Medical Marijuana Lobbying Group Established

June 21, 2006

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Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical-marijuana advocacy group, opened a Washington, D.C., office last month and intends to create a sustained lobbying effort among U.S. lawmakers, The Hill reported June 21.

ASA is targeting some unexpected lawmakers with its first Capitol Hill visits: conservative House lawmakers. The group is arguing that lawmakers have a duty to protect the rights of terminally ill patients to use marijuana medically.

Representatives from the group also met with Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), a longtime ally who is sponsoring a medical-marijuana amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill in Congress. The amendment, cosponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), would bar federal money from being spent on law-enforcement actions against medical-marijuana users in states that legalize medical use of the drug.

ASA Director Caren Woodson said the group's priority right now is to end harassment of medical-marijuana patients and doctors by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Lobbyists for ASA recently met with aides to Reps.  Jim Leach ( R-Iowa ), John Doolittle ( R-Calif.), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).

Woodson said the hope is that ASA will be able to avoid the pro-drug stereotyping attached to other drug-policy reform groups. "There is a lot of back-and-forth about medical marijuana being a stalking horse for something greater, but what ASA is going to be able to provide is ...  a fresh perspective," Woodson said.  "We don't have any mission or scope beyond medicine." 

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