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Momentum Builds for the CARERS Act as Patients Prepare to Come to D.C.

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 15/03/2016 Steph Sherer

Experts & Patients Gather in DC to Inform Congress & United Nations

Conferences promoting medical cannabis have been popping up all over the country, mostly focusing on how to get into the business. This is not surprising, given that forty states now have adopted some form of medical cannabis legalization.  However, not all medical cannabis conferences are created equal.  The 4th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference: A Conference on Harmonization of Global Cannabis Policy and Action,is the largest patient-focused event in the country, and participants will be pushing the national and global agenda for medical cannabis policy reform forward.  

This year will be one of the most significant yet for medical cannabis policy. There is a great deal of uncertainty about what the next President will do about medical cannabis. Congress can act now to secure safe and legal access for millions of Americans by passing a comprehensive reform bill this year. On the international level, the United Nations will convene historic meetings about drug policy in April. These meeting may represent a season of change in the global posture towards medical cannabis - if the voices of patients and advocates are heard there.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has created this conference specifically to gather activists across the globe and provide them the ability to be active change agents in the medical marijuana movement.  Attendees will be a part of changing federal laws. Hundreds of patients, advocates, and other stakeholders will  be taking part in this historical movement by meeting with members of Congress in support of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act on March 22nd. This is a unique opportunity for patients and activists to have their voices heard and truly affect change. The CARERS Act is the most comprehensive piece of federal medical marijuana legislation ever introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate.

Momentum is building for the CARERS Act with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) signing on as a co-sponsor on March 10, 2016. Graham’s support of CARERS Act is a significant step for patients. This development should finally compel fellow Republican and Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley to allow the bill a vote. This is the only way to respect the 40 states that have laws recognizing medical use and the more than 80% of voters who support it. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced his plans to sign on today, and ASA plans on helping continue this trend of support through the March 22nd lobby day.

We know this strategy works. Previous lobby days like this were instrumental in securing the current federal “cease fire” on medical cannabis. Participants at ASA’s conferences in 2014 and 2015 persuaded Congress to amend the federal budget to remove funding for federal interference and intimidation in states where medical cannabis is legal. Prior to lobbying, participants will attend training so they can communicate with their legislators effectively and with confidence.

Attendees will also have another opportunity to make their mark on history by participating in peer-reviewing a document which will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016) on drug policy which will be held in April.  On the agenda forUNGASS 2016 is a review of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. The peer-reviewed document created during this conference will be submitted to the UN for inclusion at UNGASS.  

Even with all the progress in medical cannabis access, regulations, and safety protocols in programs in the US and around the globe, the conflict between individual country laws and international treaties, particularly the UN Single Convention Treaty of 1961, continues to be an issue. The UN Single Convention Treaty has been used by governments across the globe, including the United States, to derail attempts to reform national medical cannabis laws and research. Currently, cannabis is scheduled in Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by a 1972 Protocol. This scheduling was created based on a report created by the Health Committee of the League of Nations in 1935.

The last time the UN held a special session was in 1999. The focus of that session, guided by the US, was to eliminate illegal drugs and drug trafficking. UNGASS 2016 presents a historical opportunity in that its focus will be on reviewing the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The document submitted from the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference will be considered in this review.

Another major highlight of the conference iskeynote speaker, Professor Lumír Hanuš.

Prof. Hanuš is the world’s leading expert on the endocannabinoid system who famously isolated the first known endocannabinoid neurotransmitter, anandamide. This led to his co-discovery of the endocannabinoid system.  His work has shaped our understanding of the biological actions of cannabis by isolating individual cannabinoids and their associated receptors. Professor Hanuš is currently a research fellow at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel and is a Science Board member of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI).

The agenda is packed with a diverse and comprehensive list of speakers, workshops, panels and training for scientists, medical professionals, patients, advocates, legal professionals, legislators, and industry professionals. Some of the topics include research and innovations in patient care, risk considerations, quality assurance, strategic messaging, meeting facilitation, federal legislation, citizen lobbying, drafting legislation, building relationships with elected officials, CBD only laws, and patient perspectives on state laws.

The previous three Unity conferences have received rave reviews from participants and speakers. Gail Rand, a Maryland participant commented, “In addition to the vast amount of information I learned through the extraordinary speakers, I have formed relationships that have helped change laws and perspectives in Maryland. Information is king and this conference allows people on all ends of the spectrum of knowledge about cannabis to gain information.”  Dr. Sue Sisley, who was a featured speaker remarked, “The ASA Conference confirmed we have such a beautiful movement. It's been one of the greatest blessings of my life to be connected to so many loving, dedicated, powerful souls. Let's keep battling against Politics shackling Science."  View videos of previous conferences.

The National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference also offers a Continuing Medical Education (CME) Conference for health practitioners which includes: Intro to Medical Cannabis Care Certification; The Endocannabinoid System & Cannabis: What Every Healthcare Provider Should Know, The Role of Cannabinoids in Pain Medicine, and Self-study CCC 4.5 AMA PRA Category 1 CME Credits™

During the week, Patient Focused Certification (PFC) enrichment courses will be offered in the following topics: Pesticide Guidance and Integrated Pest Management, QA/QC and Representative Sampling, and Auditing Operations, SOPs, & Record Keeping for Compliance.

Besides meeting with members of Congress, preparing a recommendation document for the UN, and meeting the man who discovered the endocannabinoid system; participants will meet, network with, and learn from other patients, providers, activists, medical and legal professionals from across the country.

Don’t be left out.  Register now.

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