Posts Tagged ‘obama legalizing marijuana’
Image Via Link
Our friends over at NORML seem to be more involved in the Obama campaign efforts than even they realized. This wouldn’t actually be a bad thing since many marijuana supporters voted for the POTUS during his initial election for presidency in 2008.
Unfortunately, a lot has changed since then as Obama and the DEA have recently become less marijuana friendly. This position has left Russ Belville and the rest of the smoke community feeling somewhat neglected and forgotten about by the Obama administration. Well, imagine their surprise when an Obama ad campaign showed up on NORML’s YouTube channel.
The general idea of lending political support behind a candidate is done in exchange for consideration of some kind once they get in office. One hand is supposed to wash the other and that’s not wrong, that’s politics. “Radical” Russ Belville reminded BAM with this response to the Obama administration ad’s placement:
You want the absolute guaranteed votes of 90% of the 25 million American adults who use cannabis annually in America?
Convince Congress to pass and then you sign Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.
I’m so glad NORML spoke out about this, the American people should be more vocal about their lack of interest in playing political games with the current administration. At this point, we’re getting squeezed by interest groups no matter if you’re a marijuana supporter or not. If we all speak up when we see political bullshit and continue to give heat to those who have made promises that they’ve forgotten about then maybe we’ll one day get the type of world we all want…..A NORML one.
A funny thing happened on Monday. The Department of Justice filed a brief regarding state medical marijuana laws in Arizona . . . and it was a good thing, and was met with appreciation from the medical marijuana movement! Seriously. After the disappointments of the vague, not very helpful Cole memo, and the expected but still disappointing DEA denial of marijuana’s medical value, it was great to see the Department of Justice (DoJ) doing the right thing regarding medical marijuana, even if it was only in a limited way.
As you may know, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, last seen promoting states’ rights and vowing to fight on when it comes to illegal immigration, and her Attorney General, Tom Horne, had filed a suit as plaintiffs against the federal government, requesting permission to move ahead with Arizona’s medical marijuana program implementation. This was ridiculous, since no other governor has needed federal permission to move ahead with medical marijuana implementation, even though some others have also tried to use the red herring threat of federal action to slow implementation. Apparently, the DoJ also thinks Brewer’s claims are ridiculous, and it said as much in its withering Motion to Dismiss brief, in which it took apart each of the state of Arizona’s arguments, urging the court to dismiss the case. If the court dismisses the case, Brewer’s logical course of action would be to fully implement Arizona’s medical marijuana law, including licensing more than 100 dispensaries, though given her intransigence, that course of action is sadly not a given.
Throughout its brief, the DoJ basically said that the state of Arizona has no case and that plaintiffs Gov. Brewer and AG Horne have invented a controversy where none exists. Further, the brief notes that a state is not allowed to bring a case asking two sides to fight it out, without taking a position on the law in question, belying Gov. Brewer’s claims upon the suit’s filing of being a neutral party seeking “clarity.” The American judicial process simply does not work that way. In its brief, the DoJ’s criticism of the plaintiffs’ complaint was often direct and sometimes even slightly mocking, which was definitely appreciated by this reader.
The brief attacks the premise of Arizona’s suit in several ways. It says that the suit does not raise a substantial federal question (which it must in order to be heard first in federal court) because it asks for a declaratory judgment on the validity of a state law. It is amusing to watch the federal government explain Constitutional Law 101 to Gov. Brewer, noting that, “there is no federal jurisdiction of a suit by a state to declare the validity of its regulations despite possibly conflicting federal law” (p. 6). The brief also states directly that Arizona has not asserted any “actual, concrete controversy” in its complaint. The brief criticizes the plaintiffs for not identifying a controversy between the parties in the suit and notes the plaintiffs’ failure to take a side as a fatal flaw in the lawsuit, accusing the state of Arizona of “attempt[ing] to manufacture disputes among other parties” (p. 9). The brief criticizes Arizona’s decision to create twenty fictitious defendants, ten on one side of the law and ten on the other, states its doubts about the existence of the hypothetical defendants, and notes definitively that “parties cannot have ‘adverse legal interests’ necessary to establish a live controversy, when one party (particularly the plaintiff) professes to take neither side of the dispute” (p. 10). Finally, the brief denies that Arizona even has standing to raise such a claim, as it has not suffered any “injury in fact.” Basing standing on the idea that some Arizonans disagree about federal law’s effect on Arizona’s medical marijuana law will not work, nor will an unspecific suggestion about a “supposed risk that Arizona citizens will lose revenue or property” (pp. 11-12).
More importantly on a national level, this DoJ brief appears to affirm the following interpretation of the Ogden and Cole Memorandums, along with other relevant case law and actual enforcement: that there has been no demonstration that the federal government is interested in prosecuting state employees for implementing state medical marijuana programs and issuing dispensary licenses. The DoJ cites the lack of any “genuine threat that any state employee will face imminent prosecution under federal law” (p. 2) and notes that “plaintiffs can point to no threat of enforcement against the State’s employees” (p. 10). The brief notes that Arizona has no “concrete plan to act in violation of the Controlled Substances Act,” as it has refused to accept dispensary applications and issue licenses (an act that MPP believes, based on relevant court precedent, would clearly not be such a violation). The brief notes that Arizona was not able to produce any threat, generalized or specific, directed towards its state employees, and it points to the omission of any state employee threats in Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke’s letter on the issue (p. 14). The brief dismisses Arizona’s suggestion that Arizona state employees are subject to federal prosecution as “mere speculation” (p. 15). It sums up this argument when it says:
Plaintiffs identify no prior instances in which the federal government has sought to prosecute state employees for the conduct vaguely described in Plaintiffs’ complaint. Without evidence of such prior prosecutions, Plaintiffs cannot credibly show a genuine threat of imminent prosecution in this case. (p. 15)
This message from the DoJ is heartening, along with U.S. Attorney Burke’s clear statement that going after state employees “is not a priority for us, and will not be.” This brief also comes on the heels of the statement of former U.S. Attorney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said definitively about his decision to implement the state’s medical marijuana program:
I don’t believe the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, given the narrow and medically based nature of our program, will expend what are significantly lessening federal law enforcement resources in the context of the federal budget, on going after dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health or other state workers who are helping to implement this program.
These recent events all suggest that the Department of Justice is interpreting its guidance to mean that state employees can fully implement medical marijuana programs, like those in Arizona and Rhode Island, with no fear of prosecution. So let’s get it done, Governors Brewer and Chaffee! Time is wasting, and people are hurting and need their medicine now.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole issued a controversial memorandum Wednesday in an apparent attempt to clarify federal policy with regard to medical marijuana. Calling marijuana “a dangerous drug,” Cole’s memo threatened enforcement actions against “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities,” including local and state officials. The memo further underscored that “State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law.”
Medical marijuana advocates are decrying this new policy as a retreat from President Obama’s pledge that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws,” and from the spirit of a previous memo issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden in October 2009. “It is disingenuous of the Obama Administration to say it is not attacking patients while obstructing the implementation of local and state medical marijuana laws,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group. “The president is using intimidation tactics to stop elected officials from serving their constituents, thereby pushing patients into the illicit market.”
Despite the wording of the Ogden memo that federal resources should not be used for “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” Cole claimed that his memo was consistent with that of his predecessor. However, patient advocates are questioning what they call glaring inconsistencies. “How are federal threats against local and state officials who are adopting public health measures warranted at any time, let alone at a time of fiscal constraint?” asked Sherer. The Cole memo rejects attempts by state governments to design laws under which medical marijuana providers could be in “clear and unambiguous compliance.”
Over the past few weeks, U.S. Attorneys have sent letters threatening public officials from at least 10 states with criminal prosecution if they implement laws regulating the production and distribution of medical marijuana. The Cole memo appeared to be an attempt to reinforce those threats. “At the same time the federal government is recognizing the rights of people living with cancer and other debilitating diseases to use medical marijuana, it is also denying them the means to obtain it legally,” continued Sherer.
Unwilling to accept this level of hostility from the federal government, patient advocates are putting energy behind a number of initiatives, including a pending petition to reschedule marijuana from its current status as a drug with no medical value, and a number of Congressional bills that aim to reduce federal restrictions on how states implement their own medical marijuana laws. “Until states and localities have the ability to adopt and enforce their own laws regarding the production and distribution of medical cannabis, federal interference will continue to undermine the rights of the very patients the Justice Department purports to recognize,” emphasized Sherer.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana for patients with physician approval. Laws regulating dispensaries exist in 10 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont — but some states have suspended those laws as a result of federal intimidation. Notably, the states of Vermont and Delaware recently stood up to federal threats and defied such intimidation by passing laws licensing the distribution of medical marijuana.
DOJ memorandum from June 29, 2011:http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/James_Cole_memo_06_29_2011.pdf
DOJ memorandum from October , 2009: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192