Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Recommendations for Patients/Caregivers and COVID-19 Recommendations for Dispensary Operations





COVID-19 Recommendations for Patients/Caregivers and COVID-19 Recommendations for Dispensary Operations:

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Safe Access New Mexico is providing the information below in an attempt to help medical cannabis patients make preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic and safeguard their well-being. This is a fluid situation and recommendations may change as the situation evolves. Please refer to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention COVID-19 preparedness page and stay apprised of developments. Follow the recommendations of public health officials to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

New Mexico’s medical cannabis program law states that, “a qualified patient's use of cannabis pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act shall be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician”.

While state law may not recognize dispensaries as a pharmacy, access to medical cannabis through the dispensary system is very much the same as a pharmacy which is defined as a store where medicinal drugs are dispensed and sold.

Right now all the Pharmacies in the state are operating in the same manner with the same guidelines and it would be great to see all the medical cannabis producers do the same to prevent any confusion for the medical cannabis program community.

Our medical cannabis dispensaries should be operating like the pharmacies in the state are right now during this coronavirus crisis, with that same level of consistency in operational guidelines across the board.

COVID-19 Resources For Patients, Caregivers, and Dispensaries: 

ACNA COVID-19 Response Letter - March 18, 2020 

“The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) insists that all claims concerning cannabis and health are substantiated and evidence-based.”
“The FDA made clear there are no available products to treat or cure the coronavirus at this time, including prescription pills, vaccines, potions, lotions, lozenges, etc. Cannabis and CBD products have no proof of efficacy against coronavirus, and so we must not claim otherwise.”  [https://cannabisnurses.org/]

NORML Consumer Alert
NORML issued a reminder that consumers should beware of misinformation claiming that Hemp CBD products are effective against coronavirus - March 23, 2020 [https://blog.norml.org/2020/03/23/a-norml-reminder-beware-of-covid-19-cure-all-claims/]


Should I wear a mask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that people wear masks at this time. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have been exposed to COVID-19, and who have symptoms. This is to protect other people from the risk of getting infected. Masks are also crucial for healthcare workers and other people who are taking care of someone who has COVID-19 at home or in a healthcare facility.
World Health Organization guidelines about this: [https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks]

Preserving personal protection equipment (PPEs) is the goal of two new health orders. Both orders were issued by New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel; both take effect Wednesday, March 25, and both continue until the governor rescinds them.
[https://cv.nmhealth.org/public-health-orders-and-executive-orders/]


CDC Workplace Guidelines for the Coronavirus

-OSHA/HHS Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
-CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations
[https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html]

Figure 2: Molecular Structure of Coronavirus
Molecular Structure of Coronavirus (ASA)

Cannabinoids, Influenza, and Coronavirus 

March 24, 2020 | By Heather Despres, M.Sc., PFC Director
“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.”
[https://www.safeaccessnow.org/cannabinoids_influenza_and_coronavirus]


Discrimination & Stigma

Discrimination is against the law and can be reported to the City of Albuquerque Office of Civil Rights. Stigma, xenophobia, and misinformation will drive suspected cases underground and make it harder to keep everyone healthy. Coronavirus (COVID-19) does not discriminate, and neither should we. It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent – who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes Coronavirus (COVID-19), or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are not at greater risk of spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19) than other Americans. Wearing a mask does not mean a person is ill. Speak up if you hear, see, or read misinformation or harassment. Show compassion and support for those impacted by stigma.
Report Discrimination
The City of Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico accept reports of discrimination through the organizations listed below.
[https://www.cabq.gov/environmentalhealth/news/city-of-albuquerque-coronavirus-faqs]


General considerations

COVID-19 is a serious and extremely infectious respiratory illness that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Public health organizations at the state and federal levels have expressed concern over the capacity of the U.S. healthcare system to handle the scale of urgent lifesaving measures that will be needed. In response, states are enacting measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19, including closing all non-essential businesses. Health experts have warned that it is possible to transmit the virus even when someone is not showing symptoms. Unnecessarily exposing yourself or others to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can prolong and worsen the pandemic. The power to save lives is in your hands. Stay home to the extent possible.

Healthcare recommendations

For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, appointments with healthcare providers should be conducted via telemedicine whenever possible. Many jurisdictions that did not previously allow telemedicine for medical cannabis certifications have adopted temporary rules to allow precisely that during this public health emergency. While many medical cannabis jurisdictions still require an in-person visit for initial certification, a large number have authorized the use of telemedicine for renewal certifications.

Please give serious consideration to postponing any non-essential medical or dental procedures that cannot be completed using telemedicine. Rescheduling these appointments once the public health threat has diminished will reduce the burden on healthcare providers when they may be under particular strain and may help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Dispensary-specific recommendations

Many jurisdictions are allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to offer delivery, drive-through, and/or curbside pickup services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we strongly encourage patients to use these services wherever they are available.

If you must go inside a dispensary in order to place or retrieve an order, refer to the dispensary’s menu and determine in advance which products you will be purchasing. If possible, place a pre-order. This approach will help you minimize the amount of time you spend in the dispensary. Do not use “smell jars” or purchase cannabis flowers that others could have breathed on (i.e., if purchasing flowers, ensure that they are pre-packaged).

Any time you are outside of your home, maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and any individuals not living in your household. This includes dispensary staff and others in the dispensary. Be mindful not to touch your face in the dispensary. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after leaving the dispensary. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is an acceptable substitute.

To ensure a sufficient supply of medical cannabis should you need to self-isolate or should a stay at home order be issued in your home jurisdiction, and to minimize opportunities for exposure, it is recommended that, if possible, you purchase enough cannabis to last for two to four weeks. When determining how much to buy, please be mindful of other patients’ needs and the potential for a run on medicine. Artificial scarcity must be avoided. It is important to be prepared to meet your minimum medical requirements, but please avoid hoarding a quantity of cannabis that is far greater than you would normally consume within four weeks.

Cannabis storage

Store your medical cannabis in appropriate containers and under appropriate conditions to preserve its quality. Containers should be rigid, airtight, opaque, and made of a non-reactive material, such as glass or stainless steel. Humidity control packets that maintain humidity at between 58% and 62% RH can be placed in the containers to help protect product quality. Containers should be stored in a cool, dark place.

Rationing medicine

To ensure that your supply of medical cannabis does not run low - or if you already have less than you need and are unable to obtain more for some time - you may wish to ration your medicine. (A scale that can measure up to two decimal places, such as a jeweler’s scale, can be a very helpful tool.) Divide the total amount of cannabis in your possession by the number of days it must last to determine the amount available to you each day. Separate each day’s supply out in advance to help ensure that you do not exceed the allotted amount and will have sufficient medical cannabis through the rationing period.

Cleaning and using cannabis-related equipment

To minimize impact on the respiratory system and prevent illness, patients who administer medical cannabis via inhalation are advised to thoroughly and regularly clean the equipment used for that purpose. Glass can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol or cleaners formulated for glass pieces. Follow the manufacturer’s directions with regard to cleaning any electronic equipment.

If you use an adjustable vaporizer, variable voltage battery, e-nail, or other device that allows user control over temperature, keep the temperature on the cooler side of the effective range to minimize irritation to the airway and lungs.

Do not share any such equipment with individuals with whom you do not reside.

Social considerations

In normal times, consuming cannabis can be a social experience, even when its use is required for medical purposes. These are not normal times. Do not share or consume cannabis with - or otherwise come within six feet of - people who do not live within your household. We all must practice effective social distancing measures to save as many lives as possible during the global COVID-19 health emergency. 


Share Your Updates
We want to know how your local businesses are responding to COVID-19. Please share your update so that ASA can continue to respond to this issue as best we can around the country.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) holds 8th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference Online Friday, March 27, 2020. Register Now!

Medical Cannabis Patients, Medical Professionals, Advocates, and Industry Leaders Will Converge Online for the 2020 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference.


WASHINGTON, DC — On Friday, March 27, 2020, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) will hold its 8th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity conference. This year, for the first time ever, the conference will be held online due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of cancelling or postponing the conference, ASA decided to move this year’s Unity Conference from an in-person conference to an online conference in order to make their program content available to participants across the country. From 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET, ASA will share the latest developments in medical cannabis, discuss barriers to medical cannabis access, exchange ideas about how to navigate medical cannabis policy--nationally and globally--in this ever-changing political landscape, and demand action from state and federal elected officials.

This year’s Unity Conference theme is “Campaigning for Cannabis: Making Policies Work for Patients”. The conference will highlight issues that medical cannabis patients are still facing and will provide policy solutions that participants will be able to share with their state legislators. Although medical cannabis is legal in 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, due to cannabis still being federally illegal, many patients across the country still have to deal with the fear of losing their children, being kicked out of housing, traveling out of state without their medicine, losing their jobs, and not having access to medical cannabis in healthcare settings such as hospices. During the conference participants will learn solutions to mitigate these issues and will leave with the knowledge they need to advocate for better policies and to vote for candidates that align with their views on cannabis on election day in November 2020.

When: Friday, March 27 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET

What: 8th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference

Where: Online using Zoom

Who: Reporters, medical cannabis patients, caregivers, veterans, advocates, medical professionals, industry business leaders, health care providers, researchers, legal and regulatory experts, industry representatives

“While this country has made incredible progress in the last few years towards the acceptance of medical cannabis, many barriers to safe and legal access still remain,” said Steph Sherer, President and Founder of Americans for Safe Access. “Ensuring access for patients means more than just acceptance; we need to continue to urge legislators to enact better safety regulations, laws, and civil protections that will allow all patients safe and equal access to this medicine. We also need to continue to push for policies that will expand medical professional education, science, and research to better understand the potential of this medicine.”

“Due to the safety of all participants during this coronavirus pandemic, ASA decided to move this year’s Unity Conference from an in-person conference to an online conference,” said Debbie Churgai, interim director of Americans for Safe Access. “While it is disappointing that we won’t be able to engage with each other in person, with this year being an election year, we felt Unity 2020 was too important to cancel, and we are excited to bring our great content in an online format, so that people everywhere can participate and engage with our community.”


REGISTER FOR OUR ONLINE UNITY CONFERENCE
Your registration for the 2020 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference includes online access to a day of online panels and programming on March 27. This ticket covers the whole Unity 20 agenda. 

If you are an ASA member in good standing, please be sure to take advantage of the discounted member registrations below. You may need to log-in for access. If you are NOT an ASA member, please be sure to take advantage of the discounted member registration and a discounted membership fee by becoming a member today and buying a conference ticket for only $50.


About Americans for Safe AccessThe mission of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research.

ASA was founded in 2002 by medical cannabis patient Steph Sherer as 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 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.


# # #

Medical Cannabis Patient Advocates Call on Governors to Protect Patients Amid Covid-19 Outbreak




Americans for Safe Access Provides Governors, Mayors, Medical Cannabis Program Directors with Action List

Washington, DC -- Americans for Safe Access (ASA) sent out a letter March 16, 2020 to call on governors and directors of state medical cannabis programs to take immediate action to ensure that patients continue to have access to medical cannabis and that the supply chain is not interrupted while Governors are creating emergency plans in their states to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help avert another public health crisis, Americans for Safe Access held an emergency meeting with key stakeholders across the country to gather information that will help Governors and directors of medical cannabis programs address issues that are affecting patients and businesses across the country.

ASA and its stakeholders recommend that all governors and/or medical cannabis directors put the following measures into place immediately to ensure that patients--many of whom represent our nation’s most vulnerable population--are protected:
  1. Ensure that cannabis businesses that serve patients are considered "essential" businesses.
  2. Instruct medical cannabis businesses on how they can make legal temporary changes to their business plans, including delivery and purchase limits to accommodate patients and staff during the crisis.
  3. Give tax relief to patients and businesses.
  4. Allow cultivation and processing centers to stay open to ensure medicine in the future. 
  5. Extend the expiration date of state-issued cannabis identification cards so that doctors and other health care providers can focus on COVID-19. 
  6. Permit authorized caregivers to serve additional patients during the crisis period.
  7. Allow telehealth visits for new and renewing medical cannabis patients. 
  8. Allow dispensaries to deliver medical cannabis to qualifying patients and caregivers in a vehicle parked in the dispensary’s parking lot.

To help keep patients updated, ASA has also created a page for people to share how businesses are responding to COVID-19 across the country www.safeaccessnow.org/COVID-19.
“In light of the current state of COVID-19 and the CDC’s actions, Americans for Safe Access has been monitoring the situation to make sure that medical cannabis patients are not forgotten," said ASA Founder and President Steph Sherer. We want to ensure that dispensaries are seen as essential businesses that will remain open for patients. We applaud states that have already put emergency precautions into action and we will keep patients and the public updated on any future developments through our www.safeaccessnow.org/COVID-19 response page.”

Some states have already taken action to help patients continue to access their medicine through different strategies, like California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control is working with CA businesses that serve medical cannabis patients by granting temporary changes in business plans that take into account the needs of patients and workers during this crisis. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana dispensaries will remain open since they fall into the same classification as pharmacies, which makes them essential. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance is also encouraging the State of Massachusetts to safeguard safe access and expand remote services for patients and caregivers to medical cannabis as it is medically essential healthcare.
“More than 3 million medical cannabis patients rely on dispensaries in their states to provide them with medication, which to many patients can also be life saving,” said ASA Interim Director Debbie Churgai. “The health and safety of patients, dispensary staff and the community as a whole is our priority and we hope that Governors and state regulators will allow some important flexibility for medical cannabis patients during this time of need.”

ABOUT AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national nonprofit (501(c)(3)), 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 with over 100,000 active members in all 50 states.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

EMERGENCY CALL TO ACTION TO GOVERNORS OF MEDICAL CANNABIS STATES An Important Message About Medical Cannabis Access and COVID-19



March 16, 2020

EMERGENCY CALL TO ACTION TO GOVERNORS OF MEDICAL CANNABIS STATES 
An Important Message About Medical Cannabis Access and COVID-19 

Dear Governors and Medical Cannabis Program Directors:

As Governors are creating emergency plans in their states to address the COVID-19 virus, Americans for Safe Access and our allies would like to offer some guidance when addressing medical cannabis patients, who represent some of the states’ most vulnerable citizens. We are calling on states to take precautions now to help ensure that patients have access today and that measures are taken to ensure that the supply chain is not interrupted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has hinted that it may call for all non-essential businesses to close to prevent the spread of the virus. Medical cannabis patients rely on dispensaries in their states to provide them with medication, which is life-saving to many patients.

We know that many states are currently taking action to help patients continue to access their medicine through different strategies. For example, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control is working with CA businesses that serve medical cannabis patients by granting temporary changes in business plans that take into account the needs of patients and workers during this crisis. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana dispensaries will remain open since they fall into the same classification as pharmacies, which makes them essential.

To help avert another public health crisis, we encourage all state programs to be flexible at this time to allow for additional precautions to be put in place to protect the millions of patients nationwide that rely on this medicine.

(click here)

It is our recommendation that governors and/or medical cannabis directors put the following measures into place immediately to ensure that patients do not have disrupted access to their medicine:

1. Make sure that cannabis businesses that serve patients are considered "essential" businesses.

2. Instruct medical cannabis businesses on how they can make legal temporary changes to their business plans, including delivery and purchase limits, to accommodate patients and staff during the crisis.

3. Give tax relief to patients and businesses.

4. Allow cultivation and processing centers to stay open to ensure a steady supply of medicine in the future.

5. Extend the expiration dates of state-issued cannabis identification cards so that doctors and other health care providers can focus on COVID-19.

6. Permit authorized caregivers to serve additional patients during the crisis period.

7. Allow telehealth visits for new and renewing medical cannabis patients.

8. Allow dispensaries to deliver medical cannabis to qualifying patients and caregivers in vehicles parked in the dispensary parking lots.


We understand that determining the best means by which to keep your communities safe is no easy task, and we thank you for taking our recommendations into consideration as you craft strategies to ensure that medical cannabis will be available to all patients in need throughout this public health emergency.


Sincerely,

Debbie Churgai Interim
Director Americans for Safe Access
debbie@safeaccessnow.org


PDF Version:
https://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/ASA_COVID-19.pdf


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