Drug War

Will Obama 'Reassert Himself' on Medical Marijuana?


Writing in The New York Times, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, slams the Obama administration's crackdown on medical marijuana:

When he ran for president, Barack Obama defended the medical use of marijuana and said that he would not use Justice Department resources to override state laws on the issue. He appeared to make good on this commitment in October 2009, when the Justice Department directed federal prosecutors not to focus their efforts on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."

But over the past year, federal authorities appear to have done everything in their power to undermine state and local regulation of medical marijuana and to create uncertainty, fear and confusion among those in the industry. The president needs to reassert himself to ensure that his original policy is implemented….

At the federal level, there have been few voices of protest. Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill shy away from speaking out. Republicans mostly ignore the extent to which anti-marijuana zealotry threatens core conservative values like states' rights, property rights and gun ownership.

Mr. Obama…needs to show leadership and intervene now, to encourage and defend responsible state and local regulation of medical marijuana.

Don't hold your breath. At last week's International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles (sponsored by Nadelmann's organization), panelists discussing the future of medical marijuana in California were divided on the question of whether to lobby the legislature for a new law that would clarify the rules for supplying cannabis or instead try to accomplish that goal via a 2012 ballot initiative. No one held out any hope that Obama could be persuaded to keep his promise by restraining the Justice Department and letting California formulate and enforce its own policies in this area. Changing California's law to explicitly authorize growers and dispensaries should help avoid trouble with marijuana-hostile local officials such as Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. But given Obama's perfidy, it's not clear that new legislation will offer any protection from federal raids, forfeiture, and prosecution.

In Colorado, which recently began licensing dispensaries, U.S. Attorney John Walsh seems more inclined to respect state law than his colleagues in California. Walsh is one of the U.S. attorneys who earlier this year sent letters to local and state officials warning that the Justice Department has the authority to prosecute medical marijuana suppliers even when they comply with state law. But a Colorado activist who attended last week's conference said Walsh so far has been careful to cooperate with the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Division. Although the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's office in Denver has suggested that his agency pays no mind to state law, the activist said the feds in Colorado have not actually targeted any operations that were "in clear and unambiguous compliance." Barring the unlikely presidential intervention Nadelmann is seeking, it looks like any forbearance enjoyed by medical marijuana suppliers will continue to depend on the whims of federal officials in each state.  

More on Obama's medical marijuana reversal here.

NEXT: The Jon Huntsman Candidate Profile

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.

  1. very strange reversal for obama. cant figure the fed’s angle

    1. Nothing strange about it. Obusha is a corrupt, totalitarian piece of shit who never met a civil liberty he wouldn’t violate. Simple.

      1. And I’m sure he’s made some statement that wasn’t a lie. I just haven’t seen it.

        1. At the Packers’ White House visit, he said the Bears would be better with Aaron Rodgers at QB, which is true.

          Of course he later retracted that when Jay Cutler took offense.

  2. will continue to depend on the whims of federal officials in each state.

    “The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear, will keep the local systems in line.”

  3. I get the feeling Obama is really interested in wealth distribution and green jobs, but is completely uninterested in anything else. So he just lets someone else handle it.

    1. That’s a very good theory. Most of the shit he does seems so random and ill-considered and stupid it really does seem like he’s just not interested enough to devote any time to it. Of course, his pet policy areas don’t fare any better for the extra attention.

    2. Yes, but that begs leads to the question of why the someone else handling it is so stupid and erratic.

      1. I’m beginning to think that Obama ‘hires’ someone and turns them loose.
        Regardless of his flaws (HE&W anyone?), Ike used the staff system pretty well, but he had a good handle on most of the hires.
        Sorta looking like Obama isn’t quite as involved.

        1. The Obama administration behaves like a toddler who’s been given a blowtorch and a crowbar, and told to change the world.

  4. very strange reversal for obama.

    He’s very likely to be running for re-election against Romney, the ladies’ favorite Republican, so “smash some druggie skulls” is probably on his list of things to do to maintain the “gender gap” that made him president.

    Bitches love fed raids.

    1. Bitches love fed raids.


    2. He was raiding med MJ dispensaries back in 2009 when it looked like the Dems would control the electorate forever.

  5. I get the feeling Obama is really interested in wealth distribution and green jobs million dollar vacations, concerts with celebrities at the Whitehouse and golf, but is completely uninterested in anything else. So he just lets someone else handle it.

    1. Does anyone know if the panel to which Jacob linked is going to be put on youtube (or similarly broadcast)?

      The panelists are some thoughtful people on the frontline. I only wish that Dale Gierenger wasn’t just the “facilitator” (what’s wrong with the word “moderator”?) since I think he’s the smartest guy working in the anti-cannabis-prohibition movement.

  6. BHO realized that admitting states have rights in any one area might mean that they have rights in other areas.

  7. i have to lol at all the morons who thought obama would be better on the drug war. he’s a fucking unrepentant statist asshole from the illinois/chicago, and you expect him to derail the #1 federal program that has expanded federal power?


    his principles certainly don’t include ANY sort of states’ rights or autonomy, and i fucking KNEW he would suck on this stuff.

    of course having spineless dem governors like gregoire doesn’t help.

    1. Unfortunately, BHO seems the worst of both. He’s an economic liberal, and a social conservative.

      1. Social conservatives are pro-gun and favor school choice.

        BO is just a fascist with a tan.

        1. i really hate to use the word “fascist” since it’s what libs refer to everybody they disagree with as… however, i agree he is NOT a social conservative.

          he is certainly not very liberal, socially (see: gay marriage, DADT, etc.)

          it’s pretty clear though, when it comes to issues of state power, he will almost always come down on – when in doubt, if it gives the state power, it’s good

  8. U.S. Attorney General John Walsh

    There is only one Attorney General. Unless I missed something, that is still [spit] Eric Holder.

    His subordinate are US Attorneys.

    1. I thought they were “minions”.

      1. Lackeys fits better.

  9. hope change

  10. Walsh so far has been careful to cooperate with the Colorado Department of Revenue’s

    There you have it – professional courtesy.

  11. He is reasserting himself. He’s a drug warrior and always has been.

    The campaign claim that he would voluntarily limit his own power was a lie.

  12. There is a way to ensure the federal government doesn’t raid any more medical marijuana dispensaries. We need to remove its power via legislation. Pass H.R. 2306 and limit the federal government’s power to enforcing only cross-border trafficking. Regardless of how you stand on the marijuana debate we can all agree it should be left up to the states and the federal crackdown is an abuse that states should not have to tolerate.

    Tell your representatives -> http://pvox.co/CdiFqY

    “[Prohibition] attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.” – Abraham Lincoln

    1. Well, the ‘representatives’ in my district (no, they don’t ‘represent’ me) tend to lick Obama’s ass. So as much as I’d like…..

  13. The Regional Governors will now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line.

    1. Fear of this drug enforcement station?

  14. Marc Jacobs designed for Marc Jacobs Handbag coveted clear structure, but also the essence of one of the many brand-name bags. But be concerned about is that he’s subsidiary brand Marc by Marc Jacobs. The younger you must not miss Marc by Marc Jacobs Bags. Especially the Marc by Marc Jacobs Handbag, fashion sun for you. Believe me, it really really good.

    1. Hey, Marc Jacobs! How ya DOIN’, man?!
      (did I get the name right?)

  15. The order to end ca’s medical pot industry came from Obama’s woman.

    1. I’m not sure I like where you’re going with that one…..

  16. Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child or grandchild thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.

  17. Prohibitionists, like President Obama, like to label marijuana a “harmful substance”, however marijuana is far LESS harmful than beer and wine which are LEGAL, and is also far LESS harmful than the federal marijuana prohibition which causes the arrest of 850,000 people every year and draws drug dealers into our communities and around our children!

    It is outrageous to have the federal government ban stores from selling legally-grown marijuana to adults when this ban *doesn’t* prevent people from buying, selling and using marijuana, and *does* make marijuana readily accessible to children by creating large profits for drug dealers where otherwise there would be NONE.

  18. Mr. Obama said: “1st and foremost we are Americans”…Umm..sorry Barack some of us are God’s children 1st and foremost..
    On a separation of church and state note:
    The 1st page & chapter of the Bible Genesis 1:29?.And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth”?.
    Now Who other than Satan, or his henchmen would want to?
    # claim(devils weed) ownership of?..
    # restrict access to?
    # Tax/ regulate?
    # or otherwise make criminal?.
    God’s first gift to us?
    For a historical account of how the truth in the Bible has been systematically suppressed, by those “regulators”, read Foxes book of Martyrs: http://www.gutenberg.org/files…..2400-h.htm

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.