Posts Tagged ‘obama’
Remember when we were told that “legalization isn’t in the president’s vocabulary?”
Remember when he emphatically stated he would not pursue a strategy of decriminalization of marijuana?
Yeah, we do, too.
So imagine our surprise at NORML to find an ad for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign nestled in the prime ad spot on our YouTube channel: NORMLtv (http://youtube.com/natlnorml).
What’s the campaign strategy for the marijuana smoker vote, Mr. Obama? Keeping at the head of the DEA one of Mr. Bush’s administrators? Maintaining the Bush-era policy of raiding medical marijuana providers? Escalating numbers of marijuana arrests on your watch?
Or will it just be, “Look, you think I’m bad, imagine what happens if (fill in GOP nominee) wins! I just want to force pot smokers into costly rehab they don’t need on the threat of prison. (Fill in GOP nominee) wants to (fill in terrible threat we’re already experiencing now)!”
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.
It doesn’t cost you anything. Marijuana is still illegal in all fifty states and 99% of all marijuana arrests take place at the state and local level. It just means marijuana is no longer a federal issue; states are free to set up any marijuana regulations they choose. The people in marijuana friendly states will support you more and the ones who hate pot still think you’re a secret Muslim agent from Kenya anyway.
Well, I take that back. Your contributors from Big Pharma might not like you endorsing the competition.
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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.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced today that he will allow the Garden State’s medical marijuana program to go into effect, despite his concerns about federal prosecutors going after state workers involved in implementing the program. Christie’s decision should bring an end to nearly 18 months of delayed implementation of the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine (D).
State officials will “begin work immediately” to get six Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) up and running by year’s end, Christie said at a Trenton press conference. “We’re moving forward with the program as it was set up,” he said. “The need provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk we are taking in moving forward with the program.”
Christie had been accused of foot-dragging by legislators and medical marijuana supporters, who have waited with decreasing patience as the months rolled by without the program actually getting underway. First, state officials took months laboring over how to regulate the program, then Christie halted implementation of the program, saying he sought clarification from federal prosecutors on whether state officials could move ahead without fear of federal prosecution.
Christie’s concerns were not unwarranted. Federal prosecutors in a number of states with or considering medical marijuana distribution systems have this year sent threat letters to state officials warning that any distribution of medical marijuana remained a crime under federal law and that anyone involved in it—including state officials—could be subject to prosecution. Those letters were followed late last month by a Justice Department memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole that seemed to indicate a tougher line from the Obama administration, whose previous position had been that medical marijuana suppliers acting in accordance with state laws were not suitable targets for federal prosecutors. But that letter didn’t mention state officials.
Christie received no reassurances, but decided to move forward anyway. “After reading both the letter from Deputy Attorney General Cole and also reading remarks from then-candidate Barack Obama, and most importantly, the way we’ve set up the program, I have decided to move forward as expeditiously as possible to implement the medical marijuana program in New Jersey as outlined,” he vowed.
The New Jersey medical marijuana program will allow patients suffering from specified illnesses or conditions to use marijuana with the approval of a physician. The law will create a registry of patients and a system of six ATCs scattered across the state. It will be administered by the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).Advocates have criticized some of the program’s regulations as overly restrictive, and Christie’s announcement today doesnt change that.
Still, Christie’s announcement was greeted with relief from medical marijuana patients and advocates, who called on officials in other states to follow his lead. Since federal prosecutors started sending out the threat letters earlier this year, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) gutted a bill passed by the legislature that would have set up a state-licensed distribution system, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) delayed implementing her state’s program, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) has put his state’s program on hold.
“If Gov. Christie can implement his state’s medical marijuana program in the face of recent attempts by the federal government to intimidate public officials, then states like Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington should be empowered to implement theirs as well,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “Gov. Christie’s decision to move ahead with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program should be a clarion call to other public officials like Gov. Brewer that the health and welfare of their people are paramount,” Sherer added.
“We are absolutely thrilled that the governor has decided to move forward with the program and we hope that officials in other states who are contemplating options for their programs will follow New Jersey’s lead,” said Roseanne Scotti, who lobbied the legislature for years on the issue as state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Gov. Christie’s thoughtful analysis regarding state medical marijuana programs shows that states can and should move forward with well-regulated and responsible programs,” she added.
Registered Nurse Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, was less concerned with what other states will do than with getting the program going, despite what he and other advocates see as some of its overly restrictive aspects.
“We are happy that the governor is moving forward with the medicinal marijuana program,” Wolski said Monday evening. ”Patients have suffered too long waiting for this. In thousands of cases patients in NJ have already died without the improvement in quality of life and relief of suffering that marijuana can bring,” he noted.
“We still have a number of concerns about the regulations put out by the DHSS for this program,” Wolski continued. “The physician registry is unnecessary and will disqualify numerous patients. Plus the cap on THC level is arbitrary. Home delivery is not being permitted which is just another roadblock to patient access by the Christie administration.”
Still, the bottom line for medical marijuana programs is getting the medicine to seriously ill patients who need it, patients like New Jersey multiple sclerosis sufferer Elise Segal. She was a happy camper today.
“I am extremely pleased that the governor decided to move forward with the program,” Segal said. ”I have nothing but feelings of gratitude toward him and his administration. I hope the program can get up and running now as soon as possible, so that people like me who are suffering will soon have relief.”
It now looks like Segal will get her wish before year’s end.
#AskObama Twitter town hall ignores flood of marijuana legalization questions
Republicans were not the only ones flooding President Barack Obama with questions during his “#AskObama” Twitter town hall; the event also generated a huge response from those opposed to the war on drugs.
Data gathered by TwitSprout showed the most retweeted question for Obama was about the legalization of marijuana.
“Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, court rooms?” was retweeted 4911 times, according to the analytics service.
A question about letting the Bush tax cuts expire came in second place, with only 1800 retweets.
Although marijuana legalization was an overwhelmingly popular question with Twitter users, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who moderated the online town hall, focused on questions pertaining to the economy, education and space exploration.
“#AskObama why they will answer Rep. Boehner’s question, but won’t talk about #CannabisJobs! Legalize it, start a new job creating industry,” the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws complained in tweet, which was itself retweeted more than 100 times.
During his YouTube Q&A in January, Obama was asked what his plan was to help alleviate the detrimental effects of America’s drug war.
He responded by saying that while he’s not in favor of legalization, he did see room for adjusting the drug war to focus less on incarceration and enforcement and more on medical treatment and other forms of interdiction.
The position expressed by President Obama was largely unchanged from 2009, when he told a community driven Q&A that he did not believe legalizing marijuana was a good strategy to grow the economy. He did not, however, crack a joke about the question, calling the debate over drug policy “legitimate.”
With prior reporting by Stephen C. Webster
“Who ever heard of curing a health problem with handcuffs?”
~ Neill Franklin, LEAP
By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
On Monday the Obama Administration released its new National Drug Control Strategy for 2011 and, instead of coming through with its much-touted “shift” in drug control resources toward prevention and away from punishment, the document spends several pages disparaging the idea of legalizing and regulating substances like marijuana.
“It’s sad that the drug czar decided to insert a multi-page rant against legalizing and regulating drugs into the National Drug Control Strategy instead of actually doing his job and shifting limited resources to combat the public health problem of drug abuse,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a former Baltimore narcotics cop.
“Obama administration officials continually talk about the fact that addiction is a medical problem, but when our budgets are so strained I cannot understand why they’re dumping more money into arrests, punishment and prisons than the Bush administration ever did,” Franklin said. “The fact is, once we legalize and regulate drugs, we will not only allow police to focus on stopping violent crime instead of being distracted by arresting drug users, but we will also be able to put the resources that are saved into building treatment and prevention programs that actually work.
“Who ever heard of curing a health problem with handcuffs?” Franklin asked.
The White House report goes on to slam the idea of medical marijuana specifically, even though many prominent medical organizations have pointed out that cannabis has medical value.
This comes less than a week after the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice put out a memo effectively reneging on the President’s campaign promise not to spend limited federal resources interfering in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
“With polls showing that 80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana one wonders how this reversal fits into the president’s re-election strategy,” said Tom Angell, media relations director at LEAP.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.
OC- Any hope that President Obama, a legendary pot smoker back at Occidental College in the late 1970s, might reclassify marijuana as a drug that has medicinal value just went up in smoke.
Nine years ago, for the third time since marijuana was prohibited more than a half-century ago, medical marijuana supporters led by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) asked the federal government to reclassify cannabis so that it’s not listed alongside heroin as a purely dangerous narcotic. Today, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) responded with a resounding “Yeah, right. What are you smoking?”
As negative as it is, the fact that the government finally rejected the petition is being called a victory of sorts by medical pot backers. For one thing, according to an LA Times story today, they had to go to a federal court to force the DEA to even respond at all. And now that the answer is no, they get to appeal the decision without further prevarication.
“We have foiled the government’s strategy of delay, and we can now go head-to-head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value,” Joe Elford, an ASA lawyer, told the Times. Elford added that he wasn’t surprised by the decision given recent signs that the Obama administration, despite promising not to go after medical pot patients, had no such qualms about prosecuting large-scale marijuana growers.
“It is clearly motivated by a political decision that is anti-marijuana,” he said. Elford argued that despite the DEA’s stance, there is little debate nowadays that cannabis provides relief to cancer patients and other people struggling with terminal illness and chronic pain. “One of the things people say about marijuana is that it gives you the munchies and the truth is that it does, and for some people that’s a very positive thing.”
Although Elford said ASA plans to appeal the DEA’s decision, the odds aren’t looking good for such a tactic: the last two times the government refused to reclassify marijuana, the appeals failed in the courts
by David Borden
In March 2008, candidate Obama promised not to use Dept. of Justice resources to block state medical marijuana laws. But President Obama has broken that promise:
- The Obama DOJ is raiding marijuana dispensaries at twice the rate the Bush DOJ did.
- US Attorneys have sent misleading, threatening letters to state legislatures considering dispensary laws.
- A DOJ memo sent late last month, claiming to “clarify” an earlier memo that supported states rights to medical marijuana, in fact backtracked on it. While the federal government is not targeting patients themselves, they are making it more difficult for them to obtain marijuana legally and safely.
Please write to President Obama to express your concern and disappointment over his broken promise. The future of medical marijuana depends on people like you across the country speaking up and putting pressure on the president to keep his promise to respect state medical marijuana laws – so please use our web site to send President Obama a letter today. When you’re done, please use our tell-a-friend form to spread the word. You can call the White House Comment Line on the phone too, at (202) 456-1111, to make an even greater impact.
Thank you for taking a stand. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org for news and commentary about all aspects of the drug war. Click here for our medical marijuana archive page, or here for our medical marijuana RSS feed.
The Justice Department memo, sent to U.S. attorneys around the nation, addresses a central problem with the growing number of states that have legalized medical marijuana: The drug remains illegal under federal law, whether used for medical purposes or not. The new guidance memo reiterates the illegality of medical marijuana and appears to encourage prosecutors to go after some marijuana dispensaries, particularly the large operations.
President Obama suggested during the campaign in 2007-08 that his Justice Department would not prioritize going after medical marijuana. To find out more about the new medical marijuana memo, and for an update on the broader drug war, I spoke to Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which lobbies for alternatives to the drug war.
Can you give an overview of the legal status of medical marijuana around the country?
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana either through the ballot initiative process or a state legislative process. The federal law remains that it is all illegal. Strictly speaking, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance. The DEA just issued an announcement Friday confirming that it still regards marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with no legitimate medical uses and no margin of safety in its use — which is sort of an absurdity on its face. Marijuana remains entirely illegal under federal law.
And “Schedule 1″ means what?
Well, back in 1970, when Congress unified all the drug laws in the Controlled Substances Act, they divided drugs into a variety of schedules. Schedule 1 refers to drugs that supposedly have no legitimate medical use and have no margin of safety in their use. So heroin, LSD, and marijuana are in that category. Schedule 2 are drugs that have some substantial risk but also have some legitimate medical uses. So for example cocaine, opiates and stimulant drugs are in that category.
So medical marijuana is illegal in the eyes of the federal government. But what has the actual enforcement policy of the Obama administration been up till this week?
During the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama made a number of commitments, one of which was that federal law enforcement would not prioritize prosecution of medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law. Then in summer 2009, the Justice Department issued a memo called the Ogden memo, which basically affirmed much of Obama’s promise. It affirmed the idea that marijuana is illegal under federal law, but then said that federal prosecutors should not prioritize the prosecution of medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law. Drug policy reform advovates felt quite optimistic about that 2009 memo, even though it was a qualified statement. What followed was a proliferation of dispensaries in places like Colorado, and California, and Montana. There were growing concerns that this was going too far. I think the Justice Department was hearing from local federal prosecutors and others who did not like these developments.
So what does the new memo sent out to U.S. attorneys say?
It’s called the Cole memo. It reiterates that all marijuana is illegal under federal law. They say that clearly federal resources should not be used to go after patients and their caregivers. They also say that any very large-scale operations — multimillion-dollar operations — will be prosecuted even if they are operating legally under state law. So that represents a modest change in policy. What they are not clear on is what will happen with the midlevel dispensaries. They’re not multimillion-dollar operations, they’re operating legally under state law, and they seem to be serving a population that has medical marijuana recommendations from their physicians. With those operations we’re in a kind of wait-and-see mode as to what prosecutors will do state by state.
The language of the Cole memo is quite aggressive in saying to everybody, “You better watch out, because any one of you could be prosecuted.” On the other hand there are some other messages being sent saying, “Watch what we do, not what we say.” So the real test cases will be whether or not the feds decide to go after medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating legally under state law and are being responsibly regulated by state authorities. If they do that, then we’ll know they really seriously backtracked on the president’s commitment.
So from the beginning of the administration to the present, have they actually gone after dispensaries?
There was a proliferation of dispensaries in states like Colorado and California. So there have in fact been more raids under the Obama administration than there were under the Bush administration. It’s hard to say whether that’s a reflection of the proliferation of dispensaries or whether that’s a real change in policy. What’s also not clear is whether the feds are only targeting those facilities that are not clearly operating legally under state law. So the feds have really created a growing sense of confusion in the medical marijuana community about where the line is between what will be permitted and what won’t.
Stepping back from medical marijuana, has there been much of a shift from the Bush to Obama administrations with “drug war” policy more broadly?
I was pleasantly surprised by the first 18 months of the administration. Obama made three explicit promises during the campaign. He said the feds would not go after medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law, and he appeared to make good on that. He said the crack-powder laws needed to be rolled back, and they got a major reform of that law last year. Third, he said he would support federal funding for needle exchange, and they did support the efforts in Congress on that. Since that time, it looks more and more like the drug czar’s office has been captured by the drug warriors and the anti-drug fanatics who dominated policy-making in the Clinton and Bush administrations. The rhetoric coming out of the drug czar’s office is almost indistinguishable from the rhetoric of past administrations. The personnel they’ve been hiring, and the people they talk to, are overwhelmingly those who have been associated with the failed drug war policies of the past. And meanwhile the Justice Department seems to be getting more and more engaged in enforcement of marijuana laws in ways that really make no sense as a matter of [the] responsible [use] of resources.
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