Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Americans for Safe Access*
*For Immediate Release:* March 18, 2008

*Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Testify Today at Taxpayers' Hearing in
*/Patients and their providers pay more than $100 million in sales tax
/*Sacramento, CA *-- More than a half-dozen medical marijuana dispensary
operators from across the state will testify today at 1:30pm before the
State Board of Equalization (BOE) at its Taxpayers' Bill of Rights
Hearing. Dispensary operators from southern and northern California,
joined by medical marijuana advocates, will be in Sacramento to discuss
their significant contribution of $100 million in annual sales tax
revenue to an ailing state budget. While sales tax on medical marijuana
clearly benefits the fiscal health of the state, that funding is
threatened by increased interference from the federal government.

*What:* Medical marijuana dispensary operators and advocates testify
at the Board of Equalization's Taxpayers' Bill of Rights Hearing
*When:* Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 1:30pm
*Where:* Hearing Room 121 at the BOE, 450 N Street in Sacramento
*Why:* Medical marijuana annual sales tax revenue of $100 million is
threatened by continued federal interference
*Who:* Testimony will be heard from dispensary operators in Los
Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz

"Medical marijuana dispensaries are doing their best to comply with
state law," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access
(ASA), one of the advocacy groups testifying today. "One hundred million
dollars annually in sales tax revenue is not small change," continued
Hermes. "However, by continuing to shut these facilities down, the
federal government deprives the state of this money at a time of fiscal

According to recent estimations by multiple advocacy groups,
California's hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries contribute to
the state budget at least $100 million annually in sales tax revenue.
The State of California began collecting sales tax revenue from medical
marijuana dispensaries in October 2005, after a policy decision that
year by the BOE. However, the same facilities that are expected to
comply with this policy are currently under attack by the federal

Enforcement tactics by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
have had a devastating impact on dispensaries in California. In 2007
alone, the DEA raided more than 50 medical marijuana dispensaries in at
least 10 different counties across the state. Also, in 2007, the DEA
launched a new tactic in its attempts to undermine state law by
disseminating more than 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries,
threatening the property owners with criminal prosecution and asset
seizure if they continued to lease to dispensaries.

"The sales tax collected by medical marijuana dispensaries in one year
could fund the construction of two large schools or 2,000 elementary and
high school teachers," said ASA Chief of Staff Rebecca Saltzman. "By
robbing California of this much needed revenue, the federal government
is not only harming thousands of patients that rely on this medicine, it
is also impeding the state's ability to fund critical aspects of its

The federal government's efforts to undermine California's medical
marijuana law have not gone unnoticed by local and state lawmakers.
Letters from concerned local officials in 2007 prompted U.S. House
Judiciary Chair John Conyers to issue a statement in December expressing
his deep concern and calling for DEA oversight hearings. Since then,
Mayors from Oakland and Santa Cruz, as well as the Berkeley City Council
and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, have all registered their
opposition to federal enforcement against medical marijuana. In
addition, State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) introduced SJR
20 earlier this year, calling for an end to federal interference and
urging Congress and the President to establish policy consistent with
the compassionate use laws of California. Most recently, in February,
former BOE Chair Betty Yee co-authored an opinion piece with Senator
Migden harshly criticizing DEA tactics in California, emphasizing the
harm to both patients and the state.

Further information:
ASA Fact Sheet on Sales Tax:
Copy of State Senate Joint Resolution 20, calling for an end to DEA
interference: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/SJR_20.pdf
BOE notice sent to dispensaries in 2007 alerting them to the new sales
tax policy: http://www.boe.ca.gov/news/pdf/medseller2007.pdf
Opinion piece by Betty Yee & Carole Migden:

# # #

With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for
Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of
patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens
promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and
research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating
policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and
researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots
actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers. *

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