Mission & Vision
ASA's mission is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic uses and research.
ASA executive director Steph Sherer founded ASA in 2002 with the purpose of building a strong grassroots movement to protect patients and their rights to safe and legal access. At the time, there were only 11 medical cannabis dispensaries in the nation, all of which were all operating outside of the law, and I got a crash course in this provocative, courageous world of patient defined medical cannabis advocacy.
Until ASA stood up for access, the national debate around medical cannabis was focused solely on the legality and ethics of arresting and prosecuting patients for cannabis use. That experience is real, but reflected only a fraction of the experiences that patients and this community were having on a daily basis. ASA brought the patient's voice to the table, and we shifted the debate to the real concerns of patients: access and patients' civil rights.
We created a vision for what safe access should look like, and the legal framework to support that vision, through the passing of state and local laws and numerous court battles. Our extensive monitoring of law enforcement activity has helped thousands of patients to navigate the legal system, held law enforcement accountable for their actions, and established major policy changes. On Capitol Hill, we have fought back against attempts to further undermine our state laws, and we continue to work with members of Congress and the Administration to resolve the federal conflict.
Cultivating a thorough understanding of the complex realities "on the ground" has been the key to catalyzing empowerment and collective action. We cannot create good policy without including the voices and experiences of patients and those who provide them with access to care. That is what ASA members have brought to this movement and that is what WE can bring to the states and country as a whole.
ASA has built an amazing movement, but we’re at a crossroads. Medical cannabis remains illegal under federal law, but 15 states and the District of Columbia allow its use. The laws vary in their details for patients and providers, and there are still enormous political and legal obstacles to overcome before the state laws are fully implemented. In October of 2009, then-U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden indicated there would be a relaxation of federal opposition to medical cannabis. His memo to federal law enforcement and prosecutors served to reinforce earlier comments by the President, his staff, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The perception of a changing federal policy brought with it expanded interest in the nascent industry of medical cannabis. The pace at which new providers’ associations and related businesses opened escalated dramatically – and so did the visibility of the issue of medical cannabis nationwide. More recently, however, optimism that the Administration would finally move to harmonize federal law with state medical cannabis laws has faded in light of a growing backlash. In fact, we are now seeing renewed and more diverse federal interference and intimidation in the states.
Since October of 2009, ASA has documented more than 70 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids at medical cannabis facilities, which resulted in more than 20 indictments. Banks and merchant service providers are denying service to medical cannabis providers, sometimes closing long-established accounts. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing providers and disallowing significant portions of their usual deductions for business expenses based on the rationale that they are violating federal law. And in an ominous new development, the U.S. Department of Justice is sending letters to state and local officials threatening them with prosecution for implementing state medical cannabis laws.
This renewed and expanded federal pressure on medical cannabis threatens to roll back safe access and curtail the gains we have made in the states. Advocates and industry leaders must reprioritize building the movement for medical cannabis to protect the future of safe access and the emerging medical cannabis industry. How we move forward today will shape the story we tell future generations. We can tell our children and grandchildren about our brief experiment with medical cannabis, or we can tell them how we transformed healthcare in America. We intend to tell them the latter.
By participating in this movement, you are helping create the future of medical cannabis in your city, state, and nation. By donating to ASA, you can help ensure that we will reach our goals!
Until there’s safe access, we are Americans for Safe Access.
Welcome to the movement.