National Policy Newsletter

Summer 2007 Volume 1, Issue 3


Senate Sneak Attack on State Medical Marijuana Laws
amends the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). While the amendment's stated purpose is "To evaluate the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana," it is clearly aimed at obstructing the effective implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Whether the amendment survives in any form, it is questionable whether or not the FDA has or could be granted the legal authority to interfere with state programs and lengthy litigation is sure to ensue. See the article from POLITICO here: Coburn.

LEGISLATIVE: Amendment to FDA Bill Aimed at States ORGANIZATION: ASA CoSponsors AIDS Watch 2007, Celebrates Fifth Anniversary RESEARCH: Cannabis Compounds Fight Cancer Marijuana May Slow MS Progression 'Vaporization' Viable Delivery Method LEGAL: ASA Files for Judgment on Marijuana Misinformation Science Magazine Supports ASA's FDA Lawsuit Raich Drops Suit Against Federal Government Medical Marijuana Provider Going to Prison AROUND THE NATION: New Mexico: Governor Gets Medical Marijuana Law Vermont: State Medical Marijuana Law Expanded Rhode Island: One-Year Law to Become Permanent Connecticut: Bill Goes to Governor's Desk Tennessee: Public Health Official Fights to Save Farm Washington: Conviction Reversed on Medical Grounds Nevada: Police Return Patient's Medical Marijuana
Congress and their staff about why now is the time for change. With more than 35,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than forty states, ASA is now the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research.

Staffers in ASA's national office have been working overtime this past month to stave off Congressional action that could threaten state medical marijuana laws. At issue is an amendment to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reauthorization bill. ASA is educating key lawmakers and legislative staff and organizing allied patient groups in the HIV/AIDS community to oppose the amendment. On April 19, staunch medical marijuana opponent Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced a committee amendment to S.1082, the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, which reauthorizes and


ASA Joins with Leading HIV Group to Co-Sponsor AIDS Watch 2007
Numerous studies—including the federal government's own 1999 Institute of Medicine report—have demonstrated marijuana's effectiveness for treating pain and nausea. Mounting scientific data, as well as informal surveys of NAPWA's members, shows medical cannabis also helps patients manage the harsh side effects of HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy). In 2005, Journal of AIDS reported that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs) who use cannabis to combat nausea caused by HAART therapy are approximately three times more likely to adhere to their prescribed drug therapies. In February, the journal Neurology reported cannabis reduces neuropathy in PLHAs. More information is at

In April, ASA joined with the nation's leading HIV/AIDS member-based group to raise awareness about how safe and legal access to cannabis can help many people living with HIV/AIDS. Together with the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), ASA co-sponsored AIDS Watch 2007, the largest annual HIV/AIDS constituent-based federal advocacy and education event in the US. As part of the event, hundreds of activists and people living with HIV/AIDS visited Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. There they talked with Congressional representatives and staff about increasing federal support for HIV/AIDS prevention, research, ousing, and for the first time, medical cannabis.

ASA Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary
April marked the anniversary of ASA's founding in 2002. Five years later, what began as a local, grassroots resistance to federal raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in California has become a national force. Over those five years, ASA has organized hundreds of protests in cities across the country to raise public awareness and created educational literature for patients, doctors, researchers, and other stakeholders. The ASA legal team has won significant victories for patient rights, and we've worked with local and state officials to craft better laws and policies, including regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries. As part of ASA's expanded national campaign, this year we've opened a new office in Washington, D.C., where two fulltime staff work to educate members of



Study Shows Cannabinoids Fight Cancer
A Harvard University study has demonstrated that one of the active ingredients in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread. THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient, was tested in both lab and mouse studies. Although the researchers do not know why THC inhibits tumor growth, they say the substance could be activating molecules that arrest the cell cycle. They speculate that THC may also interfere with angiogenesis and vascularization, which promotes cancer growth. The findings confirm other international studies showing marijuana's tumor-fighting properties. An article about the study appeared in FORBES and can be seen here: CancerStudy. More from the American Association for Cancer Research can be seen here: tudy.

Raich Drops Suit Against Federal Government
Increasing health problems have compelled a patient to drop her latest bid to win protection from federal prosecution. Angel Raich made history when she convinced a federal appeals court that the US government should not have jurisdiction over medical marijuana she was using in compliance with state law; the US Supreme Court overturned that ruling. She was pursuing another appeal in her attempt to get an injunction against the federal government. More about her fight can be seen at hDropsCase

Cannabis May Slow Progression of MS
Many of the 2.5 million people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis report that their painful symptoms are eased by marijuana. But an international research team investigating how marijuana's constituent chemicals might treat MS have found they could significantly enhance therapy, not only by reducing nerve damage and erratic nerve impulses, but perhaps even by hindering development of the condition. The researchers from the US, England, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Scotland published their findings in the April issue of Nature. An article about their findings can bee seen at: yArticle An abstract of the article, entitled "Direct suppression of CNS autoimmune inflammation via the cannabinoid receptor CB1 on neurons and CB2 on autoreactive T cells," can be seen at: MSStudy.

SF Bay Area Medical Marijuana Provider Going to Federal Prison
The owner of a West Oakland warehouse where thousands of medical marijuana plants were grown apologized in federal court but was still sentenced to 30 months in prison. Thomas Grossi, 62, of Lafayette was convicted in January 2006 of a federal charge of making a warehouse available for growing marijuana. The jury deadlocked on a similar charge involving another property that Grossi owned in East Oakland. Grossi's attorney, David M. Michael, asked the court for some leniency, saying his client was a decorated helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam and who didn't proactively decide to grow marijuana but instead let his properties be used for cultivation purposes. Those growing the marijuana have said that it was for medical use and was to be distributed through patient dispensaries. For more on this story, see landProviderSentenced.

Smokeless Cannabis Delivery System Safe
A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco medical school and SF General Hospital have demonstrated that a smokeless method of delivering the active chemicals in cannabis is safe and effective. While a large-scale study conducted by one of the world's leading pulmonary specialists showed that even heavy cannabis smokers had no increased risk of lung cancer, the tars and other byproducts of combustion remain a concern, particularly for those who are most seriously ill. As the researchers note, "Although cannabis may have potential therapeutic value, inhalation of a combustion product is an undesirable delivery system." The clinical trial utilized a "vaporizer," a device that heats the cannabis to a temperature just below ignition, releasing the cannabinoids in the plant material for inhalation as a heated mist. The study concludes that "vaporization of cannabis is a safe and effective mode of delivery of THC. Further trials of clinical effectiveness of cannabis could utilize vaporization as a smokeless delivery system." See more information at aporizerStudy.

Americans for Safe Access CONGRESSIONAL NEWSLETTER 510-251-1856 • •


ASA Forces Government's Hand on Medical Marijuana Misinformation
For more than three years, the federal government has been stalling on correcting its misinformation about medical cannabis. But new legal action by ASA should force the government to act soon. In October 2004, ASA filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking that the department stop saying that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." This petition was a landmark use of a little-known law called the Data Quality Act (DQA), which requires that federal agencies use sound science in the information they disseminate and the policies they make. After more than two years of delays, HHS finally rejected the petition, and in February, ASA filed a lawsuit to force the federal government to acknowledge its own reports and recommendations on medical cannabis. The latest move is a motion for summary judgment that should compel the government to answer immediately. By filing the motion for summary judgment, ASA will force the case to be heard in roughly 90 days. This rare legal move, where judgment is requested from the court before the government has a chance to answer the lawsuit complaint, indicates ASA's confidence in the volume of scientific evidence demonstrating marijuana's medical efficacy. To read more about ASA's lawsuit, see

Science Supports ASA Legal Challenge to Government Misstatements on Cannabis
An editorial in May 4 edition of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, supports ASA's lawsuit asking for a correction of the misinformation about medical marijuana being spread by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Such mention in one of the world's most prestigious scientific magazines would be noteworthy on its own, but it's even more so when the author was formerly the FDA Commissioner and president of Stanford University. In "Turning the Tables with Mary Jane," the editor, Donald Kennedy, writes: "Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a group advocating marijuana availability for severely ill patients needing pain or nausea relief, petitioned the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the DQA in 2004. They alleged that HHS made false statements in its publications and its Web site, in particular that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." ASA cited an Institute of Medicine study that acknowledged benefits from the use of marijuana and cannabinoid derivatives and referenced doubleblind clinical trials demonstrating relief from pain and vomiting. HHS delayed a response for months beyond its own deadline, rejected the petition, and then rejected the appeal. "ASA finally brought its case to federal court, asking it to substitute for the agency's false statement one that says, "Adequate and well-recognized studies show the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of nausea, loss of appetite, pain and spasticity." Will the judge make HHS change, giving ASA the injunctive relief it seeks? We'll have to wait to see whether this case turns the tables on DQA, but it's already clear that HHS has violated its own DQA guidelines-going, you might say, one toke over the line." For the complete editorial, see /316/5825/661.


NEW MEXICO: Guv Gets Medical Marijuana Law
Whenever another state passes a law protecting medical marijuana patients from incarceration it's a big news event. But when the bill passes because of the personal intervention of the state's governor, and that governor also happens to be a candidate for President, it's something that can change the national debate. To date, federal agencies and Congress alike have been unwilling to fully engage the issue of the safe and legal access the American public supports. Gov. Richardson may change that. See more on this at

VERMONT: State Medical Marijuana Law Expanded
The two-year-old medical marijuana law in Vermont has now been expanded to include more medical conditions. While a step in the right direction, instead of letting doctors make the determination as to appropriate patients and conditions for medical marijuana treatment, Vermont's lawmakers are prescribing which patients should be protected from prosecution. See more at

Americans for Safe Access CONGRESSIONAL NEWSLETTER 510-251-1856 • •

RHODE ISLAND: Law to Become Permanent
A "sunset provision" in the medical marijuana law Rhode Island passed last year means that state lawmakers have to get a new bill on the books by the end of June for the program to continue. The bill was vetoed by the governor, as expected. (He also attempted to block the bill a year ago.) But the success of the state program is undeniable, and the margin of support was even more overwhelming this year: more than 85% of the Senate and nearly 81% of the House voted in favor. See more on why an override of the veto is certain at

For this, the federal government decided to make an example of him. But the judge, recognizing the esteem in which he's held by the community, sentenced Ellis to a halfway house instead of jail. So the government is trying to seize his farm. Read more about his fight at

WASHINGTON: Appeals Court Reverses Marijuana Conviction on Medical Grounds
Many state laws, Washington's included, require patients to be registered with a state agency to legally use medical marijuana. But the intent of medical marijuana laws is clearly to protect patients from arrest and imprisonment, not create more paperwork. A state appeals court just agreed, reversing the conviction of an elderly man who had not registered at the time of the raid but is now and was using marijuana to treat his glaucoma. See more about his case at

CONNECTICUT: Bill Goes to Governor's Desk
With a University of Connecticut poll showing 83% of voters support a medical marijuana law, legislators there have passed one, after five years of consideration. Passage was helped by a lawmaker's moving account of buying marijuana illegally for her cancerstricken husband. The bill is on the desk of Governor M. Jodi Rell, who has not said if she will sign it. Find out more at

NEVADA: Police Return Patient's Marijuana in First of Kind Action
ASA has helped many California patients retrieve their medical marijuana from law enforcement after erroneous seizures, but the case of a Nevada woman who reclaimed her marijuana from Las Vegas Police appears to be a first in that state. Read about the details at

TENNESSEE: Public Health Official Fighting to Save His Farm from Federal Forfeiture
Bernie Ellis has devoted his life to helping others, including working as in public health as an epidemiologist and substance abuse specialist. He also provided to terminally ill friends and neighbors small amounts of the medical marijuana he uses for chronic pain.

ABOUT AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS 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 uses and research. ASA works in partnership with state, local and national legislators to overcome barriers and create policies that improve access to cannabis for patients and researchers. We have more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states. The mission of Americans for Safe Access is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research.

Americans for Safe Access CONGRESSIONAL NEWSLETTER 510-251-1856 • •