Bummer

Barack Obama turns out to be just another drug warrior.

It is not hard to see how critics of the war on drugs got the impression that Barack Obama was sympathetic to their cause. Throughout his public life as an author, law professor, and politician, Obama has said and done things that suggested he was not a run-of-the-mill drug warrior. In his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father, the future president talked candidly about his own youthful drug use, in sharp contrast with the Democrat who then occupied the White House and the Republican who succeeded him. As an Illinois state senator in 2001, he criticized excessively harsh drug sentences and sponsored a bill that allowed nonviolent, low-level offenders to enter court-supervised treatment instead of going to jail, saying “we can’t continue to incarcerate ourselves out of the drug crisis.”

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama called the war on drugs “an utter failure” and advocated marijuana decriminalization. As a U.S. senator, he cosponsored legislation aimed at reducing the federal government’s draconian crack cocaine sentences. Unlike Bill Clinton, who notoriously admitted smoking pot while claiming he “didn’t inhale,” Sen. Obama forthrightly told a 2006 meeting of magazine editors, “When I was a kid, I inhaled, frequently. That was the point.”

Obama stood apart from hard-line prohibitionists even when he began running for president. In 2007 and 2008, he bemoaned America’s high incarceration rate, warned that the racially disproportionate impact of drug prohibition undermines legal equality, advocated a “public health” approach to drugs emphasizing treatment and training instead of prison, repeatedly indicated that he would take a more tolerant position regarding medical marijuana than George W. Bush, and criticized the Bush administration for twisting science to support policy—a tendency that is nowhere more blatant than in the government’s arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances. 

The promise of a more enlightened, less repressive national drug policy generated considerable excitement among anti-prohibition activists. Marsha Rosenbaum left her job as head of the Drug Policy Alliance’s San Francisco office to raise money for Obama. The young senator also attracted significant support from three billionaire philanthropists—George Soros, Peter Lewis, and John Sperling—who are among the leading benefactors of drug policy reform. “I was delighted” at the prospect of an Obama victory, recalls Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “[I was] encouraged that President Obama was going to be much, much better than President Bush when it comes to drug policy.”

According to Obama’s drug czar, the president has indeed made a sharp break with the failed policies of the past. “We certainly ended the drug war, now almost two years ago,” Gil Kerlikowske declared on Seattle’s PBS station last March. Kerlikowske was referring to an interview he gave The Wall Street Journal three months after Obama picked him to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs,’ ” the former Seattle police chief told the Journal, “people see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.” According to the Journal, Kerlikowske’s distaste for martial metaphors was “a signal that the Obama administration is set to follow a more moderate—and likely more controversial—stance on the nation’s drug problems,” dealing with drugs “as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment’s role growing relative to incarceration.”

So far this much-ballyhooed shift has not been perceptible in Obama’s drug control budgets. Even if it were, moving money from law enforcement to “treatment and prevention” would hardly amount to ending the war on drugs.

Kerlikowske’s earnest insistence that you can end the war on drugs if you stop calling it that gives you a sense of the chasm between rhetoric and reality in Obama’s drug policies, which by and large have been remarkably similar to his predecessor’s. With the major exception of crack sentences, which were substantially reduced by a law the administration supported, Obama has not delivered what reformers hoped he would. His most conspicuous failure has been his policy on medical marijuana, which is in some ways even more aggressively intolerant than George W. Bush’s, featuring more-frequent raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ruinous IRS audits, and threats of prosecution against not only dispensaries but anyone who deals with them. “I initially had high hopes,” says Marsha Rosenbaum, “but now believe Obama has abdicated drug policy to the DEA.”

It would be going too far to say that Obama has been faking it all these years, that he does not really care about the injustices perpetrated in the name of protecting Americans from the drugs they want. But he clearly does not care enough to change the course of the life-wrecking, havoc-wreaking war on drugs.

Mercy for Drug Offenders

In retrospect, there were warning signs that Obama would disappoint supporters who expected him to de-escalate the war on drugs, just as he has disappointed those who expected him to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a U.S. senator he bragged about co-sponsoring the Combat Meth Act, which is the reason cold and allergy sufferers throughout the country are treated like potential felons whenever they try to buy decongestants containing pseudoephedrine. He staunchly defended the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program, which has fueled the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders and funded the regional task forces behind racially tinged law enforcement scandals in places such as Tulia, Texas. As New York Times columnist Charles Blow noted last year, this grant program, created at the end of the Reagan administration, “has become the pet project of Democrats” because it’s “an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions.” In 2006 Obama warned that George W. Bush’s attempt to eliminate the Byrne grants (which Obama revived with a $2 billion infusion as part of his 2009 stimulus package) “gives criminals and drug dealers a break by taking cops off the streets.”

Even on an issue that seemed to genuinely trouble him—the sentencing rules for crack cocaine, which treated the smoked form of the drug as if it were 100 times worse than the snorted form—Obama seemed less than fully committed. In 2007 he told a gathering of African-American newspaper columnists in Las Vegas that as president he’d appoint a panel to study crack sentences, which are imposed on defendants who are overwhelmingly black, and issue a report “that allows me to say that based on the expert evidence, this is not working and it’s unfair.” As Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson observed at the time, that was a weird thing to say, since the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the panel of experts empowered to decide what penalties are appropriate for federal crimes (within the parameters set by Congress), had repeatedly said crack sentences were irrational and unjust. Obama also wondered whether “we want to spend all our political capital on a very difficult issue that doesn’t get at some of the underlying issues.”

In the event, the Obama administration, to its credit, did support crack sentencing reform, although it’s debatable how much political capital it spent in the process. “Attorney General [Eric] Holder really wanted to see crack reform happen,” says Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, “and I think so did Obama.” The Fair Sentencing Act, which Obama signed into law in August 2010, shrank the 100-to-1 weight ratio dictated by federal law (so that five grams of crack, for example, triggered the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as 500 grams of cocaine powder), making it 18 to 1 instead—also irrational and unjust, but considerably less so. “That was the best that they could get out of the Congress,” says Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, “and the administration worked for that.” But by the time Obama took office, there was a bipartisan consensus, including conservative Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Rep. Dan Lungren of California, that crack penalties were unjustifiably harsh. The Fair Sentencing Act was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a voice vote in the House. Only one member of Congress—House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)—spoke against it.

More generally, Obama has repeatedly expressed the view that many people in federal prisons are serving unconscionably long sentences. Yet he has not used his unilateral, absolute, and constitutionally unambiguous clemency power to shorten a single sentence, even though he has not otherwise been reticent about pushing his executive authority to the limit (and beyond). Obama went almost two years, longer than every president except George Washington and George W. Bush, before approving any clemency petitions. So far all 17 of his clemency actions have been pardons for long-ago crimes, most which did not even result in prison sentences, as opposed to commutations, which authorize the early release of current prisoners. While seven of the pardons involved drug offenders, the most severe sentence among them was five years for conspiracy to import marijuana, which 63-year-old Randy Eugene Dyer of Burien, Washington, completed more than 30 years ago. As of mid-2011, Obama had received about 4,000 petitions for commutations,  in addition to 900 that were pending when he took office. He had not approved any.

This is not for lack of glaring injustices. Last year a federal prisoner named Hamedah Hasan, who is seeking clemency with help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote an open letter to Obama. “I am a mother and grandmother serving my 17th year of a 27-year federal prison sentence for a first time, nonviolent crack cocaine offense,” she said. “I never used or sold drugs, but I was convicted under conspiracy laws for participating in a drug organization by running errands and wiring money. Had I been convicted of a powder cocaine offense, I would be home with my three daughters and two grandchildren by now. I have had a lot of time to think about where I went wrong, and I genuinely take full responsibility for my actions. But I hope you will see that over 16 years in prison is enough time for me to pay my debt to society.”

Another crack offender, Kenneth Harvey, is serving a life sentence for possession of more than 50 grams with intent to deliver, a crime he committed in his early 20s. Although legally required to send Harvey away for life because of two prior drug convictions (neither of which resulted in prison time), the judge who sentenced him recommended that he be granted clemency after 15 years, and an appeals court agreed. Yet Harvey, now 45, has been in prison for more than two decades. Last year USA Today reported that his family “thought when Barack Obama got elected president, they’d have a shot.”

Clarence Aaron, arrested when he was a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge with no criminal record, is serving three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for arranging a meeting between a childhood friend and a cocaine dealer. He has been behind bars since 1993. “There’s no reason he needs to serve more time,” says Eric Sterling. “The system is rife with these injustices. Obama’s record on clemency is shameful.”

Nor does Obama seem curious about why so many federal drug prisoners are black—more than a quarter of those sentenced in fiscal year 2010, including four-fifths of crack offenders. Sterling says the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights should investigate this sort of disparity, especially since federal crack cases often involve low-level dealers and small amounts of the drug. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 35 percent of federal crack cases in fiscal year 2006 involved less than 25 grams. “There is a prima facie case that drug prosecutions are racially discriminatory, as a matter of pattern and practice,” Sterling says. “It demands inquiry.”

Obama the candidate agreed. “There does seem to be a racial component to some of the arrest, conviction, prosecution rates when it comes to these offenses, and that’s something I think we should take seriously,” he said during a 2007 appearance in New Hampshire. “That’s not a black or white issue; that’s an American issue. Our basic precept is equality under the law. And we’ve got to have a president and a Justice Department and a civil rights division that is willing to enforce the law equally.…If we’re going to have drug laws, it shouldn’t matter that you’re dealing them in public housing vs. a suburb, out of your mom’s backyard.”

“If we’re going to have drug laws...” Despite the implication, Kerlikowske, whose statutory mandate requires him to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize” prohibited drugs, assures us that legalization “is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine.” Obama, by contrast, called it “an entirely legitimate topic for debate” during a YouTube town hall in January, but only after chuckling at the idea.

‘Willfully Blind’ to Science

Obama’s advocacy of a “public health” approach to drugs based on science uncorrupted by politics has amounted to even less in practice than his pre-presidency qualms about harsh, racially skewed sentences. Although he had long advocated lifting the 1988 ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs, which he said “could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users,” his first budget kept the ban intact. It was Congress that later removed the restriction. “As far as we know, the White House did nothing to move Congress along,” says Allan Clear, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. “The general sense is that the administration is scared of syringe exchange’s political taint. You can’t say this administration is serious about a) addressing HIV to the best of its ability and b) basing its drug policies in science while it holds good public health at arm’s length.”

Yet needle exchange, which Obama at least did not actively resist, is probably the strongest aspect of his supposedly science-based drug policy. It is hard to see the scientific rationale for “zero tolerance” laws that treat a driver who smoked pot a few days ago (but who still has detectable levels of marijuana metabolites in his urine or blood) like someone who polished off a pint of bourbon right before hitting the road—a policy the Obama administration advocates in the name of “combating drugged driving.” And the administration’s demand for increased scrutiny of doctors’ painkiller prescriptions unscientifically ignores the evidence that such crackdowns discourage medically appropriate pain treatment, leaving some patients in agony to prevent others from getting high.

The clearest indication of Obama’s readiness to sacrifice scientific integrity in the service of prohibitionist orthodoxy is the administration’s position on the medical benefits of marijuana. Eight days before Obama took office, the DEA rejected a petition from University of Massachusetts at Amherst plant scientist Lyle Craker, who wanted permission to grow marijuana for research purposes. The request was far from frivolous: The DEA licenses private producers of other controlled substances, such as MDMA and psilocybin, for scientific use but has always made an exception for marijuana, which can be legally grown only at a University of Mississippi farm that is operated under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an agency that is more interested in the hazards posed by cannabis than its potential benefits. Craker, backed by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), argued that the DEA should allow competition with the government’s pot farm to facilitate research by increasing the quality and variety of cannabis available to scientists. In 2007 DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner agreed. But on January 12, 2009, acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart overrode Bittner and denied Craker’s petition.

The incoming administration did not challenge Leonhart’s decision, and a year later Obama appointed her to head the DEA. Last March the ACLU filed a brief asking Leonhart to reconsider. “The government claims that marijuana offers no medical benefit to patients, and yet the government is simultaneously cutting off access to research material for scientific studies that seek to determine what medical benefit marijuana might have,” it said. “The result is that the federal government remains willfully blind to the possibility of scientific results that do not match its political preconceptions.” The ACLU argued that the government’s obstruction of research that could demonstrate marijuana’s therapeutic benefits contradicts Obama’s professed commitment to sound science.

Leonhart further illustrated the marijuana exception to that commitment in July, when she officially rejected a nine-year-old petition in which Americans for Safe Access, which supports the right of patients to use cannabis for medical purposes, asked the DEA to remove the plant from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the law’s most restrictive category. Schedule I is supposedly reserved for drugs that have “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and no “accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” Marijuana is much safer than many less restricted drugs, it has clear medical applications, and no one seriously contends it has a higher “potential for abuse” than, say, cocaine, morphine, or methamphetamine, all of which are on Schedule II. The DEA’s marijuana decisions show politics continues to trump science under a president who promised the opposite.

Raids in a Time of Tolerance

Unwilling to wait for an outbreak of scientific integrity at the DEA, voters or legislators in 16 states and the District of Columbia have taken it upon themselves to legalize the medical use of marijuana. While running for president, Obama repeatedly suggested he was cool with that. Campaigning in New Hampshire during the summer of 2007, he said raiding patients who use marijuana as a medicine “makes no sense” and is “really not a good use of Justice Department resources.” In a March 2008 interview with southern Oregon’s Mail Tribune, he went further, saying, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” Two months later, when another Oregon paper, Willamette Week, asked Obama whether he would “stop the DEA’s raids on Oregon medical marijuana growers,” he replied, “I would, because I think our federal agents have better things to do.”

Critics of the war on drugs were therefore puzzled that DEA raids on medical marijuana providers continued after Obama took office in 2009, even as the White House reaffirmed that “federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws.” That February The Washington Times reported that Obama planned to suspend the raids after he “nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.” We know how that worked out: He picked Leonhart, the Bush administration holdover who had been the agency’s deputy administrator since March 2004 and its acting administrator since November 2007. Prior to that, Leonhart oversaw medical marijuana raids as the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Los Angeles office. 

In theory, Leonhart still had to answer to her boss, Attorney General Holder, who claimed to be implementing Obama’s promise to stop harassing state-sanctioned medical marijuana suppliers. “The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law,” Holder declared during a March 2009 session with reporters in Washington. “Given the limited resources that we have,” he said during a visit to Albuquerque three months later, the Justice Department would focus on “large traffickers,” not “organizations that are [distributing marijuana] in a way that is consistent with state law.”

That October the Justice Department issued a memo that expanded on this policy. While emphasizing that marijuana remained completely illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden told federal prosecutors that “as a general matter” they “should not focus federal resources” on “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Ogden mentioned two specific classes of people who should be left alone: “individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses” and their caregivers. But he also listed criteria for federal prosecution, such as “sales to minors,” “sale of other controlled substances,” and “financial and marketing activities” inconsistent with state law, that make sense only when applied to suppliers. He warned that “claims of compliance with state or local law may mask operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws”—meaning that federal prosecutors had to distinguish between bona fide medical marijuana dispensaries and fake ones. 

“That was a pivotal moment for the national medical marijuana movement,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It essentially provided a green light for states which had already legalized medical marijuana to say if dispensaries are operating legally under state law, the feds will not get involved. It also sent a message to state legislators in the states that were considering medical marijuana legislation, that the federal government would respect new laws.” As Trish Regan reports in her 2011 book Joint Ventures, the administration’s apparent promise to leave legitimate dispensaries alone helped set off a “green rush” of entrepreneurs eager to exploit the newly permissive environment in states such as California and Colorado.

Yet the DEA’s raids continued. If anything, the pace picked up. Americans for Safe Access counts at least 41 raids on growers or dispensaries between Obama’s inauguration and the Ogden memo, almost five a month on average. As of late May, there had been at least 106 raids since the Ogden memo, nearly six a month. In fact, medical marijuana raids have been more frequent under Obama than under Bush, when there were about 200 over eight years.

Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, says the raids seem to be consistent with the letter, if not the spirit, of the Ogden memo, which demands “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state law. In states where the rules for supplying medical marijuana are unclear, such compliance is difficult to achieve. For example, California, where most of the raids have occurred, does not explicitly authorize the medical marijuana dispensaries that have sprung up across the state. California’s Compassionate Use Act, approved by voters in 1996, allows only patients or their “primary caregivers” to grow and possess marijuana. At first dispensary operators claimed to be their customers’ caregivers, but in 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled that a caregiver has to do more than supply marijuana. Nowadays dispensaries tend to operate as patient “collectives” or “cooperatives,” an arrangement that Attorney General Jerry Brown (now governor) approved in 2008. But some local officials disagree with this reading of state law, taking the position that all dispensaries are illegal. In any event, the Justice Department does not necessarily defer to state officials’ interpretations of state law, meaning that even a California Supreme Court ruling approving dispensaries might not count as definitive.

Four months after the Ogden memo, Jeffrey Sweetin, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Denver office, publicly disavowed the notion that the feds needed to consider state law at all. “It’s still a violation of federal law,” Sweetin told The Denver Post in February 2010. “The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody. They’re violating federal law; they’re at risk of arrest and imprisonment.”

‘Exactly the Same As What Bush Said’

Alarmed by Sweetin’s remarks, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) asked Holder at a May 2010 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee whether they were “contrary to your stated policy.” Yes, Holder said, “that would be inconsistent with the policy as we have set it out…if the entity is, in fact, operating consistent with state law and…does not have any of those factors” mentioned in the Ogden memo. He said those criteria would determine “whether or not federal resources are going to be used to go after somebody who is dealing in marijuana.”

Given Holder’s assurances, it came as a surprise when U.S. attorneys began warning local and state officials that compliance with state law provides no protection against federal prosecution. In a letter dated February 1, 2011, Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, responded to questions from Oakland City Attorney John Russo about the city’s plans to license four large-scale marijuana growing operations. “We will enforce the CSA [Controlled Substances Act] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana,” Haag wrote, “even if such activities are permitted under state law.” She threatened to prosecute not only city-licensed growers but also “individuals who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers.” 

During the next few months, U.S. attorneys sent similar letters to officials in at least seven other states: Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. All of them claimed to be consistent with the Ogden memo, which they said applied only to patients, and most claimed to be based on consultations with Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (Ogden’s successor). One of the letters took the vague threats against people who “facilitate” drug offenses a step further. Referring to a bill that would have authorized state-licensed dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana, two U.S. attorneys, Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby, warned Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire on April 14 that “state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the CSA.” Two weeks later, citing that threat, Gregoire vetoed the legislation.

After Gregoire’s veto, the ACLU and several members of Congress asked Holder to clarify how prosecuting state-authorized medical marijuana suppliers could possibly be consistent with not prosecuting them. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who halted plans for state-licensed dispensaries after receiving a threatening, hand-delivered letter from U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha on April 29, said he wanted an assurance from the Justice Department that “they are not going to raid us and shut us down.” During a June visit to Providence, The Providence Journal reported, Holder was “peppered with questions about the Justice Department’s position on dispensaries.” He promised that “we’re going to bring clarity so that people understand what this policy means and how this policy will be implemented.”

Holder’s much-anticipated explanation came in a memo quietly released on the night of June 30, right before a long holiday weekend. It brought nothing like clarity. Deputy Attorney General Cole insisted that the recent prosecution threats were “entirely consistent” with the Ogden memo, which he claimed applied only to patients and caregivers, meaning people “providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.” Alluding to Oakland’s aborted plan, he expressed special concern about “large-scale, privately operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers” with “revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.” But he gave no indication that smaller-scale, nonprofit dispensaries would be tolerated. And while Cole did not mention state employees, he warned that “those who knowingly facilitate” the cultivation or distribution of marijuana “are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act” and that those “who engage in transactions involving the proceeds” of marijuana sales could be charged with money laundering—meaning that investors, landlords, banks, and even vendors who deal with dispensaries could be subject to forfeiture and prosecution.

The Ogden memo’s guidelines for distinguishing between genuine dispensaries and criminal fronts went down the memory hole, along with all of the assurances from Obama and Holder about respecting state law. Indeed, since the Justice Department now says anyone but patients and caregivers is fair game for prosecution, Obama’s policy is indistinguishable from Bush’s. “That line,” says Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes, “is exactly the same as what Bush said for years: ‘We’re not targeting patients.’ There is no change.” The problem is that most of the “individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses” whom the Obama administration claims to be sparing are not up to the task of growing their own marijuana. When DEA raids or Justice Department threats to landlords shut down dispensaries, Hermes notes, “patients wake up the next morning wondering where they’re going to find their medication.” The administration’s position, essentially, is that patients can have marijuana; they just can’t get it anywhere. 

Why would Holder make such a big deal out of changing the policy and then abandon the new approach while denying that he was reversing himself? “I don’t think Eric Holder really is in command of the department,” says Eric Sterling. “I think the prosecutors are in command, and Holder is something of a figurehead. The statements that he has made are being contradicted by the actual policies coming out.” It looks like federal prosecutors and DEA agents recoiled at Obama’s promises of tolerance, especially as dispensaries multiplied and came to be seen as legitimate businesses. The idea of explicitly authorized, officially licensed dispensaries and grow operations spreading across the country was too much for drug warriors to take.

Perhaps Obama shared their concerns about widespread defiance of the federal ban on marijuana. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, notes “the historical fear that Democrats have had for the last 40 years” of being “painted as soft on crime.” In any case, while polls indicate that “medical marijuana is far more popular than Obama is,” Kampia observes, “very few voters vote on the medical marijuana issue.” If Obama “has not chosen to make the effort” required to impose a new policy on a resistant bureaucracy, Sterling adds, “part of the reason is that those who care have not made him pay a political price yet.”

‘Empty Threats’

Still, there is only so much the federal government can do to crack down on medical marijuana. The feds account for less than 1 percent of marijuana arrests, and the DEA has about 5,500 special agents nationwide, compared to more than 730,000 state and local law enforcement officers, including nearly 70,000 in California alone. “We’ve seen a lot of empty threats,” says Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. “We have seen hundreds of letters from the Department of Justice to landlords, and they have not yet prosecuted landlords. Many have received the letters, ignored them, and not lost their property. I’ve seen over 500 raids since I started this organization [in 2002], and each of those raids involved at least three people. We’ve seen about 5 percent of those people get prosecuted. The day-to-day battle is 98 percent about intimidation.”

The emptiness of the federal government’s threats will become steadily clearer as the number of medical marijuana states grows and dispensaries proliferate. That is why U.S. attorneys intervened in the legislative process, actively discouraging states from authorizing dispensaries by intimidating governors and legislators with the possibility of a federal crackdown. Even scarier to dedicated drug warriors is the prospect raised by Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative that attracted support from 46 percent of California voters last fall. “They were within striking distance of legalizing marijuana,” says Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s probably freaking out a lot of people in law enforcement.” Similar efforts are under way in California, Colorado, and Washington, with an eye toward the 2012 elections.

Critics of such measures, like opponents of medical marijuana laws, say they are unconstitutional. That view is not only mistaken (see “Unbanned in Phoenix,” page 26) but beside the point. The federal government simply does not have the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without assistance from the states. The feds can make trouble over the short term, but ultimately they will have to accommodate themselves to that reality. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, introduced in June by Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), points the way, leaving the states free to address marijuana as they see fit, with the national government’s role limited to blocking importation into states that continue to ban the drug.

Meanwhile, Obama, assuming he is re-elected, may have to contend not just with dispensaries that provide cannabis to patients but with state-legal pot shops that sell the drug just for fun. How will he react? “That’s the $64,000 question,” says Alison Holcomb, who is leading the effort to qualify a legalization initiative for Washington’s 2012 ballot. “We’re hoping that the answer is something similar to the Ogden memo in 2009, saying if people are playing by the rules and Washington state wants to give this a shot, we’re not going to spend federal resources going after them.”

We know how Obama responds when the question of marijuana legalization comes up in public: He laughs. The highest-rated questions submitted for his “virtual town meeting” in March 2009 dealt with pot prohibition. “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said with a smirk, eliciting laughter from the live audience, “but…this was a fairly popular question.” 

Obama’s dismissive attitude was especially galling in light of his own youthful pot smoking, which he presents in Dreams From My Father as a cautionary tale of near-disaster followed by redemption. “Junkie. Pothead,” he writes. “That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the would-be black man.” Judging from the reports of friends interviewed by The New York Times in 2008, Obama exaggerated his brush with addiction for dramatic effect. More important, he has never publicly acknowledged the plain truth that people who smoke pot rarely become junkies or suffer any other serious harm as a result—unless they get caught.

As Richard Nixon’s National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse pointed out when Obama was all of 10 years old, the biggest risk people face when they smoke pot is created by the government’s attempts to stop them. In 1977, when Obama was a pot-smoking high school student in Honolulu, President Jimmy Carter advocated decriminalizing marijuana possession, telling Congress that “penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.” 

That is hardly a radical position. Polls indicate that most Americans think pot smokers should not be treated like criminals. In a 2002 CNN/Time poll, 72 percent of respondents said “people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana” should “pay a fine but without serving any time in jail.” In a 2010 Newsweek poll, 55 percent of respondents endorsed a new California law that “will downgrade the possession of one ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction similar to a traffic ticket, punishable by a simple $100 fine and no arrest record.” While running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama told a group of students at Northwestern University he supported that sort of policy, saying “we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws.” But three years later, when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he changed his mind, saying he was against decriminalization.

Obama’s reversal on this issue is hard to reconcile with his avowed concerns about the drug war’s disproportionate impact on minorities. Research by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine shows that blacks are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though survey data indicate they are no more likely to smoke pot. In New York City, where marijuana arrests have increased dramatically since the late 1990s, blacks are five times as likely to be busted as whites. The number of marijuana arrests by the New York Police Department (NYPD) from 1997 through 2006 was 11 times the number in the previous 10 years, despite the fact that possession of up to 25 grams (about nine-tenths of an ounce) has been decriminalized in New York. Levine found that police routinely trick people into taking out their marijuana, thereby converting a citable offense (possession) into a misdemeanor (public display). The arrests are racially skewed mainly because they stem from a “stop and frisk” program that targets black neighborhoods. 

Obama attended Columbia University in the early 1980s, well before the big increase in marijuana arrests that began a decade later. There were about 858,000 pot arrests nationwide in 2009, more than twice the number in 1980, and the crackdown has been especially aggressive in New York City under Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg (another former pot smoker). “The odds are not bad,” observes Ethan Nadelmann, “that a young Barry Obama, using marijuana at Columbia, might have been arrested had the NYPD been conducting the number of marijuana arrests then that it is now.”

A misdemeanor marijuana conviction could have been a life-changing event for Obama, interrupting his education, impairing his job prospects, and derailing his political career before it began. It would not have been fair, but it would have spared us the sorry spectacle of a president who champions a policy he once called “an utter failure” and who literally laughs at supporters whose objections to that doomed, disastrous crusade he once claimed to share.

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum (jsullum@reason.com) is the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (Tarcher Penguin).

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Tim||

    I would guess that Obama wants to avoid a Mike Dukakis like Willie Horton ad in the 2012 campaign.

  • Name Withheld||

    Heck, that would be the least of his problems. More people support easing up on the Drug War than support death panel"socialized medicine" that accelerates costs, strips people of coverage and enriches Big-whatever

  • M. Simon||

    I have an article up at American Thinker The Democrat's 2012 Victory Plan

  • M. Simon||

    It is about how Ken Burn's movie "Prohibition" will change the election dynamic.

  • Holy Cow||

    You gotta be kidding me. A 100% tie-dyed in the wool Lefty wants big Nanny government to completely rule over people's lives, including what they put in their body.

    You don't say.

  • Ramsey||

    And the other team is any better? The whole mess is so deep in the pockets of prisons, prison guard unions, and pharma that there will never be any meaningful change.

    Like Bill Hicks said, they show the newly elected president the movie of the Kennedy assassination from the grassy knoll, and the first question out of their mouth is when do we bomb .

    The culture war is over, and freedom lost.

  • ||

    ah yes, bill hicks. of COURSE obama is acting like a fuckstick drug warrior because they "threatened him" with assassination

    jesus christ.

    obama is acting like a drug warrior because he is a statist asshole.

    that's reality

  • MJ||

    "And the other team is any better?"

    The problem is the assuption in Reason circles that the Left side should be better on the drug issue. However, goven the left's nannny tendencies elsewhere, it does not make sense why Reason thinks this is so, other than they often take liberal politicians pronouncements at face value.

  • ||

    'they often take liberal politicians pronouncements at face value.'
    Like the era of big guv'mint is over? LMAO

  • ||

    this

  • ||

    "It would be going too far to say that Obama has been faking it all these years, that he does not really care about the injustices perpetrated in the name of protecting Americans from the drugs they want." Why, exactly,would it be going to far to say His Royal Hopeyness does care about the injustice of the drug war? I'm not following the logic. Obviously, if Obama cared about it, he would do something about it instead of ramping up the persecution of medical marijuana providers. You know why Obama scares me even more than that imbecile Dubya? It's because he has this slick veneer of compassion and sanity and puts a pretty face on the undercurrent of jackbooted, brown shirted, fascistic inclinations.

  • halt!||

    he has this slick veneer of compassion and sanity

    It's only slick if one is gullible and hasn't payed attention to the activities of Team Red for the past 40 years. His "slickness" is composed of the same tired salespitches progressives have used, in one way or another, for 200 years.

  • ||

    Yeah. Reason certainly doesn't have a problem questioning the motives of every other politician in the world.

    They are just beta male white guys. They can't quite bring themselves to be hard on the first black President.

  • BakedPenguin||

    In the end, Obama turned out to be just another drug warrior.

    Yeah, Sullum's pullin' his punches there.

    If you've noticed, Jacob tends to be the least (or nearly the least) hyperbolic writer on the staff. Given how easy it would be for critics to say "Well, what do you expect from the pot smokin' so-and-so?", it's easy to understand why.

  • Holy Cow||

    Yes, the other team is better because they don't lie about ending the war on drugs and they don't believe the fed. government should be in control of EVERYTHING.

  • ||

    yes, to go all pj again, republicans are at least semi-honest about being statist dickheads before they take office and begin being statist dickheads.

    dems have been ardent (to put it mildly) drug warriors. clinton was a perfect example. i was a cop when he was in office, and man did the grant money for drug shit explode when he took office.

    federal grant money to clarify. the record is clear. dems (at least on the national level) are AWFUL on the WOD

  • halt!||

    "dems (at least on the national level) are AWFUL on the WOD"

    Even if they were good on the WOD, who would want to live in a Dem controlled country where you had to satisfy your munchies with carrot sticks?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Would you rather have a 6% tax on Cheetos or six months in Chino?

    (Yes, I know the best answer is "neither")

  • halt!||

    I already pay an 8.5% tax on Cheetos.

  • ||

    that is barbaric.

  • ||

    "the govt will get my cheetos when it takes them from my cold, orange stained fingers"

  • ||

    ROFLMAO! Funniest comment in a long time!

  • ||

    u would know

  • halt!||

    Throughout his public life as an author, law professor

    Obama was never a professor. Stop reinforcing the lie just because you voted for this fool.

  • JohnD||

    Thank you. It drives me crazy when peole give this fool credit he doesn't deserve. .... OH wait, does that make me racist? Like I give a shit.

  • FreeLibertine||

    Marijuana, marijuana, marijuana, marijuana, sure I'm all for legalizing marijuana. . .

    But what I really want to legalize is LSD and other psychedelics/entheogens.

  • Statist Barbie||

    Freedom is hard.

  • ||

    Why would I want to try to stop people from taking LSD? And, because we can't really stop them, why would I want to try to "interdict" drugs being produced in other countries to fulfill our demand?

  • ||

    you need to see the movie called wild in the streets

  • Terrence McKenna||

    This.

  • Holy Cow||

    Hey, Sullum, why don't you Reason nitwits reprint the 2008 roundtable with "libertarian" authors like the incomprehensible John Scalzi gushing about how Ooooobama will be so libertarian and stop the WOD?

    Go ahead. Reprint it. Just for kicks.

  • T||

    Why do they need to reprint it? Somebody will post a link to it at least once a month, and has for the past 3 years.

  • Reasonite 2008||

    I know Obama wants to pass a terrible heathcare law and is going to want to spend us into bankruptcy.

    But he is going to close GUITMO, get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, repeal the patriot act and do something about the War on Drugs.

    And it is not like any of that other stuff will get through Congress anyway.

  • ola||

    What Sullum, do you get paid by the word? Now you know why some people don't subscribe to your magazine, it's a bunch of rehash of what anyone who would read Reason has already heard or read ad nauseam.
    How about a drug warrior article ripping the shreds out of assholes like Santorum, Perry, Romney, and every right of the aisle hack. They're the ones who need to be exposed for their "small government tendencies" except when it comes to the drug war. I wish there would be a question in one of the debates for the repubs to explain the difference wrt the commerce clause as it pertains to obamacare and the controlled substance act. That would be interesting. Or quote them Thomas' dissent in Raich but don't tell them it's with regard to drugs and watch them support the statement. Now that would be entertaining. Drug war, terror war, obese war, poverty war, wtf?

  • ||

    So that lets a sitting President who claimed to be better during his campaign off the hook?

  • ola||

    Obama's not going to win or lose on the drug war for crying out loud. But at least make the big government repubs squirm to support a war that obviously is doing more harm than good, costs way to much money, distorts everybody's idea of individual freedom and causes massive unintended consequences. Wait a minute, that sounds like Iraq, Aphganistan, Libya, and every other country we have troops. But anyway the tea party debate would be a good place to start the exposure of the big gov repubs.

  • Reasonite 2008||

    Have fun. In the mean time, Reason should continue to shame Obama for being a complete fraud who is anything has made the drug war worse by ending any idea that there is any dissent about it among the two parties.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Paul (and Johnson, if they ever let him debate) might just make them squirm over the WoD.

  • ||

    They already got a piece on Romney. Having been subjected to Straight in the 80's, The article doesn't even begin to cover the shit that happened in there.

    http://reason.com/archives/200.....-and-teens

    I will never vote for than person.

  • ||

    When Bill Clinton took office in January 1993, the violent crack epidemic of the late 1980s was already subsiding, the prison population-local, state and federal-was about 1.3 million. When Clinton left office, that number had ballooned to over 2 million, becoming highest rate of incarceration-as well as the highest total number behind bars-in a democratic state in the history of the whole planet.

    “(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–
    (A) is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
    (B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;”

    It was Joe Biden (yes our current Democrat VP) who authored this act, who wrote those words and then pushed this abhorrent law (which created ONDCP, the position of “drug czar” and the mandate to lie thru their teeth) thru congress.

  • pffftttt....||

    highest total number behind bars-in a democratic state in the history of the whole planet

    Ireland belches, farts and laughs at you, before falling down while spewing vomit.

  • reality||

    yet is too drunk to realize that the US still has the highest total number behind bars-in a democratic state in the history of the whole planet

    why is Ireland so fucking stupid?

  • FreeLibertine||

    Tommy Chong on Joe Biden: "Biden comes off as a liberal democrat, but he's the one who authored the bill that put me in jail. He wrote the law against shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail -- which could be anything from a pipe to a clip or cigarette papers."

    Tommy Chong did 9 months in federal prison for selling water pipes!?! Selling WATER PIPES, in the land of the free!!!

  • Question||

    Were any of the dissenters in Gonzales v. Raich appointed by democrats?

  • ||

    Let's see, dissents by Sandra O, Rehnquist, and of course Thomas.

    So that would be no.

  • ola||

    No, but 4 of the 6 in favor of the government were republican appointees and 2 of the a-holes are still there.

  • Question||

    There is zero chance that a democrat would ever appoint someone like Thomas so I'll take my chances with republicans, especially if they can elect someone like Perry who doesn't like the Feds stepping on the states. Not saying Perry supports legalization but he certainly sounds like someone who would appoint someone like Thomas.

  • ||

    Right.

    Cos a guy who can brag about executing 234 people without a single second thought or doubt is the person I want in charge of the Federal machinery of *ahem* justice.

    Or perhaps not.

  • JohnD||

    Yeah, I guess you would send them to bed without dinner. moron.

  • ||

    No, asshat. Should a person attempt to commit a crime against my family, person, or property, they would find themselves met with rapidly applied deadly force.

    But the question is not what I would do. The question is what we want the government to do in our name; the same judicial system that has far too frequently wrongly convicted and imprisoned people on poorly constructed, flimsy, or falsified evidence.

    And when a politician can boast of executions and state that the process never even gave him pause, I am concerned, as should be any rational being.

    So take your ad hominem and shove it, fuckstick. I choose not to side with the jackbooted thugs.

  • ||

    No, asshat. Should a person attempt to commit a crime against my family, person, or property, they would find themselves met with rapidly applied deadly force.

    But the question is not what I would do. The question is what we want the government to do in our name; the same judicial system that has far too frequently wrongly convicted and imprisoned people on poorly constructed, flimsy, or falsified evidence.

    And when a politician can boast of executions and state that the process never even gave him pause, I am concerned, as should be any rational being.

    So take your ad hominem and shove it, fuckstick. I choose not to side with the jackbooted thugs.

  • kodiac||

    We get it JohnD you're a conservative not a libertarian so why are you on this thread?

  • ||

    Corporate greed and individual bigotry have accelerated us towards a situation where all the usual peaceful and democratic methods needed to reverse the acute damage done by prohibition no longer function as envisaged by the Founding Fathers of our once great and free nation. Such a political impasse coupled with great economic tribulation is precisely that which throughout history has invariably ignited violent revolution.

    In order to avert what will surely be a far more violent situation than we are all presently experiencing, there appears to be just one last avenue left to us - Jury Nullification.

    Jury Nullification is a constitutional doctrine that allows juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but who don’t deserve punishment. All non-violent drug offenders, be they users, dealers or importers, fall into this category. If you believe that prohibition is a dangerous and counter-productive policy, then you don’t have to help to apply it. Under the Constitution, when it comes to acquittals, you, the juror, have the last word!

    The idea that jurors should judge the law, as well as the facts, is a proud and vital component of American history.

    The most shining example of Jury Nullification occurred during the shameful period in US history when slavery was legal. People who helped slaves escape were committing a federal crime - violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Jurors would often acquit, even when the defendants admitted their guilt. Legal historians credit these cases with advancing the abolition of slavery.

    No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer; only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution? - When called for Jury Service concerning any non-violent prohibition-related offense, it is your moral and civic duty to VOTE TO ACQUIT!

  • ||

    Well, yeah, nullification has lots of libertarian supporters. I, for one, would never vote to convict anyone of a non-violent drug offense - or any other offense based on a non-crime. You know, malum prohibitum.

  • Name Withheld||

    Yeah, it's all the Corpurashun's fault.

  • ||

    Most cases go nowhere near a jury-- the Public Defender tells the accused to cop to a lesser charge, or else. The true nature of the American criminal justice system is out of the sight and mind of much of the public. But I agree with your sentiments.

  • ||

    how many run-of-the-mill drug users and drug dealers know of this, though? An EXTREMELY low number of drug cases actually go to jury trial. Someone gets busted they usually just think they are fucked and make whatever plea deal they have to. Very few people besides libertarians and lawyers know about jury nullification. I actually had a Business Law professor thank me for mentioning jury nullification on a school thread but go on to say that he couldn't be on a jury wherever he was from (Texas maybe?) because he was a lawyer.

    Also, at 28, I have never even been summoned for jury duty.

  • troubled kid||

    drugs make girls like me.

  • xu||

    Very good article, jersey wholesaler thank you for your sharing, I learned a lot of things.Good Luck!

  • ||

    Obama co-sponsored that stupid Combat Meth Act? The act that makes my wife take 2 trips a week to CVS for Claritan to keep her family of 5 hayfever sufferers from sneezing their brains out? You know, they recently busted a meth factory in Mexico that employed hundreds of employees that was supplied by literally boat loads of precursor chemicals supplied by India and China.

    Just another reason why I hate Obama.

  • Brain Blur||

    Traitor

  • ||

    He has no will. Lobotomy.

  • ||

    The idea of being able to create a set of safe harbors for recreational drugs is a fantasy. The regulatory and bureaucratic apparatus that is set in place by the medical-industrial complex will not stand for the creation of something that will expose the rational inconsistency of its very existence.

    How, if you are able to purchase pot or any other hallucinogen in an uncontrolled market free of the threat of prosecution, can you justify making someone go and kiss the ring of a doctor before trying a medication for overactive bladder? It makes no sense, and if they allow such a scenario, they know their goose is cooked.

    This whole mess began with physician licensing and it will have to end there as well. If you want the regime to fall, cut it off at the root.

  • what||

    Who uses pot or hallucinogens for an overactive bladder?

  • Terrence McKenna||

    mushrooms cure migraines, pass it on

  • ||

    There was a news story here in Sydney, Australia that Obama is flying in for a visit. 58 of the first 60 comments told him to fuck off and stay in America.

  • JohnD||

    I knew I liked those Aussies

  • ||

    +1

  • ابراج اليوم||

    thanx

  • ||

    IMHO: At some point in 2010 Mr. Obama realized there was no way in Hades that he had a prayer of winning re-election based on his pathetic performance as POTUS. Mr. Obama found the support he hopes will win him a second term, but the quid pro quo required that he throw drug law reform under the bus. For the short time in 2008 when he was acting POTUS, all of 2009 and for perhaps the first half of 2010 while certainly not likely to be mistaken for a legalizer he most certainly wasn't a drug warrior either. It's pretty obvious to me he sold out, and abandoning drug law reform was at least part of the price he agreed to pay in return for a chance of re-election.

  • JB||

    Fuck Obama

  • ||

    On the subject of "needing more evidence" about cannabis before making it legally available, the AMA certainly agreed:

    http://www.time.com/time/magaz.....37,00.html

    Please notice that the article linked above was published in Time Magazine more than 43 years ago on June 28, 1968.

    As everyone knows, the motto of the Know Nothing prohibitionist is to "never let the facts get in the way of disseminating an effective piece of hysterical rhetoric." Of course the truth is that with over 22,000 peer reviewed studies cannabis is the most researched plant in history. How many more decades should we allow the government to use the "needs more study" canard? Even presuming the assertion true doesn't there come a time when the people should insist that the government actually engage in promoting these "needed" research studies?

    A similar example of stonewalling is the claim that we can't re-legalize cannabis because we haven't got a "breathalyzer" equivalent. Just throw out the fact that there are in fact blood tests that can be used for determining present cannabis use, and consider that the first time I heard that lame excuse was in 1977 when it seemed a sure thing that Jimmy Carter was going to push through legislation which would result in the decriminalization of petty possession of cannabis at the Federal level. That was 34 years ago. Once again, how many decades do the Know Nothings get to use that particular fraud without actually promoting its demise? The United States of America dispatched Messrs. Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito along with their "Axis of Evil" in 3 years and 9 months. The end of World War II was brought about in large part by the research of the Manhattan Project which successfully invented and deployed the atom bomb in less than 3 years and 9 months. But we're to believe that our scientists are too stupid to be able to develop a "cannabis breathalyzer" in a time frame that's a little more than 9 times the length of World War II? I can just see the Church Lady scowling with disapproval, and hear her saying, "isn't that con-veeee-nient?"

    When do people stop allowing themselves to be scammed by this stripe of nonsense propaganda produced by the Federal government and promoted by the Know Nothing prohibitionists?

  • G||

    Back in the early 20th century when Congress was debating whether to ban cannabis, a representative from the AMA testified in opposition to the move, saying it would have a chilling effect on medical research into the herb, which was already showing benefits for people with muscle spasms and other ailments. Congress not only ignored his advice but also recorded that the AMA fully agreed with the effort to ban cannabis. Ryan Grim's book on the history of drugs in America examines this in detail.

  • ||

    The congress and the president,,,any president,will never end the WoD.

    Too many people with a voice,money=voice,the people that make the campaign contributions are paying about 10% of what the WoD is costing the American people to keep America ""Drug Free".

  • ||

    If I was a drug lord, I'd be making campaign contributions/bribes to keep the WoD going. Why would I cut my own throat by destroying business?

  • ||

    Understand. The WoD gives the Nanny State power. Using it, the police are now kicking down doors, shooting innocents - and getting away with it. It allows the closest we've ever come to a home grown Gestapo. Why would you believe that any power mad, statist, beltway troglodyte is going to legalize drugs? That would take a powerful club out of their hands.

  • ||

    There's too much graft to be had in banning drugs. And why should our elitist lefty aristocracy care about making marijuana available to the dirty stupid masses when they can get whatever recreational drugs they want by virtue of being above the law. Our hypocritical socialist rulers actually believe that they must control you for your own good, for example; the efforts to ban food that they believe is unhealthy, while partaking of it themselves.

  • ||

    What's really scary about all of the is that perhaps Obama really wanted to decriminalize and DEA/Justice/FDA simply won't let him?

  • ||

    I knew Obummer would be a travesty but if he decriminalized Pot,I could have lived with his folly.

  • Number 2||

    "It would be going too far to say that Obama has been faking it all these years, that he does not really care about the injustices perpetrated in the name of protecting Americans from the drugs they want."

    Oh really, Jacob? Exactly what has this man done during his nearly three years in office that would cause you to give him such a benefit of the doubt...or to claim that it "goes too far" to suggest that he did not mean something he said on the campaign trail?

    Remember all the debates being on C-SPAN?

    Remember being able to keep your current health insurance plan if you like it?

    Remember closing Guantanamo and leaving Iraq "the day I take office?

    et cetera, et cetera....

  • ||

    Good job on glossing over the fact that the dispensaries being targeted are violating California law.

  • Jon G||

    I disagree. With 99% of all Comments. Ron Paul is probably the only sincere candidate on MJ. The rest are politicians.

    As for Obama he gave his Hands off approach from March 2009 till December 2010. During, that time there has been expolsion of marijuana distributed in California...more importantly across the United States. This has everything with interstate commerce and nothing to do with his promise. If you send weed from California to NYC and do in BULK on regular basis ....yeah the White House will have to crack down.

    It not just about one person, one dispenary, one county, one anything. Rather the whole system is corrupt from the core.

    Sometimes you have tare down an entire house, in order to build a better one. That's what is going to happen in California and all states who had program established more than 4 years ago.

    I'd still vote for Obama cause doing the "right" thing, may not always seem like the right thing.

  • John in Philippines||

    Mo police, mo power fo me, mo money, suckas!

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