as cannabis.

    After being denied by my doctor, I met with the clinic director who said the same thing as every medical professional and county/state health department representative I communicated with: "As long as cannabis is a schedule I drug, I cannot help you."

    In 2002 when I heard that ASA was going to DC to protest at the Dept. of Health and Human Services for rescheduling, I felt it was a perfect opportunity to take my quest to ease my own, and other patients' suffering, to the federal government. It was my first trip to DC, but I didn’t tour the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. I did end up touring the downtown jail facility along with 14 other patients (including ASA Director Steph Sherer), from 11 different states.

    We were arrested for blocking the entrance the HHS Building holding a 300 ft. banner with the names of 7,000 MD’s that support cannabis rescheduling. We also served notice that we wished to challenge the federal scheduling process regarding cannabis.

    Ten years later, we finally have a chance in court to challenge the government’s position that cannabis has no medical value. Being fortunate enough to live in a state that allows patients the right to use cannabis medicinally, I have experienced the benefits of using cannabis, and noted its superiority over other accepted medications. Working as a patient advocate for 15 years, I have spoke with thousands of patients who also profess its benefits.

    Recently, the federal government has stepped up efforts to close down any group or organization that tries to distribute cannabis to patients, which forces patients to purchase on the street, or go without.

    Patients in states without medical cannabis laws and states with restricted access are being forced to suffer needlessly. Cannabinoid research must be allowed to go forward. Cannabis, and the chemicals it contains, have the potential to replace many of the prescription drugs on the market today with a safer, more effective medicine.

    Recent studies prove that cannabis has the potential to be an effective medicine for many different conditions and illnesses. Doctors, nurses and patients agree that cannabis should be made available. Nearly 80% of the general U.S. population also agrees it’s time to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Red tape and preserving the status quo can no longer be an excuse to allow needless suffering and wasted resources: cannabis must be rescheduled.

    William Britt is a plaintiff in the case Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • City Council Repeals LA Ban, Now It’s Time to Regulate

    The Los Angeles City Council voted to repeal an ordinance banning medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives yesterday, clearing the way for a new ordinance to regulate hundreds of facilities in the city. The City Council adopted the ban in July after negotiations to settle dozens of lawsuits resulting from the city’s 2010 regulatory ordinance failed to produce a settlement. The repeal is the latest development in a struggle to regulate medical cannabis that dates back to 2005, when Americans for Safe Access (ASA) first engaged city staff and Council Members asking for sensible regulations to protect patients’ access and the community.

    In a separate motion authored by Council Members Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar, the City Council adopted a resolution asking the state legislature to “address inadequacies of state law” regarding medical cannabis. Some of the provision in the resolution call for the legislature to declare that financial transactions (sales) are not legal and that cooperatives and collectives must have local authorization to operate. Both of these were contentious issues in the long debate about regulations in the city, and both issues are currently before the California Supreme Court. The resolution also calls for enforcement against lenient medical cannabis doctors and a “finite list of conditions” for which cannabis can be used – a proposal that clearly violates the language of voter-approved Proposition 215. The resolution is not binding as law, and the state legislature is under no legal obligation to respond.

    I want to say a special thank you to the ASA members and friends who helped gather more than 49,000 signatures to call a voter referendum on the ban, donated their time and money, and kept believing we could win. Thanks to grassroots persistence, we have another chance to secure the proven benefits of regulations for Angelenos. Special thanks is in order for our coalition partners – the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 (UFCW), which represents works at dozens of local facilities; and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), the state’s oldest medical cannabis trade association. Both did a great job in gathering signatures, talking to City Council Members, and more.



    Patients and advocates hope that the repeal will encourage City Council Members to adopt a new ordinance with which everyone can live. Otherwise, the city may have no tools to protect patients and neighborhoods from real and imagined harm. The City Council voted to create a new regulatory ordinance when they approved a motion by Council Member Paul Koretz on the same day that they voted for the ban. Now we need city staff to move quickly to finish the ordinance, get it to committees, and back to the City Council. There is no need for further delay. The voters of Los Angeles clearly want regulations, not a ban. The debate about this ordinance may be contentious, but it is past time to live up to years of promises to regulate medical cannabis in Los Angeles.

    Enforcement actions against medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives in Los Angeles has already begun. There is no reason to believe that the ban’s repeal will stop the pressure. The Los Angeles City Attorney and District Attorney (DA) regard all of the city’s collectives and cooperatives as illegal, with or without a ban, and they are working to close them down. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) routinely raids facilities, and DA’s office has already prosecuted some operators. The City Council turned up the heat last month when they called in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help out. LAPD and DEA agents raided three collectives, filed civil asset forfeiture cases against three property owners who rent to medical cannabis tenants, and sent nearly seventy letters threatening other property owners.

    ASA urges cultivators, providers, staff, and patients to know your rights and be prepared to assert them in the event of a raid by the LAPD and DEA. We are going to see a lot more of that before the dust settles in Los Angeles. Patients and advocates will hold a lively and peaceful protest of the recent attacks in front of the federal building on Thursday. You can meet ASA , UFCW Local 770, and GLACA in front of the Edward Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles at 1:30 PM. The federal building is located at 255 East Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

    Thanks again for helping stop the ban. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and keep doing the kind of effective grassroots work that makes a difference. We will need you back on the phones, at City Hall, protesting on the streets… maybe even gathering signatures for a new voter initiative. Be sure to join ASA’s email list to stay up-to-date, and join us in person at the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, October 20, in the Community Room (152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • At the Presidential Debates, we ask, #YNotMMJ?

    Tomorrow the two leading candidates for President will meet for the first of three debates. The event, at the University of Denver, will be the only Presidential debate focused exclusively on domestic policy. The debate will take place from 9 to 10:30pm Eastern Time, and will be aired on all of the major networks as well as most of the cable news networks, so you can watch on your favorite channel.

    Even if ASA member Lanny Swerdlow's petition does not result in a question about medical cannabis, patients can still be part of the debate. Twitter is a great medium for joining a broad discussion about national events, and by using a hashtag (a searchable term preceded by a hash mark, #) we can create our own conversation. For these debates, whenever the candidates dodge the issue of cannabis while discussing law enforcement, states rights, healthcare or another topic, please tweet about the omission using the hashtag #ynotmmj.

    An example would be the candidates discussing health care access for all. When they discuss access to medication or beneficial treatments, if they don’t talk about safe access to medical cannabis for patients, one could tweet, “The candidates talk about access to health care, but #ynotmmj?”

    We will be following the discussion on Twitter - be sure to follow us back @SafeAccess! And for other discussions about medical marijuana, try to use the hashtag #mmot - Medical Marijuana On Twitter.

    See you in the Twitterverse!

    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director
  • Connecticut medical marijuana law comes into effect

    On October 1st, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act came into effect - the first national prohibition of cannabis. 75 years later, Connecticut today became the seventeenth state in the Union, along with the District of Columbia, to provide some access to the medical benefits of marijuana. The Palliative Use of Marijuana Act, CT Public Act 12-55, now allows patients to begin obtaining temporary registration status even as the rules of the registration process are being developed. And while several places that have passed medical cannabis laws in the past few years have yet to implement their programs (such as NJ, DE, and DC), patients in Connecticut can obtain temporary registration status before the official registration process is decided through administrative rule making.

    There is a three step process in order to obtain a temporary registration certificate from the CT Dept. of Consumer Protection, which is administering the state's medical cannabis program. Patients will not be able to legally purchase medical cannabis until the dispensaries open for business, but the temporary registration certificate will protect patients who obtain a recommendation from their physician and use medical cannabis prior to dispensaries opening. However, patients in Connecticut should realize that the law does not specify the maximum possession limit, and instead, the Dept. of Consumer Protection will specify the maximum "one-month supply" on each individually issued temporary registration certificate. This rule will almost certainly preclude home cultivation. You can find it on Section 15, page 17, of the current regulations (PDF).

    Connecticut's forethought for including temporary registration protection is a sensible approach for legislatures to address public health needs that occur between the passage of a law and the careful implementation regulations that provide for safe access to medicine. While allowing patients and caregivers to cultivate medicine at home would better guarantee safe access, this approach marks an improvement to other "closed loop" models. Patients in Connecticut who currently need to use medical cannabis should speak with their physicians about obtaining a recommendation for medical cannabis therapy.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.