ASA Responds to Mark Kleiman's Criticism

Drug-policy maven Mark Kleiman thinks "medical-marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access has crossed an ethical line by charging opponents of legislation it favors with wanting to put four-year-old epilepsy patients and their mothers in federal prisons," he tells CelebStoner.

ASA has gone after several House members who voted against the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment with "attack" ads.

"ASA has decided to celebrate the passage in the House of the Rohrbacher amendment - designed to protect medical-marijuana sellers (in states where it’s legal) from federal enforcement – by grossly slandering some Congresscritters who voted against the amendment," Kleiman writes in an article, "Lies, Damned Lies and 'Medical' Marijuana," posted at his blog.

He's referring to two 30-second spots directed at Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Andy Harris (R-MD).

Kleiman, who supports cannabis legalization and was hired by Washington State in 2013 to consult on the developing marijuana industry there, contends that the amendment, which would stop the federal government from intervening in medical-marijuana states and was passed by the House on May 30, doesn't "protect patients from anything whatsoever… The actual Rohrbacher amendment is designed to protect growers and sellers, since in fact federal agents aren’t in the habit of making cannabis-possession arrests. When you hear about 'medical marijuana patients' getting busted federally, it’s almost always someone growing far more cannabis than anyone could personally use."

He accuses ASA of "relentlessly talk(ing) about the interests of patients while single-mindedly serving the interests of the sellers. (Like most of the rest of the “drug policy reform” movement – with the exception of MAPS – ASA has yet to spend a nickel on medical research or safety studies; everything goes to campaigning, litigating, and lobbying.)

"So the ASA ad embodies - repeats - a flat-out lie, no different from the lies told by lots of other industries seeking political advantage (or, to be fair, the lies peddled by the official and unofficial proponents of drug-war-without-end)," Kleiman goes on. "Will anyone on the pro-legalization side of this debate stand up to say that a valid position doesn’t require dishonest arguments?"

Sherer on Kleiman: "In the case of this blog it is annoying but as a hired consultant, it is dangerous."

ASA executive director Steph Sherer scoffs at Kleiman's charges. "I am not too surprised when an academic doesn't understand political strategy," she tells CelebStoner. "But I am perplexed at Mark's consistent use of baseless 'facts,' not just in his recent blog post but in his recent work in Washington State as well. As an academic, I would expect him to use research to inform his opinions. Instead, he only uses his lazy observations to back his opinions. In the case of this blog it is annoying but as a hired consultant, it is dangerous. Maybe he needs to raise some funds to hire research staff? I would be happy to help find him an intern."

She adds that "ASA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in developing safety protocols with the American Herbal Products Association and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, reviewing research guidelines for studies, lobbying governments to adopt product safety protocols, and helping researchers find patients for their studies. Also, most of our funding comes from our members and individual donors, not the medical marijuana industry."

ASA media specialist Kris Hermes sent the following response to CelebStoner:

"The TV ads may have been sensational, but they certainly aren't slanderous. The truth that Kleinman refuses to accept is that the Justice Department continues to prosecute patients who are growing for their own medical use and send them away to federal prison for five and 10 years at a time, including very sick patients. This has happened in the last couple of years in Montana, Michigan and California, and it's currently playing out in Washington State with the Kettle Falls 5 case. And, even when the federal government is going after large-scale cultivators and distributors, it's still negatively affecting patients. Because of this relentless prosecutorial campaign still going on, it's more than necessary to tie the hands of the DOJ so this unnecessary enforcement action stops.

"Kleiman's repeated use of quotes around 'medical marijuana' indicates his contempt for millions of people who use marijuana for therapeutic effect. It shows that he cares not about the plight of sick people to have safe and legal access to an alternative medicine that has helped so many people. Kleiman is no better than our staunchest opponents, even as he helps Washington State implement its new 'adult-use' law. Kleiman himself cannot be trusted as he runs roughshod over patients in Washington, proposing to do away with a medical marijuana law that has provided necessary protection to patients for more than 15 years. Shame on Kleiman for his uninformed, baseless opinions, and the damage he has already done to the patient community. As a purported academic, he should really get his facts straight."

Sherer founded ASA in 2002.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.