Pages tagged "Congress"

  • ATF is Latest in Long Line of Federal Agencies to Bully Medical Marijuana Patients



     

     

     

     

     

     

    Two weeks ago, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), under the Obama Justice Department, issued a memorandum instructing firearms dealers not to sell to lawful medical marijuana patients. The ATF memo -- an affront to patients’ Second Amendment rights to be sure -- was just the latest in a long list of policy statements and threatening letters from the federal government aimed at undermining the rights of medical marijuana patients. However, this particular effort against gun owners has people riled up more than usual.

    After finding out about the ATF memo, Montana’s congressional delegation -- Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), and U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) -- blasted the decision. In response, Tester wrote a letter to the ATF last week, urging the agency to “immediately reconsider [its] misguided effort.” Rep. Rehberg and Senator Baucus made similar condemning remarks.

    In defense of patients, Senator Tester wrote:

    It is unacceptable that law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights simply because they hold a state-issued card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    In Michigan, the ATF is being especially proactive. Americans for Safe Access has received reports that the federal government is using information obtained from the state’s medical marijuana program to serve search warrants and forfeiture notices on patients with legally possessed firearms.

    The ATF memo comes after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a notice to state and local housing authorities that accommodation need not be given to legal medical marijuana patients and that eviction from public housing was an acceptable option.

    Also earlier this year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued an order, increasing the enforcement responsibilities of banks to ensure against criminal and illicit activity. This order has been used to deny or cancel banking services for countless legally operating medical marijuana dispensaries across the country. According to a Denver Post editorial from today:

    [L]ast week, the lone bank in the state that openly worked with the [medical marijuana] industry closed an estimated 300 marijuana-related accounts for fear that the companies  are breaking federal law.

    In a now-famous move, the Obama Justice Department sent out a series of letters this summer to public officials in at least 10 medical marijuana states, threatening criminal prosecution for implementing public health laws. This had a deleterious effect on several local and state laws in Arizona, California, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington to name a few.

    More recently, however, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that Harborside Health Center -- possibly the largest licensed medical marijuana distribution facility in California -- could not deduct its operating costs and must pay taxes on gross income. Besides the possibility of putting Harborside out of business, this could have a devastating effect on local distribution across the country.

    The ATF memo and other examples of intolerance by the federal government illustrate the need for a federal policy that treats medical marijuana as a public health issue. As such, urge President Obama to develop a comprehensive policy on medical marijuana. Also, people should urge their Member of Congress to pass HR 1983 to reclassify medical marijuana, HR 1984 to restore banking services for the medical marijuana community, and HR 1985 to allow dispensaries to deduct their operating expenses when paying federal taxes.
  • Tennessee Congressman Calls Federal Medical Marijuana Policy “Misguided”



    Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) wrote a letter to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske on Monday, urging a change to the country’s drug policy with regard to marijuana. In addition to calling the federal policy on medical marijuana “misguided,” Cohen said, “Marijuana does not belong on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.”
    There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as these harder drugs and it should not be treated as such.

    Cohen, who has taken FBI Director Robert Mueller to task over the federal government’s policy, called for compassion in his letter to Kerlikowske:
    We should not deny the thousands of Americans who rely on marijuana to treat the effects of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses the benefits that marijuana provides.

    Cohen also described a personal experience he had with medical marijuana:
    I have personally witnessed a close friend who was suffering in the last days of pancreatic cancer benefit tremendously from smoking marijuana. It increased his appetite, eased his pain, and allowed him to smile. It allowed him to deal with death with a little more dignity.

    Fortunately, there is a bill currently in Congress that would reclassify medical marijuana. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is mobilizing people to urge their Members of Congress to pass HR 1983, a bill that would reclassify marijuana to Schedule III and allow states to pass their own laws.

    ASA has also taken the Obama Administration to court over its refusal to reclassify marijuana. After a 2002 petition filed by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) was denied earlier this year, ASA and the CRC filed an appeal in the D.C. Circuit. Advocates are hopeful that either Congress or the courts will push the federal government to address medical marijuana with a sensible public health policy.
  • Action Alert: Tell Congress to Support New Bills



    August is the month to visit your Congress Critter! Most Representatives will be back home soon, so this is your chance to explain why it's important to pass the bi-partisan legislation pending in Congress. H.R. would block the federal prosecution of patients in states that allow medical cannabis. H.R. 1984 would protect bank accounts for medical cannabis dispensaries. And H.R. 1985 would let dispensaries deduct expenses on their federal taxes like any other business.

    You can reach your Representative by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or take action online right now.
  • DOJ memo sends a chilling message

    [caption id="attachment_1678" align="alignnone" width="275" caption="Deputy US Attorney General James Cole"]
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    In a move that impacts hundreds of thousands of medical cannabis patients nationwide, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a chilling message tonight to state and local officials who are seeking to implement medical cannabis laws and to those trying to provide legal medicine: You may be prosecuted.  In a memo to US Attorneys nationwide, US Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that
    Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities… are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law… Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on members and supporters to get ready for a large-scale national response to the DOJ threats that could stymie implementation of state and local laws and make getting medicine harder. We have to let President Obama know that federal interference and intimidation hurts patients – and we expect him to do better!



    Preventing state and local governments from regulating medical cannabis activity is counterproductive and harmful to legal patients, most of whom cannot or will not grow their own medicine. Without anywhere to obtain their doctor-approved medicine, hundreds of thousands of legal patients are left to fend for themselves and are pushed into the unregulated illicit market. That is not what voters and lawmakers intended when they adopted medical cannabis laws in seventeen states and the District of Columbia.

    The threat of using money laundering and other federal financial crimes is particularly onerous in the current political landscape. Under pressured federal pressure, many banks are denying services to medical cannabis providers; and the IRS is auditing providers in California and Colorado using antiquated codes designed to penalize drug cartels. Fanning these flames only makes menaingful regulation harder. Why not let legislation sponsored by US Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Pete Stark (D-CA) address these issues without intimidating lawmakers, regulators, tax collectors, providers, and others?

    This long-awaited clarification from the DOJ upholds the recent status quo of aggressive enforcement against state and local medical cannabis laws, in direct contradiction to Obama's comment on the campaign trail that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws." Until states and localities have the ability to adopt and enforce their own laws regarding the production and distribution of medical cannabis, federal interference and intimidation will continue to undermine the rights of the very patients the DOJ purports to recognize.

    We can do better than the same old federal posture. President Obama should end the criminal prosecution of medical cannabis providers who are obeying state law and cooperate with state and local officials trying to implement rational, compassionate policies. A good first step would be to respond to the nine-year old rescheduling petition that seeks to remove medical cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The President could also support legislative efforts to harmonize federal law with the laws of the states where medical cannabis is legal. Support for US Representative Barney Frank’s (D-MA) HR 1983 would go a long way towards bridging the federal divide and reassuring state and local officials that it is OK to implement the law. It may also help persuade legal patients and providers that it is OK to obey it.
  • 3 More Indictments in Federal Campaign Against Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The federal government indicted three people yesterday in Montana, continuing its campaign to undermine medical marijuana laws across the country. The indictment against Jason Burns, Joshua Schultz, and Jesse Leland who were providing medical marijuana to state-qualified patients in Montana, is a result of 26 raids executed in March by no less than 8 federal agencies and an array of local law enforcement.

    Despite an October 2009 Justice Department memorandum de-emphasizing federal enforcement against medical marijuana, President Obama has been responsible for more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least 7 states since taking office. Yesterday’s indictment is added to a list of more than 2-dozen similar medical marijuana-related indictments in the past 2 years.

    Whether or not you agree that medical marijuana patients and providers accused of local or state law violations should be tried in state court – we certainly do – they should be given a chance to defend themselves. Unfortunately, patients and providers prosecuted in federal court are prevented from using a medical or state law defense. U.S. Attorneys know this and use it to their advantage to unfairly try medical marijuana defendants like Burns, Schultz, and Leland. Whether they are accused of making a profit or somehow violating state law matters not in federal court and it will never be raised as an issue at trial. In fact, federal prosecutors will even object to the words “medical marijuana” being used in front of the jury.

    Let’s call a spade, a spade. The federal government goes after medical marijuana providers because it’s easy. People bold enough to commit federal civil disobedience every day to bring medical marijuana to patients who need it and are qualified to use it do not hide in the shadows. Many are listed in the phone book or on other public lists. They often run storefront businesses and some even advertise. Federal enforcement against medical marijuana providers is like picking low hanging fruit.

    Once in federal court, U.S. Attorneys need only to show that marijuana was present and that it was being provided to another person and, presto, you can convict anyone on an array of federal felonies. If the provider places his or her proceeds in a bank, you can add money laundering and other financial offenses to the list of felonies.

    The problem is that the federal government isn’t just racking up more points in its insatiable “war on drugs,” it’s also, and more importantly, playing with people’s lives. In a letter sent earlier this week to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) explain that targeting medical marijuana providers:
    harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.

    Holder would do well to heed the Congressmen’s words and let local and state officials enforce their own medical marijuana laws. It makes economic sense and it brings this country closer to addressing medical marijuana as the public health issue that it is.
  • Congress to AG Holder: Let States Implement Medical Marijuana Laws without Federal Interference



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week urging him to re-avow his commitment to an October 2009 memorandum that de-emphasized federal enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

    The 2009 memo was drafted by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and sent to all of the U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states. Since then, some of those same U.S. Attorneys have sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 states, threatening some of them with criminal prosecution if they implement licensed production and distribution systems.

    According to The Hill, Frank and Polis in their June 20th letter pointed to the stark divide between federal policy and practice:
    Recent actions by United States Attorneys across the country have prompted states to deny patients safe and reliable access to their medicine.

    Further emphasizing this point, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to Oakland, California City Attorney John Russo in February stating that the Justice Department:
    will enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.

    Letters sent to lawmakers in the States of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington have killed, derailed or suspended the implementation of local medical marijuana laws. Frank and Polis responded to this intimidation by explaining how obstructing medical marijuana laws needlessly expends precious federal resources and “harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.”
    There are now hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in states where the medication is legal. These patients will either purchase medical marijuana safely at state-regulated entities or seek it through unregulated channels in the criminal market.

    Any day now, Holder is expected to announce a “clarification” to the Ogden memo. Patients and supporters are encouraged to contact his office and let Holder know that the federal government should let local and state governments implement their own medical marijuana laws and to focus on developing a federal policy that recognizes marijuana’s medical efficacy. Anything less would be a disservice to our most vulnerable.
  • Welcome to ASA 3.0 - 3 new bills in Congress, 3 new programs at ASA



    Here at ASA we are fighting hard for patients’ rights, and this year we’re taking a whole new approach. We’re calling it ASA 3.0. We’ve been holding stakeholders’ meetings across the nation, and we designed this approach based on what you – local activists and patients – want and need.

    We’ve developed a plan for improving safe access across the nation, but we need your help to make it happen. Can you commit just $1 a day to ASA’s important work? When you give to ASA, you are giving back to yourself because we build our strategies based on your needs.



    We know you want to see change on the federal level, so we have been working diligently on the Hill. Today, we got results: Three new bills were introduced in the House of Representatives that would protect patients and providers. Ask your representative to sign on as a sponsor to these bills. It only takes a minute to make the call, and the impact you make is much more powerful than even the best-paying lobbyists.

    The federal legislation is just the beginning. You asked for help with local and state legislation, so we created a Medical Cannabis Think Tank and Policy Shop. While state medical cannabis laws vary tremendously, the needs of patients remain consistent across the nation. Many regulations look good on paper, but their impact can be detrimental to the patients they seek to help. ASA’s Think Tank and Policy Shop provides local activists the support they need to analyze pending legislation and lobby for the best law possible.

    You asked for support in developing your grassroots community, so we created the Online Training Center. If we are going to keep the safe access we have now and build on it, we will need fight at every level of the political spectrum. With over 4 ½  hours of video content and over 400 pages of instruction manuals and worksheets, the Online Training Center gives patients and patient advocates the tools they need to accomplish their goals.

    Of course, state law provides little protection from the federal government. That’s why we’re vamping up our response to federal interference. We’re taking ASA’s proven raid response trainings across the nation and have released our new and improved our Raid Response Center to better prepare for interference across the country. (If you haven’t already, be sure you’re signed up for our Raid Alert Text Messages.)

    Since federal interference is rooted in cannabis’ listing as a Schedule I drug, we continue to fight to remove cannabis from that list. This time, we’re taking the issue to the courts. ASA, as part of the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis, recently filed a lawsuit for the DEA’s unreasonable delay in responding to a rescheduling petition we submitted in 2002. Yes, it has been nine years, and the DEA has neglected to respond. Not only should this lawsuit force the DEA to respond to the petition, but it will provide the opportunity for us to highlight the disconnect between the federal government’s policies and science.

    We’re excited about ASA 3.0, but we can’t do it alone. For just $1 a day, you can move ASA forward. That’s less than a cup of coffee – and that cup of coffee isn’t going to fight for your rights.

    Commit to the movement. Commit $1 a day to ASA. See the results.

    It’s coming … ASA’s new mobile application




     

    Allowing you to stay in the know on the go
  • May 2: Order the DEA to Cease and Desist, Rally for Patients' Rights!

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    Stand in solidarity with me for a National Day of Action this Monday, May 2, 2011.  Our community is sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic or debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients. 



    After previously giving us a false sense of security, the Obama administration now continues to ignore state laws and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities, while creating new ways to marginalize our community, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suit against state employees who participate in upholding state law. This community is still under attack. 

    Just yesterday, our community witnessed raid activity in Washington State and on Monday, our community will lose two more of our brothers and sisters to the failed war on drugs.  Dale Shafer and Dr. Mollie fry will turn themselves over to federal agents to serve five-year mandatory minimum sentences for legally participating in state sanctioned medical cannabis programs.  Enough is enough and Monday, May 2, 2011 is our time to take stand against federal interference! 

    Fellow community members and local activists are preparing to deliver ASA’s Cease and Desist to local DEA offices and federal buildings across the country.  Commit to do the same. Join activists in several cities across the country.  Locations include, but are not limited to, the following areas: Washington State, Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado, Montana, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, Washington, DC, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Maryland.  To find out what is going on in your area, email [email protected], or print out the Cease and Desist Order and take it to a local DEA Office or Federal Building near you on Monday!! Remember: if you don’t stand up for safe access, who will?

    Special Patients' Rights Rallies will be occurring in both Washington, DC outside of the Department of Justice at 12pEST (event flyer) and outside of the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento, CA at 12pPST for Dale Schafer and Dr. Mollie Fry (event flyer).

    It's thanks to the support from our members that ASA is able to hold Days of Action like this one. Please consider making a donation to ASA today, so we can continue to strengthen our fight for safe access.

    I look forward to participating in our National Day of Action for patients' rights with you on Monday, May 2, 2011.
  • With Great Hope

    Another year is winding down and our movement has added more amazing victories to our impressive list. From taking down anti-medical marijuana AG candidate Steve Cooley to passing access regulations in Washington DC, ASA has shown the power of grassroots patient advocacy. With a new year looming, this is a great time to reflect and to think about what the future will bring. As a patient advocate, this is the time that I think about how I personally contributed to creating safe and legal access and what that commitment will look like next year. As Executive Director of ASA, it is my job and commitment to our members to look at the national landscape and to prepare our movement for the challenges and opportunities coming.  Part of that preparation this year was traveling across the country, taking the pulse of our movement by hosting five and six hour-long strategic planning meetings with our community.  In every city, I met individuals with medical conditions that made every moment of their life a struggle as well as individuals at the end of their lives - MS patients with months to live, women whose cancer had progressed passed treatment, a forty year old with ALS so severe he needed specialized equipment to communicate. Over and over again I was moved to tears by the passion and commitment of our members. Members who may not be around to see the results of their organizing but still want to be a part of change. Members who, despite great discomfort, are advocating so that YOU and I can have safe access. As a member of ASA, you are connecting these individuals into a movement. As a member of ASA, you are making sure that our patient advocates have the resources they need to be effective and strategic. We held meetings with our communities this year because we thought that was the right way to win; now we know that it’s the only way to win. Safe and legal access will only happen if WE, the movement, make it happen. We’re in a unique position this year to take your voice to the top. We have political capital built up and we’re ready to spend it. Because of our wins last year, your contribution today will go further than it ever has before. Help us take your voice to DC. We all have a role in this movement. I’ve told you about the passion and commitment of those at the end of their lives, those with the very least to gain and the invaluable role they’re playing. I believe one of my roles is to create a world where our terminally ill do not spend the last months of their lives in six-hour policy meetings and we need your contribution to make that happen. So the question now is, can you fulfill that role? Can you sacrifice a fraction of what they have given so that we can build a safer, fairer world? Thank you, as always, for your generous support. I wish for your happiness in the new year.
  • Medical Marijuana Advocates Bring Attention to DEA Confirmation Hearings

    Americans for Safe Access is urging Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) members to ask Acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head Michele Leonhart difficult and pointed questions on Wednesday, during her confirmation hearing, about her plan to address the growing divide between federal and state medical marijuana laws. Leonhart, a Bush-holdover, led aggressive attacks for many years against medical marijuana patients and their providers, and has obstructed meaningful research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. Read more about Leonhart’s confirmation hearing, her background as Deputy DEA Administrator, the questions ASA has submitted to the SJC, and the action patients are taking to hold Leonhart accountable for her actions.

    [caption id="attachment_993" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart"]
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