NORML’s Top Ten Events In Marijuana Policy In 2017

NORML

#1: Public Support In Favor Of Adult Use Legalization Reaches All-Time High

Sixty-four percent of US adults – including for the first time a majority of self-identified Republicans – believe that the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to nationwide polling data published in October by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by Gallup, which has polled the question since 1969. Gallup’s results came just two months after a national Quinnipiac poll reported that 61 percent of voters support adult use legalization – the highest percentage ever reported in that poll’s history.

#2: Legal Cannabis Industry Responsible For 150,000 Full-Time Jobs

The legal cannabis industry is responsible for the creation of an estimated 150,000 full-time jobs, according to state-by-state data published in September by the content provider Leafly.com. The total represents a 22 percent increase in the number of full-time cannabis-related jobs created since 2016. States reporting the largest number of cannabis-related jobs were California (47,711) Colorado (26,891), and Washington (26,556).

#3: Adult Use Laws Do Not Adversely Impact Traffic Fatality Rates

The enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis is not associated with subsequent changes in traffic fatality rates, according to an analysis of traffic safety data published in June in the American Journal of Public Health. “We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization,” authors concluded. Another study published last year in the same journal reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

#4: Canadian Lawmakers Pledge To Legalize Adult Use By 2018

Liberal Party members introduced comprehensive legislation in April to regulate the use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana by those age 18 and older. Members of the House of Commons overwhelmingly approvedthe measure in November. The legislation now awaits action from the Senate. Liberal Party members have pledged to enact the legislation by summer 2018.

#5: Presidential Commission Ignores Evidence That Cannabis Mitigates Opioid Abuse

A final report issued in November by a Presidential commission on opioids refused to acknowledge scienceestablishing that legal cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opiate use, hospitalization, and mortality. Members of the commission had received over 10,000 communications from the public urging them to consider the role of legal cannabis in addressing the opioid crisis.

#6: Medical Marijuana Access Linked To Lower Medicaid Costs

Patients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in April in the journal Health Affairs. Researchers reported, “[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied. … If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.” The findings are similar to those of a 2016 study which reported that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

#7: Anti-Cannabis Zealot Jeff Sessions Named US Attorney General

Members of the US Senate in February confirmed the nomination of Republican Congressman Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General. As a member of the US House of Representatives, Sessions once supported the death penalty for certain marijuana offenders and stated publicly, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” As Attorney General, he has aggressively lobbied leadership to reject legislation protecting the rights of patients and providers in medical cannabis states from federal prosecution, and continues to mischaracterize as a substance that is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

#8: Vermont Governor Vetoes Marijuana Depenalization Measure

Republican Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation in May that sought to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the adult possession and cultivation of marijuana. However, a slightly amended version of the measure (S. 22) is likely to once again go before the Governor early next year – at which point he indicates his intention is to sign the bill into law. Vermont would be the first state to legislatively pass reforms protecting adults from both civil and criminal sanctions for possessing or growing small amounts of cannabis.

#9: New Hampshire Decriminalizes Minor Marijuana Offenses

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed marijuana decriminalization into law in July. The law took effect in September. Under the act, the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and/or up to five grams of hashish by those age 18 or older is no longer criminal. New Hampshire was the only remaining northeastern state where minor marijuana violations were classified as criminal offenses.

#10: World Health Organizations Says CBD Is Safe, Should Not Be Restricted

Use of the naturally occurring cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) possesses no likely abuse potential and should not be subject to international drug scheduling restrictions, according to recommendations issued in December by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” WHO determined.

Source: NORML – make a donation

Why Medical Marijuana Reform Is Not Enough For Pro Sports Leagues

professional sports marijuana cannabis

A big push has been underway to try to reform cannabis policies in professional sports leagues. Current and retired NFL players have been lobbying hard to try to convince the league to allow players to use medical cannabis under certain conditions. The same can be said about current and retired NBA players, as well as athletes in other leagues that prohibit cannabis.

The Uncle Cliffy team supports such efforts and believes that all suffering players should have safe access to cannabis because it is a safe and effective medicine. However, we also believe that medical cannabis reform does not go far enough. A league policy that continues to prohibit cannabis for adult-use, even when medical cannabis use is allowed in some circumstances, is a policy that will continue to perpetuate institutional racism.

People of color are arrested at a disproportionate rate compared to Caucasian people in America, even though the rate of consumption among races is relatively the same. In cities like St. Louis, African Americans are arrested at 18 times the rate of Caucasians. If a league continues to prohibit cannabis, and an athlete is more likely to be arrested outside of competition, then that same athlete is also that much more likely to be punished for cannabis by the league that employs them. That’s why the Uncle Cliffy team is urging athletes to push for a full end to cannabis prohibition in professional sports. Medical cannabis reform is great, but it does not go far enough to ensure that athletes are not targeted.

The details from the proposals that have been making their rounds in the media describe a scenario in which an athlete will be allowed to have cannabis in their system if the player lives in a state where medical cannabis is legal, and the player is a registered medical cannabis patient. While a number of states have legalized medical cannabis, a number of other states have not. Even in states that have legalized medical cannabis, there are still a number of hurdles that prevent a player from being eligible to become a registered medical cannabis patient.

Qualifying conditions to become a medical cannabis patient vary from state to state. A player that lives in California will be able to qualify fairly easily, whereas a player in Louisiana will have to wait a long time to be able to qualify for the same condition if they ever qualify at all. Many medical cannabis states have yet to issue medical cannabis cards/recommendations to any patients, and it could be quite some time before these states have programs in place that can actually help athletes.

A league cannabis policy that only allows exceptions for registered medical cannabis patients is going to leave a lot of players on the outside looking in. It will create a scenario that results in unfair treatment, with some players being considered to be compliant, and others not, based solely on which state the athlete decides to reside in. If a player lives in a state that does not have a medical cannabis program or does not recognize the condition that the player suffers from, they will be subject to the same disciplinary actions that are currently on the books, even if a player with the same condition that lives in a neighboring state is seen as being compliant. How is that fair? How is that compassionate?

What if a player is arrested in another state for using medical cannabis? How will the league handle that scenario? The use would obviously be medical in nature, but because the player was caught with cannabis in a prohibition state, do they still get punished by the league? Just because a player crosses a state border does not mean that their condition goes away, so this situation is a very real possibility. A medical-only league cannabis policy will help some players, but most players will still be in the same situation that they are in today.

Anything short of ending cannabis prohibition altogether will no doubt lead to selective enforcement. Leagues will be able to effectively pick and choose which players they want to let slide, and which players they want to punish. If a league wants to target a player for non-medical reasons, they will be free to do so. A player that thinks that they are in compliance with league policy will not found out that they are out of compliance until it is too late. That is clearly unacceptable.

Cannabis prohibition does not work. Athletes in professional sports leagues are adults, most of which are over the age of 21. In eight states and Washington D.C. adults over 21 years old can possess and consume cannabis responsibly, so why can’t they do the same when they are employed by a professional sports league? Why are athletes prohibited from consuming a substance that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol, alcohol, of course, being widely embraced by professional sports? Why do leagues support the practice of perpetuating institutional racism due to a plant that has been found to help people use fewer prescription drugs, including opioids?

“Medical cannabis reform is a great step in the right direction, and will hopefully help some players, but it does not go far enough. A medical-only policy still leaves the window open for selective enforcement, which is dangerous for players, especially players of color. The only way to eliminate institutional racism via cannabis prohibition in professional sports is to end cannabis prohibition altogether.” said Cliff Robinson.

The Uncle Cliffy team encourages professional athletes to push for the complete end to cannabis prohibition in their respective leagues. The NHL no longer lists cannabis as a banned substance, and the NHL has not suffered in any way as a result. Leagues like the NFL and NBA need to follow the example set by the NHL and treat its players with compassion and respect. More and more states are set to end cannabis prohibition and join the 8 states (and D.C.) that have already legalized cannabis. Professional sports leagues need to do the same and free the plant.

Source: UncleCliffy.com – syndicated with special permission

Michigan’s Marijuana/Opioid Connection Becomes National Case Study

michigan cannabis marijuana

Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana patient advocacy group, on Thursday released a paper on the opioid crisis and how cannabis medicines can help break the addiction cycle in prescription pain medication abuse. The paper uses Michigan as a case study of the effectiveness of the state’s medical marijuana program in diminishing the deaths and hospitalizations reported.

According to the document, based on national statistics Michigan’s medical marijuana program resulted in 531 lives saved and 23% fewer hospitalizations in Michigan from opioid exposure. The paper is titled “Medical Cannabis as a Tool to Combat Pain and the Opioid Crisis: A Blueprint for State Policy” and was announced via a press release. The blueprint reports that states with medical marijuana programs see a 25% reduction in opioid deaths, and in Michigan that math yields a life-saving total of 531 people.

DOWNLOAD THE BLUEPRINT HERE

“Research shows that opioid deaths have decreased in states with medical cannabis laws by as much as 25% and has found a 23% reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse,” the blueprint states, citing published research from the Journal of the American Medical Association and Drug and Alcohol Dependence magazine. “Michigan lost 2,126 individuals to opioid overdoses in the last year. If we consider the research which supports an up to 25% decrease in medical cannabis states, an additional 531 individuals could have been victims if it were not for the state’s medical cannabis program.”

The blueprint’s intent is to inspire change in state medical marijuana programs which increase enrollment. Michigan already has the nation’s second largest population of registered cannabis patients, with more than a quarter-million Michiganders enrolled in the state database.

There are more than 5 million Michigan residents who are prevented from registering to use medicinal cannabis, and that’s a problem, per the blueprint. That includes more than 1.5 million people living in poverty who cannot afford the registration or the medicine; over 2.6 million people whose employers test for drugs and have no exemption for medicinal cannabis patients; 33,000 living in hospice and 45,000 living in assisted living situations which do not allow for cannabis consumption; 52,100 federal employees and 672,215 veterans who are prevented from accessing cannabis due to V.A. or federal anti-cannabis policies; over 91,000 who are homebound and cannot receive certifications or obtain medicine; and 3,342 ill individuals who are on organ transplant lists and risk losing their life-saving operations if found to have cannabis byproducts in their system.

ASA’s suggested response to the enrollment crisis contains action items for advocates and legislators, including:

  • Pass laws allowing medical professionals to choose conditions or expressly allow pain and opioid use disorder to lists of “qualifying conditions.”
  • Pass laws to allow hospice and assisted living facilities to become caregivers and allow medical cannabis use on these premises.
  • Have the Department of Health & Board of Medicine notify medical professionals about Continuing Medical Education courses for cannabis science. Department of Health includes information about medical cannabis in all opioid crisis materials.
  • Pass laws that have a high number of access points (dispensaries) and create incentives for communities that are licensing them.
  • Create low-income and hardship waivers for ID costs.
  • Pass laws and regulations that prevent shortages of medicinal cannabis.
  • Pass laws banning drug testing for THC for employment.
  • Create a Medical Cannabis Research and Development Fund.

Most of the improvements suggested in the ASA blueprint would be accomplished by the introduction and passage of legislation modifying the MMMA and other laws, which ASA has already drafted and included in the blueprint.

The international press release contained a quote from one of Michigan’s most beloved cannabis advocates, Jamie Lowell, who said, “Medical cannabis allowed me to wean myself off of opiates, and I’m hopeful that by introducing this model legislation, we can reduce some of the barriers to medical cannabis and help even more Michigan patients.”

“It has been nearly two months since President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. However, since this declaration, there has been no effort on the federal level to provide funds for this crisis,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “It is clear that states will have to take healthcare outcomes into their own hands.”

“I am excited to introduce this book to potential bill sponsors in my state,” said Lowell, who sits on the Board of Directors of the MILegalize 2018 organization. That group and the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted last month over 360,000 signatures on petitions to put an adult use of cannabis proposal before Michigan voters in the 2018 general election.

Source: The Social Revolution

Advocates Call On Congress To Preserve Medical Cannabis To Fight Opiate Crisis

congress cannabis senate house

On November 1, Americans for Safe Access, the US Pain Foundation, and approximately 150 advocates will hold a press conference and rally in Washington to encourage Congress and the Administration to consider medical cannabis as an option for pain in order to help mitigate the current opioid overdose crisis that has hit epidemic proportions in our nation. Sister rallies are planned across the country. See AFI list below.

WHERE: Upper Senate Park, Washington, DC

WHEN:   Wednesday, November 1st 10:00 am

WHO:

  • US Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Oregon
  • Steph Sherer – Americans for Safe Access, District of Columbia
  • Amy Mellen – Pain Patient, Maryland
  • Michael Krawitz – Veteran Advocate, Virginia
  •  Amy Catteron – Cancer Patient, North Carolina

Advocates will deliver a letter addressed to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations urging them to include the Medical Cannabis CJS  amendment amendment in the FY18 appropriations package. The letter is signed by the following organizations: National Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, US Pain Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Tourette Association of America, National Women’s Health Network, Realm of Caring, and Americans for Safe Access.

“The opioid crisis is a national emergency, killing 147 people a day. We must do more to help the families and communities torn apart by addiction,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03). “At the very least, the federal government should stay out of the way as states allow access to safer alternatives to opioids like medical cannabis.”

“We are gathering to ask that Congress maintain the Medical Cannabis CJS  amendment which protects patients in medical cannabis states from federal interference, allowing states to  progress beyond the nearly 25% decrease they have already seen in opioid overdose deaths,” stated Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “One in three Americans suffer from chronic pain and one in ten have experienced severe pain every day for three months or more. Policy makers need to include a health care approach to the opioid crisis not just a law enforcement response. Medical cannabis programs are saving lives.”

Despite the fact that the amendment has passed twice in House floor votes, and has been part of the appropriations package since 2015, the Committee on Rules voted to not allow a floor vote. The amendment prevents the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with state medical cannabis programs. The Senate version of the amendment (introduced by Senator Leahy) was passed in July in the Senate FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

The rally comes on the heels of the President’s formal announcement last week declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency.  On August 10th, 2017, referring to the opioid crisis, President Trump said: “I’m saying officially right now, it is an emergency. It is a National emergency.” However, never formalized his declaration and last week’s declaration of a public health emergency fell short. While this is a positive step forward, the declaration does not include the necessary provisions for new funds which states need to combat the crisis.

Thirty states, including those most negatively impacted by the opioid crisis such as West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Ohio, and Washington DC, have medical cannabis programs. Many of these states allow medical cannabis to be used to treat chronic pain. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that in states with medical cannabis programs, there has been a 25% reduction in opioid related deaths. This study also showed a 13% decrease in hospitalizations from opioid related causes. In a survey of nearly 3,000 pain patients, 93% preferred medical cannabis over opioid therapies for pain management. In addition to the data, there are thousands of personal stories of patients who have been able to reduce the number of opioids they take or come off opioid therapies altogether by using cannabis.

Advocates hope that both the Administration and Congress will take measures to ensure medical cannabis states have the protections and federal support they need to utilize medical cannabis as a treatment for pain and, in turn, decrease opioid addiction and overdose in their states.


Steph Sherer

Steph Sherer is founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

Her direct experience with the medical benefits of cannabis and her political organizing background led Steph to form ASA in 2002 with the purpose of building a strong grassroots movement to protect patients and their rights. As a powerful advocate, a skilled spokesperson, and an energetic initiator of campaigns, Steph has trained over 100,000 individuals across the country on civic engagement.

Steph has become the foremost international leader and expert on medical cannabis patient advocacy and, alongside American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), has created the first industry standards in the areas of Distribution, Cultivation, Analytics, and Manufacturing, Packaging and Labeling.


Amy Mellen

Amy Mellen knew something about pain from the hormonal migraines she began experiencing in 1998. But a major car accident in 2006 ushered her into the world of severe chronic pain. After her vehicle flipped several times, she awoke in the hospital with an IV drip delivering the first of the opiate painkillers that would come to define her life for the next eight years. Those IV narcotics were her introduction to real intoxication, since she’d never used drugs or been drunk. She left the hospital with a supply of pills that would be refilled through nine surgical procedures on the hand and arm she nearly lost in the accident. The next 17 years would bring the total to 20 surgeries, but the turning point was another traffic incident.

Prescribed gabapentin for her pain, Amy blacked out while driving. Prior to that, she’d never had a speeding ticket, but she lost her driver’s’ license as a result of that incident and realized she had to find an alternative and get off the pain meds.

In October of 2014, Amy tried smoking cannabis. After four months, she tried topical cannabis medicines. Two months of that and she began ingesting cannabis oil extracts. The oil made the difference. Soon, she was cutting back on the Baclofen, OxyContin, Effexor and Klonopin she had relied on since 2006, though she would go through detox 27 times before pulling free.

“It literally changed my life,” Amy says. It not only helped control her pain, but within two months of starting it, she was shocked to discover the cannabis oil treatment had reversed her Type 2 diabetes, further evidence of the role cannabinoids have in regulating insulin.

Within a year, Amy had also lost over 100 pounds. Now, three years after starting cannabis therapy, she’s dropped over 200 from the 400 pounds she’d reached at her heaviest. That transformation has come with a sense of obligation to share her experience with others.

“I knew people need to hear my story,” she says. That meant building a social media network beginning with a simple meme with bullet points of what cannabis had done for her. Amy’s facebook group Squash the Stigma now has over 2,000 members who use it to sort through information about cannabis and ask questions where they won’t be judged.

“If you don’t have experience with cannabis, you can be so overwhelmed, there’s so much information,” Amy says. “It’s hard for us new people – you don’t know who to ask, and it can be hard to know who to believe.”

Originally a registered patient in Oregon, before her husband’s work took them to Maryland, she testified at the Oregon Health Association and before the state legislature. Once in Maryland, Amy became the second qualifying patient registered in the state and has been working to push forward implementation in the state, which has been painfully slow. Maryland approved medical cannabis four years ago but still does not have a functioning system to provide patients with medicine.

Michael Krawitz

A disabled United States Air Force Veteran [Sergeant, 1981 – 1986],  Michael Krawitz was injured in Guam in an accident that was deemed “in the line of duty” although not combat related. In 2010 his long fight inside the United States Department of Veterans Affairs [VA] for adequate access to pain management paid off with his negotiating the first ever medical cannabis policy within the VA.

Driven by advances in cannabis based medicine and inspired by a report from the International Narcotics Control Board of 1995, Availability of Opiates for Medical Needs, Michael engaged the USA and international drug control systems. However, finding there was little NGO participation, Michael has focused much of his work on increasing NGO involvement in the UN drug control system. To this end, his work has made an important contribution to the Beyond 2008 consultative process as well as the New York NGO Committee on Drugs.

Mr Krawitz currently sits on the Executive Council of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs, is a Board Member of the International Alliance for Cannabis as Medicine, and serves as Director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

Amy Catterton

Amy Catterton is a 31 year old mom of five. She had worked in management since she was in her early 20s and while pregnant. In 2015 she was diagnosed as having stage three invasive breast cancer. Unfortunately, it has metastasized into inoperable stage four bone cancer. She was in a great deal pain and the side-effects of the opioids were unbearable, so she decided to try medical cannabis.

She says, “Medical cannabis has been such a blessing from God sent to me and my family. My children are able to sit and do homework with me, and my husband can enjoy some of my cooking again because of medical cannabis.” For her, medical cannabis has been a “game changer.”

Ethan Russo (not in attendance)

Ethan Russo, MD, is a board-certified neurologist, psychopharmacology researcher, and Medical Director of Phytecs. Previously, from 2003-2014, he served as Senior Medical Advisor and study physician to GW Pharmaceuticals for three Phase III clinical trials of Sativex® for alleviation of cancer pain unresponsive to optimized opioid treatment and initial studies of Epidiolex® for intractable epilepsy.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (Psychology) and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, before residencies in Pediatrics in Phoenix, Arizona and in Child and Adult Neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was a clinical neurologist in Missoula, Montana for 20 years in a practice with a strong chronic pain component. In 1995, he pursued a 3-month sabbatical doing ethnobotanical research with the Machiguenga people in Parque Nacional del Manu, Peru. He joined GW as a full-time consultant in 2003.

He has held faculty appointments in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Montana, in Medicine at the University of Washington, and as visiting professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

He is currently Past-President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, and is former Chairman of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the American Botanical Council. He is author of Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs, co-editor of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutic Potential, and author of The Last Sorcerer: Echoes of the Rainforest. He was founding editor of Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, selections of which were published as books: Cannabis Therapeutics in HIV/AIDS, Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science and Sociology, Cannabis: From Pariah to Prescription, and Handbook of Cannabis Therapeutics: From Bench to Bedside. He has also published numerous book chapters, and over thirty articles in neurology, pain management, cannabis, and ethnobotany. His research interests have included correlations of historical uses of cannabis to modern pharmacological mechanisms, phytopharmaceutical treatment of migraine and chronic pain, and phytocannabinoid/terpenoid, /serotonergic and /vanilloid interactions.

Amanda Reiman, PhD MSW (not in attendance)

After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley Social Welfare, Dr. Reiman completed pre and post doctoral fellowships with the Alcohol Research Group. Following that, she was the Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country, and the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit that was engaged in the drafting and campaigns of legalization initiatives across the country and abroad. She also taught courses on substance abuse treatment and drug policy at UC Berkeley for 10 years.

Dr. Reiman was the inaugural Chairwoman of the Medical Cannabis Commission for the city of Berkeley and was also on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission for the city of Oakland. Currently, Reiman is the Head of Community Relations for Flow Kana, a branded cannabis distribution company that works with small farmers in the Emerald Triangle and the Secretary of the International Cannabis Farmer’s Association, a nonprofit that advocates for research and policies that favor sun grown cannabis cultivation through traditional farming methods.

Reiman’s previous research has focused on the role of medical cannabis dispensaries in providing health services, the integration of cannabis businesses into communities, and the use of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs.

Source: Americans for Safe Access – make a donation

Trump Declares Opioid Crisis A Public Health Emergency, Falls Short On Substance

opioids painkillers marijuana

Today, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. While this is good news, this declaration does not carry the same weight as the national emergency declaration the President promised in August because it does not include the necessary provisions for new funds which states need to combat the crisis. Nor does the Administration have a substantive plan for helping the states implement a concerted effort to combat the crisis.

“We are glad that the President is finally formally recognizing that our country is indeed in a crisis,” stated Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “However, he failed to address the fact that one in three Americans suffer from chronic pain and one in ten have experienced severe pain every day for three months or more. The shortfalls in funding for states means it is more important than ever that Congress ensures that states can continue to run medical cannabis programs that are having an impact on this crisis that claims 91 American lives a day. States with medical cannabis programs are seeing reductions in opioid related deaths of up to 25%, and without action from Congress this year, AG Sessions could have free reign to interrupt these effective programs that are saving lives. The Administration and lawmakers need to stop ignoring the glaring evidence that medical cannabis is an important tool in addressing the opioid crisis.”

Thirty states, including those most negatively impacted by the opioid crisis such as West Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Washington DC, have medical cannabis programs which allow medical cannabis to be used to treat chronic pain. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that in states with medical cannabis programs, there has been a 25% reduction in opioid related deaths. This study also showed a 13% decrease in hospitalizations from opioid related causes.

However, programs from these states, and the critical tool of medical cannabis to fight the opioid crisis are at risk. Medical cannabis remains illegal under federal law, but currently the Department of Justice is prohibited from spending federal dollars on prosecuting medical cannabis patients because of an annual Congressional Appropriations amendment. This protection, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment has been included each year since December 2014. If the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which protects state medical cannabis programs, is allowed to expire, it is possible that many more individuals will die from opioid overdose because of a lack of safe access to alternatives to pain management.

On November 1, Americans for Safe Access, along with approximately 150 advocates will hold a press conference and rally in Upper Senate Park in Washington, DC to encourage Congress and the Administration to consider medical cannabis as an option for pain in order to help mitigate the current opioid overdose crisis. Sister rallies are planned across the country. Advocates hope that both the Administration and Congress will take measures to ensure medical cannabis states have the protections and federal support they need to utilize medical cannabis as a treatment for pain and, in turn, decrease opioid addiction and overdose in their states.

Source: Americans for Safe Access – make a donation