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Ralph Nader on ASA and product safety
Legendary consumer safety advocate Ralph Nader addresses product safety for cannabis products at MJBizCon 2015. In his presentation he quotes our founder and president, Steph Sherer, on the pathway for cannabis product safety and the role of cannabis businesses in creating those standards. He goes further to praise ASA's development of PFC industry safety standards and urges the cannabis marketplace to adopt voluntary regulation before it is too late.
ASA AND CANNABIS PRODUCT/CONSUMER SAFETY
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) helped create the medical cannabis market through the crafting and monitoring of state and local legislation and regulations primarily to remove patients from the battlefield of the war on drugs until we could change federal laws. As a patient advocacy organization, product safety has been a top priority since our inception in 2002. While Cannabis itself has a high safety profile, commercialization and the supply chain processes are not inherently safe. As cannabis production moved away from only home-grows into commercial settings, we knew we had a responsibility to make sure there was an avenue for all consumers to find safe medicine in this new arena. We also knew that in creating this marketplace outside of federal oversight, proving this could be done safely would be a key element for this experiment to advance, especially for medical professionals, state governments, and new medical cannabis patients.
In 2008, ASA coordinated global experts including the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) to create product safety recommendations for growing, processing, testing, and distributing cannabis for human consumption. This unique collaboration combined the expertise of ASA, the nation’s largest medical cannabis patient advocacy organization; AHPA, the principal U.S. trade association and voice of the herbal products industry since 1982; and the AHP, an organization that has developed qualitative and therapeutic monographs on Western herbs since 1994.
ASA’s Patient Focused Cannabis (PFC) Program was created to turn these recommendations into standards that are transparent, globally recognized and attainable to all businesses along the cannabis supply chain. Today, PFC offers robust education, training, and certification to aid companies in meeting these standards for patients. For years, PFC has helped companies and governments globally navigate and implement product safety standards for cannabis and hemp products available for patients, adult use consumers, and pets.
The State of Cannabis Product Safety in the U.S.
Cannabis is one of the most researched plants on the planet with a known safety profile that has made side-stepping the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for distribution possible by patient advocates through their state governments. Due to the lack of federal oversight of cannabis for human and animal consumption, states have been left to figure out regulations for product safety. This has created a patchwork of standards from state to state.
Every year ASA releases the State of the State report that assesses legislative and regulatory improvements in medical cannabis programs across the country. The report evaluates the effectiveness of each state cannabis program from a patient perspective and assigns a grade using a rubric that reflects the key issues affecting patients including barriers to access, civil protections, affordability, health and social equity, and product safety. Unfortunately, when it comes to product safety, up to this date, no state has yet achieved above a C+.
Furthermore, consumer safety is seeing a whole new set of issues due to lack of regulations left in the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill and patients turning to the illicit market due to high taxes in regulated state markets, low level enforcement of the unregulated market, lack of legal access and the prevalence of the intoxicating cannabinoid products are driving consumers away from the regulated market. Most consumers do not understand the dangers of contaminants and adulterants to their health and unfortunately most regulators do not either. Check out the CANNABIS AND CANNABINOID QUALITY MATTERS PRESENTATION to learn more about the gaps in product safety requirements between states, health impacts of contaminants found in cannabis, and what is required to fix the current problems with product safety regulation.
ASA has created a series of materials for patients about the medical use of cannabis that include information about product safety and makes the following recommendations to cannabis stakeholders:
- Educate yourself on the harms of contaminates
- Ask businesses for certificates of analysis before purchasing products
- Beware purchasing products from the illicit market (test before use if your state allows)
- Discontinue use of a product if you feel harmful side effects
- Create more upstream product safety inspections and/or require certifications
- Adopt more robust testing program protocols
- Require proficiency testing
- Expand access to independent testing laboratories for individuals
- Create the National Office of Medical Cannabis & Cannabinoid Control
- Direct the oversight of cannabinoids meant for human consummation under the (OMCCC) in the Farm Bill and new comprehensive legislation
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