BY JAY SMOKER
The most significant of the three bills is one introduced by Congressman Frank (D-MA), which reclassifies marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value. Another bill, introduced by Congressman Polis (D-CO), 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 Congressman Stark (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.”
“All of these bills will have a positive effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans and only a negligible impact to the rest of the country,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest 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.
The introduction of Congressional legislation today comes as ASA is equipping patient advocates with new tools to lobby local, state and federal governments. ASA unveiled a new program today that establishes 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 4 hours of educational streaming video and over 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 its “Sick and Tired” campaign, ASA and others filed a writ Monday in the DC Circuit to compel the federal government to answer a 9-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,” continued Sherer. “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 bill 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 services for medical marijuana businesses by institutions like Wells Fargo, CitiCorp and Bank of America. The Stark bill has the potential to end dozens of 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.