Americans For Safe Access

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  • Talking to Your Doctor About Cannabis - CCN Interview July 29, 2020 5:31 pm
    An interview with Debbie Churgai by Abby Stoddard, PharmD, MBA on behalf of The Client Centered Network. Oregon is one of the few but growing number of states that have both a medical cannabis program and an adult use (recreational) program, and users of cannabis medicine can be found in either group. Enrolling in Oregon's medical marijuana program (OMMP) requires an application, physician and patient documentation, and a fee, but does have benefits. Patients in the OMMP program do not have to pay sales tax, are eligible to receive free product, and many dispensaries give OMMP members preference on things like delivery, parking, and in-store service. If you are considering applying to the OMMP program please check out our resource page, especially our cost calculator, to see if it might be a good fit for your situation. Whether you enroll in the OMMP or not, I always encourage those using cannabis medicine to keep their health care providers in the loop - whether that's your naturopath, your therapist, your chiropractor or your primary care physician. Just like prescription medication, diet and exercise, cannabis can impact other therapies and treatments you may be using, so it's important to make sure whoever you're working with has the full picture and can monitor your progress or make adjustments if needed. Of course having the conversation about cannabis can be complicated, intimidating and nerve racking. Medical cannabis has been legal in Oregon since 1998, but there can still be stigma, misinformation, and entrenched opinions on its use in the mainstream medical community. That is slowly but surely changing for the better, but in the mean time I wanted to speak to someone who knows the ins and outs of this dilemma and who can offer even more resources to empower users of cannabis medicine. I sat down (virtually of course) with Debbie Churgai, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access to get some tips and talking points to help patients start this conversation. A big thank you to Debbie for her time and to ASA for all that they do. Read on for more on the free resources ASA provides to empower you to direct your cannabis care with your provider team.
    Debbie Churgai
  • What’s in a name? Marijuana, Cannabis, and Hemp July 6, 2020 6:24 pm
    Adapted from The Medicalization of Marijuana: Legitimacy, Stigma, and the Patient Experience (Routledge, 2019)  by Michelle Newhart and William Dolphin As with all things involving social controversy, dispute over what to properly call the plant known by the botanical name Cannabis Sativa L. comes with the territory. As a forbidden intoxicant, it attracts more slang and code names than most—from “muggles” and “weed” in the 1920’s, “reefer” and “pot” in the 30’s, and “grass” in the 40’s to today’s “dank” and “chronic.” Putting aside colloquialisms, the three terms commonly used in the U.S. are marijuana, cannabis, and hemp. For at least the last half-century, marijuana has been the most prevalent term, but cannabis is gaining currency. Patients often use both marijuana and cannabis to refer to the plant, with many calling it marijuana, the name used in many state laws and regulations, as well as federal law, but that is changing rapidly. That change is reflected in the Google search results produced for the terms. In January 2018, “medical marijuana” appeared roughly 1,750,000 times to a mere 567,000 hits for “medical cannabis.” As of June 2020, “medical marijuana” appears roughly 143,000,000 times and “medical cannabis” 174,000,000 times. That’s a remarkable increase in both the use of the term, as well as the amount of online material about medical use.
    William Dolphin
  • ASA offers solution to DOJ research block: Our comments on the DEA’s proposed rules June 2, 2020 10:05 pm
    On March 23, the Drug Enforcement Administraction (DEA) published a proposed rulemaking—“Controls to Enhance the Cultivation of Marihuana for Research in the United States”—in the Federal Register (85 FR 16292), involving who can grow cannabis in bulk for research purposes.  Americans for Safe Access (ASA) submitted comments which suggested several amendments to the provisions of these regulations governing the bulk marijuana manufacturers program. In the comments, we suggest to federal legislators and the DEA that a new agency be established that has no history in prosecution of the activities of which the DEA seeks to become the sole enforcer. This new agency, the Office of Medical Cannabis Control (OMCC), would be tasked with overseeing not only the requirements of the research program, but would also enable cultivators that are already licensed in medical cannabis states to provide high quality medical cannabis to researchers, thereby increasing the diversity of products that can be used in research studies and clinical trials.
    Andrew Coon
  • The Cost of Non-Compliance May 8, 2020 3:00 pm
    While most cannabis and hemp businesses understand that they must follow a set of guidelines and implement certain quality control factors into their daily operations, many do not understand the depth of compliance and documentation needed to meet all state and federal requirements. Countless operators complain about the cost of compliance, without factoring in the costs of non-compliance. As enforcement activities increase across states and as the federal government establishes guidelines for hemp and CBD production, it is more important than ever that businesses take the necessary steps to reach and maintain compliance.
    Heather Despres
  • 5 Ways to Thank Essential Workers May 7, 2020 2:00 pm
    While many of us are stuck inside, safe in our homes, most essential workers are still making their commutes into work every day. Whether they’re preparing the food we eat, saving lives in the ICU, delivering packages, or working in a dispensary to provide medicine to patients; these individuals are putting themselves at risk to ensure that the essential services we rely on remain open. As a token of appreciation to all those that are putting their lives at risk to help service others, we have created a list of 5 ways you can thank the essential workers in your life.
    Andrew Coon
  • Update on Cannabis Rescheduling at the United Nations April 27, 2020 7:57 pm
    In March 2020, the United Nations Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was expected to vote on the WHO’s recommendations on the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis products during their annual meeting in Vienna, Austria. However, the CND decided to delay the vote until its next meeting in December 2020.  This marks the second time the vote was delayed.  The CND is responsible for implementing international drug control treaties as well as making decisions about scheduling new substances as well as changing the scheduling of drugs. The CND bases these decisions on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO makes their recommendations on the scheduling of drugs based on the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) critical review document.
    Reenal Doshi
  • Medical Cannabis Patient Scores Important Victory in Employment Discrimination Lawsuit against Amazon in New Jersey April 24, 2020 7:36 pm
    Employment protections for medical cannabis patients in New Jersey could soon be strengthened following an important win for the plaintiff in an employment discrimination lawsuit filed against Amazon last year -- D.J.C. v. Amazon Com DEDC, LLC, et al. The federal court ruling, issued earlier this month, will allow the lawsuit to proceed in state court, paving the way for a more employee-friendly resolution of the case. 
    Fatima Afia
  • Cannabinoids, Influenza, and Coronavirus March 24, 2020 9:43 pm
    With everything happening in the news lately, we want to present some scientific data to help medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers make informed decisions in regard to cannabis products available, product safety, and personal health. Each person’s health situation is unique, and medical cannabis patients should discuss with their doctor or healthcare provider the best approach to prevent and treat current illnesses while potentially battling influenza or coronavirus.
    Heather Despres
  • Office of Medical Cannabis Control: A New Way to End the State/Federal Conflict Regarding Medical Cannabis March 9, 2020 5:32 pm
    There are now over 3 million medical cannabis patients across the country; ninety-one percent of Americans now live in states with some form of access to medical cannabis, while sixty-six of American adults are in favor of full legalization. Despite this, cannabis retains its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning the federal government considers it to be a dangerous, highly addictive substance with no medical value. This continues to cause numerous conflicts between the federal government and the states that have rolled out these health programs for their citizens. The only protection for these programs in federal law is the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment found in the Commerce Justice Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill which, as a budget bill, is subject to change each year. Plans for legalization at the federal level by different means have been introduced for years with little impact; H.R.3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, was the first and only bill of this nature to clear a Congressional committee. It is time for a new approach to end the federal conflict on cannabis policy.
    Andrew Coon
  • Important Update from USDA February 28, 2020 8:47 pm
    The signing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) into law resulted in the descheduling of hemp and opened the door to the wide scale production of the crop. It also tasked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with establishing rules and regulations around hemp cultivation, including adherence to the legal limit of 0.3% THC by dry weight. USDA released its Interim Final Rule on Hemp on October 31, 2019. The team at Americans for Safe Access (along with almost 4,700 hundred other organizations and individuals) submitted comments on the new rule before the public comment period closed on January 29, 2020.
    Heather Despres
  • Patient-Focused Recommendations Regarding the Vaping Crisis October 1, 2019 6:01 pm
    Update 11/8/2019: The CDC has confirmed that out of 29 samples of lung fluid from affected patients all samples tested positive for Vitamin E acetate. This has led the CDC to consider Vitamin E acetate to be a "chemical of concern." Over the past two months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working with state and local departments of health around the country to identify cases of what has come to be known as Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI). As of 5:00 PM on September 25, the CDC had confirmed 805 cases of lung injury in 46 states and one U.S. territory. The CDC also confirmed a total of 12 deaths in 10 states. While several states have issued recommendations to quit using vapes, other states have banned, or are currently looking into banning, vaporization products (for both nicotine and cannabis) altogether. Massachusetts has banned the sale of all vaporization products for four months, and New York and Michigan are banning sales of flavored vaping products. Other jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, are considering bans as well.
    Sean Khalepari
  • How the Historic Passage of the SAFE Banking Act Could Benefit Patients September 26, 2019 9:54 pm
    “The potential benefits that patients stand to gain from passage of the SAFE Banking Act are significant. Americans for Safe Access is proud to have supported this historic bill since its introduction and reiterates its call for swift passage in the Senate. Broader, more robust cannabis reform is still urgently needed, but the Act’s passage through the House is an encouraging sign that we are on the right path.”-Sean Khalepari, ASA Regulatory Affairs Coordinator This week cannabis legislation made history. The first ever federal cannabis reform legislation was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 321-103. This bill will still need to pass the Senate and be signed into law, but it serves as a marker of the progress cannabis legislation has made.
    Geoffrey Marshall
  • Abridged Guide to State Cannabis Laws September 10, 2019 4:18 pm
    We are happy to share this brief guide to State Cannabis Laws with you. Created with the talented designers of Centennial Media this guide serves as a bite-sized version of the full analysis of state laws available on our website under: "Legal Information By State & Federal Law."
    Geoffrey Marshall
  • 9 Ways to Help Build ASA This Summer August 26, 2019 5:56 pm
    A lot has changed for ASA (and this country) in the 17 years that we’ve been working for safe access to medical cannabis.  Something that hasn’t changed is that we are still focused on serving patients and we are still absolutely dependant on the hard work and financial support of our members and activists. With major changes coming to the medical cannabis landscape in the near future we want to take this opportunity to ask for your support to keep ASA fighting for patients.
    Geoffrey Marshall
  • The Hazards of Untested Products August 23, 2019 9:54 pm
    Recent news articles have shed light on a new problem that is being attributed to vape pens. The CDC has stated that “all reported cases have e-cigarette product use or ‘vaping.’” but that some patients have also acknowledged use of cannabis products containing THC. At this time there is no specific product that has been implicated in these adverse events, but we at ASA wanted to reach out and remind consumers and patients to be aware of the products they are consuming. 
    Heather Despres
  • The 5 Key Takeaways From the 2019 State of the States Report August 6, 2019 4:29 pm
    Every year the ASA team and I spend a considerable amount of time formally comparing every medical cannabis program in the United States. In 2019 this meant assessing the medical cannabis programs of 47 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories. The nearly 200-page report we created provides a detailed analysis of the state of medical cannabis programs around the country. Access to medical cannabis has come a long way since California passed Proposition 215 in 1996. However this report shows us that while the national trend is towards better medical cannabis laws, many states still need significant improvements in their programs to ensure that all patients have access to the medicine they need.
    David Mangone
  • The Fight Continues: An Update from the Second Circuit June 6, 2019 10:08 pm
    In July 2017, four medical cannabis patients joined other advocates in filing a lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Second District of New York. The plaintiffs in the case (originally Washington v. Sessions, now Washington v. Barr) sought a declaration that the placement of cannabis in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act was unconstitutional because it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the fundamental right to travel. The judge expressed sympathy to the plaintiffs and pointedly noted that his dismissal of the case was not a ruling on the merits of their claims regarding the medical efficacy of cannabis, but he upheld the constitutionality of cannabis’ scheduling status and ruled that the plaintiffs were required to exhaust administrative options, including petitioning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis, before filing suit. The plaintiffs appealed his decision.
    Sean Khalepari
  • What the legalization bill means for patients in Illinois June 6, 2019 8:15 pm
    Last week, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize cannabis for both medical and non-medical purposes. This move by Illinois is significant because it is the first state to legalize the adult use of cannabis through the legislature, rather than through a citizen initiative. By moving a legalization bill through its legislature, it is possible that Illinois will serve as a model for other states that are considering legalization, but may not wish to put the question before voters or may lack an initiative process. The bill takes effect January 1, 2020. While the legalization bill in Illinois covers issues from criminal justice reform to the creation of new sets of licenses, it is also expansive (the final text of the bill runs more than 600 pages) and includes several new provisions for medical cannabis. Here a few things patients should know:
    David Mangone
  • Submitting Comments That Will Make A Difference May 21, 2019 4:37 pm
    Americans for Safe Access Wants to Help You Navigate the Federal Regulatory Process Earlier this spring, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice in the Federal Register that invited the public to submit scientific information and comments on cannabis and cannabis products. This is not the first time that the FDA has called for comments. In 2018, the FDA solicited public comments to help determine the United States’ position on the rescheduling of CBD and other cannabis compounds under international law. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been a shift in the FDA’s attitude about cannabis. Currently, their website acknowledges that states are developing their own programs and that there is medical value to, at a minimum, isolated components of the cannabis plant, marking a shift from previous years when the agency outright ignored the progress being made at the state level. Regulatory comments are a good way for activists to make their voices heard. However, unlike typical grassroots campaign activities that rely on building coalitions and generating large scale support, regulatory comments do not benefit from a large number of people saying the same thing. In fact, the FDA itself specifies that the FDA comment process is not a popularity contest in which the agency will adopt the policy position promoted by the greatest number of commenters. What the FDA and other regulatory agencies look for during the commenting process are concise, well-thought-out responses that cite scientific research and make recommendations for sound public policy.
    David Mangone
  • A response to NPR's misinformation regarding THC potency May 17, 2019 4:58 pm
    On May 15, 2019, the National Public Radio (NPR) program All Things Considered included a segment about high-potency cannabis. A corresponding article, "Highly Potent Weed Has Swept the Market, Raising Concerns About Health Risks," was posted to NPR's website. Unfortunately, NPR presented a one-sided view of the topic and made assertions that are not supported by the available evidence. We are reproducing below the letter that ASA's William Dolphin sent to NPR in response to this misleading segment.
    William Dolphin