Despite the best public relations efforts of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Center for American Progress, and Rolling Stone magazine, there's simply no way for President Barack Obama to cast his drug war record as anything other than what it is: A string of broken promises punctuated by condescension and mistruth.
In the course of three years, Obama has graduated from breaking his promise to end medical marijuana raids, to claiming he didn't promise to end medical marijuana raids, to claiming that he's upheld the promise that he didn't make. The only thing he's done consistently is give the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Attorneys Office carte blanche to continue George W. Bush-era crackdowns on local medical marijuana dispensaries.
With election day nearing, Obama is facing more heat than ever before. The drug law reformers who hesitantly supported him in 2008 are furious. Coverage of his broken promise has spread from the alternative press to TIME magazine and the financial reporting agency Reuters. His own party is "disappointed." If those aren't enough reasons for Obama to make good on one of the promises that got him elected, here are three more.
3.) Obama has the authority to redirect federal law
The Obama administration’s favorite excuse for cracking down on the medical marijuana industry is that it has no choice but to keep cracking down. “I can't nullify congressional law,” Obama told Rolling Stone. “Federal law is federal law,” Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told the Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden.
And yet, as Chris Weigant recently pointed out, Obama has plenty of discretion when it comes to enforcing federal law. The Department of Justice isn’t defending the Defense of Marriage Act, didn’t prosecute the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia, and is not going after former Bush administration officials for torture.
But an even better example is Obama’s use of executive discretion on immigration policy. In June 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton issued a memorandum titled, “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens.”
Here’s anti-immigration lawmaker Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) describing that ICE memo at National Review Online: "The memos tell agency officials when to exercise ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ such as when to defer the removal of immigrants; when not to stop, question, arrest, or detain an immigrant; and when to dismiss a removal proceeding. The directives also tell officials not to seek to remove illegal immigrants who have been present illegally for many years.”
While ICE hasn’t followed that memo to the letter—and in fact still rips families apart on a regular basis—it has made extra-legal efforts to reduce deportation numbers, which is a testament to Obama’s ability to ignore federal law when he feels like it.