About Americans for Safe Access
The 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 150,000 active supporters 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.
Ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis means:
- International, federal and state laws and regulations recognized cannabis as a legal medicine.
- Medical professionals recommend medical cannabis options as a frontline treatment option or an adjunct therapy.
- Patients and their caregivers have the information they need to make educated choices about medical cannabis therapies.
- Patients and medical professionals can incorporate a diverse group of products and delivery methods to create required personalized treatment regimen.
- Patients can trust labels on products and that medicines are free of pesticides and contaminants.
- Medical cannabis treatments are covered by insurance.
General Accomplishments Throughout the Years
- ASA has been instrumental in the passage of medical cannabis laws in almost every state across the United States since 2002.
- ASA staff members have trained thousands of Public Defenders on how to defend medical cannabis patients and providers.
- ASA has generated thousands of letters and visits for medical cannabis prisoners.
- ASA has organized over 200 Raid Response protests to medical cannabis raids nationwide. Our innovative text message alert system can mobilize protesters at a moment’s notice.
- ASA has published an unprecedented amount of educational materials – almost one million Legal Manuals, over two million Know Your Rights wallet cards, hundreds of thousands of training manuals (legal, advocacy, industry and patient education, etc.), and countless special reports, newsletters, blogs, press releases, and other materials.
- ASA has hosted 7 California Citizen Lobby Days, and 6 DC Lobby Days setting up more than 2,600 meetings at legislative offices.
- ASA has worked with regulators in dozens of states to pass product safety protocols based on AHPA guidelines.
Action, Policy and Advocacy
- In 2005, ASA won important impact legislation to force changes in policy at the California Department of Motor Vehicles and California Highway Patrol, as well as precedent setting cases regarding return of property and federal preemption.
- After successfully suing the federal government for unreasonable delay in answering our coalition’s nine-year-old rescheduling petition, in 2012 ASA filed an appeal that forced the first evidentiary hearings on the medical benefits of cannabis in federal court since 1994.
- ASA helped introduce the Truth in Trials Act to Congress, which allows patients to disclose their legal medical use of cannabis in federal courts.
- In 2011, ASA filed a groundbreaking federal lawsuit challenging interference and intimidation in medical cannabis states. This lawsuit invokes the 10th Amendment to stop the Department of Justice from commandeering the law- making authority of the states.
- In 2011, ASA lobbying helped convince Congress to lift the 11-year-old ban on DC’s medical cannabis law, which the voters passed overwhelmingly in 1998.
- In 2015, ASA helped introduce the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act.
- In 2015, ASA collaborated with other organizations and activists to hold a press conference and deliver over 100,000 petition signatures calling for the resignation of DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg.
- In 2016, ASA filed a petition under the Information Quality Act, to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to change its unscientific position on medical cannabis.
- In 2016, ASA successfully lobbied Congress to extend the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits the US Department Justice from spending money to interfere in state medical cannabis programs – including prosecutions, civil asset forfeiture and more.
- In 2016, ASA delivered a letter on behalf of thirteen patient-based organizations urging ranking members of committees in the House and Senate to allow a vote on the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S.683, H.R. 1583), which would harmonize federal and state medical cannabis laws.
- In 2016, ASA’s federal lobbying efforts resulted in bipartisan passage of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment on the House Floor (233-189) and Senate Appropriations Committee (21-9), although the amendment was surreptitiously removed from the bill in a closed door conference committee session.
- In 2016, ASA was a participant in the United Nations High Level Stakeholder Consultation meeting in support of the preparatory process for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS).
- In 2016, ASA successfully campaigned to get the World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) to create a pre-critical review document to be presented at the annual meeting in Geneva, the first step in rescheduling cannabis under the UN Single Treaty.\
- In 2016, ASA and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, a global legal powerhouse based in San Francisco, partnered together to provide no-cost legal support to medical cannabis patients through ASA’s Patients’ Rights Project.
- In 2017, ASA coordinated advocates to hold simultaneous rallies across the United States with our Washington, DC rally to call attention to the potential of medical cannabis in mitigating the opioid crisis.
- In 2017 ASA launched the End Pain Not Lives campaign, to help ensure that medical cannabis become a part of the federal and state discussions and strategies around combating the opioid epidemic.
- In 2017 and 2018 ASA attended the National Council of State Legislators (NCSL) Conference, and provided model legislation of medical cannabis as a tool to mitigate state opioid overdose rates to lawmakers from every state.
- In 2017 and 2018, ASA secured renewal of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment protecting State medical cannabis programs through September 30, 2018.
- In 2017, ASA provided speakers for, and helped to organize the press briefing for the CARERS Act of 2017 (H.R.2920 and S.1764).
- In 2017, ASA launched a petition urging President Trump to formally declare the opioid epidemic a national health emergency.
- In 2017, ASA delivered their petition, with over 100,000 signatures to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) urging the President to order the DEA to correct false statements about cannabis on their website. Some of the incorrect information was subsequently removed after this and ASA’s Information Quality Act Petition filing in 2016.
- In 2017, in a response to the President’s Opioid Commission’s final report which left out the use of medical cannabis as a tool presumably due to a singular National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) study published several weeks prior to the report, ASA filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to NIDA and ONDCP to discover how and why the study came about.
- In 2017, ASA held a rally on US Capitol grounds to call attention to the potential of medical cannabis in mitigating the opioid crisis which followed with visits to key Congressional member offices.
- In 2017, in coordination with Congressman Rohrabacher, ASA secured numerous co-signers to a letter in support of the CJS appropriations medical cannabis amendment.
- In 2017, ASA initiated and coordinated a letter delivered to leaders of House and Senate appropriations committees urging them to pass Senator Leahy’s CJS amendment signed by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Michael J. Fox Foundation, US Pain Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Tourette Association of America, National Health Network, Realm of Caring, and Americans for Safe Access.
- In 2018 for the first time ever, ASA secured the inclusion of CJS medical cannabis language in the base text of the annual appropriations bill, without having to amend the bill, signifying a historic shift in political opinion towards medical cannabis.
- In 2018 ASA joined a round table of Veterans Service Organizations like the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans to press the House Veterans Affairs Committee & the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct medical cannabis research leading to a change in VA policy and the VA Medical Cannabis Act of 2018, the first medical cannabis legislation, of any kind, to pass out of committee since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
- ASA also was instrumental in the passage from committee of the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018. This is the first medical cannabis bill to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee. ASA simultaneously advocated for expanding research while vocally opposing a restriction that prevented individuals with drug convictions from working at research facilities.
- In 2019, ASA testified before the Food and Drug Administration regarding cannabis and cannabis derived products. ASA also provided over 20 pages of written comments to help support the oral comments that were delivered.
- In 2019 ASA debuted the 2019 State of the States report at the National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit (NCSL) and distributed printed copies directly into the hands of lawmakers. ASA also hosted two events at the conference for legislators from across the country.
- In 2020, when many businesses were ordered to close due to COVID-19, ASA sent letters to elected officials and state medical cannabis program directors urging them to take action to protect patient access and the medical cannabis supply chain, including classifying cannabis businesses as “essential services.” Other recommendations requested included tax relief for patients and cannabis businesses, guidance for dispensaries on temporary changes such as deliveries and increased purchase limits, and extension of program identification card expiration dates. This advocacy resulted in medical cannabis being declared “essential” by 28 states with many of ASA’s recommendations adopted.
- In 2020, ASA created a COVID-19 resource page with recommendations for patients, guidelines for officials, and a call to action.
- In 2020, ASA created Ending the Federal Conflict: Changing the Paradigm on Medical Cannabis, report which calls for either descheduling cannabis or rescheduling it to a new classification that would allow for cannabis to be used as a frontline medication. The report urges for the creation of a new federal agency, the Office of Medical Cannabis Control (OMCC) that would have centralized regulatory authority over medical cannabis research, production, and distribution.
- In 2020, ASA announced the launch of their new campaign: No Patient Left Behind. The focus of this campaign is to help raise awareness of the millions of people who should be able to obtain and use cannabis for medical purposes, yet still find themselves without access.
- In January 2021, ASA began the “What Can Joe do?” campaign urging presidential action on a variety of medical cannabis reform items which could be achieved by executive action alone. Thousands of our advocates took action to call or email the White House, the DOJ, VA, HUD or OPM and demand these simple fixes to improve medical cannabis access. Unfortunately the Biden administration has failed to address our demands.
- In 2021, ASA held its 9th annual National Medical Cannabis Unity conference, No Patient Left Behind, which was once again held virtually due to covid. Highlights of panels and presentations from ASA’s 9th annual conference include removing barriers to housing, healthcare and employment; kids and cannabis; controlling cannabis cost; federal standards for testing; changing federal law; and addressing veterans’ issues.
- In 2021, ASA provided comments to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in response to the White House’s request for comments issued on July 7. The focus of the request for public input was on the impact of federal drug control policy on equity communities. ASA’s comment letter addressed the challenges faced by patients using medical cannabis ranging from access, patient rights and civil protections to affordability, safety and consistency of cannabis medicine. The letter also raises the need for ONDCP leadership in reorganizing the agendas of federal departments and agencies to facilitate a pathway to federally-sanctioned cannabis medicine, and reform federal drug policies that have disproportionately harmed equity communities.
- In 2021, ASA launched a campaign to help implement California’s SB311 or “Ryan’s Law,” which requires all healthcare facilities in the state to allow terminal patients to use cannabis on site. ASA notified state facilities that the law goes into effect January 1, 2022, and provided tools to help them comply. ASA created resources for physicians and their patients to help navigate the new law, including information on patient requirements, links to sample written recommendations, and CME courses on cannabis. For patients who encounter facilities refusing to comply, ASA has set up an online reporting system and a designated email account email@example.com.
- In 2021, in response to the introduction of a draft cannabis reform bill by Chuck Schumer, ASA completed a detailed analysis of the language and returned to offer the Senator’s office a whole report of proposed improvements to ensure that no patient is left behind by efforts to expand cannabis legalization. Responding to bills and offering critiques and improvements is a very important component of our policy work.
- In 2021, following a mass outcry caused by the Olympics banning sprinter Sha-Carri Richardson and a targeted petition from ASA advocates, the World Anti-Doping Agency agreed to “revisit” their cannabis ban. Though it will take time, we appreciate this agency taking steps to bring their policies into accordance with the modern medical science of cannabis.