By: B2B Wholesaler Magazine
The medical cannabis advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA), recently released its annual report entitled “Medical Marijuana Access in the United States: A Patient-Focused Analysis of the Patchwork of State Laws.”
Its conclusions are worth noting.
The report examines the status of states that have passed medical marijuana laws, and grades them on a 500-point scale.
According to a release about the report, 46 states and three territories have some form of medical cannabis program, meaning approximately 95% of the American population lives in a state with some form of medical cannabis law.
ASA’s mission is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. It 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 member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
As the group itself makes clear, “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, according to the organization, 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 contaminates.
* Medical cannabis treatments are covered by insurance.
Looking for Solutions
The ASA report is an important management tool for those who are serious about improving medical cannabis programs. It has been published annually beginning in 2014. The only states that did not receive a score were Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota.
“With the ongoing opioid crisis we must look for solutions that can help reduce the number of preventable deaths. Research has shown that medical cannabis can play a significant role in mitigating the opioid epidemic. Americans for Safe Access’ model legislation and regulations take the guesswork out of drafting laws that help patients, including those with chronic pain,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Folmer. “Being able to compare my state’s progress with the grades of other state is incredibly helpful in creating a roadmap for improvement.”
According to the organization, the report reviews existing laws and regulations, and laws passed in between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, giving states letter grades from “A” to “F”.
This year’s report, unlike previous versions, urged states to improve their programs to use medical cannabis as a tool to fight the opioid crisis. The categories states are graded on include:
* Patient rights and civil protection
* Access to medicine
* Ease of navigation
* Consumer Safety and Provider Requirements
“We want lawmakers to use this report to see that there are gaps in their medical cannabis programs. Even programs that have been around for decades like California still have room for improvement,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access, in a statement. “Research has shown us that there can be as much as a 40% decrease in opioid overdose deaths in states with medical cannabis dispensaries. States with effective medical cannabis programs can save lives, and this report lays out the steps to increase program effectiveness.”
No state received an “A” grade in 2017, ASA said, but many states saw improvements in their grading from previous years. Seven states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Oregon) received a “B+” for their medical cannabis programs, a 133% increase from the 2016 year. Sixteen states received an “F.” All states that received a failing grade limit their medical cannabis program to cannabidiol, an extract of the marijuana plant.
The goal of the report, the group noted in its release, was to provide states with recommendations that can benefit medical cannabis programs and in turn, better provide for patients. “The report also provides ways for states to compare themselves to other state programs and look for ways to improve their medical cannabis laws and regulations, particularly in light of the ongoing opioid crisis. To help achieve this goal, Americans for Safe Access is sending this report to elected officials and regulators in every state.”
Question is, are those elected officials listening?