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Washington, DC -- Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a report today, detailing the costs associated with the federal government's years-long enforcement effort in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. Notably, the report, which is entitled "What's the Cost?" states that since 1996 nearly half a billion dollars ($500 million) has been spent by the Justice Department -- over three presidential administrations -- to investigate, raid, arrest, prosecute, and imprison hundreds of medical marijuana patients and their providers. The report is intended for Congressional legislators in an effort to lobby for federal policy reforms, and is part of the Peace for Patients campaign recently launched by ASA.
Far outspending all of his predecessors, the report reveals that President Obama has dedicated nearly $300 million to such enforcement efforts, despite his repeated pledges to not use Justice Department funds in this way. In 2011 and 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spent four percent of its budget on the medical marijuana crackdown. Having conducted at least 270 paramilitary-style raids during the past four years, Obama's DEA spent approximately $8 million to carry them out. However, the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on raids was dwarfed by the amount spent on investigative efforts preceding raids, indictments, and lawsuits, which has totaled more than $200 million.
According to today's report, data and anecdotal information has been summarized to reveal "the human and monetary costs of enforcing unpopular and outdated federal policies." For example, the report notes how the prosecution of Michigan medical marijuana patient and organ transplant recipient Jerry Duval, who surrendered to federal authorities Tuesday to serve out a 10-year prison sentence, has exacted both an economic and social toll. Not only will it cost taxpayers more than $1 million to imprison Duval, but his family has also been devastated by the federal government's needless prosecution of Jerry and his son Jeremy, as well as the seizure of their family farm worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Remarkably, the Justice Department has never claimed that the Duval family violated Michigan's medical marijuana law in any way.
The Obama Administration can also be recognized for its unprecedented effort to seize the property of patients, their providers, and the landlords that lease to them. Out of nearly 40 asset forfeiture lawsuits involving medical marijuana carried out since 1996, as many as 30 were filed by the Obama Administration. At a conservatively estimated cost of $350,000 per forfeiture case, the Obama Justice Department is expected to spend more than $10 million on forfeiting the property of those in full compliance with state law. Federal law allows the government to seize a person's property even though they have not been convicted of a crime. Hundreds of letters from U.S. Attorneys threatening asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution have shuttered more than 500 dispensaries in California, Colorado and Washington States. During the production of this report, at least another 100 letters were sent to landlords in California.
The report concludes with a set of recommendations, urging the federal government to take immediate action to address its outdated and harmful policy on medical marijuana. In particular, the report calls for amending a Congressional appropriations bill this summer that would prevent Justice Department funds from being spent on enforcing federal marijuana laws in medical marijuana states. The report also calls for the compassionate release of medical marijuana patients currently serving prison sentences, as well as the passage of HR 689, federal legislation that would reclassify marijuana for medical use.
A similar report was issued today by California NORML, which outlines the number of people prosecuted and imprisoned as a result of the Justice Department's enforcement efforts. "Raging unabated," the report points to the war on medical marijuana as the cause of at least 332 people being charged with related federal crimes, with no less than 158 people receiving prison sentences totaling more than 490 years. California NORML also contributed to ASA's "What's the Cost?" report.
ASA report on the costs of federal enforcement against medical marijuana: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/WhatsTheCost.pdf
Source material behind the numbers: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/whatsthecostreportestimates
Peace for Patients campaign: http://PeaceForPatients.org
California NORML report on DOJ enforcement: http://www.canorml.org/costs/Nearly_500_Years_Prison_Time_for_Medical_Marijuana_Offenses
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