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Americans for Safe Access Unity Conference to Secure the Role of Cannabis in Modern Medicine

Image Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access

The uncertainty of cannabis legality nationwide, coupled with the anti-cannabis rhetoric coming from top Trump officials, makes it a pivotal time for medical professionals to secure the role of medical marijuana in modern medicine. It’s also the theme for the Americans for Safe Access 5th Annual Unity Conference that was held this week.

The conference took place in Washington, D.C. with hundreds of members of the medical cannabis community in attendance. Medical professionals, patients, advocates, and businesses all came together to talk about medical marijuana.

“With the uncertainty of policies under a new US President, 2017 will be one of the most important years for medical cannabis policy ever,” Americans for Safe Access wrote in a statement. “We will need to work harder than ever to continue the momentum of moving forward with changes in laws and policies that result in safe access globally.”

Their goal for this Unity Conference is to connect advocates, industry workers and leaders, researchers, doctors and others to effect real change for medical cannabis.

The National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference offers opportunities for executives to exchange ideas with other experts and scientists, and for everyone to hear from expert panels focused on new developments in medical cannabis research, as wells as the creation of common-sense policies and approaches to safe medical cannabis access and use.

“We are proud to be on the forefront of innovations in natural, botanical cannabidiol (CBD) products that are improving the lives of people worldwide,” says Dr. Stuart Titus, a panelist and Chief Executive Officer of Medical Marijuana, Inc.

“Unity 2017 is a fantastic opportunity for industry leaders to exchange ideas and bring attention to the need for and protection of policies that can save lives,” he said. Dr. Titus is a member on the “Exciting Developments in Cannabis Research & Access” panel, and an expert on recent breakthroughs in medical cannabis research. 

“By attending this Conference, participants are also given the ability to change history by making an impact on how their legislative representatives view medical cannabis,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “On Tuesday, attendees are given the chance to meet with members of Congress about federal comprehensive legislation. This is a rare opportunity to have their voices be heard by decision-makers that affect their ability to access safe medical cannabis.”

The National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is among the largest conferences in the world for medical marijuana patients, activists, lawyers and medical professionals promoting safe and legal access to marijuana for therapeutic uses and research.

The conference also serves as a great resource for those trying to bring medical expertise into the political arena, as the conference also includes advocacy, public affairs, and communications leaders.

Goals for the year to come

The goal of this conference is to provide patients and concerned citizens the information, tools and contacts they need to be successful representatives for medical cannabis.

Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have passed laws which grant their residents the right to possess, cultivate, and/or obtain cannabis or cannabis-based products under the care of their physician – and despite the more than 89 percent of Americans who think that cannabis should be made legal, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions remains anti-pot.

2017 ASA goals:

  1. Understand the role of cannabis in modern medicine
  2. Bring patients to DC to meet with their representatives to pass federal legislation
  3. Finalize draft of recommendation document for United Nations

In a policy summary by ASA, they remind the cannabis community that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is set to expire at the end of April. Currently, the amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from using any funds to interfere in state medical cannabis programs and bars ongoing federal cases.

“If it is not renewed patients, caregivers, doctors, and industry workers abiding by their state’s medical cannabis law will no longer be protected from federal prosecution,” warns ASA.

“In recent years, due to the CJS amendment [Rohrabacher-Farr], the Department of Justice has become increasingly less focused on prosecuting users of medical cannabis. The proposed budget seeks to make massive cuts to the Food and Drug Administration, the agency ultimately responsible for approving new medicines, while greatly increasing the budget for DEA Agents. If passed, these budgetary items could be incredibly detrimental to medical cannabis patients,” said Steph Sherer.

“When patients have a seat at the public policy table, everyone benefits,” is the ASA motto. “And to get and keep our seat, we must be equipped to competently and confidently represent our viewpoint.”

Rep. Rohrabacher with the follow-up

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) wrote a letter requesting the budget include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who are compliant with their state’s medical marijuana laws.

“As you prepare the fiscal year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you include the language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws.” The letter continues, “We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also the wishes of the American people.”

The letter was co-signed by a bipartisan group of 43 members of the House of Representatives and was addressed to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. You can read the full letter here.

About Americans for Safe Access

The mission of Americans for Safe Access is to ‘ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research.’ Founded in 2002 by medical cannabis patient Steph Sherer, it’s now become a vehicle for patients to advocate for the acceptance of cannabis as medicine.

With over 100,000 active members in all 50 states, ASA is 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.

“ASA works to overcome political, social and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, research, grassroots empowerment, advocacy and services for patients, governments, medical professionals, and medical cannabis providers,” according to their site.

New developments on the decriminalization front

The Southern state of Texas just made some headway in the decriminalization front. The Texas House of Representatives just approved a bill that would effectively lower the amount of marijuana-related arrests in the Lone Star State.

Winning with a 4-2 vote, the committee approved House Bill 81 with support from some Republicans. Advocates applauded Monday’s vote, pointing to the more than 61,000 people who were arrested in Texas for possession of marijuana in 2015, according to Department of Public Safety data.

The bill was written by Joe Moody (D-El Paso). The measure would change the way Texas penalizes marijuana users. Under the bill, police would only ticket someone with an ounce or less instead of charging them with a misdemeanor.

Hurdles remain, but it gives hope to pro-pot advocates that this is the furthest any cannabis-related reform has gone in the Texan Congress.

“It is a fairly new concept in Texas not to criminalize conduct,” Moody told the Observer. “Part of the problem has been just getting people comfortable with the idea of treating this differently than we have in the past.”