SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- The patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a report card today giving President Obama a failing grade for his record on medical marijuana.
The report card highlights broken promises, half-measures, and a general failure by the Obama Administration to address medical marijuana as a national public health issue. Citing ongoing federal raids, the report card accused the government of undermining local and state medical marijuana laws, and urged the Obama administration to develop a comprehensive federal policy that truly curbs enforcement. The report card also calls for expanded research and the reclassification marijuana from its status as a dangerous drug with no medical value.
"While the prevailing public perception is that President Obama has addressed the issue of medical cannabis," stated the report card, "that perception could not be further from the truth." The report card was issued in conjunction with protests organized by ASA in San Francisco, as President Obama launched his re-election campaign. Patients and supporters rallied at 8am this morning outside of the St. Regis Hotel, where a fundraiser was being held, carrying signs that read, "We're Sick and Tired," "Reschedule Cannabis Now," and "Federal Protection Not Federal Prosecution."
"Patients are sick and tired of being marginalized and living in fear of the federal government," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA. "It's time to push politics aside, recognize the plight of patients across the country, and properly address medical marijuana as the public health issue that it is."
Despite an October 2009 Justice Department memorandum aimed at de-emphasizing federal enforcement in medical marijuana states, the Obama administration has since conducted nearly 100 aggressive, SWAT-style raids on patients, growers, dispensaries and laboratories in California, Colorado, Michigan, Montana and Nevada. These raids have so far resulted in nearly 30 new federal prosecutions. President Obama has also continued to vigorously prosecute his predecessor's federal cases, rather than turning them over to be adjudicated in state courts. Most recently, Obama's Justice Department threatened public officials from Washington State with criminal prosecution if they implement a medical marijuana distribution system designed and approved by the legislature.
The report card also points out federal half-measures related to public housing, veterans affairs, banking and the Internal Revenue Service. A reluctance by the federal government to adequately address the issue of medical marijuana has instead created a patchwork of confusing and often contradictory policies. Vast discretionary powers are given to landlords in deciding whether to evict patients from public housing, just as discretion is given to veterans' physicians in deciding whether to deny pharmaceutical medication to qualified patients. In the financial world, the government is instructing large banks like CitiCorp, Wells Fargo and Bank of America to purge even state-compliant medical marijuana businesses, and the Internal Revenue Service is conducting dozens of audits in an effort to shut down licensed dispensaries.
In addition to calling for the reclassification of medical marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance, and an end to federal raids, the comprehensive policy being sought by advocates also includes greater safeguards for patients against housing and employment discrimination. With the aim of repairing an onerous research approval process and shifting focus from studies on marijuana's abuse potential to its therapeutic benefits, advocates are calling for expanded investment into research.