Congress to weigh tax issues behind IRS medical marijuana audits
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 9:42 am
Congressional newspaper The Hill reports that as the standoff between the federal government and the medical marijuana industry continues, efforts are being made in Washington to resolve some of the issues that have led to the current atmosphere of mutual hostility.
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has filed its first lobbying disclosure forms, registering $5,000 in lobbying expenses since it officially began operations in January. While that number is just a fraction of what pro-marijuana groups like Americans for Safe Access ($410,000 since 2006) and the Marijuana Policy Project ($995,000 since 2002) have spent, NCIA is a far younger group. More significantly, it is the only group in existence dedicated strictly to lobbying for the medical marijuana industry.
As The American Independent has previously reported, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) intends to soon unveil a bill that will prevent banks from denying access to medical marijuana dispensaries. Currently, U.S. Treasury Department initiatives to have banks report dispensary financials and cut off service outright have led many medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal to lose banking privileges.
Meanwhile, according to The Hill, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) is working with the NCIA on a bill that would resolve the clause in the U.S. Tax Code that has allowed the IRS to aggressively audit dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries across the U.S. Section 280-E of the tax code prevents businesses involved in the trafficking of controlled substances from deducting expenses. Critics of the IRS’s actions have argued that the provision was designed for cocaine kingpins and was never intended to apply to state-legal medical marijuana. The NCIA expects Stark to introduce the bill in the next few weeks.
Marijuana advocates like NORML director Allen St. Pierre have been pessimistic about the chances of even ostensibly innocuous bills like Polis’ banking provision and tax code alteration. While marijuana law reform and protection of state medical marijuana providers have enjoyed some degree of bipartisan support in Congress, truly widespread backing in the House and Senate has so far been elusive.