Press Release  | 05/25/2011

Three Important Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress

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Legislation a Reaction to Department of Justice's Interference with State-authorized Medical Marijuana Programs

Medical Marijuana Patients, Medical Providers and Caregivers Seeking Protection from Overreaching by Federal Government

Three important bi-partisan bills pertaining to state-authorized medical marijuana programs were introduced in Congress today, by three different Members of Congress. The legislation sends a clear signal to US Attorneys, the Department of Justice, and the DEA to stop trying to undermine state laws designed to provide cancer, AIDS and other medical marijuana patients with safe and legal access to their medicine.

"The Justice Department thinks it can bully not just state elected officials but also patients and those who provide for them," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Members of Congress need to stand up for patients and the will of the American people and push back against this federal overreach."

Combined the three bi-partisan bills would protect medical patients, caregivers, and providers from ongoing federal arrests, prosecutions, harassment, and intimidation:

  • Rep. Barney Frank's States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 1983) explicitly exempts people in compliance with their state medical marijuana law from federal arrest and prosecution.
  • Rep. Jared Polis' Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011 (H.R. 1984) protects banks that accept deposits from medical marijuana dispensaries from federal fines or seizures.
  • Rep. Pete Stark's Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011 (H.R. 1985) allows medical marijuana dispensaries to deduct business expenses from their federal taxes like any other organization or business.

During his 2008 campaign, President Obama said he would end the Bush Administration's policy of attacking state medical marijuana programs. Attorney General Eric Holder said shortly after taking office that he agreed with Obama's position.   In 2009, the U.S. Justice Department sent U.S. Attorneys across the country a letter directing that they "should not focus federal resources in [their] States on individuals in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."

Yet the DEA, headed by Bush-appointee Michele Leonhart, has continued to raid medical marijuana providers. And in the last several months U.S. Attorney have begun sending intimidating letters to state elected officials in a number of states that either have or are considering state-licensed medical marijuana distribution systems.

"The Department of Justice's new policy is forcing the public and patients to deal with a chaotic, unregulated medical marijuana market," said Tamar Todd, staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance.  "It is beyond question that states want to and have the right to legalize medical marijuana under state law.   The question now is whether states should be able to implement medical marijuana programs consistent with the needs of patients and of public safety and health.  The legislation introduced today would allow states to implement reasonable, responsible regulations."

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper 202-669-6430

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