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National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference
April 30, 2021, Online, USA
National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference
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COVID Protections & Expanding Access State by State
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About the talk

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions of Americans in countless ways. ASA has been especially concerned about how to protect medical cannabis access during the crisis. To address these challenges ASA worked with state governments in 2020 to ensure that state COVID plans designated cannabis businesses as essential, and implemented other key features to improve access, reduce costs and keep patients safe. What is the status of these protections today? How can you hold your elected officials accountable to maintaining these important protections? How can we build on these protections to expand access and protect patients post-pandemic?


This panel was recorded live at ASA's 9th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference on April 30, 2021 and features Rep. Yousef Rabhi, Nicole Redler and moderator Debbie Churgai.

About speakers

Yousef Rabhi
State of Michigan at State Representative, 53rd District
Nicole Redler
Community Affairs Manager at Eaze
Debbie Churgai Churgai
Executive Director at Americans For Safe Access

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi is serving in his third term representing the 53rd House District, which includes parts of the city of Ann Arbor and portions of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield and Scio townships. Rabhi serves as Floor Leader for the House Democratic Caucus. In his first term in the House, Rabhi coordinated a bipartisan renewable energy legislation package, introduced legislation to protect our water, and introduced a plan for universal health coverage. He also served on the House Appropriations Committee and the Appropriations subcommittees on Higher Education, Community Colleges, and the Department of Environmental Quality.

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Nicole Redler is Senior Community Affairs Manager at Eaze, California’s largest legal cannabis marketplace and the state’s largest cannabis employer. Nicole leads Eaze’s patient and veteran advocacy programs, building meaningful relationships to amplify community voices on important policy issues across California. To date, Eaze has completed over seven million deliveries, breaking down barriers to access and building community through industry-leading social impact and equity programs. With a focus on supporting marginalized communities, Nicole works closely with the Social Impact team to bolster Momentum, Eaze’s business accelerator for BIPOC, veteran, LGBTQ and female founders. Nicole was instrumental in building public and industry support for Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 34, which restored compassionate care programs in California; today, she leads Eaze Compassion, which provides free medical cannabis to low-income Californians fighting cancer, glaucoma, chronic pain, PTSD, and other debilitating health conditions.

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As the Executive Director, Debbie manages all day-to-day aspects of the organization, including ASA's Patient Focused Certification (PFC) and Cannabis Care Certification (CCC) programs. She has served as a writer, editor, and reviewer on many ASA publications including the Cannabis and Cannabis Resin Critical Review Document that was sent to the United Nations. Debbie first entered into the medical cannabis field by helping a company write their State license applications for cultivating and manufacturing medical cannabis. She worked in conjunction with horticulturists, physicians, and patient advocates and learned a great deal about the industry. She joined ASA in February of 2016 as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director, Steph Sherer and quickly worked her way up to managing programs. Her previous work experience was in the Behavioral and Public Health fields working on projects in tobacco regulation and substance abuse prevention and treatment. She holds a Master’s degree in Psychology.

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Are we go? Hello? Thank you guys so much for seeing us today. Thank you, Debbie. So I just want to start out by giving everyone just a little bit of a history of what is the did during the covid 10 stomach. As a group serving medical cannabis patients. We were enormously concerned about the impacts of covid-19 on our communities patience, as you know, are at greater risk for a variety of reasons. So we went straight to work to ensure that the needs of patients were taken into account by those responding covid-19.

So before States, and even declared States, a state of emergencies and closed non-essential businesses ASA, held an emergency response meeting. I think the date of our meeting with March 15th, so, it was like right when everything shut down most of the country shutdown. We heard, we got an emergency meeting with stakeholders, including all the bases staff. From all over the country, medical legal professionals. And of course, your patience and we discuss the needs of cannabis patients, and what business is to do to stay open to serve patients while also protecting the safety

of their own staff customers, and their products. So what followed was an emergency call to action? And we actually send a letter to all governors and directors and State medical cannabis programs on March 16th for the day after we had this meeting, we sent these letters to every single governor and state program leader. I have a call to action to ensure that patients continue to have access to medical cannabis and that the supply chain was not interrupted as well, which is very important while Most states were forced to abandon cannabis reforms in 2020

to focus on health and economic challenges posed by covid, 28 States implemented. New program features through their covid response plans that have been met with broad support from patients. Acknowledging that states, that included a new screen category in our 2020, stay there for the Illustrated, the value of these important improvements, which included designating cannabis business is essential, that was huge, curbside, pickup and delivery, especially states. That didn't have a delivery options. That was really great. Addition, and telemedicine, and through program.

Enrollment and re-enrollment. Into the programs was also an amazing Edition. And regular about the need for space to permanently. Maintain these cannabis-related emergency features establishing to cook it. And the need for space to revisit the Primitive medical models. They organized to repair, keep healthy cats affected patients. So I'm going to start with a rep. Robbie. Would you like to just do a quick introduction of yourself before I go into the first question? Sure, I can hear me. Okay. So how everybody my name is Yousef property. I serve as the state representative for the

53rd District in the state of Michigan, which represents most of the city of Ann Arbor. And most of the University of Michigan campus, actually is included in my district as well in the State House of Representatives. They also serve as the Democratic floor, leader within within our house Democratic caucus. So I'm proud to serve, both and leadership in the house caucus, as well as a state representative 53rd District to yourself before that. I served as a county commissioner at the local level and I've been working on cannabis issues,

essentially for the entire time that I've been in public office over the last decade. So it's a pleasure to be with with you all here today, and I'm looking forward to having this conversation. Thank you so much. I miss my first question for you is, I know you've been a big advocate in the Michigan legislator to improve the state's program, to better serve patients through many of the features organized by States under covid. Tell us a little about Michigan's designation of cannabis businesses, as essential, under covid and related reforms, and the merging of the medical in the

youth program. Again, with respect to preserving or improving key features of the state's medical programs. Thank you for asking. So yeah, during the height of the pandemic, we were able to secure are cannabis, business is as essential and and so the industry was allowed to continue to operate with some tweet. Of course, there was some safety features that needed to be put in place but by and large, we were able to continue on operating our cannabis industry in the state of Michigan, and that was actually really positive. One of the

things that we were able to achieve as well as part of that is that we were able to change to an emergency change to allow for medical patients to be able to get their medical cards via telemedicine, which is not something that we had before. I bet that was a change that we were able to secure through executive action. Now, it's something that we're looking at doing from a legislative perspective. I've actually been part of a bill package that include that reform to make that a permanent feature in our state law to allow for that telemedicine ass back. When we're looking at a

patient's getting their medical cards. So those are both really important features. As you said, Michigan is a unique State because we have transitioned from a medic in the medical Market, which started in the in 2008 after a ballot referendum, passed and now after the 2018 recreational marijuana ballot initiative password. Now, in a fully Operational Market here in the state of Michigan. I'm in that that has come with a lot of benefits. I'll bet it's also come with certain challenges as it pertains to the medical Market. One thing. I just want to quickly stay

before, I turn it back over in the conversation about our caregivers, protecting. Our caregivers in the state of Michigan, is something that is really important to me. But unfortunately, you know, what now that the industry has established itself in the state of Michigan. It seems that some larger industry. Players are sort of making a play. So to speak to reduce the amount of caregivers or the access that caregivers have a bra on the state of Michigan. So that's something that I've been really passionate about is working on protecting our caregivers, protecting the caregivers that are that

have been operating and keeping that door open into the future as well. This is something really important for our state and like I said, that is one of the challenges that we're facing with the transmission that we that we've undergone. Thank you. And I'm so glad that you're there to help, you know, protect the patients and their caregivers in the program, to thank you for the work you're doing there. My next question is for Nicole. The first litter to, to introduce yourself. As my name, is, Nicole regular. I'm the Senior Community Affairs manager at ease. I work

directly with our government Affairs team and amplifying the voices of patients. Advocacy groups, business groups in policy conversations to make for better laws and regulations, or canvas businesses to operate and also prefer to access legal cannabis. Yes. I'm so grateful to be here. I'm also the vice chair of the Bay Area Americans for safe, access chapter, along with 20 bolt, which has been an honor to work so closely with such an amazing Advocate and long-standing medical patients in the Bay Area. Really the birthplace of the medical cannabis

movement. Also have had a great opportunity to work with a different representatives of Asa at the national level, but also across California on a shout-out to Terry Beth down in San Diego. So, really happy to be here, and thank you for having me. Thanks, Nicole, delivery product up from school supplies, groceries, and alcohol. It's all become commonplace. Invitations of traditional why delivery is important and why more important service to facilitate access for patients? Absolutely. A great question. I'm also

just before I get started, really wanted to say thank you to representative Robbie for all your amazing work, in committing to long-standing Medical operators, and, you know, providing access to patients. And thank you so much for all that you do. It's really important to have those allies to Advocate on that level with their colleagues to get these rules Pastor. Thank you for your and And also just want to give you a little bit of background on what our company is. So he's is California's largest cannabis employer and largest Marketplace for legal cannabis products. So

what we do is we connect adults consumers and directly with licensed products on Via are on-demand delivery. So when were very excited too soon, be launching in Michigan, to get back to your question, you know, delivery is, you know, basically a mechanism to expand access to the illegal Market. It's really important to have that technology and access to allow not just for patients to access patients to access medicine but also for the legal operators to connect with their consumer base, so we do this through the technology

and making it as efficient as possible just like any other on demand or delivery service on for other Goods that you know, brings it right to your doorstep. If I One of my favorite things recently is, you know, getting groceries delivered for someone. I live in that, you know an urban setting. I don't have a vehicle. It's so much easier for it to get delivered to my door without that contact, especially during covid-19 about having to get into a rented vehicle or in a Rideshare, going to the grocery store, you know, being around so many people. This has

really kept so many people safe and obviously, it's a no-brainer to have this this service available for patients across California. Another important thing to know is that you know, many patients. Yes, cannabis is legal in the state of California, but over 60% of consumers, live an hour or more away from a storefront retail location, which is extremely huge hassle, especially when thinking about, you know, a patient that maybe Play Store, not have access to Transportation. May have you? No

low-income patients that really I don't have the time and resources to go get their medicine when they need it. I'm so undemanding. It is a huge asset for the legal market and for patients in general. Thank you. Yeah, totally understanding that people don't always live. So close to a dispensary or an access point. So if you know, and nor can they take out the time to drive if, you know, two hours back and forth for the both of you beyond the reforms implemented under covid, at we've been discussing what other key patient issues. Do you see as unresolved?

And in need of repair occurring across states that we need to address, or I mess you guys doing on each of these areas. We see a lot of room for improvement in most State programs. Are there any that stick out to you as particularly important to fix California? Still? Employment protections for people using cannabis? What other key issues? Do you feel that are important to fix? That employment protections pieces, really important of wine and it's one that we need to address really across the country. I think there's a lot of gaps.

There is definitely gas in the state of Michigan to. So that's something that we've been looking at a lot of different areas that, that, that were sort of that we're looking at right now. But protecting, as I said, protecting the core of the, you know, medical industry in the state of Michigan and end the core of achievements that were accomplished through 2008 and the 2018 ballot measure, you know, protecting a lot of that. From some of the influences that have been coming through is has been really important and you don't even another thing that I want to mention to is the

importance of Home grow in the state of Michigan. And yeah, we're able to get some pretty significant gains for the 2018 ballot measure that, that that created an environment where home-grow was an important feature in Michigan. And again, you know, because once once an industry of establish, Especially through the recreational side. It was all different when it was just medical because a lot of people that were in the medical industry. We're really in the medical industry for, you know, because they were patient-centric frankly and they were activists in the in the Cannabis

space for many, many years. And that is true to some degree with recreational Market as well. But you see some different types of business opportunities that are opening up in different mentality from those business owners and an important. One of those features is that you sometimes hear people say that they want to reduce or diminish. The amount of homegirl that people can do, or as I was saying for caregivers, they want to reduce or diminish the caregiver market. So as to protect the, you know, the larger cannabis businesses, in the state that are that are starting to emerge and,

you know, bro, and that's just something that I think we have a unique situation in Michigan because we have such a strong history. Many, many decades, in the Cannabis activism space, you know, hash bash has been going on in my district for decades. Ann Arbor was the first community in the country to decriminalize cannabis to make a 7 fraction, you know, so we have a strong history there in a lot of activists would have been in the space for a long time. You know that the Johnson players in the world, you know, great icons of the Cannabis movement are from our community. And so we have

a little bit more of a ground swell when it comes to protecting things like home grow or caregivers to push up against some of these bigger business interests that are trying to Corner the market. Absolutely gross were amazing points and I agree with you when it comes to home grow. That's such a huge issue, not only in Michigan, but also in other states across the country, but in, in California, specifically, is medical patients protections, we're really injured during the, you know, the the

move from the medical industry, one prop 64 was enacted. And seeing that the Compassionate Care programs were not able to operate as they were before, and it took two years of lobbying. I'm working very closely with Asa activists normal doing many Lobby days working extremely, close with Senator weiner would we're so grateful for his leadership on this issue on. But finally after 2 years and a lot of hard work and working very closely. I really want to mention the

veteran community that really Took charge and are amazing Advocates and work so hard to keep for patients rights and in California is specifically, but across the country,, but they really won that battle and fighting for compassionate use. And I'm so grateful to now have the opportunity to be able to gift a gift cannabis to patients specifically for me. I've, I've also had the opportunity to work on with my colleagues to I'm create a sustainable compassion program with ease, and which gives patients a monthly packages of

donated products from our brand partner. I'm so that they take the time and the money and effort, you designate this product. As a compassionate use, we take it in creepy's care packages and then get that delivered to Patient stores on demand, which is a huge fee. And I have to say it wasn't Easiest thing to do the thing about the Cannabis cannabis industry, as many know is very complicated and lots of regulations to adhere to things, keeping track of Records create wouldn't even come down to

the receipt and also, you know, working with metric as well to keep these these things attract interested. I'm so it wasn't really plug-and-play. It's not like, okay. Yes. This bill is past now we can just, you know, be handing out free rolls on the streets to patients and no big deal. It was really quite the effort, especially on the east side and, you know, implementing that into our technology. When we first started the Compassionate Care Program, we use. I was taking it upon myself to really do the same annually through, you know, many spreadsheets and working

directly with the patients on and connecting them with the drivers to, you know, manually find the best time for these deliveries to be dropped. But I'm really grateful for my colleagues at ease, and Debbie actually, was able to participate in this program that I ran a late last year of a hackathon. Where are engineers and staff came together to make a sustainable compassion program on that. I'm so proud to be a part of another thing. That's so important. You know, when looking at legalization is an equity and how we best serve on

folks that were marginalized and it's mostly impacted by the war on drugs. And the most important thing to do in that, you know, in that realm is really providing job training at legal resource. In most most importantly is capital for these folks to, you know, really get a leg up in the legal market and be able to build generational wealth through this this opportunity and I'm also very grateful for my colleague that implemented the momentum business accelerator program. This is our second year. We're just about to wrap up. We chose 10. Underrepresented Founders to

go through at 12 with training program of facilitated by. He's also connecting them with the with our ecosystem and also invent investor mentors and also providing them with a $50,000 Grant where. Yeah, so we're wrapping up this year's program and we are really excited this year to expand this program nationally and really grateful to have representation from operators in Michigan, New Jersey and New York. So very excited for, you know, these things to continue and grateful for the opportunities, to better address the

legal Market as it comes online. Thank you. I we're going to go to the the Q&A portion and thank you for he's as doing such great work. I just want to stay in California with your, with your, all your programs. Thank you so much, fun question. But please feel free to use the chat function for Q&A. There's also right next to where it says chat pulls. It says human a, you can also ask questions there, a question from someone on. How did you overcome the argument that

allowing delivery will lead to more crime robberies. For example of what precautions do delivery services have to take to avoid being? That is a great question. It's very I appreciate that question on and one of the is it, when looking at our data, it's our incident rate on borries delivery drivers is Oak. Point 0 0, 1%, I'm incident rates and looking at other you no other other operators in the space and delivery and thinking about the protections that are you know,

implemented on delivery drivers in particular. Everything is track and Trace. As I mentioned on true metric of course and also, you know, GPS tracks, by the dispensary that they operate from. All of these delivery drivers. None are have any paraphernalia on them or like, you know say any, you know cannabis. I'm worried their company that they work for the you legally have badges that states that they do. The are delivering from that specifics on dispensary with the license number also when thinking about

about connecting them specifically with the customers, there's protections there to making sure that the product is getting into Correct person's hands on. So, from the beginning of a customer, signing up to be an ID, on the East platform, on their verified that they're actually the real person that they have their ID from and also checking the ID as well when they go to deliver the product to. So, there's many steps and I think the most important part of that, is the technology behind that makes the extra safe and able to be trapped in real time.

Okay. Thank you. I have another question. Probably for you. I've read Robbie. What are the some of the most challenging regulatory issues facing patients today in regards to access? And what are some of the areas where States and local governments or maybe over regulating certain things? Yeah, I mean, of course, that's that's a pretty big issue. You know, that the fact that in the state of Michigan, it's really up to local control. In terms of whether communities decide to opt-in or

opt-out of, you know, allowing for cannabis businesses operate in their communities, and there's still a lot of, you know, really miss conception to fear-mongering that exists out there, especially in more rural communities. Small towns that, you know, aren't as comfortable with allowing for cannabis businesses to open. And I think that's really been. One of the main issues that we've been facing. What we, what we're trying to show is that communities that were early adopter such as the city of Ann Arbor on. We see a massive economic benefit from that. Whether it's looking

at the Facts that, you know, especially now during this time of pandemic, when businesses have been shutting down, we've been able to keep are cannabis. Business is open. They're paying rent. They're paying taxes on those taxes are helping to support our local community. I'm not to mention the fact that the way to Michigan law is set up is a certain portion of the excise tax that goes in above and beyond the 6% sales tax. There's also an excise tax on cannabis, a portion of that goes directly to the county and the city that those businesses are operating an end. So

really what it does is it creates an incentive for Community, cannabis friendly and open up, you know, their communities for for cannabis business is important, but unfortunately, it is a slow process and it is taking Community by Community, you know, that, whatever going to have to approach this. And that way, none, like, you know, parts of Western United States where they don't have Township's here in the state of Michigan. We have Township ever. County has townships and other cities as well. So you have to either go to the city or you go to the Township board, or sometimes it's a village

board and you have to get approval from driving over to open your business there. And so there are some regulatory hurdles and that way we do have varied evolved forms of governance here, but we are, we're working slowly through that. And I think it is a matter of showing the benefits. These local communities from an economic perspective in from a taxing perspective that it is really, it's not what people, you know, perceive or have in their minds that is often times Antiquated updating his local officials mentality around cannabis. Write write, thank you.

And what about what does what has Michigan organized, an affordability, programs or strategies to reduce cost of medicine for patients? Yes. I see that much in the chat around 2. That's definitely a concern is as the the transition especially has heard from Medicals recreational. There's been all kinds of issues with, you know, cuz it's first when we transition to the recreational Market, there was no product that that had been grown tested and approved through the metric system. It's called in. So there was the

need to use, basically some medical product that have been approved through the medical system and transfer it into the recreational market. And so that impacted sort of the cost of medical cannabis versus rack cannabis. One thing I would note is that in the state of Michigan. We do have two system separate systems for medical and recreational. So, you know there You have to have you, no different counters at the different process. It's a different sister. Opened up a cannabis goes through, and it is also a different taxing structure. So we've kept it in the state of Michigan. Where

there is, there isn't the same excise tax on medical cannabis, is there is on recreational I you do still have to pay the sales tax at the 6% sale tax, but there is that reduce cost automatically if you have a med card to be able to access that cannabis in the state of Michigan. One quick note, that's not on the topic. But I do want to mention to to build a fort with said earlier Equity is really important in his face and it's something they always like to talk about because we have a Justice problem. Just in the state of Michigan, but across this country in the Cannabis space, frankly

cannabis business ownership right now is not representative. It is to wife is too male-dominated. I we need to open the doors to more people to be able to access business ownership opportunities. They want to emphasize that because it's not just about Hiram black and brown workers in your business. Is it's about making sure that The business down, the street can be owned by a black individual or Latino or Latina individual, particularly, because we need to make sure that goes over targeted communities. That were targeted during the war. On drugs are being given

opportunities to cross that line into ownership and and being able to build that generational wealth. As was said earlier. We need programs that Target people that have criminal records in the Cannabis that that maybe are in jail, or were in jail or incarcerated for, for cannabis Prime that are no longer crime. Need to be giving them easy access to licensure so they can continue in this space to tell me what's right? And that's one of my big priorities here in the state of Michigan to That is awesome. Michigan is so lucky to have you. Yes, thank you. Thank

you. Thank you for caring about patience and care about quality, and thank you so much. I think we have time for one more question. But thank you guys so much for being here. Thank you for everything that both, you guys are doing to help patients, get accessed. And yeah, we really appreciate all the work that you're doing. Thank you so much, Debbie. Thank you for having me.

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Yousef Rabhi
Nicole Redler
Debbie Churgai Churgai