A Promise to Keep Obama's Medical Marijuana Promise

Yesterday I wondered whether and when President Obama would follow through on his oft-repeated campaign promise to stop the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws by harassing patients and dispensaries. Today The Washington Times reports that Obama plans to suspend the DEA's raids once he "nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers." I don't understand why Obama can't simply tell the Bush administration holdovers to cut it out; they work for him now. But it's encouraging that the White House is now on record with a promise to keep Obama's promise. "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Times, "and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind." It seems like Obama is dragging his feet, but it will be hard for him to wriggle out of his commitment now.

It turns out there were four dispensary raids in Los Angeles on Tuesday, by the way: two in Venice, one in Marina Del Rey, and one in Playa Del Rey. Along with the raid in South Lake Tahoe, California, on January 22, that makes five since Obama took office. According to a new Zogby poll commissioned by NORML, 72 percent of Americans want Obama to keep his word and stop the raids. 

[Thanks to Tom Angell at LEAP for the tip.]

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  • ||

    Worst president since Andrew Johnson.

  • ||

    I don't understand why Obama can't simply tell the Bush administration holdovers to cut it out; they work for him now.

    If this is done in a manner that produces a big, public push-back from within in the DEA, it could end up making the problem worse, making it politically untenable to stop the raids. Think about how Clinton tried to end the ban on gay people serving the military.

    That's a lot more likely to happen if the top ranks are full of Bushies who'd love to pick to fight with him anyway.

    I don't want a symbolic affirmation of my feelings. I want this problem solved in a way that works, and that sticks. Speed is good, but it's not the most important thing.

  • ||

    Is there evidence any of the Bush holdovers are stepping up raids to be spiteful?

  • ||

    Isn't the transition period supposed to be used to find the people to put in place at these aganecies? Perhaps 3 months is not enough. Could that mean we have too many agencies under the control of the executive branch? Hmm.

    joe, why doesn't he just order them to stop the raids so the department can save some cash in this time of economic need, and if they want to sit at their desks instead of driving SUVs around hassling people they can use their computers to SEARCH FOR NEW EMPLOYMENT!

  • ||

    Nick,

    Remember how Clinton's push to allow gay people to serve openly in the military failed: it generated a political firestorm, abetted by pushback from the Pentagon, that led to the opposition party making a huge stink, causing Congress to step in and, through legislation, spike the idea.

    Is it so difficult to imagine the Mighty Wurlitzer cranking up against "pro-drug" Obama, the Republicans offering an "anti-drug" measure to continue the raids, and enough Democrats caving that Congress passes a law that ties Obama's hands? Even if he vetoed it, it would become political poison for him to then go ahead and do what Congress had just forbidden, by executive order.

    Yes, he is legally allowed to ram through executive orders. Do you think that would be the end of it, if there was significant flack coming his way from the DEA?

  • anon||

    any link to which dispensaries were hit?

  • ||

    I'm with joe. I'd rather see it done right than fast. It wouldn't take much provocation for entrenched DEA parasites to create a fuss and make it look like Obama's fault.

    But once Obama's people are in place (after 50% are weeded out for tax problems) if it doesn't happen "at the stroke of a pen" I will resume a full-throated cry of "Bullshit."

  • Kolohe||

    If this is done in a manner that produces a big, public push-back from within in the DEA, it could end up making the problem worse, making it politically untenable to stop the raids. Think about how Clinton tried to end the ban on gay people serving the military.

    That's a lot more likely to happen if the top ranks are full of Bushies who'd love to pick to fight with him anyway


    Then, why isn't he precluded from starting the closure process of Guatanamo, when the DoD not only likely has as many Bushies still in charge, but is not even replacing some of them?

    Why is he pushing for the stimulus where all the various agencies are still staffed by Bushies? (actually I had the thought yesterday that Obama may not all that broken up about the delay of the stimulus in the Senate, because it does allow him more time to put his people in charge - but this is rather too 'conspiracy theory'-ish. However, it's actually a good argument *against* an urgent passage of the stimulus if you think, like most stimulus proponents do (as well as to be fair, many stimulus opponents), that the Bush administration was the most incompetent and mendacious in history.

  • Kolohe||

    You know, I shouldn't have put the DoD thing in there; before you say anything, yes the institutional inertia in the DoD is actually *for* closing gitmo (Gates has been wanting to close it pretty much since he took over)

  • z||

    "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Times

    I wish I could believe that, there are literally thousands of instances of federal resources circumventing state laws.

  • ||

    Kolohe,

    Then, why isn't he precluded from starting the closure process of Guatanamo, when the DoD not only likely has as many Bushies still in charge, but is not even replacing some of them?

    You answered your own question - it's precisely because he's not replacing them that there's no point in waiting until their replacements are sworn in to take action.

    Why is he pushing for the stimulus where all the various agencies are still staffed by Bushies? This doesn't make any sense. The stimulus is going through Congress, and will be passed as legislation - meaning, the mechanism of failure I just explained (backlash leading Congress to oppose it) doesn't apply. Not to mention, the stimulus is not a policy specifically dedicated to ordering an agency not to do what it wants to do. This is not really a relevant comparison.

    To your general point, though, there is a certain amount of "F*ck you, I won" he can adopt without causing revolts in the bureaucracy to become too big to handle. As you say, his executive orders to date have already caused some bureaucratic pushback.

  • ||

    You know, I shouldn't have put the DoD thing in there; before you say anything, yes the institutional inertia in the DoD is actually *for* closing gitmo

    Yeah, the Iraq withdrawal order would have been more precise. Or, you could have said "CIA" in regards to extraordinary renditions and torture.

  • Seward||

    joe,

    If this is done in a manner that produces a big, public push-back from within in the DEA, it could end up making the problem worse, making it politically untenable to stop the raids.

    So once a new DEA head is put in place then there will magically be no push-back from the DEA?

  • SIV||

    Everything is Bush's fault!

    We'll never root out all the "Bushies" they will sabotage Obama at every turn. We must demand Obama fire every "Bushocrat" federal employee and replace them with dedicated, non-partisan public servants.

  • ||

    "I don't want a symbolic affirmation of my feelings. I want this problem solved in a way that works, and that sticks. Speed is good, but it's not the most important thing."

    delay delay delay, then lie...classic lawyer training.

  • ||

    Seward,

    It's amazing what you can do by inserting words like "magical" and "no" into an argument that doesn't contain them, isn't it?

    Yes, a DEA with a top management that is loyal to Obama will push back less than one that is hostile to Obama. I don't think this is a crazy, or even terribly controversial, concept.

    Everything is Bush's fault! Bush's DEA appointments and policy are Bush's fault. This is also neither crazy nor controversial.

    We must demand Obama fire every "Bushocrat" federal employee and replace them with dedicated, non-partisan public servants. We must demand Obama fire every Bushocrat, dispensary-raiding, law-breaking DEA policymaker, and replace them with people who respect his anti-raid policy. Yes, we must.

    How sick someone must be to oppose doing this in order to have a partisan point. You don't even support these raids, SIV, yet you feel the need to attack the concept of firing the people who ordered them, just because they are Bush people. Sick puppy.

  • ||

    joe, he made this promise in public, and people are defending Michael Phelps left and right. I don't think there is nearly the opposition to allowing states to determine medical MJ laws on their own that there was and still is regarding gays in the military. Lots of people that don't think pot should be criminal still hate gays and want them burned at the stake. I work with some of these fundie assholes. They're scary bastards.

  • ||

    Nice to see he hasn't completely forgotten.

    Not sure I buy the political firestorm argument; why would it be any worse if ordered a month from now by an Obama nominee at his express direction, than it would be now, but whatever.

    Again, though, time will tell. As the old saying goes, revenues delayed are revenues denied; at some point, this goes for reform as well.

  • ||

    Nick,

    joe, he made this promise in public, and people are defending Michael Phelps left and right.

    I think that probably goes a long way towards explaining why he had his press secretary reaffirm this change of policy today.

    I'm going to trust Barack Obama's political instincts over yours, or mine, on the question of when he should implement an anti-drug-war policy.

    It's funny, every other thread dealing with the drug war is full of observations about the powerful, well-funded drug war lobby having the government by the balls, while this one is full of assertions that the political fallout of taking on that lobby would be negligible.

  • ||

    Is there evidence any of the Bush holdovers are stepping up raids to be spiteful?

    Maybe they're afraid that Obama is serious and they won't get to make raids any more, so they're getting in all they can. Wouldn't surprise me.

    I'm with joe and NutraSweet on this. Whoever he appoints as DEA head will tell us volumes.

  • SIV||

    joe,

    You are making up my position to fit one you are more comfortable arguing with.....again.
    How much of the current "top management" at the DEA are Bush appointees as opposed to career DEA agents? Yes there will be a "pushback" from the bureaucracy but why do you color it as a partisan political pushback?

  • ||

    Whoever he appoints as DEA head will tell us volumes.

    I don't think it will. He is going to appoint a drug warrior, who strongly supports drug prohibition - whether that individual supports ending DEA raids on medicinal marijuana clinics or not.

    The best we can hope for here is and end to those raids, and some easing off on mandatory minimums. Still, as large as the problem is, that's not peanuts.

  • Seward||

    joe,

    Yes, a DEA with a top management that is loyal to Obama will push back less than one that is hostile to Obama. I don't think this is a crazy, or even terribly controversial, concept.

    There are numerous historical examples of the political appointees not being able to control the agencies that they head. So there is no guarantee that there will be less push-back.

    Anyway, I really don't think that is what is going on; it is far more plausible that the Obama administration is floating a trial balloon with this announcement to see which way the political winds are flowing with regard to it. That would include the DEA's response of course; but who is in charge of the DEA doesn't matter with this scenario.

    In sum, this seems like classic trial balloon activity.

  • SIV||


    I'm going to trust Barack Obama's political instincts over yours, or mine, on the question of when he should implement an anti-drug-war policy.


    Obama has never pledged to implement an anti-drug war policy.

  • SIV||

    I'm going to trust Barack Obama's political instincts over yours, or mine, on the question of when he should implement an anti-drug-war policy.

    joe implies Obama will "end the drug war"


    He is going to appoint a drug warrior, who strongly supports drug prohibition - whether that individual supports ending DEA raids on medicinal marijuana clinics or not.

    joe affirms Obama will continue the War on Drugs

    That was a quick reversal.

  • ||

    SIV,

    How much of the current "top management" at the DEA are Bush appointees as opposed to career DEA agents?

    All of the political positions were appointed by Bush.

    Yes there will be a "pushback" from the bureaucracy but why do you color it as a partisan political pushback? OK, let me clarify - there are two potential sources of pushback, partisan troublemaking and bureaucratic pushback. One of these is amenable to the nominations process. By putting his team in place at DEA, he will be able to lessen that pushback.

    Also, on the Congressional pushback I talked about above: there is a greater chance of the pushback from within the DEA blending into a partisan offensive in Congress if there are actual, partisan Republican political figures involved in the bureaucratic pushback.

  • ||

    It would be a reversal, SIV, if I had ever written anything about Obama ending the war on drugs.

    Not much a reader, are you?

  • zoltan||

    BARACK OBAMA READS HIT & RUN!!!!!!!!! You guys hit it big. Now just write some more stories about how Pelosi sucks and he might get the hint.

  • SIV||

    I'm going to trust Barack Obama's political instincts over yours, or mine, on the question of when he should implement an anti-drug-war policy.

    What was that joe?

    Not much of a writer are you?

  • Seward||

    SIV,

    Anyway, there is no reason to stop criticizing Obama on the matter until he does what he promised. If such criticism upsets people, that is basically their problem.

  • ||

    What was that joe?

    A statement about an individual policy.

    Here, let me help you out here:

    ...of when he should implement an anti-drug-war policy.

    An. Indefinite article, singular. Do you need me to explain what that means?

    (BTW, a simple, "Ah, I get it now" will suffice.)

  • SIV||

    Oh, ok, I read that wrong. I thought you were saying something else.

  • ||

    Definitely a spoof.

  • dhex||

    one way to read this is that the dea's running out their raids while they still can.

    i hope that's what's happening.

  • ||

    Do two raids a week represent an uptick, compared to the past few years?

  • dhex||

    it looks like it's been on the rise since the second half of 2008, but i don't have any hard numbers.

  • Seward||

    SIV,

    It is safe to say that Obama will not be implementing an anti-drug war policy, so I'm not quite sure why it is even mentioned.

  • ||

  • ||

    Remember how Clinton's push to allow gay people to serve openly in the military failed: it generated a political firestorm, abetted by pushback from the Pentagon, that led to the opposition party making a huge stink, causing Congress to step in and, through legislation, spike the idea.

    That's not an apples and oranges comparison. It is more akin to apples and bird droppings.

    70% of Americans support ending MM raids. What was the percentage of Amerixcans who supported gays sering in the military in 1992?

    I'll go out on a very strong llimb and say less than 50.

    The DEA does not have anywhere near the support of "main street" as the military, the most trusted institution in the nation since the '80s.

    Pick up the phone Mr. Obama, say you are suspending the raids until further review. Your appointees can do the review whenever they're not busy.

  • Johnny Nowhere||

    My issue with delaying carry-out of the promise is that people's lives are being negatively affected with each raid. At a minimum, assets are seized and sick people denied comfort.

    I understand the calculus that delayed implementation may equal more effective implementation (and therefore bigger benefit to society), but this requires accepting the punishment being meted right now. Punishment, I might add, to people Obama probably believes are doing nothing wrong.

    I will snicker the next time Obama uses language like:

    the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

  • ||

    I'm going to trust Barack Obama's political instincts over yours, or mine, on the question of when he should implement an anti-drug-war policy.

    I don't doubt his political instincts. I do doubt his honesty, though. He's shown time and again that he will say whatever is necessary to get an audience on his side, and then blithely say the opposite when in front of another audience. eg, bittergate, clinggate, telling Canadians he really didn't mean what he told Ohioans about NAFTA, etc.

    I trust that he will do the most politically advantageous thing at the time. ie, not implement any sort of anti-drug-war policy whatsoever at any time during his tenure in office. ie, not carrying through on his promises.

  • Mad Max||

    'Not sure I buy the political firestorm argument; why would it be any worse if ordered a month from now by an Obama nominee at his express direction, than it would be now, but whatever'

    Here's my hypothesis - he's scared of a gays-in-the-military type controversy in the first months of his administration. He wants his first 100 days (metaphorical 100 days) to be a string of success - a single defeat could derail his momentum and embolden his foes. This is why he wants to put off ticklish issues until he's already acquired the 100-days magic and aura of invulnerability.

    Does this appear plausible?

  • Mad Max||

    Note that, unlike gays-in-the-military, an order to end the raids in states which have legalized medical marijuana would have the potential to *split,* rather than unite, the conservative movement.

    Previous threads have documented the I-disagree-with-what-you-smoke-but-defend-your-right-to-smoke-it strain in conservatism, including National Review since the 1970s. The problem is that Obama probably fears that these folks won't back him up as vocally as the death-to-hippies crowd will denounce him.

    There's also the problem that, like many pols who have used drugs, he sees himself as always in the position of having to prove his reformation by locking up others.

  • Robert||

    Here's my hypothesis - he's scared of a gays-in-the-military type controversy in the first months of his administration. He wants his first 100 days (metaphorical 100 days) to be a string of success - a single defeat could derail his momentum and embolden his foes. This is why he wants to put off ticklish issues until he's already acquired the 100-days magic and aura of invulnerability.

    Does this appear plausible?


    Not insofar as the case of marijuana, no. What "defeat" could he suffer there? Few people even know about the raids; how many will notice an absence of them?

  • Elemenope||

    Few people even know about the raids; how many will notice an absence of them?

    If he goes out of his way to make a policy change, people opposed to the policy change will *make sure* everyone hears about it.

  • Elemenope||

    There's also the problem that, like many pols who have used drugs, he sees himself as always in the position of having to prove his reformation by locking up others.

    This. The last two presidents probably couldn't move far on drugs even if they wanted to, and Obama unfortunately is in the same boat.

    Note that, unlike gays-in-the-military, an order to end the raids in states which have legalized medical marijuana would have the potential to *split,* rather than unite, the conservative movement.

    But also this. I would think that the potential political gains here (from having the conservative moment eat itself over the issue) would be huge regardless of whatever "soft on drugs/crime" brush gets used.

  • ||

    Once again, I'm stunned to see the same people who constantly assert that the Drug War lobby is ultra-powerful suddenly start arguing that it can be slapped down without political consequence.

  • ||

    Assuming President Token is sincere about ending med marijuana raids (big assumption), the time to do it would be right at the start of his presidency, not later when the "Iron Triangle" of bureaucrats, Congresscritters, & drug war parasites have had time to organize against it.

  • ||

    Once again, I'm stunned to see the same people who constantly assert that the Drug War lobby is ultra-powerful suddenly start arguing that it can be slapped down without political consequence.

    Who in this thread asserted that ending immoral raids on MM clinics would be without political consequence? I want names and times so I can call them stupid.

    He's the fuckin' president. What sex of dog he gets and what vegetable he won't eat have political consequences.

  • Pat Rogers Aid & comfort blog||

    While I am ecstatic to see Obama finally get off the dime and say something about the atrocious medical pot raids that have happened in California since his inauguration and I agree with Jacob in principle about Obama's leadership in this issue, I also do not think that Obama can do anything about the raids, legally. Not unless he wants to show as much contempt for the rule of law that George W. Bush showed ever day that he was in office.

    There are solutions. But not goose-stepping all over the constitution.

    I wrote a long piece about this on my blog: President Obama's Medical Marijuana Quandary at Aid & comfort blog

  • ||

    I see the fauxtarians are still hoping for change.

    [scene of Obama supporter digging through a mountain of manure]: "With this much horseshit there's got to be a pony around here somewhere!"

  • ||

    Gary Johnson for DEA

  • Pat Rogers Aid & comfort blog||

    Here is an email address for the White House that is not limited for size: comments@whitehouse.gov

    For a permanent solution to the pot and medical cannabis issues consider asking the administration and your members of congress to support Congressman Barney Frank's medical marijuana and/or marijuana decriminalization bills.

    Contact your representative in the U.S.Congress
    Contact your U.S. Senator

  • Pat Rogers Aid & comfort blog||

    H.R.5842 : To provide for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States. (Copy hosted page by Aid & comfort blog H.R. 5842)

    H.R.5843 : To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use, and for other purposes. (Copy hosted page by Aid & comfort blog H.R. 5843)


  • Pat Rogers Aid & comfort blog||

    Gary Johnson would make a great DEA boss. Even better give him the permanent Drug Czar job.

  • ||

    Um, guys...maybe you're too high to notice but...he's in the middle of something EXTREMELY important now.

    Him coming out publicly against the raids at this very moment would be a complete disaster and give the GOP something else to raise false indignation about.

    "The President cares more about creating more weed-head slackers than creating jobs for hard-working Americans!"

    ...not what we need right now. Medical Marijuana is something you handle later. Sorry but most people who want prescriptions just want to get high legally. Nothing wrong with it...but still not mega-important.

  • Mernahuana||

    does this mean the DEA will amp up its effort to uproot clubs until a new successor is chosen? talk about feudal government departments. what's needed right now is government working for the people not against them.

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