Unity 2021 No Patient Left Behind

April 29-30, 2021


Learn more about our speakers or Unity 2021 in our Program Guide.

Removing Barriers: Housing, Healthcare & Employment

From facing eviction, to lack of health coverage, to losing a job, cannabis patients face a slew of barriers when it comes to housing, healthcare and employment. Join this panel of experts to explore ways lawmakers are protecting patients on the state level, and what is being done on the federal level to ensure patients are not at risk of losing essential services simply because of the medicine they use.

  • Rep. Chris Rabb, Pennsylvania State Representative
  • Andrew Brisbo, Executive Director, Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency
  • Moderator: Andrew Freedman, Executive Director of the Coalition for Cannabis


Kids & Cannabis: A Life Saving Treatment

Children remain one of the most vulnerable patient populations. From the ability to utilize their medicine at school, to ensuring reciprocity for crossing state lines, we still have a long way to go to ensure children have safe access to their life-saving medicine. This panel will explore what is currently being done to protect pediatric cannabis patients, which states have successfully implemented programs that support pediatric patient access, and how doctors can talk to parents about cannabis use for their children.

  • Michael Hiller, Founding Member, Hiller, PC, Attorneys at Law
  • Rylie Maedler, CEO Rylie's Sunshine and President, Rylie's Smile
  • Moderator: Mara Gordon - Cannabis entrepreneur and TEDx speaker


High Cost: Regulating Affordable and Accessible Medicine

Although 36 states have legalized medical cannabis in some form, patients are still on unregulated markets. Whether it is taxes making the cost of medicine accessible to low-income patients, or counties banning dispensaries in legal states, we still have a long way to go when it comes to making cannabis medicine affordable and accessible to all who need it. This panel will explore how we can make cannabis medicine more affordable for patients and how accessibility is being played out in rural vs. urban areas.

  • Chaney Turner, Founder, Beyond Equity
  • Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran, CEO, Millennium Grown & Founder, American Medical
  • Refugees Foundation
  • Philippe Lucas, PhD, Vice President of Patient Research & Access, Tilray
  • Moderator: Mona Zhang, States Cannabis Policy Reporter, POLITICO


Elevating Truth: Laying the Groundwork for Clinical Medical Cannabis Research

While prohibition has been a major barrier to research, the legal status is only one of the many challenges that researchers must face. This panel will explore the challenges that researchers and patient organizations face when trying to advance medical cannabis research for patients and explore new developments in cannabis research. What does a research agenda that prioritizes patients look like? What is the role of industry in making sure research happens that prioritize patients?

  • Dr. Brandie M. Cross, PhD,Founder & Director of Research and Development,
  • Cherissa Jackson, Chief Medical Executive, AMVETS
  • Abbey Roudebush, ESq., Senior Manager, Government Relations & Advocacy, Epilepsy Foundation
  • Moderator: Ryan Basen, Staff Writer, MedPage Today


Building Trust: Engaging in Medical Professional Education

This session will discuss challenges preventing physicians from engaging with patients on medical cannabis as an option for treatment. Despite 36 states with medical cannabis programs in place and patients across the country using cannabis to alleviate symptoms of conditions ranging from anxiety and PTSD to cancer and HIV/AIDS, most doctors are not educated on cannabis as a medicine. Many also refuse to engage in discussions with their patients on the issue - even where medical cannabis has demonstrated results in patient treatment where FDA-approved pharmaceutical products have failed.

  • Dr. Larry Bedard, American Medical Association Cannabis Task Force
  • Dr. Janice Knox, MD, MBA, Physician, Doctors Knox.
  • Dr. Dustin Sulak, D.O. - Founder, Healer.com; Integr8Health
  • Moderator: Ivory Davis, MN, RN, Cannabis Nurse Advocate


Demanding Federal Intervention: Testing, Contamination & Health

Time and time again, state models for testing come up short for patients, and it is time for federal intervention. There is currently no unified standard for the cultivation, manufacturing, or testing of cannabis flowers and derived products and each state has been left to develop their own policies. This is also true of hemp and CBD products, which have considerably less testing and safety requirements than their cannabis counterparts. This panel will explore how these, oftentimes strikingly different regulations, can affect patients from one location to another and will discuss what a federal cannabis standard of production and testing could look like.

  • Sheri L. Tarr, JD - Chief Advisor and Founder, '68PARTNERS and Director of the New York City
  • Cannabis Industry Association.
  • Élan Sudenburg - CEO, Alkemist Labs
  • Moderator: David Downs - California Bureau Chief, Leafly.com


The Patient’s Guide to Contaminants

Join Heather Despres, M.Sc, American's for Safe Access' Director Patient Focused Certification for an overview of ASA's newest report, the Patient's Guide to Contaminants. Heather will explore the different types of contaminants to watch out for in cannabis and hemp, as well as review the potential health outcomes and types of laboratory testing available to detect them. Patients, cultivators, and doctors will leave this presentation with the information they need to identify and advocate for products that put patients' health first.

  • Heather Despres, M.Sc.,Program Director, PFC
  • Holly E. Johnson, Ph.D, Chief Science officer, American Herbal Products Association


Ending the Federal Conflict: Changing the Paradigm on Medical Cannabis

For the last 27 years, patient advocates have worked state by state to pass medical cannabis legislation, bringing legal access to over 4 million patients in 36 states and U.S. territories. However, the inconsistencies between state and federal laws has left millions of patients still without access. This panel will explore how to end this conflict through groundbreaking draft legislation that creates federal oversight of medical cannabis and requires the federal government to work for.

  • Lenita SimsSpears, Esq., Sr. Regulatory Compliance Consultant, LYS Compliance Consulting
  • Trelaine Ito, MS, Legislative Assistant, Office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Gus R. Rosania, PhD, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Michigan College of Pharmacy
  • Moderator: Dustin McDonald - Interim Policy Director, Americans for Safe Access


Global Update: International Rescheduling and Standards

In December of 2020, a historic decision by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was made when it adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations to remove cannabis and its resin from Schedule IV under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. What does this mean for the United States and the other over 40+ countries that have legalized medical cannabis? What successes and pitfalls are we seeing in other countries who have legalized medical cannabis?

  • Pavel Pachta - Drug Regulatory Control Consultant, former Deputy Secretary of the International Narcotics
  • Control Board (INCB), former Chief of the Narcotics Control and Estimates Section of the
  • Secretariat of INCB at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 
  • Max Monahan-Ellison, Co-Founder & Partner, eCB Consulting Inc. and Board Chair, Medical Cannabis Canada
  • Moderator: Steph Sherer, Founder and President, Americans for Safe Access


COVID Protections & Expanding Access State by State

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions of Americans in countless ways. ASA has been especially concerned about how to protect medical cannabis access during the crisis. To address these challenges ASA worked with state governments in 2020 to ensure that state COVID plans designated cannabis businesses as essential, and implemented other key features to improve access, reduce costs and keep patients safe. What is the status of these protections today? How can you hold your elected officials accountable to maintaining these important protections? How can we build on these protections to expand access and protect patients post-pandemic?

  • Yousef Rabhi, Michigan State Representative
  • Nicole Redler, Community Affairs Manager, Eaze
  • Moderator: Debbie Churgai, Executive Director, Americans for Safe Access


Operation Veterans Heal: Knocking Down Barriers to Research, Access & Affordability

Despite the fact that 36 states have reformed their laws to provide for safe and legal access to cannabis for qualifying patients, veterans living across these states still face a confusing system of federal and state laws regarding physician engagement and affordable access. For example, veterans who rely on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as their primary healthcare provider are unable to receive medical cannabis recommendations from their doctors even if they live in a state with a medical cannabis program. And, veterans who use medical cannabis to treat their condition must also pay for this medication out-of-pocket with no financial support or subsidy from the VA. 100 days into the Biden Presidency veteran patients and researchers are still awaiting any signal from the new administration that it will organize an expedited path for federally-sanctioned cannabis medicine for veterans.

  • Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA-46), U.S. Representative, California's 46th District
  • Moderator: Paul Demko, Cannabis Editor, Politico


Biden-Harris Can Do It! Campaign Update

100 days into a Biden administration that so far has yet to offer any hope to patients, physicians and researchers for any expedited pathway for cannabis medicine, and Congress has already reintroduced reform measures addressing rescheduling or descheduling cannabis, medical cannabis research and cannabis banking challenges. Tune in here for an update on the latest legislative developments in Congress, current news on Biden administration activity and the progress of ASA’s No Patient Left Behind Campaign.

  • Dustin McDonald, Interim Policy Director, Americans for Safe Access


Kids and Cannabis: How to Have the Conversation

By Mskindness B. Ramirez, MA.Ed, CEO, Club Kindness

With broad sweeping regulation of Cannabis happening in over 45 states, more and more parents are turning to plant medicine for health and healing. But talking with their kids about it, continues to present a challenge for most consumers. Learn best methods for approaching the conversation with children of all  ages, explore avenues for resources in your community, and discuss ways of advocating for your children with health service professionals.

  • Mskindness B. Ramirez, MA.Ed, CEO, Club Kindness

Perspectives on Cannabis Quality

This presentation will provide a high level briefing on the following topics: 1). Introduction to USP as an organization, 2). Explanation of the public health rationale for the USP standards, 3). Description of USP publications on cannabis quality, 4). Information on USP public comments to regulatory agencies, 5). And a summary of USP approaches to cannabis quality.

  • Dr. Nandakumara D. Sarma, RPh, Phd, Director, Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines, U. S. Pharmacopeia (USP)