Thursday, April 21, 2011

Obama gets an F for his stance on medical marijuana

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 1:40 PM

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Today, Americans for Safe Access — an Oakland, Calif.-based medical marijuana advocacy organization — gave President Barack Obama an overall failing grade for his policies toward MMJ.

"While the prevailing public perception is that President Obama has addressed the issue of medical cannabis," the group said, "that perception could not be further from the truth."

The ASA broke its views down into four categories, separately grading each.

Enforcement — Grade F

President Obama is responsible for new intimidation strategies and more than 100 aggressive criminal enforcement raids in medical cannabis states since taking office in January 2009. By comparison, former President George W. Bush conducted just over 200 such raids during his eight years in office. Since the Justice Department memo was issued in October 2009, the Obama Administration has used federal agencies to execute at least 87 raids, resulting in no fewer than 27 indictments.

Housing & Employment — Grade C-

Despite a recent HUD decision to have local housing authorities address the issue of medical cannabis use and cultivation in public housing, hundreds of thousands of patients across the country are vulnerable to eviction and harassment. For years the federal government’s draconian rules on drug use in public housing have been applied to medical cannabis patients.

Patients are equally, if not more, vulnerable to discrimination at the workplace. Court decisions have upheld such discrimination and, as a result, patients face an uphill battle to achieve rights afforded most others in society. Arizona, Maine, Michigan and Rhode Island have established explicit protections from discrimination on housing and jobs, but such helpful measaures are insuffi cient to address a problem that needs federal leadership. According to a statement by HUD, it is the responsibility of local Housing Authorities to “determine, on a case by case basis, the appropriateness of program termination for the use of medical marijuana.” Patients are thus unable to determine whether or not they may use their medication until after they are facing termination.

Financial Services — Grade F

Over the past three years, several large banks and financial institutions have, based on federal law, refused to provide services to medical cannabis businesses that comply with local and state laws. These companies include Citigroup, Wells Fargo & Company, Bank of America Corporation, and credit card service providers. This has caused hardship for medical cannabis providers who rely on financial institutions to handle cash and credit card transactions safely and efficiently.

In addition, the Internal Revenue Service under the Obama Administration has begun audits of state compliant medical cannabis providers, threatening to bankrupt them by denying their deductions and demanding more taxes. Recently, it was revealed that the FDIC is putting pressure on banks to investigate and report medical cannabis businesses and their financial transactions. Yet when 15 Congressional representatives demanded the Treasury Department stop threatening banks that provide accounts to medical cannabis patients and providers, the Treasury Department claimed no such pressure had been applied. Banks still say Treasury is responsible, and patients and providers continue to have their accounts closed.

Veterans — Grade C-

In 2010, the Department of Veteran Affairs responded to pressure by veterans and patient advocates and improved their policy on medical cannabis. Previous VA policy treated medical cannabis use as criminal, often resulting in patients who used medical cannabis being denied treatment by the VA. Now the VA recognizes medical cannabis may help some veterans and lets VA physicians decide if cannabis use would interfere with a patient’s other medications. VA physicians are still barred from recommending medical cannabis to their patients, forcing veterans to consult doctors outside of the VA system. VA physicians also still ultimately have the authority to deny pharmaceutical medications to patients who use medical cannabis.

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