White House: “We’re in the Midst of a Serious National Conversation on Marijuana”

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director January 8, 2013

    We the PeopleIn October of 2011, the White House issued an official response to a petition NORML submitted via their We the People outreach program on the topic of marijuana legalization. Despite being one of the most popular petitions at the site’s launch, the answer we received was far from satisfactory. Penned by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, the response featured most of the typical government talking points. He stated that marijuana is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment and that its use is a concern to public health. “We also recognize,” Gil wrote, “that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.”

    Well, just over a year later, the White House has responded again to a petition to deschedule marijuana and legalize it. The tone this time is markedly different, despite being penned by the same man.

    Addressing the Legalization of Marijuana
    By Gil Kerlikowske

    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.

    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. In the meantime, please see a recent interview with Barbara Walters in which President Obama addressed the legalization of marijuana.

    Barbara Walters:

    Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?

    President Obama:

    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.

    …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.

    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.

    Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

    No tirade about protecting our children. No alarmist claims about sky rocketing marijuana potency and devastating addiction potential. Just a few short paragraphs stating we are “in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana” and deferring to an interview with the President where he stated arresting marijuana users wasn’t a priority and that the laws were still being reviewed. While far from embracing an end to marijuana prohibition, the simple fact that America’s Drug Czar had the opportunity to spout more anti-marijuana rhetoric and instead declined (while giving credence to the issue by stating it is a serious national conversation) it’s at the very least incredibly refreshing, if not a bit aberrational. We can only hope that when the administration finishes “reviewing” the laws just approved by resounding margins in Washington and Colorado, they choose to stand with the American people and place themselves on the right side of history.

    “We the People” are already there.

    113 Responses to “White House: “We’re in the Midst of a Serious National Conversation on Marijuana””

    1. Mongoose says:


    2. terry ford says:

      reschedule now!if not outright dropping the schedule altogether!!

    3. Chris in WI says:

      As long as Gil is the drug czar he is going to follow the rules of his office which require him to lie. And the petition has to go to him according to the rules so this tool is a waste of time.

    4. YesWeCannabis says:

      I guess we just will have to see what will cause congress federally to move on this issue. Until this zit comes to a head, or marlboro starts selling joints, I dont see how our federal government is going to actually be proactive on this rather than reactive. I look forward to getting the munchies and eating these words but they couldn’t set a budget (ok bring on the idio-facts) how can we expect them to change the law which Regan protected so dearly, “as dangerous as the hemlock plant?”

    5. fishcreekbob says:

      Sounds like they’re worried about the war crimes trials.

    6. Herb says:

      This made my night all the better. I have been doing my part for 5 long years now trying every which way I can to educate the people in my lives the value of cannabis. It took awhile but I finally lead my family to see the light as well as countless others. On a weekly basis I come across anti-cannabis outlaws and I thrive on the duels we have over cannabis. I am proud to say I am undefeated in these fights as well. Yet there is so much positive in the air it is almost unimaginable! To think that our government is finally starting to swallow their pride, or ‘choke down’ I should say, is just absolutely amazing. I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself here but it really feels like the war is almost over and our troops fighting for legalization can finally put down our arms and watch the sun finally set on this terribly ignorant war we have been fighting for just too damn long! The time is almost upon us my friends and soon we can all live laugh and love without any fear. Goodnight Norml and thank you for everything!

    7. CJ says:

      It makes me sad that with a national health initiative the “powers that be” refuse to recognize the health benefits of medicinal marijuana.

      I’m an older lady, with quite a few health issues, who is unable to secure health insurance due to those pre-existing problems. It also is seeming impossible to physicians to understand *I* know my body, that my blood pressure has always been historically low, that a normal, to them, reading of 120/80 is high for me – it means I’m in pain. Yet I am unable, from my own pocket, to secure “approved” drugs to regulate the pain where as if I take a small puff or two I am able to not only go about normal life (walking, household chores, you know *LIFE*) without crippling pain. Instead I’m made to feel as though I’m a drug “addict” or a criminal, because, yes I’m honest when asked if I’ve taken “illegal” drugs even though I state I’ve only taken MM when I had the state approved MM card, though I don’t use it when residing in a non-approving state. I currently reside in a state that will probably never approve, which means I get to stay in pain and fight my physicians in order to be able to function on “approved” drugs. I loath taking those pain pills, with their side effects when a little puff would do the trick.

    8. droozy69 says:

      a key point is that the president did not fairly characterize his(the executive branch) role in the schedule level 1 of cannabis. His FDA, and Dept of Justice leads, along with HHS lead have the point on what the level cannabis is designated. THis needs to be clarified by the white house and these leaders.

    9. StinkyMink says:

      Excellent. No alarmist statements , where in the past would certainly have been brought up. Lets smoke reponsibly and keep mvng forward.

    10. Jack says:

      The fact we have Czars in America is scary enough.

    11. Buggsy13420666 says:

      The KING OF THE WHITE HOUSE has spoken and all the kings horses and all the kings men will not be able rebuild the WALL OF MARIJUANA PROHIBITION AGAIN. The gate has opened and the BARBARIANS are coming through. There will be another concept of SMOKE AND MIRRORS created by FEDERALISM to cover up the real truth of the benefits of marijuana even more. I can imagine that the seriuos national convesation will be based on the ORWELLIIAN MENTALITY of thought. OBEY! The 21ST CENTURY INQUISITORS are on HIGH ALERT. It’s time to put on the DARK SUNGLASSES and keep connected with the DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. HAIL TO THE MONARCHY!

    12. Mike says:

      Great job NORML and all involved. Victory is near, and it has been a long time coming. There is still much work to be done, but all of those who have worked so tirelessly can sense the feeling of freedom, respect, and equality are returning to our country. Keep up the fight, never waiver.

    13. mark says:

      Well, if they continue with the same bullshit status quo, regrettably, violent revolution will be the only solution left.

    14. rick says:

      thanx for all u do norml hopefully the politicians will finally listen and legalize marajuana instead of punishing users,legalizing is the only way to take the profits out of the black market.it has been terrible to have to worry about a drug test to keep a job especially when the person working with you wreaks of alcohol from the night befor

    15. phrtao says:

      I am still not sure what the federal government wants. Are they determined to win a propaganda war or are they just interested in arresting and imprisoning people. It seems that they don’t want to fight public opinion for the moment but that does not stop them harassing people the way they have been doing. I think they believe that the legalisation will be a failure and in the end this failure will support their extreme actions.
      Obama certainly must welcome an excuse not to enter the drugs bidding war that has characterised previous administrations where year after year we heard how much more money was being spent. The real problems will start when legal outlets begin selling marijuana in Colorado and Washington – the same sort of border issues that have complicated matters in the Netherlands will need to be faced. Maybe this is where the excuse to clamp down will come from.
      I hope I am wrong and they really are giving up the fight.

    16. John k. says:

      Very interesting. Reading the title put butterfly’s in my tummy. My first response seeing the title, pointed to the nearing the end of prohibition. Looks promising. Prohibition must be undone. Am not gonna get my hopes to high though.

    17. William says:

      So exciting. “The union” documentary brought me back from a demonized, self righteous view on cannabis after having quit for 9 years after high school. I’m not smoking now because of testing, but weed is a truly beautiful thing. I’ll trade it for alcohol any day.

    18. Bradson says:

      The giggling has stopped!

    19. james says:

      Funny how they talk to talk but never walk to walk. We’ll see what happens.

    20. Bummer Oklajoma says:

      We the People have always been there. We won our freedom and our citizenship with the sacrifice of those who went before ! Thank YOU NORMAL for all your work and sacrifices,for you folks are some of the people who make life better for us all. This will be my last transmission my new location is off the grid! Good luck to all my brothers and sisters, its been real,its been fun, but sometimes, its not been real fun. A good life to all as sit on my mountian and lite one up for the rest of you!!!!

    21. […] Re: would/could the feds look on here? Read this.I think it answers the question.. White House: “We’re in the Midst of a Serious National Conversation on Marijuana” … […]

    22. Galileo Galilei says:

      Whoa! Suddenly, fans of NORML, we are “in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana”. Who knew?

      “A bit aberrational” is right.

    23. Drifter says:

      What more can the Drug Czar say then “we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana” when the top White House petitions keep referring to marijuana legalization.

      Keep up the good work and continue to sign petitions to force a response from the White House. It’s fun watching the prohibitionists squirm.

    24. Chris P says:

      We are now on our way to getting this matter resolved. Thanks norml for all the hard work you put into this.

    25. James says:

      Yesterday morning I saw the Opinion Article from David Frum “Marijuana is too risky”, then I had a root canal and an afternoon of misery and went to bed.

      Today I woke up feeling good, saw a wonderful opinion article by David Nathan “Why Marijuana should be legal”, and then this. Much Better.

    26. Harry says:

      Please look up US Patent 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” which is assigned to The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services.
      With this patent on the books the government can no longer say it is bad and evil; now if the government tries to tell us that it is bad, we know it is not the truth…

    27. Brandon says:

      It’s just posturing to avoid the heat they’d take from the other route. They’re still going to fight this, otherwise they’d be embracing it by now.

    28. aameranth says:

      Refreshing indeed!

      The Federal Government is going to have to slowly say yes we agree with american people in support of legalization because there are still many people who disagree with it. By Doing this slow transition to agreement , I think the anti-marijuana crowd will see the Government’s gradual consideration and ultimately start to agree with this movement as well .

    29. Deborah Morgan says:

      Outstanding. Evolution is always a thrill to witness.

    30. Awesome! Thank You NORML for a task well done
      A true testament to liberty
      This is what we were taught in school,that change can happen.

    31. CK says:

      To reconcile a federal law….

      Reconcile-To coexist in harmony. They aren’t going to change shit.

      Change the law, don’t reconcile it.

    32. Mr. Pratt says:

      We need to use this as we did back before it was made illegal !
      U could get it over the counter !!!
      And it helps ur body fight cancer and all kinds of other things .
      We should do something like porchagl at the least !!!

    33. Closetsmoker says:

      Just a side note: Gil is from Seattle where he was sheriff for King County before being appointed to the Drug Czar position by Obama……… still wondering what his personal opinion is, not the public position he is told to have……

    34. Fireweed says:

      check out yesterday’s article in the Detroit Free Press concerning the local initiatives that were passed but which law enforcement and government authorities refuse to recognize. makes you wonder how much votes even matter but I guess just passing the initiatives has gotten the attention of key people.

    35. Elaine says:

      I think that a great many of our Congressmen and Senators would be pro-legalization if not for the stigma that the rich/elite place on it. It’s too bad that our Senators and Congressmen can’t vote in private about it. If they could, it would probably be made legal very quickly. As it is, there just aren’t enough of them with the courage to make this happen.

      One more thing: As if we didn’t already have enough reason to believe that our Congress is inept, John Boehner got the speaker position again – because he had no competition!!! That just reeks! I found myself thinking: “You’ve got to be kidding me. In all of congress, you people can’t get someone better than Boehner???”. Unbelievable…

    36. bill myllo says:

      I got this automated email this morning too. Here was my response, and if I am wrong please tell me! This is extremely important for the sake of this cause!

      I think the white house needs to throw all prejudice out the window considering the issue on marijuana. Everything that is “known” about marijuana is based upon false info previously set in place by the ones who originally had it prohibited in the first place. Do you know why marijuana was made illegal? Back during the industrial revolution various wealthy men who owned mass amounts of timber land were concerned because of this plant. They were in fear of loosing their financial comfort because this plant holds a very high threat to this worlds timber industry. A tree grows about 1 foot every 15 years. A marijuana plant grows 15ft in one year. Granted the mass of the marijuana plant is lower than that of a tree, but you get the point. All the trees that are killed for paper will be eliminated! Not to mention the thousands of other textile use we could gain from this. This is why it was prohibited in the beginning,and all other things fell into place. The perfect evidence to support my statement can be found in the film “reefer madness” which was created and released for one single reason. To deter the public from use of the herb by generating myths and lies to scare people. Watch the movie seriously. “If you smoke marijuana you will kill people.”

      Now Obama claims there are bad effects and violence that stems from marijuana. Alright lets look at this closer. These bad effects that come from marijuana are not a direct cause of the herb. What cause the negative effects of marijuana is the fact that the government classifies it as a narcotic that is illegal. People are shooting each other because there is no regulation on it. The prices are controlled by a black market, and anything involving a black market is going to have violence and bad stuff happen. So lets eliminate it! Another fact that should be on your facts about marijuana, and it should be number one is the amount of deaths that have occurred from marijuana overdose. Are you laughing right now? You should be because I know for a fact that there isn’t a single person who has overdosed and died from marijuana! It has a lethal dose rating of 50 which means that it can not be measured. That’s a pretty important fact that should be placed on the table. Failure to point out the positive facts just lets us know where you really stand on this issue. Keeping the public ignorant is irresponsible. And my final statement is people are going to continue to smoke it always and forever. Are you going to continue wasting funding on marijuana when there is much worse out there? If we stop focusing on marijuana it will free up so much more resources to allow law enforcement to tackle the physically addicting narcotics that do kill. (cocaine meth heroin) these substances are highly dangerous and need to be battled with out any provlcastination, or lee way. Lets stop the useless spending on a frivolous”problem” that is only a “problem” because we choose to look at it that way. Marijuana doesn’t kill brain cells either sorry, its been proven that delta 9 actually stimulates cells to produce higher activity and growth… Funny that’s not posted either

    37. California Carl says:

      Those good ol boys don’t want to give up the profits thier making on the sales and arrests and court cost too easily. The whole system is corrupt. Any politician who is against legalizing should be voted out. Trey Gowdy, your on notice.

    38. Mike Hunt says:

      For some reason the Federal Gubberments MMJ program is “mysteriously” never brought up when Marijuana makes the news.

      Much adieu about nothing with this press release.

    39. mike says:

      I was very excited to sign the first petition when the Whitehouse put up the option. The canned response full of old easily dismissed propaganda convinced me the whole thing was a typical government waste of time.
      While I am happy to hear a little different tone in the latest response I still do not believe this administration takes this seriously.

    40. wbs 101 says:

      @Bill Myllo
      I agree with everything you say until where you want to increase the fight against other drugs. You want your freedom but are more than happy to take away freedom from other. Don’t go after me what these people are doing is more risky so go after them with everything you can. Yes these drugs are far more dangerous but that should be a personal choice for the user. As you said people will continue to use these substances until the end of time and no amount of enforcement will stop it. After all we can’t even keep drugs out of maximum security prisons. It is not fair for you to want freedom for your non violent personal choice but at the same time step on others personal choices just because what they are doing is more dangerous. I think skydiving is dangerous and I would never do it but I don’t think people should be punished for taking their own life in their hands. Now if they want to go skydiving with a baby strapped to them that is another story because the person is not old enough to make decisions for themselves.

    41. Dave Evans says:

      Hahahaha! Now Obama is relying on our do nothing congress to keep Prohibition in Place. Do read between the lines. “We are in the midst of a serious debate”. No, that already happened, years ago in the seventies. The most of the experts studying marijuana said it should be legal close to forty years ago. Obama is still backpedaling on the issue.

    42. Robert M says:

      The changes in Cannabis laws in Washington and Colorado clearly show a shift in public opinion. But reading that “we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation on marijuana” from the drug czar is somewhat nebulous. I don’t know where this guy has been, but there’s been a “serious conversation” going on for quite some time. It was the individual states that began the much needed changes which slowly turned into a nationwide end to alcohol prohibition. At this writing there are several states that are considering following in the footsteps of Washington and Colorado. We can only hope that our “leaders” (uh-huh…I chuckle) snap-out-of-it in time to avoid being embarrassed into doing the right thing. Although that works for me too. The game is afoot.

    43. banjo Brad says:

      Yeah, they say they wont go after ‘recreational users’ but you can bet they will come down on legal growers like a lightning bolt from the hand of Zeus . But really , what do we expect them to do, admit to 70 plus years of fear mongering and unfair and unjust laws that led to the imprisonment of thousands upon thousands of people . They are being dragged kicking and screaming to legalize because they have always been on the wrong side of science and now find themselves on the wrong side of argument all together due to the 51 percent who want legalization . ‘And they would have gotten away with it , had it not been for those pesky kids” lol.

    44. somedood says:

      I’m not impressed. This sounds more like placation to me.

    45. K Barnes says:

      We the People website allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama
      Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets
      enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.
      You can view and sign the petition here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/allow-citizens-sovereign-right-marijuana-possession-and-legalize-all-forms-cannabis-production-hemp/5dZhJ9yr

    46. TheOracle says:

      Ok Barry, you need to get the plant removed from the schedule altogether, and leaving any pharmaceuticals in the schedule system.

      That might be too big a step.

      Nudge us along.

      De-fund, prohibit by policy, by fiat if you will, executive order, that no federal money is to be spent in states that have taken on the responsibility of regulating cannabis, unless help is requested from the top of the state chain of command in law enforcement. Don’t let the locals sidestep the state police top brass and state AGs etc.

      Then, get the Congress to pass that House bill to make the savings permanent, you know, so they can’t be reversed by the next president.

      Hey Barry, are you thinking bubbles in the bathtub? Smile, laugh a little. If each one of these little farts happens, the public won’t be put off, since the Congress is afraid to let one big long fart rip, meaning they’re not going to just go for outright federal legalization.

      You’ve got to nudge things along.

      If not, well…there are wealthy liberals and conservatives who are sick of the government wasting money on cannabis prohibition. I urge you all not to put more money in the stock market and economy as long as the U.S. government is of the mindset that they have money to waster. Continued funding of cannabis prohibition is a clear sign of that. Nothing says cannabis prohibition is a failure like to U.S. states legalizing outright. It’s definitely a left hook followed by a right punch, and right in both eyes. Now, you got two black eyes.

      The knockout will be a worse recession or even a depression.

      Keep running the economy into the ground until cannabis is legalized.

    47. Anon. says:

      To the president and Drug Czar:
      In the words of Ben Affleck in “Dazed and Confused”: You’re not smilin’ NOW, now are ya? You squirly lil shit!”

    48. […] a little over a year and two state recreational legalization victories later, and the same man is responding a little differently to another petition calling for legalization. Addressing the Legalization of Marijuana By Gil […]

    49. TheOracle says:

      I just read an article on Cannabis Culture magazine’s site that the drug czar was talking crap in San Fransisco this week. That undoes anything in his favor to make him seem like less of a prohibitionist.

    50. johnny d says:

      Think about this…..Barry Obama smoked regularly….and went on to become president of The United States.In other terms,he broke the law regularly….and has been rewarded with the approval of the majority.Now he just cant seem to recall whether what he was involved in,was dangerous or not……hope he doesnt forget to tie his shoestrings..marijuana will never be any more dangerous than it NEVER was….Barack….he’ll always be a liar

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