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Americans for Safe Access Activist Newsletter - March 2011

In This Issue:

ASA Holds Virtual Conference, Schedules Another

Maryland Medical Cannabis Bill Debated

Montana Lawmakers Working to Repeal Initiative

Research Update: Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis

ACTION ALERT: Sign up for bootcamp

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Americans for Safe Access
Monthly Activist Newsletter

March 2010

Volume 6, Issue 3

ASA Holds Virtual Conference,
Schedules Another

Next Nationwide “Activist Bootcamp” to be March 19-20

Medical cannabis activists from coast to coast gathered for ASA’s first virtual conference February 19-20. From Riverside, California to Northampton, Massachusetts, groups ranging from two to more than two dozen came together for what was billed as an “Activist Boot Camp,” a two-day series of trainings that combined a more than 300-page workbook of materials with informational DVDs.

“ASA members and affiliates across the county have been asking us to help them gain the skills they need to bring about change at the local and federal level,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “Virtual conferences let us reach activists everywhere with trainings and materials they can use to build a stronger grassroots medical cannabis movement.”

IASA is building on the success of the February events in San Diego, Detroit, Los Angeles, Denver, Portland, Sacramento and elsewhere with another training scheduled for March 19-20. Future trainings are planned for Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and St. Louis, as well as Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri; Eugene and Medford, Oregon; and cities across Colorado, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins, Salida and Telluride.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that they are the power,” said U.S. Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) in a promotional video for ASA’s conference. “If you want to change things, all you have to do is get involved.”

In creating the virtual conference, ASA draws on its nine-year experience to bring together the best training materials to empower activists. Conference participants learn about outreach and recruitment, coalition building, leadership development, lobbying public officials, organizing protests and rallies, and working with the media.

These trainings give patient advocates the skills to develop strategies for protecting and expanding patients’ rights, whether their state has a medical cannabis program yet or not. More than a dozen state governments are considering new statewide laws for medical cannabis. And within the 15 states with legal protections for medical cannabis patients and caregivers, hundreds of local governments are developing land use laws that dictate how patients can cultivate and obtain their medicine.

“The challenges in each community are unique, but we can build on the experience of the past decade so no one has to reinvent the wheel,” said Sherer. “We’re giving patient advocates a road map to these political challenges and the skill set to deal with them.”

For more information on hosting or participating in the next virtual training on March 19-20, contact [email protected].

Maryland Medical Cannabis Bill Debated,
Patient Cultivation Proposed

State lawmakers in Maryland are currently working on bills in each house of their legislature that would remove criminal penalties for qualified patients who use cannabis on the advice of their physicians. The state law currently allows an affirmative medical defense that, if successful, reduces the conviction to the lowest level misdemeanor with a maximum $100 fine.

House Bill 291, sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim, and Senate Bill 308, sponsored by Sen. David Brinkley, would protect patients from arrest and prosecution and establish a state-run production and distribution system.

The House bill was debated in committee on the last day of February, where it was opposed by the head of the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a former federal Food and Drug Administration official. The Senate bill went before committee at the beginning of March.

House Delegates are also considering an amendment offered by House Deputy Majority Whip Del. Cheryl Glenn, which would allow registered patients to cultivate their own medicine.

"I've had two loved ones succumb to the ravages of cancer. Both of them got to the point where they couldn't eat and their doctors wished they could recommend medical marijuana to stimulate their appetite," said Del. Glenn. "I also know what it's like to live in poverty and to not be able to afford desperately needed medicine. People should not be denied access to medical marijuana because they cannot afford it or because they cannot travel to locations where it's dispensed."

As Barry Considine, a polio survivor from Halethorpe, Maryland, who uses medical cannabis says, "I know which strain of marijuana works best for my particular medical condition, so why would I be denied the right to grow that medicine myself, especially at a price I can afford?"

In preparation for the hearing, ASA provided Maryland lawmakers with a brief report on the importance and benefits of allowing patient cultivation. The report notes that, particularly for rural and low-income patients, personal cultivation can offer better affordability, reliability, consistency, and quality than centralized distribution facilities. Such facilities are also more vulnerable to federal interference and closures.

New Jersey is the only state that has passed a medical cannabis law that denies all patients the right to cultivate. More than a year since the bill passed, not a single New Jersey patient has access to legal medical cannabis.

Further information:
Delegate Glenn's amendment on patient cultivation
Text of HB 291
ASA Report on Need for Patient Cultivation


Montana Lawmakers Working to Repeal Voter Initiative

Voters in Montana established legal protections for medical cannabis patients and caregivers seven years ago by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent, but some of the state’s lawmakers are now trying to repeal the initiative.

Montana’s lower chamber has passed House Bill 161, which would repeal the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law on July 1. But state Senate leaders say they lack the votes to do the same.

Patient advocates are organizing to defend their rights, with support from Americans for Safe Access. ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer will be traveling throughout the state this month, holding stakeholder meetings to build an effective grassroots strategy.

“The medical cannabis program in Montana has proven to be a solace to patients and an economic boon to communities,” said Sherer. “You don’t have to be a Montanan or even a medical cannabis advocate to be deeply concerned by this cynical attempt to overturn the will of the people.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the House repeal bill on March 11. ASA’s first stakeholder meeting follows a vigil to be held at the capitol in Helena after the hearing.

The Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Terry Murphy, has said a bill to better regulate the industry is more likely to pass the Senate. He intends to appoint a sub-committee to develop such a bill this month.

As of Feb. 28, Montana had 28,739 people authorized to use medical cannabis. A year ago, there were 12,081 authorized patients; and two years ago, 2,074.

ASA’s Sherer will be participating in advocate stakeholder meetings in Helena, Kalispell, Missoula and Billings. Times and locations are:

Friday, 3/11, 3-6pm -- Lewis and Clark Library, 120 S Last Chance Gulch, Helena; Saturday 3/12, 3-6pm -- Red Lion Inn, 20 N Main St, Kalispell; Sunday 3/13, 1-4pm -- Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park, 200 S Pattee St., Missoula; Monday 3/14, 6-9pm -- Best Western Clock Tower Inn, 2511 First Ave. North, Billings.

For more information on attending one or more of the meetings, contact [email protected]

RESEARCH UPDATE: Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis

Cancer Research Shows How Cannabinoids Fight Tumors

Brain Cancer.The effectiveness of cannabinoids in fighting glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a form of brain cancer that is highly resistant to current treatments, has been demonstrated in numerous preclinical studies. New research shows that a combination of THC, CBD, and temozolomide (TMZ) “remarkably reduces the growth of glioma.” The study revealed tumor growth is inhibited in part through “the stimulation of autophagy-mediated apoptosis,” the biologic degradation of cells that leads to them dying off. The Spanish researchers conclude that “the combined administration of TMZ and cannabinoids could be therapeutically exploited for the management of GBM.”

Torres S, et al. 2011. A combined preclinical therapy of cannabinoids and temozolomide against glioma. Mol Cancer Ther. 2011 Jan;10(1):90-103.

Oral Cancer. Medical researchers at the University of California report cannabinoids alleviate oral cancer pain and slow the spread of the disease both in vitro and in vivo. They also identified CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in human oral cancer cells. They suggest the endocannabinoid system may play “a direct role” in pain and proliferation. Noting proliferation of cancer cells was “significantly attenuated in a dose-dependent manner” by cannabinoids, they conclude “the systemic administration” of cannabinoids “may reduce morbidity and mortality of oral cancer.”

Saghafi N, et al. 2011. Cannabinoids attenuate cancer pain and proliferation in a mouse model. Neurosci Lett. 488(3):247-51.

Gastric Cancer. Previous studies have shown cannabinoids significantly decrease the spread of gastric cancer tumors and kill off malignant cells. South Korean researchers have recently discovered some of the biologic mechanisms for those tumor-fighting properties. The new research on cellular mediators indicates cannabinoids play a role in halting cell cycles that cause the cancer to spread.

Park JM, et al. 2011. Antiproliferative mechanism of a cannabinoid agonist by cell cycle arrest in human gastric cancer cells. J Cell Biochem. Feb 10.

Cannbinoids Help MS Symptoms and Disease Progression

Italian researchers used an animal model of multiple sclerosis to investigate the efficacy of cannabis extracts on motor symptoms. They found that treating with a THC-rich extract over time “resulted in a significant reduction of neurological deficits,” that treatment with CBD affected only the relapse phase, and that combined THC-CBD treatment was ineffective. They suggest further investigation on each cannabinoid’s action but conclude that cannabis extracts have potential for managing MS.

Another Italian research team reviewed studies on cannabinoid receptors in the lower urinary tract and their role in controlling urinary tract function, including the treatment of bladder dysfunction resulting from MS, finding that systemic cannabinoids may be clinically useful.

British scientists reviewing the clinical data on treating MS with cannabinoids note patient reports of symptomatic relief are confirmed by data showing cannabinoids improve muscle stiffness and spasms, neuropathic pain, and sleep and bladder disturbance. They note new evidence suggests that cannabinoids may affect “fundamental processes” in the progression of MS. They suggest “cannabinoids may have a longer term role in reducing disability and progression in MS.”

Scientists who examined brain samples of deceased MS patients for CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as an enzyme related to the synthesis of endocannabinoids, found differences in receptor concentration that correlated to MS damage. Their findings support animal studies that suggest the endocannabinoid system has a role in MS progression and cellular response to injuries from the disease.

Buccellato E, et al. 2011. Acute and chronic cannabinoid extracts administration affects motor function in a CREAE model of multiple sclerosis. J Ethnopharmacol. 133(3):1033-8.

Zajicek JP, Apostu VI. 2011. Role of cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis. CNS Drugs. 1;25(3):187-201.

Zhang H,et al. 2011. Cannabinoid Receptor and N-acyl Phosphatidylethanolamine Phospholipase D-Evidence for Altered Expression in Multiple Sclerosis. Brain Pathol.

Ruggieri MR Sr. 2011. Cannabinoids: potential targets for bladder dysfunction. Handb Exp Pharmacol. (202):425-51.



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