ASA Supports Bills to Reschedule, Protect Financial Services and Rein in IRS

In May, three bipartisan medical cannabis bills were introduced in Congress with support from ASA and other patient advocates. The bills would respectively reclassify cannabis as a drug with medical use, protect access to financial services for patients and providers, and rein in aggressive audits of providers by the IRS.

Rep. Frank (D, MA)The most significant of the three bills is HR 1983, the State’s Medical Marijuana Protection Act of 2011, which provides a medical necessity defense for patients and caregivers facing charges in federal court. Introduced by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), HR 1983 also reclassifies marijuana from a Schedule I substance with no medical use to Schedule III, a level that would allow doctors to prescribe it like other medications. Congress put cannabis in Schedule I more than 40 years ago as part of the Controlled Substances Act.

“The time has come for the federal government to stop preempting states’ medical marijuana laws,” Rep. Frank said. “This bill would block the federal prosecution of patients in states that allow medical marijuana.”

Rep. Polis (D, CO)The financial services bill, HR 1984, the Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011, will allow banks and other financial institutions to provide services to medical marijuana businesses without being subject to “suspicious activity” reporting requirements. Wells Fargo, CitiCorp and Bank of America are among the institutions that have summarily closed bank and other financial services accounts of medical cannabis providers under pressure from the Department of Treasury. Introduced by Representative Jared Polis (D-CO), HR 1984 is cosponsored by Reps. Frank, Pete Stark (D-CA) and Ron Paul (R-TX).

“In states that have legalized medical marijuana, and for businesses that have been state-approved, it is simply wrong for the federal government to intrude and threaten banks that are involved in legal transactions,” said Rep. Polis.

Rep. Stark (D, CA)The IRS bill, HR 1985, the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011, would change 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.” Introduced by Rep. Stark, the bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Reps. Frank, Polis, Paul, and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

“Our tax code undercuts legal medical marijuana dispensaries by preventing them from taking all the deductions allowed for other small businesses,” Rep. Stark said.

The IRS has been aggressively auditing dozens of the most successful medical cannabis dispensing centers, disallowing their operating expense deductions and claiming back taxes.

“Each of these bills will help the hundreds of thousands of Americans who rely on medical cannabis to treat their medical conditions, while having virtually no effect on anyone else,” said Steph Sherer, ASA Executive Director. “These bills will update federal policy to better reflect the reality of state medical cannabis programs.”


Courtesty of the Americans For Safe Access website,, Summer 2011

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