46,000 Americans petitioned the Obama Administration to “Support a law protecting states’ rights to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.” 83,000 Americans petitioned the Obama Administration to “Remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substance Act and allow the states to decide how they want to regulate it.” And 44,000 Americans simply asked the Obama Administration to “Federally legalize marijuana.”
In response, the Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske (whom we can’t remind you enough is bound by law to oppose the legalization of marijuana for any purpose at any level) has issued the following statement on behalf of the Obama Administration:
Thank you for participating in We the People and speaking out on the legalization of marijuana. Coming out of the recent election, it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.
Well, when your boss gets 50,000 fewer votes than marijuana did in a swing state, that’s bound to get your attention. When almost 12 million Americans live where marijuana possession is legal, it can be a moment of clarity.
We’ve been having a serious national discussion about marijuana since 1970. It’s disappointing that it takes two states’ voters openly flouting federal law to bring you to the table. Almost four years ago, you were openly laughing off our serious discussion.
At President Obama’s request, the Justice Department is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington, given differences between state and federal law.
129,000 Americans are simply asking you to support a law, already submitted to Congress, to give states an exemption to that federal law. Aside from that, there’s nothing to review. What Colorado and Washington propose is clearly against federal law – do you intend on subverting the will of the voters in those two states by using the prosecutorial discretion to go after them for violating federal pot laws, or not?
Kerlikowske then hands off the remainder of the response to a transcript of President Obama’s answer to Barbara Walters asking, “do you think marijuana should be legalized?” I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast President Obama’s answer to Ms. Walters with his answers to a reporter from the Medford Mail-Tribune on the medical marijuana question, way back in 2008.
President Obama on Marijuana Legalization, 2012
Senator Obama on Medical Marijuana, 2008
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal. What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with. …this is a tough problem because Congress has not yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal. I’m not familiar with all the details of the initiative that was passed [in Oregon] and what safeguards there were in place, but I think the basic concept that using medical marijuana in the same way, with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate. I would not punish doctors if it’s prescribed in a way that is appropriate. That may require some changes in federal law.” When you’re talking about drug kingpins, folks involved with violence, people are who are peddling hard drugs to our kids in our neighborhoods that are devastated, there is no doubt that we need to go after those folks hard… it makes sense for us to look at how we can make sure that our kids are discouraged from using drugs and engaging in substance abuse generally. There is more work we can do on the public health side and the treatment side. My attitude is that if it’s an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else. I think there are legitimate concerns in not wanting to allow people to grow their own or start setting up mom and pop shops because at that point it becomes fairly difficult to regulate.
Excuse me if I hold out little hope for rational change in our marijuana policy under President Obama. Some of “those folks” that his administration has gone after “hard” include Dr. Mollie Fry, Dale Schafer, Chris Williams, Richard Flor, and countless others who believed him last time he said prosecuting people obeying state marijuana laws wasn’t a top priority. We understand Congress needs to change some federal laws… that’s why 129,000 of us gave you two different petitions asking you to support Congress’ attempt to change the relevant federal law.
I don’t expect the third petition, “Federally legalize marijuana”, to be something you’d take seriously. But you can’t whine about how you’re the executive branch and you just have to enforce what Congress gives you, while not supporting the efforts of Congress to help you make marijuana the low prosecutorial priority you claim you want it to be.