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Time: What Is President Obama’s Problem With Medical Marijuana?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 3, 2012

    Michael Sherer at Time Magazine has posted online today a particularly astute examination of the Obama administration’s flip-flop on marijuana policy. Below are some key excerpts. Michael’s full article appears in the newsstand edition of Time.

    What Is President Obama’s Problem With Medical Marijuana?
    via Time.com

    [T]he Obama Administration is cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers just as harshly as the Administration of George W. Bush did. In 2011, the Department of Justice revised its guidance to U.S. Attorneys, allowing them to target any medical marijuana activity except for ill patients and their immediate caregivers. The Drug Enforcement Administration has made it clear that “medical marijuana is not medicine,” and even called it a “mortal danger.” … In many states, U.S. Attorneys have advised state and local officials to back away from plans to create rules and regulations that would codify the medical pot industry, in some cases raising the possibility that lawmakers could be prosecuted for promoting drug use that is legal under state law.

    Over the last few weeks, I have talked with nearly a dozen people in the medical marijuana business, three U.S. Attorneys, White House officials and local officials who oppose the federal crackdown for a story that will appear in this week’s newsstand issue of TIME. The answer on the ground is, predictably, far more complicated than either medical marijuana advocates or the Obama Administration is willing to describe. And it all comes down to this: Despite Obama’s promises during the 2008 campaign, federal prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is still illegal to grow, possess or sell under federal law. As a result, a once broad exemption from prosecution for medical marijuana providers in state where it’s legal has been narrowed to a tiny one. … [T]he nation is left with an uneasy status quo: The federal government is not trying to eliminate medical marijuana altogether, but it has decided that it cannot stand for the commercialization or large scale production of marijuana for the stated purpose of helping the sick, even when that production is technically within the bounds of state law.

    [I]n a different world, the federal government might work with state and local officials to more tightly regulate the growing of marijuana for medical purposes. But since pot is illegal under all circumstances under federal law, the opposite has been happening. Attempts, particularly in California, to more tightly regulate and thereby provide greater legal protection for the drug, have been shut down by the federal government.

    And so, medical marijuana is left in a no man’s land. Individual sick users are safe from prosecution, but they are likely to find it harder in the coming months to get the drug. Growers and dispensers are not protected by state law from federal prosecution, especially if they become large enough to get noticed by federal investigators. And the likely result is that more of the medical marijuana industry will be pushed underground in the coming years, making it more difficult for local officials to track the business. This arguably will only increase some criminal activity, as large amounts of money and a very profitable commodity move through the system by way of small-time dealers working without sophisticated security systems.

    …“What this really screams for a cohesive national policy.”

    But there is no such policy on the horizon. Obama has shown little interest in elevating the issue. Some in federal law enforcement–and at the Office of National Drug Control Policy–hope that the advent of new pharmaceutical replacements for grown medical marijuana, like the Canadian drug Sativex, [Editor’s note: Sativex is a British drug, not a Canadian manufactured product — though it is legal by prescription in Canada.] will make the entire issue moot in the coming decade. But that looks unlikely in the short term, given the lack of concern among the general public with medical marijuana. A 2010 poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press found that 73% say they favor “their state allowing the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes if it is prescribed by a doctor.”

    In other words, don’t hold your breath for clarity anytime soon. The haze is here to stay.

    56 Responses to “Time: What Is President Obama’s Problem With Medical Marijuana?”

    1. msgtvance says:

      A good question is why dosen’t obama have Holder reschedule marijuana, my understanding is he can do that with a signarure.

    2. Dave Evans says:

      Obama doesn’t think marijuana is important.

      He should reschedule it and/or fight for it taken off the schedule. It is on the schedule without merit.

    3. The American Genesist says:

      As a “Sacrament of our Faith [Genesis I:29,30,31]” – we do not seek “exemption” from the Law of the Land – because – the Law of the Land [the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America] – and – Religious Law support and uphold each other.

      Genesists recognize and serve our “Sacrament’s” medical efficacy – of which has long been regarded as the “Number One” of 10,000 medical plants -treating more than 250 medical conditions.

    4. Bob says:

      OK folks its time to make a stand.

      The only thing that can get things done is money and votes. Most of us have voting rights, some have money. Email this message to your elected officials and stand firm. Also send to like minded friends and family:

      To the President, Members of the US Congress, State and local elected officials:

      Criminal marijuana prohibition is a failure. Over 20 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses since 1965 with over 800,000 arrests in 2010. The problem is getting worse – not because of the benign plant, but because of the obsolete laws. The time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.

      I can no longer vote for elected officials that support the the current laws. I have decided not to vote for any politician that does not publicly support the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts.

      Signed

      Voting Citizen
      & Member of the Movement

    5. MIKE NIXON says:

      THE MARIUJANA BEING A SCHUDLE 3 IS NOT IN THE SAME CATAGORY AS CRANK/SPEED/METH,OR COCAINE OR HERION & IT NEEDS TO CHAGE BEFORE WE TRY TO LEGALZE IT. ONE DAY AT A TIME. WHAT PISSES ME OFF IS THAT THE PRESIDENT USED THE VOTERS AS HE FALSELY SAID HE WOULD CHANGE MARIJUANA & MEDICINAL MARIJUANA LAWS IF WE VOTED HIM INTO OFFICE ? ? ? I STILL HOLD FAITH IN OBAMA COMPARED TO MIT ROMELY.THIS GUY TELLS US HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE POOR…NONE OF THEM REPUBLICAN ARE NOT THERE FOR US ! VOTE OBAMA IN 20 12 OR WE WILL HAVE AN UNCONTROLLABLE PRESIDENT ! ! !

    6. […] “The federal government is not trying to eliminate medical marijuana altogether,” said Time Magazine’s Michael Sherer, “but it has decided that it cannot stand for the commercialization or large scale production of […]

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