Whether you’re an employed person involved in the cannabis industry or not, you’ve probably heard of a trade association (also professional or business association), an organization comprised of members within a certain industry who share similar interests. Trade associations are powerful tools for the consumers and professionals who make up a market. Membership requires a fee, but the investment is worthy. These kinds of associations provide their members with networking opportunities that often lead to mutually beneficial and productive work relationships, professional development, industry-related political advocacy, and a community of people who share similar struggles and aspirations.
The cannabis industry remains legally gray, caught between state legalization and federal prohibition, yet it continues to expand at an astounding rate. This means that staying connected to fellow entrepreneurs and policy leaders in cannabis is even more important than it is for professionals belonging to any other industry. Cannabis laws, technology, standards, and market trends are constantly evolving. Membership to a cannabis trade association during this time—the critical years forming the foundation of the industry—couldn’t be a wiser way to become more involved in the industry as a whole.
Medical marijuana has always been at the forefront of the legalization movement, but as states begin to turn toward broader legalization efforts by regulating cannabis for adult recreational use, the unique interests and needs of the medical side of the market may seem to diminish in importance. The following national and state medical marijuana trade associations are dedicated to making sure that doesn’t happen.
Americans For Safe Access
Founded in 2002 by a medical marijuana patient, Americans for Safe Access was created to “ensure safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.” The organization has members from all 50 states and over 100,000 active members making it the largest medical-marijuana trade association in the country.
To complete its mission, ASA works to change international, federal, and state laws. The group has a strong political presence it wields to shape cannabis policies that recognize cannabis as legal medicine, introduce cannabis as a primary medical recommendation and protect physicians who take that line of thought, and empower physicians, patients, and caregivers.
Given cannabis’ federal designation as a Schedule I substance (a substance considered highly abusive and medically useless), it is rare to see any cannabis organization with federal recognition. However, since 2009, My Compassion, a federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit has worked nationally to improve the nation’s perception of cannabis.
The non-profit’s primary mission is to provide educational outreach opportunities. The group believes that medical marijuana patients should not be ostracized or shamed for their choices, and that all patients have the right to know more about the options medical cannabis can provide.
Those who are interested can get involved with the group by volunteering or donating.
American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association
Although medical cannabis has been legalized in over half of the country, many physicians are still extremely hesitant to embrace the plant as a legitimate medicine. This isn’t just because of the plant’s stigma—as long as weed is a federally illegal substance, anyone who plays a role in its distribution can be targeted by the Feds. State laws do their best to protect physicians, but organizations like the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association provide additional resources to further educate and protect the doctors who believe in cannabis’ therapeutic value.
The Florida based group’s mission is “to support physicians and patients who utilize medical marijuana as a treatment alternative in the setting of a legally indicated diagnosis.” Members of the AMMPA have access to educational and practical resources designed to facilitate medical cannabis recommendations. Additionally, the group has a strong presence in the state of Florida’s legislature and is devoted to supporting policies that protect doctors who do recommend medical cannabis to their patients. AMMPA also provides an array of informational resources meant to help physicians navigate the ever-evolving regulations of the medical industry.
Union of Medical Marijuana Patients
Medical marijuana patients may have increased access to their medicine once the substance has been legalized in their state, but that doesn’t mean that the battle for this group of people is over. Medical marijuana patients face unique civil rights challenges that state laws (and federal laws) fail to fully address. For example, in some states, medical patients are not protected from termination of employment if their employers believe that they are medicated on the job. This puts patients in a double bind: either show up to work intoxicated by pain or show up to work “high” and face potential termination.
The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients is a Los Angeles-based not for profit civil rights organization dedicated to “defending and asserting the rights of medical cannabis patients.” The non-profit believes in these mottos: “Respect the medicine. Respect the patient. The more rights you assert, the more rights you have.”
In 2010, two journalists, Martin A. Lee and Fred Gardner, had been covering the science and rise of medical marijuana in the United States. They envisioned a resource that would give special attention to the reintroduction of whole plant cannabis into the medical movement, especially cannabis with a rich store of cannabidiol (CBD), an especially therapeutic cannabinoid housed in the cannabis plant. Project CBD is that vision come to reality.
The non-profit is an excellent resource for medical cannabis patients, physicians, and researchers. The organization works to keep doctors and patients updated on the most recent developments in cannabis research and policy. Along with other researchers and physicians, Project CBD collects, analyzes, and publishes patient data in order to better understand the medical efficacy of whole plant cannabis. Project CBD also provides educational workshops for health care and dispensary workers designed to help those staff members best serve cannabis-using patients.
Many of Project CBD’s resources are free and available on its website. However, donating to this non-profit ensures that it can continue to do the important work of breaking down the stigma associated with cannabis and educating patients, physicians, and the world about the plant’s medical potential.