In response to public comments made against marijuana reform by former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, patient advocates wrote to Kennedy inviting him to attend a national conference on medical marijuana scheduled for Feb. 22-25 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington DC. Kennedy announced on Jan. 9 the formation of a new group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), which claims to take a different approach than either legalization advocates or government drug warriors. However, advocates argue that SAM's supposed pro-public health approach ignores the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant and is simply using a new narrative to make the same arguments used by marijuana opponents for years.
The country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has invited Kennedy to find out more about the marijuana plant and its proven medical efficacy. On Feb. 2, ASA will host a National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference, under the theme "Bridging the Gap Between Public & Policy," which will include workshops and panels on the scientific research around medical marijuana, strategic planning, skills building—and a lobby day on Feb. 25, with hundreds of advocates requesting reform of their Congress members.
"The opening day of the conference will be dedicated solely to scientific research on the medical efficacy of cannabis," read the letter to Kennedy. "Co-sponsored by Patients Out of Time, the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines, and the American Alliance of Medical Cannabis, the day will feature world-class medical marijuana researchers from around the world, presenting on the most recent advancements in the field."
The same day, the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids and the University of California-San Francisco, in collaboration with the Society of Cannabis Clinicians will host "Cannabis in Medicine: A Primer for Health Care Professionals," a Continuing Medical Education (CME). The accredited CME course is an overview of the clinical use of cannabis, providing health care professionals with up-to-date clinical information on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system.
ASA will also be holding workshops on movement building and development, bringing together stakeholders from labor, industry, drug policy reform, environmental movements, and veterans. The American Herbal Products Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access will be joining ASA as convening sponsors.
"This conference is not only for medical marijuana patients and their advocates," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer. "It's also for key stakeholders, like Patrick Kennedy and the members of SAM, who may mean well, but aren't equipped with the relevant scientific information to make sound public health decisions on behalf of our most vulnerable Americans." (Americans for Safe Access, Jan. 9)
Graphic by Americans for Safe Access