President Obama Breaks His Silence on Marijuana Legalization: We’ve Got Bigger Fish to Fry Than Cannabis UsersDecember 14, 2012
Breaking his silence on the topic of marijuana legalization since two states approved ballot initiatives to regulate cannabis, President Barack Obama addressed the issue in an interview with Barbara Walters this week.
While the administration’s broader policy is still being developed, the president stated that arresting recreational users in these states would not be a priority.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. – President Obama
The president also clarified that he personally is not in favor of leglization, but that it is a more complex issue than his own view on it:
“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?” – President Obama
One line stands out as particularly interesting, during his answer he says:
“What I think is, that at this point, in Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. – President Obama
This is a great start and an encouraging sign that the federal government doesn’t intend to ramp up its focus on individual users. Though considering it is extremely rare for the federal government to handle possession cases (only a few percent of annual arrests are conducted by the federal government), and that this is the same stance he took on medical cannabis before raiding more dispensaries than his predecessor, his administration’s broader policy will be the one to watch and according to his Attorney General Holder that pronouncement may come soon. Speaking yesterday in Boston, Attorney General Holder stated that:
“There is a tension between federal law and these state laws. I would expect the policy pronouncement that we’re going to make will be done relatively soon.” – Attorney General Eric Holder
UPDATE: Politico has now posted President Obama’s interview for viewing. Check it out below.
WA Governor-Elect Inslee: It is the Best Interest of State and Country to Allow Legalization to Move ForwardNovember 15, 2012
During a press conference today, the governor-elect for the state of Washington, Jay Inslee, defended his state’s recently approved marijuana legalization initiative. He stated that he believes it is the best interest “not only of our state, but in our country” for President Obama and the federal government to allow these recently approved measures to move forward.
“My belief is Washington has worked its will. The voters have spoken,” Inslee stated, “I was not supportive of the initiative but I’m going to be fully supportive of protecting, defending, and implementing the will of the voter—which will essentially allow the use of recreational marijuana in our state.”
In regards to the federal government, the incoming governor encouraged their support. “I will be working to a very rational, mature way to convince the administration that it’s in the best interest, not only of our state, but in our country, to allow our state to move forward in this regard.”
You can view his comments in full here.
It is refreshing, to say the least, to see an elected official going to bat for the voters of their state and defending the will of the people when it comes to marijuana policy. As always, NORML will keep you posted on the ever evolving situation between Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana legalization laws and the federal government.
Tuesday night, the states of Colorado and Washington sent a loud and clear message to the federal government that they no longer wish to enforce the futile prohibition on cannabis. The symbolic impact of these victories are immediate, but what are the practical effects on the ground now that these two initiatives have been approved?
In Washington State, regulations for the marijuana retail outlets are going to start being drafted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. This process is expected to last about a year. The immediate impact of passing I-502 is on the state laws regarding possession. Starting on December 6th, Section 20 of the initiative will take effect. This section effectively states that any person over the age of 21 is legally allowed to possess up to 1oz of dried marijuana, 16oz of marijuana solids (edibles), and 72oz of cannabis infused liquids (think oils and lotions). It is also no longer a crime to possess marijuana paraphernalia.
Law enforcement representatives in the state have already released some statements on this matter. Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, from the Seattle Police Department, said, “For us, the law has changed, and people can expect no enforcement for possession.”
“What you can expect,” Sgt. Whitcomb clarified, “is no enforcement on possession, that is a reasonable expectation.”
The vote in Colorado is awaiting final certification, a process that is expected to take about a month. After this approval, it will immediately become legal in Colorado for adults over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and for them to grow up to 6 plants in a secure indoor space.
The state is required to adopt a legal framework for retail sales by July of 2013, the first marijuana retail outlets could potentially open as early as the start of 2014.
Colorado’s law enforcement seems just as keen as Washington’s, for the time being, to honor the will of the people. “We’re not federal agents,” stated Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who opposed Amendment 64 during the campaign.
“We can arrest people if they’re wanted on warrants on federal crimes, but unless we’re involved in a specific case … where (a deputy is) cross-commissioned as a federal agent,” he said, “we don’t directly enforce federal law.”
While he ended his statement with a patronizing jab, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper seems willing to abide by the desire of his state’s citizens on this issue. “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday night.
“This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said,” he ended, “Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”
These protections in both states, when certified and placed into effect, will apply to anyone physically in the state, no residency required. Public consumption would remain a violation in both states, but a civil, not criminal, one.
As always, NORML will keep you posted as these laws become certified and come into effect and will be tracking the process of implementing retail outlets every step of the way.
Washington joins Colorado on this historic evening in passing their marijuana legalization initiative, I-502, in a 55% to 45% vote (with 50% of the vote tallied). The Seattle Times has called it a victory for I-502.
The significance of these events cannot be overstated. Tonight, for the first time in history, two states have legalized and regulated the adult use and sale of cannabis. We now must focus on the important work of implementation and begin to encourage other states to adopt these rational reforms. NORML will have much, much more as we progress. For now, we would just like to thank all the dedicated activists and supporters who made this night possible. We SMOKED THE VOTE and will now enter a new chapter in the history of marijuana law reform.
Marijuana prohibition might have not died completely tonight, but it certainly has been put on life support.
In what is likely to be one of last polls coming out of Washington State prior to Election Day, Initiative 502 to regulate marijuana is still holding strong to the commanding lead it has developed over the past few months. Data released from King 5 and SurveyUSA has I-502 leading among likely Washington voters, 56% stated they would vote yes on the measure with only 37% planning to vote no. There are just 7% still undecided.
This continues a several month trend of Washington’s I-502 leading in the polling data. A poll released last week by Strategies 360 had the marijuana initiative’s support leading opposition 54% to 38%. King5/SurveyUSA’s previous two polls from October and September had I-502 ahead at 55% to 36% and 57% to 34% respectively.
With just a few days left until November 6th, it seems unlikely the opposition will be able to overcome such a significant gap, putting Washington State on track to be the first state to legalize adult use of marijuana. Though, that may depend on how quickly the votes can be counted. The latest polling out of Colorado had their legalization initiative, Amendment 64, leading 53% to 43%.
Don’t become complacent because victory appears in sight! Check out NORML’s Smoke the Vote Guide to learn all about marijuana in the 2012 election. You can also read our “7 Simple Ways YOU Can Help Legalize Marijuana” and find some quick and easy ways you can help us sprint across the finish line. One of the most important things you can do with the remaining days is call voters in Colorado in support of Amendment 64 by using SSDP/NORML‘s online phone bank or JustSayNow‘s online program.
We WILL legalize marijuana. Let’s start on November 6th.
After publishing this story KCTS9 in Washington released another new Washington State poll. Adding credence to the King5 numbers, KCTS9 found that 55.8% of registered voters were supportive of I-502 with only 36.7% opposed. Those numbers held strong when looking at just likely voters as well, who support the marijuana regulation initiative by 55.4% to 37.6%.