Friday, September 28, 2018

DEA reschedules CBD in Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived drug, classified as a schedule 5

The Drug Enforcement Administration has rescheduled Epidiolex, paving the way for GW Pharmaceuticals to start selling the first FDA-approved drug derived from cannabis, but stopped short of reclassifying all cannabidiol products. The rescheduling applies to CBD containing no more than 0.1 percent THC, in FDA-approved drug products. 
The Food and Drug Administration in June approved Epidiolex, which is derived from cannabidiol, or CBD, a molecule contained in the cannabis plant. This forced the DEA to consider how it would classify Epidiolex since marijuana is considered a schedule 1 drug, which it defines as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Epidiolex will be classified as a schedule 5 controlled substance, the lowest level, defined as those with a proven medical use and low potential for abuse. Other drugs in this category include some cough medicines containing codeine.
The drug is indicated to treat patients two years and older with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, rare forms of epilepsy that emerge during childhood and can be difficult to treat. It does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes people high.
GW Pharma said it would "work hard" to make Epidiolex available within the next six weeks. Shares of GW Pharma rose 8 percent on the news and helped pot stocks soar.
"We see our business distinct from Tilray and other companies that are seeking to be active in the broader cannabis space," GW CEO Justin Gover said in an interview Thursday with CNBC's "Power Lunch." "That's a different business. It's not one that we're involved with, but what I would say is this is yet another validation that if you apply the rigors of science and law to cannabis research, that the regulatory authorities, namely the FDA and DEA, will act and respond to the needs of patients to make these kinds of medications available."
The rescheduling applies to CBD containing no more than 0.1 percent THC, in FDA-approved drug products. Though this allows GW Pharma to sell Epidiolex, it does not broadly apply to CBD.
So while oils and lotions are becoming wildly popular, they're still schedule 1 drugs and therefore illegal under federal law, though the DEA typically does not pursue, or enforce the law against, individual users, a DEA spokeswoman told CNBC. Some states have legalized CBD and other marijuana products.
The DEA classifies cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, which it defines as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Because CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant, it is considered a schedule 1 drug and therefore illegal.
Coffee shops and other places selling CBD oil may be in line with state laws, depending on where they're located, but they're still skirting federal laws. And though the DEA may not pursue small-scale sellers, it may enforce those federal laws if consumer product conglomerates decide to enter the space.
Beverage giant Coca-Cola in September said although it has "no interest" in cannabis, it's "closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world."
In announcing its approval of Epidiolex, the FDA was clear to distinguish that the drug contains purified CBD and the agency's decision was not a broad approval of the substance. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the FDA remains "concerned about the proliferation and illegal marketing of unapproved CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims."
Source: CNBC

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Agriculture Committee Leaders Hope To Reach Agreement After Midterm Elections 

The House and Senate Farm Bill conference committee leaders have been negotiating for a month but have yet to reach agreement on the final language. Today the leading negotiators openly acknowledged that they're looking to pass a conference report after the midterm elections in November.

The leaders issued a joint statement about their commitment to finish the process. "Each of us is still at the negotiating table, and we remain committed to working together on a farm bill," the four lawmakers said in the statement. "Our conversations are productive, and progress toward an agreement is taking shape. We are going to get this right." Behind the unified statement, however, tensions were simmering over who is to blame for the lack of compromise.

Farm Bill negotiations can be unpredictable but we do still expect the Hemp Farming Act language to be included in the final bill and are still hopeful that the bill will be signed into law before the end of this year. There is pressure to get a Farm Bill done and members will hear from constituents who are not happy about the failure to make a deal. We will keep you updated as we get new information.

Vote Hemp signed a coalition letter to Farm Bill conferees along with AHPA, HIA, NHA and Bluebird Botanicals urging them to support the Hemp Farming Act but also requesting that they remove a last minute amendment which would ban drug felons from working with the crop. We feel strongly that this provision is unfair and counter productive. It ties the hand of states where no such restrictions exist.

The Senate passed a strong bipartisan version of the Farm Bill which included Senator McConnell's Hemp Farming Act language. It is critical that the Conference Committee members hear from you too so that hemp will be included in the final Farm Bill that goes to the presidents desk. Vote Hemp has also been leading an effort to remove a harmful last minute provision that was added banning anyone convicted of a drug felony from growing or processing hemp. We lead a coalition letter that was sent to Farm Bill conferees and others in Congress urging inclusion of the hemp language but requesting removal of the felony ban.

If you haven't written the committee members yet, please take action now!


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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Cannabis for Canines? Vets and Pet Owners Talk Medical Cannabis and Animal Health

In California, pot-infused pet products are a growing business, but veterinarians still can’t legally speak about marijuana with their clients. A new bill could change that.

Whether it’s during the 4th of July to ease their dog’s fireworks-induced anxiety, or to regularly treat the chronic pain that comes with a cat’s arthritis, animal owners are increasingly using cannabis-based products to treat their pets for a menagerie of ailments. Yet, as California state law currently stands, veterinarians are unable to legally discuss marijuana treatments for pets with their clients without risking losing their license to practice veterinary medicine entirely — even despite pot being legal for everyone else but minors in the Golden State. This leaves product selection, dosing, and other health considerations mostly up to a pet guardian’s best guess, creating potential problems for veterinarians, pet owners, and their animals alike.

However newly proposed legislation is seeking to end this tricky predicament: Assembly Bill (AB) 2215 — sponsored by California Veterinary Medical Association and currently being considered in the state legislature — would “protect state-licensed veterinarians from disciplinary action for discussing the use of cannabis on animal patient clients.” In short, vets in California would no longer risk losing their profession for discussing pot products as an option for pet patients.

MERRY JANE spoke with pet owners using cannabis to treat their animals’ health conditions, as well as with veterinarians Drs. Gary Richter and Tim Shu, about how the passage of AB 2215 would positively benefit pets, their human companions, and the animal health experts who treat them.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Dr. Gary Richter

Dr. Richter is a veterinarian who specializes in integrative healthcare, and is the owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital and Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California. I spoke with Dr. Richter, a passionate advocate for treating animals with integrative therapies, about how AB 2215 would affect his patients, and the importance of being able to speak with pet owners about safely using cannabis.

MERRY JANE: How would the passage of AB 2215 positively affect pet owners and your practice?

Dr. Richter: Well, that's a really great question, because the answer to that question has evolved over the past three months because [the language of] AB 2215 has evolved. What used to say that veterinarians can recommend cannabis for veterinary patients has since been changed — “recommend” has been changed to the word “discuss”, which clearly is a bit more vague. If it were to pass, veterinarians would be able to discuss the use of cannabis for veterinary patients, but there would actually be no legally available pet-specific products for [animal doctors to prescribe].

How has your inability to speak about cannabis with patients negatively impacted the health of the pets?

The entire current situation as it pertains to cannabis and veterinarians is greatly to the detriment of animals, because we are not legally allowed to tell you as a pet owner what would be a safe way to use cannabis for your pet. So it would almost be tantamount to somebody telling me, “Well there is this medication that can really help your patients, but you're not allowed to use it, and you're not even allowed to talk about it.” I have had people come into my office with pets that are in pain, or pets that have cancer, or pets that have various diseases — or conversely, I've had people come into my office that are self-medicating their pets with cannabis in ways that are potentially harmful. And the state would tell me that basically my job is to sit on my hands and say nothing.

You mentioned that some people are dosing their pets with cannabis in ways that are harmful. Could you expand on that a little bit?

Sure. Months ago, I had somebody come in with a dog that had cancer. They decided they were going to treat their dog with cannabis, and they went out and got an extremely concentrated high-THC product. And when I saw this dog, it was so stoned that the client had to carry the dog in because he couldn't walk, which is ridiculous.

Currently, without AB 2215, what are you legally allowed to do in that situation?

As a veterinarian, I have two options. I can just say, “You should just stop giving this medication altogether, and don't give your dog cannabis, because the veterinary medical board says it's bad.” And mind you, this dog has cancer. Or, I could risk my license and try to give these people with some guidance in such a way that might give this dog a better quality of life; help him feel a little bit better for however much time he has left. That's the position that the veterinary medical board has put us in.

What are some of the side effects of traditional pet medications versus any side effects of giving a cannabis based-product to your animal?

The side effects of [pharmaceuticals] could be excessive sedation; potential complications as far as liver and kidney health; gastrointestinal upsets. There's a lot of potential complications there. That's certainly not to say that every animal that goes on these medications has these complications, but they are sitting out there. Whereas conversely, when dosed appropriately, cannabis has few, if any, side effects. And certainly nothing from the standpoint of any kind of permanent damage.

Dr. Tim Shu

Dr. Shu is a veterinarian as well the founder and CEO of of VETCBD, a company focused on helping animals through cannabis-based products. I spoke with Dr. Shu about the benefits of being able to speak with pet owners about all of their pets’ medical options, and the possibility of animals overdosing while using marijuana medicine.

MERRY JANE: How does you not being able to talk about cannabis use with pet owners negatively affect animals?

Dr. Shu: To not allow for the discussion of [cannabis use] is to not allow pet owners to have information regarding medicine that could greatly improve the quality of other pets' lives. We've spoken to a lot of pet owners whose pets' lives have been saved by cannabis, because of issues such as uncontrollable seizures or debilitating arthritis. So if information about cannabis isn't available to pet owners, pets are going to suffer from that, and the whole point of healthcare and medicine is to improve the quality of life and alleviate suffering.

Currently, because veterinarians can't legally speak about cannabis use for pets, where are pet owners are getting their information on dosing?

At VETCBD, we provide veterinary-based information online and at conferences, at events and in stores, but we can't reach every pet owner out there. The reality is that when pet owners are unable to speak to their veterinarians about cannabis, they're going to turn to whatever resources are available to them, and this may include people without medical backgrounds like friends or family, or resources online with potentially erroneous information. So that's why it's so important that veterinarians be allowed to speak to pet owners about cannabis: If their veterinarians can't talk to them about it, they'll find someone that will, whether or not that secondary source has reliable, accurate information.

Some opponents of AB 2215 have mentioned they disapprove of the bill because of concerns of animals overdosing on cannabis. Can you touch on the reality of someone giving their animal too much marijuana?

Overdosing, especially when it comes to products that contain THC, is a reality. Animals tend to be more sensitive to THC. So the concern about overdosing using cannabis products not made for pets is a reality that veterinarians have been dealing with, because owners are not getting the information they need from their veterinarians about proper use. By allowing veterinarians to speak to their clients about cannabis, it would prevent improper use of cannabis. The reality is that no one [responsible] is trying to get pets high, and pet owners are always going to do what's in the best interest of their pet, and do whatever they can to improve the quality of their pet's lives.

Liza Dye (photos by Rikki Wright)

Liza is a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer, as well as the owner of two emotional support dogs. She treats Tito, her 12-year-old Chihuahua and Noah, her 8-year-old poodle, with cannabis-infused products to ease their arthritis and anxiety. We spoke with her about the improvements she’s seen in her pets’ lives since she’s began microdosing them with CBD.

MERRY JANE: How did you find out about using cannabis-based products for your dogs?

Dye: Within the last 5 to 7 years, it's been this new thing that everyone's been talking about... I just kind of always knew about it. I was in South Carolina when it first became a thing, and it was not available there. That was one of the reasons I moved to California, so that I would have access to more holistic medical solutions.

Tell us about your pets, what products you use with them, and why.

I have a senior Chihuahua who has really, really bad arthritis, and I have a young poodle who has really bad anxiety... He's terrified of everything, so I give him a little bit of CBD for that. And then the Chihuahua, he has really bad arthritis, and he's also going a little blind. He's just very old, so I just try to really try to make his last days as least painful as they possibly can be. The Chihuahua's had a miraculous turnaround with CBD. He couldn't climb stairs or anything without wailing in pain, and I've been giving him a small dose of CBD every other night, and now he can climb two flights of stairs! He couldn't climb a single stair before, so that really blew my mind.

How do you think being able to talk to a vet about cannabis and proper dosing would impact your pets' health?

Oh my God, it would help tremendously, because I think most dog parents unfortunately make the mistake of overdosing over underdosing when you're first trying to figure it out. I think if there was a professionally trained medical physician that knew specifically about my individual dog's needs, it would have helped so much, especially in the beginning when I was trying to figure it all out.

Yvette Ward is a Los Angeles-based model and blogger, and the owner of Charlie, a one-and-a-half-year-old Maltipoo. We spoke with Yvette about how she effectively treats Charlie’s anxiety and how she found out about using cannabis-based products on her pet.

MERRY JANE: Tell us about your dog and why you use cannabis-based products on him.

Ward: My dog’s name is Charlie, he’s a Maltipoo, and I use calming chews to calm him down from flights, because we fly a lot, so I give it to him before we go and it calms his anxiety.

How did you find out about cannabis-based products and using them for pets?

One of my friends is an influencer and had an event with a company, Eaze, and they taught us about cannabis. They said a lot of people use these things for their pets, and they had pet-specific products. So I ordered the chews to see how it worked.

Have you noticed a difference in Charlie since using the cannabis-based products for flying?

Yeah, I call him a watchdog because he’s kind of always on guard, so it kind of just puts him at ease. It calms his nerves and he’s not looking around and shaking as much.

How do you think your dog would benefit from you being able to speak with a veterinarian about dosing him with cannabis?

I feel like there some things we still don’t know, and you don’t want to give your pet the wrong thing. If his veterinarian is knowledgeable on it, that would obviously help. It would help to know just how much you can give him, and to have someone just to base it on your pet and not just what it says on the label. 

by Emily Berkey Merry Jane 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

California Judge rules Santa Rosa girl taking medical cannabis for seizures can attend public school

Tears streamed down Jana Adams’ face Friday when her attorney delivered the news by phone that her 5-year-old daughter, Brooke, can continue attending public elementary school — and bring with her the cannabis-based medication she needs.

The move came after state administrative law Judge Charles Marson ruled Brooke, who suffers frequent seizures because of a rare form of epilepsy, may continue to attend Village Elementary School in Santa Rosa with her emergency medicine. Marson’s decision overruled the Rincon Valley Union School District’s stance that allowing her on campus and the school bus violated state and federal laws barring medical marijuana on school grounds.
“I was so overwhelmed with emotion and joy that we don’t have to fight anymore after a battle of over two years,” said Jana Adams. “I’m grateful that we had this ruling so she can just go to school like any other child and we don’t have to keep pushing to get what she needs.”

Under prior temporary order from Marson, Brooke has been attending kindergarten at Village Elementary since August, accompanied by a nurse who administers the THC oil that helps with her seizures. In that time, Brooke has had at least three seizures on school grounds according to her mother, but the cannabis treatment prevented prolonged convulsions and averted calls for an ambulance for emergency help.

“She has them at different times of the day, and you don’t know when it comes,” said Adams. “To be able to see the marijuana working and not have to call 911 because it stops the seizure is amazing.”

Joe Rogoway, the Santa Rosa-based cannabis attorney representing the Adams family, argued that Brooke’s genetic condition, known as Dravet Syndrome, clearly qualified her to attend school under federal law. He also believed the school district misapplied state statutes that prohibit medical marijuana on campus in its rationale for denying her access, namely given Brooke’s diagnosed need for the drug.

Related Article: 'Program Participants Should Be Able To Use Medical Cannabis At Schools'

The district’s prior proposal — to make an educational accommodation for Brooke that would have had an instructor at the Adams’ home for up to an hour per school day — was inadequate, Rogoway said. That alternative granted no chance, he said, for her to socialize daily with kids her age, which neurologists have told the family Brooke needs to continue developing cognitively.

Rogoway was unfamiliar with any other case of its kind in California, though other districts around the state, including the Bay Area, have proactively created policies to make exceptions for students with disorders requiring medical marijuana.

He praised Judge Marson’s ruling and felt it could pave the way toward access to public education for other children facing similar administrative hurdles.

“It’s always an uphill battle to convince the government to allow for medical marijuana use in sensitive areas,” said Rogoway. “The ruling is profound and the judge found it so incredibly important for children like Brooke. Hopefully it provides opportunities for not just her, but other families in the same situation who desperately want to be able to go to school and socialize with children in their peer group.”

Marson is a judge in the state office of Administrative Hearings’ Special Education Division, which handles disagreements between school districts and parents of children with disabilities.

Source : Kevin Fixler
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | September 21, 2018, 8:11PM

Thursday, September 20, 2018

5 things all patients should know when considering medical cannabis

Although there are medical cannabis programs of some kind in 47 states, DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico, medical cannabis still remains a mystery to the vast majority of Americans today. Using medical cannabis is an approach that is supported by research and medical professionals, and has demonstrated positive public health outcomes. While it may feel like an overwhelming experience for many new patients, it does not have to be, to help new patients feel comfortable entering the world of medical cannabis, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest medical cannabis patient advocacy group created Cannabis Care Certification, a medical cannabis education program for patients and caregivers. To help you start out this process, here is a list of top 5 things that all patients should know when considering medical cannabis as part of their health care regime.   

1. Learn you state medical cannabis laws

Every state has different laws and regulations regarding medical cannabis. Before becoming a medical cannabis patient, you should become familiar with your state and local laws regarding possession limitations, eligible conditions, consumption restrictions, age limits, and reciprocity. To find out what your state medical cannabis laws are, click here and fill out “Let’s Get Started” for a FREE legal overview and a list of requirements for your state Medical Cannabis Program.

2. Educate your doctor

We usually turn to Doctors as the experts. However, not all doctors are educated on medical cannabis and not all of them are for medical cannabis. Let your doctor know that this is an option you would like to explore and encourage them to do the same. Let them know that there IS medical professional education they can turn to in order to learn more about how cannabis works with the endocannabinoid system within our bodies. Medical professional education and CME credits can also be found out

3. Know your rights

As a legal medical cannabis patient or caregiver, you have rights, and you should know exactly what they are before you buy any product. It is important to understand, for example, if medical cannabis can be used in the workplace or in your home. It is also important to know how to handle any interaction with a law enforcement officer. As a legal medical cannabis patient, you do have rights, and you should not ever be afraid to use them.
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4. Know your options

When most people think about cannabis, they think about smoking cannabis. However, there are many different preparations and forms of administration; oils, tinctures and capsules with varying concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), that produce different effects. Learn about the different options and what might work best for you.

5. Learn how to talk about medical cannabis with others

Many people still associate a bad stigma with cannabis. It is important to have strategies to talk to people. Medical cannabis users should have a plan for talking to family, friends and employers about their cannabis use. It is important to help spread the knowledge that this is a real medicine that is helping you.

For more information about about medical cannabis or the Cannabis Care Certification patient education program, check out and

For 50% off the Cannabis Care Certification Patient and Caregiver Education Program, use coupon code: CCC50 at check out!

June 22, 2018 |  Debbie Churgai | Americans For Safe Access

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Congress Passes Medical Cannabis Bill Through House Judiciary Committee

Republican Freshman Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL) is on a mission to pass a bill that would allow for expanded medical cannabis research.

Last week, the Medical Cannabis Act sponsored by Gaetz passed the U.S. House Judicial Committee with bipartisan support.

It's a "landmark moment" Gaetz said; it's the first time Republicans in control of Congress have passed a medical cannabis bill through committee. Next it will head to the House floor for a vote.

On Thursday, September 13, 2018, the House Judiciary Committee reported the Medical Cannabis Research Act favorably, sending it to the House floor for a vote. This legislation, the first cannabis-related legislation considered by a Republican-led Judiciary Committee in history, makes it easier for researchers to study medical cannabis, and understand its potential uses, benefits, and risks.

Currently, cannabis research is stymied by laws that unfairly prevent many of America’s great research institutions from studying cannabis, despite its promise as a treatment for nausea, epilepsy, muscular sclerosis, and a host of other conditions. Cannabis has the potential to mitigate opioid abuse and addiction, and early studies indicate that it may even help veterans who suffer from PTSD. By giving research institutions “safe harbor” — keeping them safe from legal retribution — the Medical Cannabis Research Act will greatly assist American researchers unlock cures that cannabis may provide. Just last month, the FDA approved a cannabis-derived medicine for certain types of epilepsy. Future research is likely to unlock other cures.

The Medicinal Cannabis Research Act(H.R. 5634), its author, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1) told Forbes. The bill, which has 40 bipartisan cosponsors, would require the federal government to issue new cultivation licenses for research purposes.

Access to research materials -- actual cannabis – has been stymied by a lack of supply from the sole authorized source, the federal research farm operated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agreed to issue more licenses to produce research cannabis, none have been issued.

The Department of Justice has effectively blocked the process by refusing to act on any applications sent over from the DEA.

After passage, Rep. Gaetz issued the following statement:

“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law. The Medical Cannabis Research Act helps break that logjam, allowing researchers to study medical cannabis without fear of legal jeopardy. I am grateful for the support of Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who was instrumental in developing this legislation, and for the committee’s bipartisan vote to support medical research. This vote will help unlock American innovation and discovery, and help researchers bring the cures of the future a little closer to reality,” Rep. Gaetz said.

"I'm super excited about what potential cannabis has in healthcare, and I think we'll learn a lot more if we're not so stupid as a government to make the research illegal," Gaetz said.

The act would give research institutions "safe harbor" to study the potential uses, benefits, and risks of the drug, which remains a Schedule I classification under the federal law alongside heroin and LSD.

"I think that marijuana policy has in many ways been victimized by the overall chilled relationship between the White House and the Department of Justice," Gaetz said.

"I think it is really Jeff Sessions who opposes medical marijuana, and I'm not entirely sure he and President Trump will be on one another's Christmas lists going forward."

For Gaetz, Washington is obstructing its own view.

"Washington just needs to get out of the way so that we can really see the potential.

Read More At :

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Americans For Safe Access Activist Newsletter - September 2018

ASA Activist Newsletter

In the September 2018 issue:
  • UN Takes First Look at Status of Cannabis Under International Law
  • Illinois Takes Direct Step to Fight Opioid Crisis with Medical Cannabis
  • First Southern California Laboratory Achieves National PFC Certification
  • Congressional Pressure Builds for More Cannabis Research
  • Activist Profile: Tom Duncan, Iowa, in memoriam
  • ACTION ALERT: Urge Congress to Find the Facts on Medical Cannabis

UN Takes First Look at Status of Cannabis Under International Law

United Nations logoThe international effort to change the classification of cannabis to allow medical use has taken a big step forward. In late July, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a formal letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), informing him that the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) had determined that cannabidiol (CBD) does not need to be scheduled at all.
“The Committee recommended that preparations considered to be pure CBD should not be scheduled within the International Drug Control Conventions,” wrote WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He also notified the UN that the WHO experts found evidence that cannabis, THC, and extracts do not fit the current, highly restrictive classification, so they will undertake a “critical review” of those in November, the first every done by the WHO or the UN.
Patient advocates at the WHO meeting in Geneva, June 2018The WHO determination follows testimony and evidence presented by Americans for Safe Access and other members of the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC) in Geneva, Switzerland in June. ASA and IMCPC submitted four reports on cannabis and its components that convinced the ECDD that cannabis is “a relatively safe drug.”
In addition to the letter, Dr. Tedros sent a summary of findings that notes “There are no case reports of abuse or dependence relating to the use of pure CBD. No public health problems have been associated with CBD use,” and “CBD has been found to be generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
The ECDD’s “Critical Review” of cannabis and its derivatives will include the chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, epidemiology, and therapeutic use. The results of the review will be sent to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which will adopt or reject them at its meeting in March 2019. Based on the ECDD’s initial findings, the experts are likely to recommend that the UN reschedule cannabis, THC, resin, extracts and tinctures.
Such a recommendation may be welcome. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was prime minister of Portugal when it decriminalized all drugs in 2001, a decision he lauded in an address to the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs last year, saying, “I am particularly proud of the results of the reforms I introduced in Portugal.”
Patient advocacy groups at the June WHO meeting represented Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, France, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United States.
“The current international policies on cannabis are based on a League of Nations report from 1935,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “They are having a detrimental impact on patients worldwide and do not reflect the reality of over 30 countries globally that have passed medical cannabis laws.”
If the UN ultimately decides to change marijuana’s status under international law, it would trigger a review on U.S. scheduling, according to provisions of the Controlled Substances Act.
More Information:
Letter from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to the UN.

Illinois Takes Direct Step to Fight Opioid Crisis with Medical Cannabis

ASA Distributed Similar Model Legislation Last Month to State Representatives

Illinois took a bold step to fight the opioid crisis with medical cannabis last month. Governor Bruce Rauner (R) travelled to the Chicago Recovery Alliance, a nonprofit that works to prevent heroin overdoses, to sign a bill that will allow patients to trade in opioid prescriptions for medical cannabis.
SB 336, introduced by state Senator Don Harmon, says a doctor may authorize the use of medical cannabis immediately for any patient who qualifies for a prescription of OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin or other opioids.
“This bill is an example of what ASA has been urging policymakers to do to combat an epidemic that is claiming 115 lives a day,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We urge other states to follow the lead of Illinois and get in step with our End Pain, Not Lives campaign by establishing cannabis as an option for pain management.”
End Pain, Not LivesIllinois’s new law also eliminates barriers to patients. Qualifying individuals can now obtain provisional registrations while their application is being processed so there is no waiting period for access to medical cannabis. Also ended are fingerprint and criminal background checks to enroll in the medical cannabis program.
“With enactment of SB 336, we are the first state to give medical prescribers a way to help adult patients manage their pain without compromising their safety or Illinois’ marijuana program standards,” said Governor Rauner. “Science wins again. [There is] substantial evidence that cannabis produces clinically significant reductions in pain symptoms. States with medical marijuana dispensaries have seen a 14.4% decrease in the use of prescription opioids. Other preliminary, epidemiological data suggest a correlation between widespread use of medical cannabis and lower opioid death rates.”
Over 6 million opioid prescriptions were filled in Illinois in 2017. In contrast, there are only approximately 40,000 patients currently enrolled in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Program. According to the state Department of Health, Illinois lost 1,946 individuals to opioid overdose in 2016.
As part of its ongoing “End Pain, Not Lives” campaign, Americans for Safe Access distributed similar model legislation to lawmakers from all fifty states at the annual National Conference of State Legislators’ Legislative Summit.
More Information: ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives campaign.

First Southern California Laboratory Achieves National PFC Certification

ASA’s Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program last month certified Consumer Safety Analytics (AKA CannaSafe) Laboratory of Van Nuys, California for laboratory analysis of medical cannabis products. CannaSafe is the first laboratory to be awarded certification in southern California through the PFC program.
“CannaSafe has demonstrated through the PFC certification process a commitment to high standards of testing that will ensure cannabis safety and consumer confidence in California’s burgeoning cannabis market,” said PFC Director Heather Despres.  “CannaSafe sets a standard for other cannabis laboratories to meet.”
PFC is the only nonprofit, third-party certification program for the medical cannabis industry based on quality standards issued by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP). The AHP and AHPA cannabis guidelines offer the most comprehensive regulatory and product safety guidance, as well as Best Business Practices for the production of cannabis and cannabis products. Components of these guidance documents have been included in several states’ regulations.
The Cannasafe main laboratory. Photo by Upstate Headshots“Going through the process of PFC certification has brought numerous benefits to our business and our clients as well as their patients and consumers,” said Antonio Frazier, Director of Operations at CannaSafe. “The PFC program has helped us attain the highest levels of standards and consistency in testing cannabis products, which offered additional measures and considerations. We will also be offering a discount on testing services to other cannabis businesses enrolled in the PFC program. Further, the program has also saved us potentially thousands of dollars by ensuring we were prepared for regulatory inspections and the staff is properly trained,” added Fraizer.
To achieve PFC certification, laboratories must pass two assessments each cycle. Assessment involves a facility inspection and review of method validation reports, employee training records, and other requirements applicable by law.
CannaSafe joins a growing list of PFC certified cannabis businesses since the program was officially launched in 2015, including Harvest of Tempe (AZ), Sonoma Lab Works (CA), Berkeley Patients Group (CA), Humboldt’s finest (CA), The Werc Shop (WA), Kannavis (MD) BASA Collective (CA) and many others.
In addition to its collaboration with AHPA and AHP, Americans for Safe Access has formed partnerships with other accreditation bodies and standards groups such as ASTM and the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA). The PFC program will soon be offering a new accreditation program based on the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025.
More information: Patient Focused Certification.

Congressional Pressure Builds for More Cannabis Research

One of the many barriers to medical research on cannabis may soon be gone, if members of Congress have their say. A bipartisan bill to create more access to research cannabis will receive a vote in a key House committee, and Senators are again urging the Department of Justice to stop stalling on the issue.
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote this month on the Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R. 5634), its author, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1) told Forbes. The bill, which has 40 bipartisan cosponsors, would require the federal government to issue new cultivation licenses for research purposes.
Access to research materials -- actual cannabis – has been stymied by a lack of supply from the sole authorized source, the federal research farm operated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agreed to issue more licenses to produce research cannabis, none have been issued.
The Department of Justice has effectively blocked the process by refusing to act on any applications sent over from the DEA.
Members of Congress have been applying pressure to the Trump Administration, targeting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA). This month’s letter was the second Sessions has received from Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), asking why the Department of Justice is not moving forward with licensing research cultivation facilities. Their April letter never got a reply.
 “It is imperative that our nation’s brightest scientists have access to diverse types of federally-approved, research-grade marijuana to research both its adverse and therapeutic effects,” Harris and Hatch wrote in their most recent letter.
The letter to the head of the VA urges new clinical trials of cannabis for conditions affecting veterans.  The members of Congress point out that the VA has the authority to conduct studies on the health benefits and risks of cannabis. The letter was signed by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate veterans affairs committees -- Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Jon Tester (D-MT), and Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN-1) and Tim Walz (D-MN-1).
“Many of our nation’s veterans already use medicinal cannabis, and they deserve to have full knowledge of the potential benefits and side effects of this alternative therapy,” they wrote, noting that the American Legion’s survey of its membership found veterans “overwhelmingly support research into medicinal cannabis.”

Activist Profile: Tom Duncan, Iowa - in memoriam

Tom Duncan lobbying at the U.S. CapitolTom Duncan, co-founder of Iowans for Safe Access and recipient of ASA’s Courage Award in 2017, passed away on August 15, 2018, after living with cancer for years. He was 60. A humble, tireless advocate for access to medical cannabis for all those in need, Tom attend many of ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conferences and lobbied Senator Chuck Grassley’s office relentlessly.
Tom’s last victory as an advocate, just days before his death, was to change the University Iowa Hospital and Clinic policy to allow patients to bring in cannabis oil and medicate in their room.
"I am very sad to hear about our movement's loss of Tom Duncan," said Steph Sherer, pictured with Tom at the Unity Conference. "He was inspiration to all of us at ASA and such a lovely person."
A resident of Jefferson, Iowa, where he was buried late last month, Tom worked as a commodities broker for several years, as well as with his father on the family farm there.
After his father died in 2008, Tom took on caring for his elderly mother, Bonnie, and his brother Jay, who has Down Syndrome. Tom also worked for a time at Genesis, an organization that provides support for people with disabilities, and was active in Aktion Club, a service club for adults with disabilities.
"If you weren’t his friend, that was by your choice, as he met everyone where they were and respected everyone," says one of his hometown friends.

His friends remember him for his love of ice cream and his way with children. Advocates will remember how Tom worked tirelessly for safe access to medical cannabis on both the state and national levels. He was a generous man who always demurred when complimented on his advocacy, giving credit to the many mothers in Iowa for the wins they achieved.
Patients everywhere have lost a champion of compassion. He will be sorely missed.

ACTION ALERT: Urge Congress to Find the Facts on Medical Cannabis

BuzzFeed News reports the Trump Administration is secretly preparing a smear campaign about cannabis that includes soliciting negative stories and statements about it from federal agencies. Good policy requires honest conversations with lawmakers, and the public is entitled to unbiased studies and information about cannabis.
The Marijuana Data Collection Act (H.R. 6495) can insure that impartial approach. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate information gathering with the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the various states. It would also direct the National Academy of Sciences to publish a biannual study on the health, safety and economic effects of state cannabis programs.
You can help by urging your Congressional representative to become a cosponsor the Marijuana Data Collection Act today. Click here now to take action.

By William Dolphin, Americans for Safe Access

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Medical cannabis effective in treating a wide range of health conditions

Image result for UNM

Date: September 10th 2018 
Source: University of New Mexico 

Utilizing new mobile application technology, researchers at The University of New Mexico found that medical cannabis provides immediate symptom relief across dozens of health symptoms with relatively minimal negative side effects.

In two recent studies titled, "Patient-Reported Symptom Relief Following Medical Cannabis Consumption," and "Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medical Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia under Naturalistic Conditions" published in the journals, Frontiers in Pharmacology and Medicines, respectively, UNM Department of Psychology Associate Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil and UNM Department of Economics Assistant Professor Sarah See Stith, document that patients experienced statistically and clinically significant therapeutic benefits when they used cannabis for symptoms ranging from chronic pain to insomnia.
These studies analyzed data collected with the Releaf App, developed by co-authors Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling and Branden Hall and currently, the largest repository of user-entered information on the consumption and effects of cannabis use in the United States with nearly 100,000 recorded user sessions.
Since its release in 2016, the commercially developed Releaf App has been the only publicly available, incentive-free patient educational software program designed for recording how individual cannabis usage sessions correspond to immediate changes in symptom intensity levels and experienced side effects.
"If the results found in our studies can be extrapolated to the general population, cannabis could systematically replace multi-billion dollar medication industries around the world. It is likely already beginning to do so." -- Jacob Vigil
This electronic assessment tool enables patients to monitor and manage their cannabis consumption decisions under naturalistic conditions while avoiding the limitations of retrospective survey collection methods (e.g., memory bias, social desirability effects) making it an ideal research tool for measuring real-world cannabis use.
In the first study, across 27 different health conditions with symptoms that ranged from seizure disorders to depression, users reported an average symptom reduction of nearly 4 points on a 1-10 scale following the consumption of cannabis in its various product forms, from concentrates to topicals.
The second study focused specifically on the use of raw natural cannabis flower, or 'buds' for treating insomnia, with similar degrees of effectiveness that varied according to characteristics of the flower and combustion methods. Both investigations were supported in part by the University of New Mexico Medical Cannabis Research Fund, which was designed to facilitate the types of biomedical cannabis-based research that historically have been difficult to fund through conventional governmental entities, such as the National Institutes of Health.

Most prescription medications carry a long list of unavoidable negative side effects and risks of serious health concerns and even death, allowing alternative forms of medication to compete for patient preferences and healthcare industry demands. Medical cannabis is rapidly gaining popularity with the largest expansions in use among older people and patients with significant health conditions.
"Observational studies are more appropriate than experimental research designs for measuring how patients choose to consume cannabis and the effects of those choices," said Vigil. "By collecting massive amounts of patient-entered information on actual cannabis used under real-life circumstances we are able to measure why patients consume cannabis, the types of products that patients use, and the immediate and longer-term effects of such use. In other words, many of the important and practical research questions that randomized controlled trials fail to address."
Cannabis has been investigated as a potential treatment for a wide range of medical conditions from post-traumatic stress disorder to cancer, with the most consistent support for the treatment of chronic pain, epilepsy and spasticity. These studies hint at just how wide cannabis' therapeutic potential may be and are among the first to measure how characteristics of cannabis consumed by millions of people in the U.S. every day are likely to affect different types of health disturbances, both in symptom severity levels and experienced positive and negative side effects.
One of the most striking patterns in the current results was the breadth of symptoms that appeared to improve following cannabis consumption. More than 94 percent of cannabis users reported symptom intensity reductions following self-administered cannabis use across the various health conditions measured with the Releaf App. This may reflect the ability of the plant's phytocannabinoids to influence the human endocannabinoid system, which regulates both mental and physical health and behavioral systems.
According to the endocannabinoid deficiency theory, many mental and physical health disturbances result from the dysregulation of the body's innate endocannabinoid system (ECS), often described as a master network of chemical signals that promote physical and psychological homeostasis, or biological state-efficiency. The ECS consists of natural ligands (e.g., anandamide and 2-AG) and receptors (CB1 and CB2) that appear to play a major role in efficient regulation of a basic bodily systems including sleep, feeding (e.g., gut permeability and adipogenesis), libido and fertility, pain perception, motivation, happiness, anxiety, learning and memory, social functioning, autoimmune responses, cellular redox, and cancer pathophysiology.
"In other words and unlike conventional pharmaceutical approaches, which largely target specific neurotransmitter sites, cannabis may act to improve a broad spectrum of symptoms by regulating homeostatic functioning, perhaps best described as a system-modulating rather than symptom-modulating form of therapy," said Vigil. "The medicinal potential of this concept and practical application for treating so many and seemingly diverse health conditions is unlike that of any other single medication currently known to exist."

In addition to therapeutic benefits, these studies also showed that cannabis use is associated with frequent and numerous, yet generally non-serious side effects. Positive and context-specific side effects were far more commonly reported than negative side effects by the Releaf App users, with the most frequent reported side effects being positive (relaxed, peaceful, comfy) and the least frequent side effects being negative (paranoid, confused, headache).
Ultimately, cannabis could find a permanent place among our modern repertoire of medication options if it can treat users' health conditions more effectively and more safely than conventional pharmaceutical remedies. As in the case of insomnia, prescription sleep aids such as antidepressants (e.g., trazodone, amitriptyline, and doxepin), benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam and lorazepam), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) medications (zolpidem and eszopiclone), and anti-psychotics (aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine and risperidone) are associated with significant clinical drawbacks and heightened risk of morbidity.
The widespread apparent use of cannabis as a sleep aid and for treating myriad other health symptoms underscores the importance of further medical research regarding its risk-benefit profile and the effectiveness of cannabis as a substitute for other substances, including alcohol, over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids, and scheduled medications (e.g., opioids and sedatives).
According to Stith, "The economic impact of cannabis treatment should also be considered given the current burden of opioid and other high-risk prescriptions on healthcare systems, which have been forced to implement costly modifications to general patient care practices, including prescription monitoring programs, drug screening, and more frequent doctor-patient interactions.
"In addition, if the short-term risk-benefit profile of cannabis found in our studies reflects its longer-term therapeutic potential, substitution of cannabis for traditional pharmaceuticals could reduce the risk of dangerous drug interactions and the costs associated with taking multiple medications by allowing patients to treat a constellation of comorbidities with a single treatment modality. "
"If the results found in our studies can be extrapolated to the general population, cannabis could systematically replace multi-billion dollar medication industries around the world. It is likely already beginning to do so," Vigil added.

  1. Sarah S. Stith, Jacob M. Vigil, Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling, Branden Hall. Patient-Reported Symptom Relief Following Medical Cannabis ConsumptionFrontiers in Pharmacology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00916
  2. Jacob Vigil, Sarah Stith, Jegason Diviant, Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling, Branden Hall. Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medical Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia under Naturalistic ConditionsMedicines, 2018; 5 (3): 75 DOI: 10.3390/medicines5030075