fbpx

Ep. 424: Steph Sherer, Americans For Safe Access

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep. 424: Steph Sherer, Americans For Safe Access

Ep. 424: Steph Sherer, Americans For Safe Access

Steph Sherer joins us and shares how medical Cannabis has grown to be more accepted in the medical community around the world: “We’re now at 31 countries with medical cannabis laws, and it looks like we’re going to be close to 60 by the end of the summer. So, in one way, outside of the US it’s pretty exciting. Really, the recommendations, if they’re followed by the UN, that the WHO has made, countries will actually be obligated to find access to these medications for their citizens. Which is maybe how we finally move things forward in the United States.”

Transcript:

Seth Adler: Steph Sherer returns. Welcome to Cannabis Economy. I'm your host, Seth Adler. Download episodes on CannEconomy.com, that's two Ns and the word Economy, or wherever you currently get your podcasts. There's a ton of direct insight on CannEconomy.com these days, from policy, business and scientists in the space. First a word from Wana Brands, and then Steph Sherer.

Speaker 2: Want to know with Wana Brands? Nancy, caps.

Nancy: Yes. Wana Brand has a really exciting product line with our extended-release caps. They come in five formulations, different CBD and THC ratios. But the thing that we really are excited about with them is that they are such a discreet and consistent product for people. They last anywhere from eight to 12 hours, and it's a very consistent experience all the way through. So, not a lot of ups and downs that you get with other forms of ingestion.

Seth Adler: Steph Sherer. I mean, it's been years since we've done with this microphones.

Steph Sherer: It's true. It's true.

Seth Adler: So thanks for having me back-

Steph Sherer: Of course.

Seth Adler: ... here at HQ. President, founder, and it's only been 17 years that you've been doing this.

Steph Sherer: Yeah. Only 17. Only 17. You know, I was a very cocky 25-year-old when I started Americans for Safe Access. I was like, "We're only going to be doing this for a couple years."

Seth Adler: "Because we're just going to legalize it, done, everything's fine."

Steph Sherer: 80% support nationwide, even back then. So I thought, "This is going to be a piece of cake.

Seth Adler: Yeah. "And then I'll go do something else, maybe. I don't know. Who knows?" So, that does put on a pedestal the question, how do you think we're doing compared to ... What would 25-year-old Steph think about what the heck is going on right now?

Steph Sherer: Well, I think this is a global question now, which is pretty exciting.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steph Sherer: I know that when we created our first strategic plan, we were looking at really every angle of the chessboard, and one of those angles was looking at the international work and looking at changing the scheduling at the UN level. It meant finding other countries that were also working on medical cannabis. And I think it's been a little bit of a surprise to me that the global aspects of what we've been working on are moving now. WHO suggesting that we reschedule cannabis before the US was on our strategic plan, so, we've been working on it for years, but yeah, I'm a little surprised that that happened first.
We're now at 31 countries with medical cannabis laws, and it looks like we're going to be close to 60 by the end of the summer. So, in one way, outside of the US it's pretty exciting. Really, the recommendations, if they're followed by the UN, that the WHO has made, countries will actually be obligated to find access to these medications for their citizens.

Seth Adler: Steph Sherer returns. Welcome to Cannabis Economy. I'm your host, Seth Adler. Download episodes on CannEconomy.com, that's two Ns and the word Economy, or wherever you currently get your podcasts. There's a ton of direct insight on CannEconomy.com these days, from policy, business and scientists in the space. First a word from Wana Brands, and then Steph Sherer.

Speaker 2: Want to know with Wana Brands? Nancy, caps.

Nancy: Yes. Wana Brand has a really exciting product line with our extended-release caps. They come in five formulations, different CBD and THC ratios. But the thing that we really are excited about with them is that they are such a discreet and consistent product for people. They last anywhere from eight to 12 hours, and it's a very consistent experience all the way through. So, not a lot of ups and downs that you get with other forms of ingestion.

Seth Adler: Steph Sherer. I mean, it's been years since we've done with this microphones.

Steph Sherer: It's true. It's true.

Seth Adler: So thanks for having me back-

Steph Sherer: Of course.

Seth Adler: ... here at HQ. President, founder, and it's only been 17 years that you've been doing this.

Steph Sherer: Yeah. Only 17. Only 17. You know, I was a very cocky 25-year-old when I started Americans for Safe Access. I was like, "We're only going to be doing this for a couple years."

Seth Adler: "Because we're just going to legalize it, done, everything's fine."

Steph Sherer: 80% support nationwide, even back then. So I thought, "This is going to be a piece of cake.

Seth Adler: Yeah. "And then I'll go do something else, maybe. I don't know. Who knows?" So, that does put on a pedestal the question, how do you think we're doing compared to ... What would 25-year-old Steph think about what the heck is going on right now?

Steph Sherer: Well, I think this is a global question now, which is pretty exciting.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steph Sherer: I know that when we created our first strategic plan, we were looking at really every angle of the chessboard, and one of those angles was looking at the international work and looking at changing the scheduling at the UN level. It meant finding other countries that were also working on medical cannabis. And I think it's been a little bit of a surprise to me that the global aspects of what we've been working on are moving now. WHO suggesting that we reschedule cannabis before the US was on our strategic plan, so, we've been working on it for years, but yeah, I'm a little surprised that that happened first.
We're now at 31 countries with medical cannabis laws, and it looks like we're going to be close to 60 by the end of the summer. So, in one way, outside of the US it's pretty exciting. Really, the recommendations, if they're followed by the UN, that the WHO has made, countries will actually be obligated to find access to these medications for their citizens.

Seth Adler: Obligated.

Steph Sherer: Obligated. Which is maybe how we finally move things forward in the United States. But, you know, the programs that I'm a part of creating in these countries, they're real medical programs. They're not the compassionate use programs that we see here in the US.

Seth Adler: Well, now, let's just clarify word use, because I keep on saying medical cannabis, right? The medical cannabis program in Colorado, the medical cannabis program in California, the medical cannabis program, even, in Canada. But what do you think?

Steph Sherer: Well, I think that the rights to have access to medical cannabis in the States was a political fight.

Seth Adler: At the time.

Steph Sherer: At the time. And in many ways it still is.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steph Sherer: And medicine has a lot of definitions. You know, we definitely use the word medicine in the legislation, so I think that's why some people can be confused, but as far as patients are concerned, the idea of moving these things forward state-by-state, creating some type of mechanism where patients could get access, this was really a pit stop. This was really getting those patients who really needed access, couldn't find it, a way to move forward.
But, it's not necessarily what doctors consider medicine, meaning that a doctor can't say to their patient, "Go find this substance and take the same thing over and over again and let's see how it's working." It's also not covered by insurance. So, while I am extremely proud of the work that we've done in the United States, that our members have done state-by-state, city-by-city, we're really talking about a pit stop. We're really talking about way for patients to have access to something that they may never find again, which makes it very hard for medicine.

Seth Adler: What do you mean, "May never find again"?

Steph Sherer: Well, what I mean is this is something that we hear from our members all the time. It's a very common story amongst medical cannabis patients, that they go to a dispensary, they find a product that really works for them, it feels life-changing, they start going off of their medications, they start going out of their house, I mean, really it sounds almost evangelical, the experience that this patient has.

Seth Adler: Certainly.

Steph Sherer: And then they go back to the store and it's not there any more.

Seth Adler: That strain-

Steph Sherer: That product, that-

Seth Adler: ... or that product-

Steph Sherer: [crosstalk 00:05:33] exactly. And so, then they're chasing their health. Right? For chronic patients, to go off their medication, they can't just go back on, right? And for many chronic illnesses, it's a constant fight to keep yourself, at least, at the same health level. And once you start deteriorating, you're not going to go back. Right?

Seth Adler: This is why we talked about standards.

Steph Sherer: Exactly.

Seth Adler: All those years ago.

Steph Sherer: Exactly. So, I think where we are in the US is at least governments are making sure that these products go through some type of product safety protocols, but they're still not standardized.

Seth Adler: Right. So, it's not dangerous, but it doesn't mean that you can get it twice.

Steph Sherer: Yes. It's like, it's not dangerous, but good luck.

Seth Adler: Right. Exactly.

Steph Sherer: And it's really consumer beware. And so what this means is, in the United States, we have a very small percentage of the population, even in states like California that have medical cannabis laws, that can actually use cannabis in their health regimen. And there are several reasons. One, 57% of the United States private workforce still drug tests. It doesn't matter if you're a patient. And so, those people are off the table. They cannot even try cannabis. It can't even be an option for them if they want to keep their job.

Seth Adler: Even in states that are legal?

Steph Sherer: Even in states that are legal. Even in states that are legal for recreation. You know? These companies are still drug testing. Then, you also have the cost. Not very many people in this country have a $1,000 a month laying around that they can spend on their medicine. So, the lack of insurance coverage, that takes a third of the population of the United States off the table to ever even be able to consider medical cannabis.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, then, if the trick is insurance how do we get insurance to cover it is what we're talking about here?

Steph Sherer: Exactly. And the programs that we're creating internationally, insurance coverage is a part of the conversation, because these are standardized products that are being delivered to patients through pharmacies, or specialty pharmacies, and this isn't something ... People aren't defining themselves by the medicine they use.

Seth Adler: How do you mean that?

Steph Sherer: I mean that I became a patient in 2001, a medical cannabis patient, and to be honest, in my life, I don't ever think of myself as a patient unless there's a doctor sitting across from me. Doctor, patient. I'm a person that's living with dystonia. But I don't consider myself a patient. And in order to be able to continue to use this medication, I've been working on a political fight for 17 years that's taken me a lot of directions. So in a way, my medicine has very much defined my life, and there's not ... You know, patients having to show up at courthouses, and show up at city council meetings, and state legislation, their medicine is now defining their life. And in other countries, they're weighing in on feedback to the companies about what medications they want, not fighting for their rights.

Seth Adler: Yeah. This is why Paige Figi, Charlotte Figi's mother, talks about a non-medical life. To not be considered a patient, or the mother of a patient. To not have to be considered a patient advocate, because we don't need advocacy, because this is just ... It's legal, and they have standards, and it's covered by insurance and everything is regular.

Steph Sherer: So, that's what patient advocates are working for. That's what I've been working for for the last 17 years. I think your question was, what would 25-year-old Steph think about now-

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Steph Sherer: ... and I think I would be pretty upset, I think. I think I would-

Seth Adler: You would be outspoken, is what we're-

Steph Sherer: I would be a little outspoken. I think that what I would be focusing on, more, is actually consumer rights and the fact that if companies want to produce what they're calling medicine, then I think we should get on the same page of what that is. Right? And that means at the very least don't put poisons in our medication.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Steph Sherer: So, a little low bar.

Seth Adler: I'm with you there. You've got me. I'll sign the petition.

Steph Sherer: Okay. Maybe check, make sure there's no molds, mildews, some of those items.

Seth Adler: Sure. I mean, all states do have testing regulations that speak to these issues. Where are we missing the point?

Steph Sherer: I would say that what we really need is our federal guidelines, because every state is a little different. You can imagine, I mean, from a patient's point of view, there shouldn't be a difference in product safety. It should be, you should expect the same safety in the same way that you do if we buy a salad in California, you have the same expectation when you go to Iowa that the same standards are there.

Seth Adler: Yeah. Well, now that everyone has avocados, sure.

Steph Sherer: Exactly. So, you know-

Seth Adler: But you're mentioning the fact that we should have some kind of standard, federal, medical legislation. Okay, great. With all the demands. Thanks a lot. But what about, do you have any suggestions?

Steph Sherer: Well, turns out I do.

Seth Adler: Yeah, that was sarcastic.

Steph Sherer: Thank you. Really, federal comprehensive legislation is what we've always wanted. But of course we had to be strategic, and that was something that we ... This was politically impossible, and so we went down this state-by-state, city-by-city, as part of a strategy, but not the end plan.

Seth Adler: A needed strategy, without question.

Steph Sherer: Absolutely. And, you know, the globe would not be where it is today without the work that we've done in the United States. Absolutely.

Seth Adler: Amen. Amen.

Steph Sherer: But this year, or should, last year, when the ASA staff came together for our strategic planning session, you know, we had been looking at how long it would take to make each of these state laws actually work for patients. Right? And every year our amazing staff and our amazing members push that goal line a little closer. Adding a couple conditions here, there, taking some restrictions off here and there, but really-

Seth Adler: But just to, I don't want to discount that, because when-

Steph Sherer: Not at all.

Seth Adler: ... PTSD was added as a medical condition in Colorado, that was actually really big news.

Steph Sherer: No, it's huge, it's huge.

Seth Adler: Yeah, yeah.

Steph Sherer: But do you know how many human hours it took to do that?

Seth Adler: Yeah. Too many, is your point. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

Steph Sherer: Yeah. So, it took eight years. It was really ... We put out a report every year grading each of the states, and most of them get better, but it's a very slow process. And it's a huge gap between making these laws work for everyone, right? Where cannabis is a front line treatment, it's brought up to patients at diagnosis, not after they've tried everything and their kidneys are failing, right?

Seth Adler: Right. Right.

Steph Sherer: And so, if we're really going to move there, then going state-by-state it'll be another 17 years, and maybe we'll have a couple As, you know, states that have a grade A.

Seth Adler: Yeah. Exactly. And how many cases of renal failure trailing?

Steph Sherer: Exactly. I mean, it's exhausting for our members, and I don't know if it's necessary any more. So, when we sat down to look at 2019, said, you know, if this was 1994 and we were looking at medical cannabis in the United States, and we had all the political will we have today, and we had 31 countries that have medical cannabis laws, and we have the WHO looking at the scheduling, if all of that was on the political landscape, would you pick a state-by-state strategy? And the answer is, absolutely not.

Seth Adler: Yeah, no. That would be ludicrous.

Steph Sherer: And so, our amazing staff came together, and put together what I think is very beautiful, a very simple, comprehensive federal legislation that includes creating a Office of Medical Cannabis, at the federal level. We looked at the way that Homeland Security was created, where there was actually divisions of various agencies pulled together. That's where the funding would come from, so no new funding. We actually are moving components.

Seth Adler: That was my question, with my thinking of some of our audience-

Steph Sherer: We even know how to pay for it.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Steph Sherer: And then, looking at, unlike some of the countries I'm working in, there is a program here that's working for some people. So, we don't want to interrupt the current program. One of the items, we'd actually move ... I'm sure your listeners know about the DEA's giving out licenses, like in Mississippi. So, we'd actually take that away from the DEA and put it under the Office of Medical Cannabis.

Seth Adler: Aha.

Steph Sherer: And all of the existing medical cultivation licenses that exist under state law would be grandfathered in.

Seth Adler: Which is kind of what we did state-by-state, by the way.

Steph Sherer: Exactly.

Seth Adler: Right? We have all of these medical cannabis commissions, so we're doing the same thing on a federal level.

Steph Sherer: Exactly. And so, actually, part of the Office of Medical Cannabis would be bringing in each one of those commissions to work together, to move this forward.

Seth Adler: What?

Steph Sherer: I know.

Seth Adler: To work together?

Steph Sherer: The other thing is that for dispensaries, we would have, actually, they would be classified as specialty pharmacies.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Steph Sherer: But other pharmacies would also be able to carry cannabis.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steph Sherer: Distributors nationwide would be able to buy and sell cannabis, buy them from the producers and sell them to pharmacies.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Steph Sherer: And there would be no interstate commerce issues any more. So, this would be a national program, that no matter where you are, if your doctor writes a prescription, not a recommendation, a prescription for cannabis, you would be able to pick it up in a pharmacy or at a specialty pharmacy, and the next step would be insurance coverage. Did that just sound too logical? Was that too logical to-

Seth Adler: Well, it is too logical. It's so logical we're already doing it at the state level. It's what you're telling me folks in Europe are doing. What I love about the conversation with you is that usually my conversations end with the States Act, which ... Or doing something with the Controlled Substances Act, which is what the States Act does, to open this up, to make it legal.
What you're talking about is after that, this is what we do to actually have a functioning, sensible regulations for federally-legal cannabis.

Steph Sherer: For medical cannabis.

Seth Adler: Federally-legal medical cannabis.

Steph Sherer: That's correct.

Seth Adler: Okay. Now, what do you do about adult use cannabis? Do you use that nomenclature, first off?

Steph Sherer: I think it's a good one. It's not a part of the work that we do at Americans for Safe Access.

Seth Adler: Okay. Do you care?

Steph Sherer: I don't want to see people going to jail for nonviolent crimes of any sort. Of course not.

Seth Adler: Good answer. Fair enough. Do you think about it further than that? And the reason I ask is because when I speak to my social scientists, like Sharon [Stitzman 00:16:29] and Nahama Lewis, who tell me, well, why are we saying that medical cannabis is one thing and adult use cannabis is another thing? When I look at the cannabis, it's the same thing, number one, and number two, why are you trying to confuse me if it's never killed anybody? Those are two different questions.

Steph Sherer: Well, first of all, there's a lot of things that won't kill you that aren't necessarily medicine.

Seth Adler: Like chocolate.

Steph Sherer: But I think that the answer is that patients need something different from that plant. You may look at that plant and think you're going to enjoy a weekend at a concert a little bit more.

Seth Adler: Thanks for talking about 24-year-old ... Or 26-year-old Seth.

Steph Sherer: And then, a patient looks at that and sees relief, and sees the potential of health.

Seth Adler: Yeah. "I'm going to stop having seizures today."

Steph Sherer: Exactly. But that is not ... The plant is a lot of things, right?

Seth Adler: Sure.

Steph Sherer: And the way that that patient takes that. So, you know, there are a lot of recreational uses of medicines, and they are treated differently for a reason. So, unless we want to say only wealthy people should have access to medical cannabis, then fine, put it all together in rec and you'll see the same thing that happened with dietary supplements, with alternative treatments.

Seth Adler: Unpack that. What do you mean by that?

Steph Sherer: What I mean is that not many people can afford these treatments unless they're covered by health insurance.

Seth Adler: Back to insurance.

Steph Sherer: I was joking that maybe we should change the name of Americans for Safe Access to Rich People for Safe Access and call it a day.

Seth Adler: Because we did it.

Steph Sherer: Yeah. Like, great. If you can afford to stock buy, and that's your medicine, and you've got a thousand bucks to spend, great. Done.

Seth Adler: Yeah. Yeah.

Steph Sherer: But-

Seth Adler: That's not-

Steph Sherer: ... that's not accurate. And a consistent, reliable product is not going to come from the recreational market. You know? We're talking about something much greater than a glass of wine a day is good for your health. We're not saying a joint a day is going to keep me from having seizures.

Seth Adler: Right.

Steph Sherer: And it's belittling to patients to be told that we're the same. And from the very basic, of the difference between need and want, that is the basic of that conversation, and then really getting into the life of a patient, what it takes for a patient to maintain a healthy life, and there's no way that that is going to happen from an inconsistent supply.

Seth Adler: Fair enough on an inconsistent supply. I of course agree with you there. On the spectrum of need, what I would like to do is open up this other side of the spectrum that tells me, you know, my science friends tell me that we have this endocannabinoid system, which we have been ignoring, and so we are deficient. That sounds unhealthy, and it sounds like at least a little bit of need from little old me, who doesn't necessarily have a qualifying condition to speak of. Does that-

Steph Sherer: Yeah, I can hear what you're saying. But I guess what I would say is that, so, let's say you're trying to get your endocannabinoids system back into whack, back into balance.

Seth Adler: Yeah, that's how they say it.

Steph Sherer: Then, you go and try a product, and you're feeling better. And then you can't find it again.

Seth Adler: Now I'm back with you.

Steph Sherer: And there's no way that ... So, even, I understand the wellness market, I understand all of those components. But I also believe that the wellness market should be covered by health insurance.

Seth Adler: Great.

Steph Sherer: Right? And it's not, right now, in the US.

Seth Adler: We're back on the same page.

Steph Sherer: So, you know, I think that when we look at the impact that medical cannabis is going to have globally, some people see it as if we're going to make adult use legal, that that's going to be the ultimate impact of medical cannabis. That is definitely not what I've been working on for 17 years.

Seth Adler: Understood.

Steph Sherer: And the impact that I think that medical cannabis can have globally is actually being the gateway of other plant-based medicines into programs that allow anyone to be able to access them, which means they have to be covered by insurance.

Seth Adler: And that's the only way that it's a gateway drug.

Steph Sherer: Yeah. Exactly.

Seth Adler: I mean, even the ... DC's finest, is that what we say?

Steph Sherer: Exactly.

Seth Adler: Sounds like DC's bravest, actually.

Steph Sherer: We're right across the street.

Seth Adler: Yeah. You are a very busy person, and so I know that we have to end this, but we should do this more often.

Steph Sherer: Of course, of course.

Seth Adler: I mean, come on. So I'll ask you the three final questions for returning guests.

Steph Sherer: Okay.

Seth Adler: And I'll tell you what they are. I'll ask you them in order. What would you change about yourself, if anything? What would you change about anything else if you could? And on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song, that's got to be on there. So, first things first, what would you change about yourself, if anything? Might be something you're already working on.

Steph Sherer: What would I change about myself? I would listen more.

Seth Adler: Oh, my God. Listen. That's really great advice for every single person, every single human, on the face of the earth.

Steph Sherer: No, wait, we just finished our conference here in DC, and it's so beautiful. We're able, from our sponsors, to be able to give out, this year, 125 scholarships to bring patients here, to be able to meet with their elected officials.

Seth Adler: Amazing.

Steph Sherer: But also share their stories, and you know, this is also what I love about Americans for Safe Access, is really everything that we're doing, it's from listening to our patients. And we've got so much to do, there's so much work to do, but it would be completely missing the point if we weren't listening to those that we serve.

Seth Adler: All right. So, keep listening.

Steph Sherer: Keep listening.

Seth Adler: More listening.

Steph Sherer: More listening. More listening.

Seth Adler: There's never enough listening.

Steph Sherer: There's never enough listening.

Seth Adler: All right. What would you change about anything else, if you could? We spoke about, at least, some of that, but-

Steph Sherer: Anything else in the world? Like-

Seth Adler: Yeah, you can go as wide or as narrow as you like with the answer.

Steph Sherer: I would have beer not have carbs.

Seth Adler: What an interesting answer. Such a great solution to beer. Really you have solved beer, my friend. On the soundtrack of your life, one song that's got to be on there. It's always the hardest question-

Steph Sherer: Proud Mary, Tina Turner.

Seth Adler: Oh, come on. Oh, the Tina Turner version. Thank you very much. And I like how you don't even ... It was Ike and Tina Turner at the time, but you're like, "We don't need Ike. Playing bass and doing whatever he was doing."

Steph Sherer: Yep. Anyone can do that.

Seth Adler: Yeah. Proud Mary. Tina Turner, if you've never seen Tina Turner sing Proud Mary-

Steph Sherer: I've seen her live.

Seth Adler: Just, you owe it to yourself. YouTube. Now. Type of thing. Right?

Steph Sherer: Yeah. If you can ... I would also like to change about myself my ability to dance in a dress like that. Proud Mary. It's amazing. [crosstalk 00:23:20]

Seth Adler: And also dangerous, is what I would say. She had mastered it.

Steph Sherer: She had mastered it.

Seth Adler: Steph Sherer, thank you so much.

Steph Sherer: Thank you for having me.

Seth Adler: And listen, thanks for the 17 years of work, for real. Thank you.

Steph Sherer: Of course.

Seth Adler: And there you have Steph Sherer. Very much appreciate her time. Very much appreciate your time. Stay tuned.

Read the full transcript:

Become a member to access to webinars, quarterly reports, contributor columns, shows, excerpts, and complete podcast transcripts

Become a Member

Already a member? Login here.

Subscribe now to get every episode.

Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.