Patient Advocates Back 3 Medical Marijuana Bills in Congress

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Graphic: Rebels With Just Cause Award
Steph Sherer, ASA: “This kind of policy shift is a no-brainer and should garner the bipartisan support of Congress”

Three medical marijuana bills introduced in Congress on Wednesday have the support of patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA). The most significant of the bills is one introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), which reclassifies marijuana from its current federal status as a dangerous drug with no medical value.

Another bill, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), will allow banks and other financial institutions to provide services to medical marijuana businesses without being subject to “suspicious activity” reporting requirements.
The third bill, introduced by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA), changes the federal tax code “to allow a deduction for expenses in connection with the trade or business of selling marijuana intended for patients for medical purposes pursuant to State law.”

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Photo: Étienne Fontan/Eye Times Photography
Steph Sherer, ASA: “We are urging passage of the Frank bill in order to take advantage of all points of leverage”
​ “All of these bills will have a positive effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans and only a negligible impact on the rest of the country,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA, a medical marijuana advocacy group. “This kind of policy shift is a no-brainer and should garner the bipartisan support of Congress.”
To shore up support for these and other local and state medical marijuana bills, ASA is launching a new advocacy program.
ASA is equipping patient advocates with new tools to lobby state, local and federal governments. The group on Wednesday unveiled a new program establishing a “Medical Cannabis Think Tank” to provide activists the support they need to analyze pending or proposed legislation and to lobby for the best laws possible.
To support the lobbying effort, ASA also unveiled its new “Online Training Center,” with more than four hours of educational streaming video and more than 400 pages of instruction manuals and worksheets.
ASA’s program also includes an improved “Raid Response Center” to better prepare for aggressive federal interference.
As part of the “Sick and Tired” campaign, ASA and others filed a writ Monday in the D.C. Circuit to compel the federal government to answer a nine-year-old petition to reclassify cannabis. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) argued in the writ that the government has unreasonably delayed an answer to the petition in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration has the opportunity right now to address the needs of patients across the country by reclassifying cannabis,” Sherer said. “However, since Congress can also reclassify cannabis, we are urging passage of the Frank bill in order to take advantage of all points of leverage.”
If passed, the Frank will would not only recognize marijuana’s medical value, but also provide a medical necessity defense in federal court, a right not currently afforded to patients and caregivers who are in compliance with their local and state laws.
The Frank bill would also usher forth greater research into the therapeutic properties of cannabis and create incentives for the development of new cannabis-based medication.
Advocates hope the Polis bill, if passed, will end the current ban on banking services for medical marijuana businesses by financial institutions like Wells Fargo, CitiCorp and Bank of America.
The Stark bill has the potential to end dozens of medical marijuana dispensary audits by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently taking place, and settle once and for all whether the IRS can demand tax on gross or just net proceeds.
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