Patients deserve respect and protection under the law, as well as a bill of rights to ensure a consistent, quality controlled, and affordable supply of medical cannabis. A patient bill of rights, among other assurances, would also ensure access to physicians willing to recommend medical cannabis and that medical records and personal information will be kept private and inaccessible to law enforcement.
ASA strongly supports the reclassification of cannabis in order to expand research on this important and promising therapeutic substance and to better establish laws that reasonably, fairly and equally protect patients in the U.S. The easiest and quickest way to accomplish this is for the Obama Administration to grant the pending rescheduling petition filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis.
ASA is currently pursuing clarification on the Obama Administration’s policy with regard to medical cannabis, both legislatively and directly through Administration officials. In addition, ASA is working with Administration officials to adopt a set of recommendations that include an end to federal enforcement in medical cannabis states, expanded research, and a sensible, comprehensive federal policy.
Given that scientific studies have shown that cannabis counteracts or mitigates a number of illnesses and side effects from other treatments, patients deserve choices in their health care options and should not have to be terminally ill in order to take advantage of the proven benefits of medical cannabis.
According to the DEA’s own Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner expanded medical cannabis research is “in the public interest.” ASA agrees. The federal government should better invest in the therapeutic research of medical cannabis. The monopoly on access to research grade cannabis should be dismantled to allow additional licensed facilities to produce a sufficient, consistent and high quality supply for scientists. The federal government must also create incentives for expanded research and retool the research approval process to eliminate a bias for abuse studies and the onerous requirements unique to the U.S.
ASA supports the sensible regulation of dispensaries to the extent that such regulations recognize the legality of medical marijuana distribution and offer reasonable methods to comply with local and state laws.
If medical cannabis is to be dealt with as the public health issue it is, there must be a different approach taken to enforcement of the law. First, and foremost, the federal government must cease enforcement against clearly established medical cannabis distribution centers and leave such enforcement to local and state officials. Second, local and state officials should emphasize civil enforcement over the much more aggressive and harmful criminal enforcement. To the extent that medical cannabis distribution centers violate local land use laws or fail to comply with state law, those violations should not be handled in state criminal court, but in civil court with the use of remedies such as fines and injunctions.
The “Truth in Trials” Act is a logical and necessary complement to the Obama Administration’s medical cannabis policy guidelines. This federal legislation, which has been sponsored by ASA, would ensure that defendants have the ability to defend themselves and present evidence in federal court that may demonstrate compliance with state or local laws. Until the federal government stops prosecuting medical cannabis cases and develops a comprehensive, sensible policy with regard to this public health issue, patients and their providers need the “Truth in Trials” Act as a means of avoiding unnecessary and unfair imprisonment.
Patient advocates applauded the change in VA policy to prevent its physicians from arbitrarily denying much needed pain medication to veterans who are also lawful medical cannabis patients. This policy of recognizing state medical cannabis programs and the potential of cannabis to benefit veterans under VA care places additional pressure on the rest of the federal government to adequately address this important public health issue. Americans for Safe Access is committed to working with groups like Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access to further change VA policy to enable VA physicians to recommend medical cannabis for their patients, an already established constitutional right in the U.S.
Medical cannabis is certainly not the BEST option for everyone, nor should it be the FIRST option for a physician to consider, but we believe most Americans agree with us that all patients and physicians should have as many effective options available to them as possible to combat pain or symptoms of a serious or chronic illness.
Although ASA is not aware of any serious harm that has resulted from consuming cannabis, contaminated or not, we believe testing is necessary to provide better information to patients about the medication they’re using and to enhance their choice. Testing should be used as a way to enhance rather than restrict access.
Any tax on medical cannabis is a tax on patients. ASA opposes excessive taxes that are designed to raise revenue, but it does not oppose low-impact fee structures designed to offset administrative costs.
Medical cannabis dispensing collectives, or “dispensaries,” have been well established as legal entities under California law. However, Americans for Safe Access will continue to lobby and litigate at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that this important function of medical cannabis law is preserved and protected from unnecessary law enforcement interference.
While some abuse of state laws probably exists, law enforcement and opponents of medical cannabis have greatly exaggerated those claims. Much like other pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medications, the existence of abuse does not lessen the efficacy of medical cannabis, and patients across the country should not be punished for the sins of others. Safe access to medical cannabis can and should include proper controls to reduce or eliminate abuse. The abuse potential of cannabis should be considered while developing a comprehensive plan for access to medical cannabis; the abuse potential of cannabis should NOT be considered an insurmountable obstacle and/or used as a way to impede or prohibit access.
The legalization of cannabis for recreational use is a separate issue from safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use. We caution policy makers against letting the debate surrounding legalization of cannabis for recreational use obscure the science and policy regarding the medical use of cannabis.
While ASA fully supports improving cannabis varieties and traits through traditional breeding practices assisted with powerful modern scientific techniques, ASA condemns and will work to prevent any commercialization of medical cannabis that has been genetically engineered (meaning that DNA from non-cannabis plants, animals, bacteria or viruses has been incorporated in order to express foreign compounds not otherwise expressed naturally by cannabis plants).