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What's the Cost? The Federal War on Patients
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) released the What’s the Cost?: The Federal War on Patients report in 2013 to galvanize Congress to intervene in the federal government’s campaign to undermine state medical cannabis programs. The report provided a tangible fiscal perspective on the activities of the Department of Justices (DOJ) under three Presidents while illuminating the human impact of this battle.
ASA was founded in 2002, in the wake of the Bush Administration’s heightened attacks on medical cannabis programs, with the mission of creating safe & legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use & research. ASA organized & mobilized a movement to advance medical cannabis policies. This movement included not only working with city & state governments to create & expand medical cannabis access but also creating campaigns to help resist federal interference. Campaign activities included raid-preparedness trainings for cannabis providers, organizing raid response protests across the country during & after raids & court support for those being prosecuted. Between 2002-2013, ASA organized over 200 raid responses.
The federal campaign to undermine state medical cannabis programs started under the Clinton Administration when the first medical cannabis law was passed in 1996 & continued through the second term of the Obama Administration leaving millions of wasted tax dollars & thousands of shattered lives in its wake. In 2003, Congressmen Sam Farr (D-CA) & Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced a floor amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill to cut off funding to the DOJ that went towards these attacks. Introduced every consecutive year of the Bush Administration, the measure slowly gained support.
In the beginning of the Obama Administration, it seemed that DOJ was going to take a different course. However, following a series of confusing & at times conflicting memos from the DOJ, U.S. Attorneys & the DEA continued & even intensified their attacks targeting landlords of licensed medical cannabis providers & threatening letters to state government officials.
ASA launched the Peace for Patients campaign to keep these attacks in the public eye & to keep pressure on Congress to intervene. The What’s the Cost?: The Federal War on Patients report was released in concert with a series of events on Capitol Hill, including briefings & lobby days with impacted individuals & the families of jailed individuals caught in the crossfire of the state-federal conflict.
The campaign was successful due in part to the public outcry generated by the release of this report. In 2014, Congress passed the Medical Cannabis amendment to the CJS Appropriations bill, prohibiting the DOJ from using funds to interfere with medical cannabis programs & activities authorized by these programs. The amendment was effective & has been a part of the CJS Appropriations ever since. Today, medical cannabis remains illegal at the federal level & the CJS amendment remains the only federal protection medical cannabis programs have from federal interference.
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