New Tool Enables Patients, Advocates To Make Informed Choices By Reviewing Voting Record Of Elected Officials
The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) launched a new website today -- VoteMedicalMarijuana.org -- that provides patients and their supporters with the tools they need to make informed decisions about the candidates in their districts. The new website will give visitors a pass/fail "grade" for how their Member of Congress has voted on medical marijuana since 1997. For example, the website details the 72 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of Republicans who voted in favor of de-funding Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids in medical marijuana states this past May.
"Given that our elected officials decide whether and how to develop medical marijuana policy that affects millions of patients in the U.S., it's important for them to have the tools necessary to make decisions that will impact their future," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA, the country's leading medical marijuana group. "The choices made by patients and their supporters at the ballot box should take into consideration the candidates' record on medical marijuana."
Ultimately, advocates argue, it's Congress that funds the aggressive federal enforcement campaigns against state law-abiding medical cannabis facilities, and it's Congress that has the power to grant patients a "medical necessity" defense in federal criminal trials, a right they are not currently afforded. VoteMedicalMarijuana.org also identifies key champions of medical marijuana with an "honor roll" distinction, reserved for co-sponsors of important legislation that protects state medical marijuana laws or seeks to develop a comprehensive federal policy.
Three statewide medical marijuana initiatives will also appear on ballots in Arkansas, Massachusetts and Montana this year. Initiative Referendum No. 124 in Montana would approve extremely restrictive amendments to that state's medical marijuana law, which was passed by 62 percent of the voters in 2004. Question 3 in Massachusetts would "enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use."
Issue 5 in Arkansas establishes a system for the "cultivation, acquisition and distribution of marijuana for qualifying patients through nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries and granting those nonprofit dispensaries limited immunity," and protects "qualifying patients, their designated caregivers and nonprofit dispensary agents" from "criminal or civil penalties or other forms of discrimination for engaging in or assisting with the patients' medical use of marijuana." Issue 5 also authorizes limited cultivation of marijuana by qualifying patients and designated caregivers under certain circumstances.
For the past 10 years, numerous polls have shown that up to 80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana. "The majority of Americans who support access to medical marijuana don't need to be in the three states with an initiative on the ballot to weigh in on this issue," continued Sherer. "VoteMedicalMarijuana.org will better educate supporters in casting their ballot for candidates who have their best interests in mind." The website includes information on Congressional races and ballot measures, and encourages visitors to submit information on state and local elections.
Press release from Americans For Safe Access