Actor Kal Penn and President Barack Obama were both raked over the coals yesterday for their collaboration on a campaign video teasing Penn's upcoming appearance at the Democratic National Convention. In that video, Penn reprised his role as Kumar from the Harold and Kumar movies, and takes a phone call from Obama while stoned, watching cartoons, and eating junkfood. The subtle implication is that marijuana users are easily swayed, lazy idiots.
Reason, the Marijuana Policy Project, LEAP, and several others criticized Penn and Obama for the video, as Obama has utterly failed to live up to his promise to deprioritze federal prosections of medical marijuana.
In an interview with Chris Moody of Yahoo! News, Penn said
"I think that the president's been pretty consistent with that. He's not in favor of legalization, we should be open about something like that. But what the president has done is take a really smart look at the Department of Justice and said, given the fact that the federal government has limited resources, we should be allocating them toward violent criminals and not towards non-violent criminals. We can see that not just in things like marijuana but in things like immigration reform where he's going after and deporting violent criminals and making sure that if you're a Dream Act eligible student that you know that you can apply for your deferred status. Wherever the federal government has an appropriate role, I think the president's been very consistent in that. That's something that I think folks should know."
Penn is very, very wrong about Obama "allocating" Department of Justice resources toward "violent criminals." Here's Jacob Sullum on the frequency of DEA raids in the beginning of Obama's presidency:
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.
In October of 2011, CBS reported that the Obama administration had given every medical marijuana dispensary in California 45 days to close, "or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law."
Alas, it appears Penn only said the above because he was told to. When asked by Moody if federal marijuana laws were "appropriate," Penn said, "I'm not a marijuana expert. That's a weird question."
Not an expert, but definitely a stooge.
Here's the video: