Major medical associations in the country have been lobbying at the federal level on a range of cannabis-related issues, from research and access to medical cannabis to the STATES Act.
Cannabis Wire has found that nine medical associations—the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Inc., the American Psychological Association Service Inc., the American Psychiatric Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Academy of Neurology, the Epilepsy Foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and United Spinal Association—have all lobbied on cannabis-related bills.
The interest of some associations in the STATES Act—which protects state-legal cannabis businesses from federal intervention—stands out.
The Epilepsy Foundation, along with the United Spinal Association, lobbied in support of the STATES Act. The Foundation is concerned about the uncertainty created by the conflict between state and federal laws for medical cannabis patients, Abbey Roudebush, manager of government and advocacy affairs at the foundation, told Cannabis Wire.
Medical cannabis patients are not only at risk of getting in trouble for using cannabis, as it is still illegal at the federal level, but they could also risk losing access to medical cannabis if the federal government decides to intervene, Roudebush said.
“It is important for our community to have stability in the system,” she said.
United Spinal Association in a July letter to the Food and Drug Administration stated that “it is critical” for Congress to allow states to decide their own policies on medical and adult-use cannabis. And that’s the reason why the association is supportive of the STATES Act, Alexandra Bennewith, vice-president of government relations at the association, told Cannabis Wire.
When it comes to medical cannabis research and access, some of the associations are lobbying on bills including the Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act, the Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act, Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019, and the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to research the effects of cannabis use on post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain).
United Spinal Association supports removing restrictions to medical cannabis research, according to Bennewith. The association started advocating for research into medical cannabis once they saw an increase in discussion about its benefits among their members. “Neuropathic pain, internal pain, chronic pain can sometimes only be helped with certain types of cannabis,” Bennewith said. “And so it’s very important for our members.”
The Epilepsy Foundation, meanwhile, wants answers on the efficacy of cannabis use for epilepsy patients. “A lot of people in our community are using it,” Roudebush said, “and we feel we need to know the full range of benefits, but also the potential risks.”
At the same time, the Foundation is pushing for better access to medical cannabis and cannabis-derived products for epilepsy patients.
While Food and Drug Administration-approved Epidiolex is already available in the US, not all epilepsy patients can access it, Roudebush said. Epidiolex is approved only for treating seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy—Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.
“Somebody living with uncontrolled seizures who doesn’t have one of those two rare epilepsies cannot get access to Epidiolex,” Roudebush said.
Similarly, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society wants federal barriers to cannabis research removed. “We recognize the need for more research to better understand the benefits and potential risks of cannabis and its derivatives as a treatment for MS and its symptoms,” Bari Talente, executive vice president of advocacy for the Society, told Cannabis Wire.
Psychologists are interested in studying a wide range of scientific questions related to the use of real-world cannabis products, including cannabis use disorder, cognitive impairments, risk for psychosis, motor vehicle impairment, and the potential therapeutic uses for cannabis derivatives, Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO of American Psychological Association told Cannabis Wire.
“Without access to an expanded range of cannabis products, scientific research cannot hope to keep pace with the expanding recreational and medicinal cannabis marketplace,” Evans Jr. said.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network also echoed Talente: “Research has paved the way for certain compounds found in cannabis to become the basis of FDA-approved drugs used to successfully treat symptoms and side effects of cancer,” a spokesperson for the Network told Cannabis Wire in an email. “In order to enable further such advances, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network supports policies that facilitate additional research on cannabis and the compounds found within it.”
Here are the medical associations that have lobbied at the federal level on cannabis-related issues: