Pages tagged "Rescheduling"

  • If you want to break federal law, it’s better to be a banker than a medical marijuana provider



     

     

     

     

     

     

    According to Matt Taibbi, in his latest Rolling Stone exposé on the banking and financial industry “Too Big to Jail,” HSBC “helped to wash hundreds of millions of dollars for drug mobs, including Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel,” and also “moved money for organizations linked to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and for Russian gangsters; helped countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea evade sanctions.”

    Yet, as outrageous as these transgressions are, the Justice Department refuses to criminally prosecute the bankers committing federal crimes right under the nose of the U.S. government.

    At a press conference where the Justice Department announced a settlement between the government and HSBC, in which the bank was forced to pay $1.9 billion, but without any individual being fined or prosecuted, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer had this to say:
    Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.

    So, the lesson we’re supposed to take from that is this:

    if you’re a banker you can commit federal felonies and all you have to endure is a slap on the wrist. However, if you’re in any other line of business and you commit federal felonies, all bets are off.

    If you’re a medical marijuana provider, for example, the Justice Department will not just look the other way as it did for years with HSBC. Instead, you can expect the government to come after you with the full force of the law.

    Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has spent millions of taxpayer dollars criminally prosecuting scores of people, arguably in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws. Montana medical marijuana cultivator Chris Williams was most recently sentenced to 5 years in federal prison. California-based dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky was sentenced a few weeks earlier to 10 years. Michigan cultivators and medical marijuana patients Jeremy and Jerry Duval were sentenced late last year to 5 and 10 years in prison, respectively. All four of these defendants were convicted at trial after being denied a medical marijuana defense.

    In medical marijuana-related cases, the government goes out of its way to stack the legal deck against defendants. It’s bad enough that the Justice Department expends significant resources to prosecute those trying to comply with state law, but to also deny them a defense is shameful.

    Two bills currently in Congress would attempt to change that dynamic. HR689, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act” would reclassify the drug for more widespread use and research, while HR710, the “Truth in Trials Act” would grant an affirmative defense in federal court cases. Passage of these bills would go a long way in bringing fairness to our country’s public health policy.

    However, much more needs to be done before our skewed approach to medical marijuana is corrected. For example, some of the same banks that were at least partly responsible for our recent economic crash -- like Wells Fargo and Bank of America -- are in collusion with the federal government to deny financial services to legally compliant medical marijuana businesses.

    Just in case you missed it: the Justice Department looks the other way when large banks launder foreign drug cartel money in our own country, but works with large banks to deny services to legally compliant medical marijuana businesses. And that’s if they’re lucky. If the Justice Department decides to target such businesses, as it has with hundreds of them, the owners could spend years in prison.

    Justice in America has often been selective, though rarely has it been starker than this.
  • 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.
  • California Medical Association Calls on Governor Brown to Urge for Marijuana's Reclassification

    More than two weeks ago, with less fanfare than it deserved, the California Medical Association (CMA) voted to urge Governor Brown to petition the federal government to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Notably, the vote occurred two days ahead of oral arguments before a federal appeals court in a widely watched case concerning the reclassification of marijuana: Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. With this latest resolution from the CMA, pressure continues to build on the federal government to design policy based on sound science and to treat medical marijuana like the public health issue it is.

    On October 14th, the 141st annual CMA House of Delegates voted unanimously to approve Resolution 103-12, urging the Governor to petition the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis. The resolution was co-authored by Dr. Donald Abrams, Chief of Hematology-Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and an eminent cannabis researcher in his own right, and Dr. Larry Bedard, president of the Marin Medical Society and a physician who has practiced emergency medicine for more than 30 years.

    Resolution 103-12 requests that:
    California Governor Jerry Brown petition the DEA and the Administration to reschedule marijuana based on the science that shows medicinal marijuana has ‘accepted medical use.’

    The CMA resolution also emphasized that:
    [M]edical decisions should be based on science, not politics.

    The CMA resolution comes as more than 70 medical professionals have co-signed an open letter calling for marijuana to be rescheduled from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value.

    It’s not as if Governor Brown would be politically sticking out his neck, either. Within the last year, the governors of Colorado, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have all petitioned the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Given that the vast majority of Californians support medical marijuana, it would be politically prudent for Governor Brown to take this action. For all the harm that the Obama Administration has caused the medical marijuana community over the past few years -- incessant raids and prosecutions against legally compliant businesses -- it’s the least Governor Brown could do in favor of the state’s hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on the same dispensaries the federal government is shutting down.

    According to its website:
    CMA serves more than 35,000 members in all modes of practice and specialties representing the patients of California. CMA is dedicated to serving our member physicians through a comprehensive program of legislative, legal, regulatory, economic and social advocacy. … Our goal is to provide our members with the necessary support, so that they can surpass the challenges and continue to run successful medical practices.
  • 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.