we the people
In 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.
Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?
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.
America’s top drug cop is clearly not an expert in agriculture. So why is Obama’s Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske claiming to be one?
Washington, DC: The federal government continues to oppose allowing licensed farmers the opportunity to cultivate industrial hemp for fiber and other agricultural purposes, according to statements posted last week by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske on the whitehouse.gov website.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (typically less than .03 percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.” Farmers in Canada and the European Union grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food.
Stated Kerlikowske on the White House’s ‘We the People‘ website: “Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. … While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The Administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety.”
A white paper published by the North American Industrial Hemp Council counters: “The THC levels in industrial hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. Moreover, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out, not only (isn’t) marijuana; it could be called ‘anti-marijuana.’”
In recent years, lawmakers in several states – including North Dakota, Montana, and Vermont – have enacted legislation seeking to allow state-licensed farmers the opportunity to grow hemp crops. However, according to the CRS, “The US Drug Enforcement Administration has been unwilling to grant licenses for growing small plots of hemp for research purposes,” even when such research is authorized by state law, because the agency believes that doing so would “send the wrong message to the American public concerning the government’s position on drugs.”
In 2007, 2009, and again in 2011, federal lawmakers have introduced in Congress, “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act,” to exclude low potency varieties of cannabis from federal prohibition. If approved, this measure would grant state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity. The present version of this Act, House Bill 1831, has 33 co-sponsors, but has yet to receive a Congressional hearing. The measure is before the US House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
During World War II, the US Department of Agriculture actively promoted the domestic cultivation of hemp during a campaign known as ‘Hemp for Victory.’
The Obama White House has released its official response to the “We the People” online petition for marijuana legalization submitted by NORML. The petition, which garnered 74,169 signatures, was by far the most popular petition submitted. The government response (released late on a Friday to avoid news cycles, we’ll note) repeats the same tired lies and classic misdirections. Most of all, it fails to answer NORML’s actual petition, which asked:
Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.
We the people want to know when we can have our “perfectly legitimate” discussion on marijuana legalization. Marijuana prohibition has resulted in the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, countless lives ruined and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered and yet this policy has still failed to achieve its stated goals of lowering use rates, limiting the drug’s access, and creating safer communities.
Isn’t it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol? If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?
Following is the full official White House response, with NORML’s comments interspersed…
What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana
By: Gil Kerlikowske
When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.
Oh, good. Then we’ll look forward to implementation the 1972 Shafer Commission Report or any of the other government and scientific studies that recommend the decriminalization of cannabis. (more…)
In the wake of Monday’s watershed Gallup poll showing that for the first time more Americans support the notion of legalizing marijuana than oppose it, I have a new op/ed online at TheHill.com’s Congress Blog.
As many of you know, this is the website where Washington DC insiders, members of Congress, and their staff go to blog.
Want to send Washington, DC a message that the American public is fed up with the criminalization of cannabis? Then click the link below to read my entire commentary and the be sure to leave a comment (polite, respectful comments only please) on The Hill website.
More Americans support legalizing marijuana than oppose it
via The Hill.com
[excerpt] Since 2005, public support for legalizing cannabis has grown among every single demographic polled. That’s right, today a greater percentage of Americans of every age, political ideology, and from every region of the country back marijuana law reform than did just six years ago.
… Gallup pollsters analyzed the data and concluded the obvious, “If this current trend on legalizing marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation’s laws into compliance with the people’s wishes.”
Of course, public pressure has been building for some time now. Since 1996, 16 states and the District of Columbia have initiated statewide laws to allow for the limited legal use of marijuana when recommended by a physician. Laws are also changing in regards to the broader use of cannabis. In fact, in 2011, four states – Arkansas, California, Connecticut, and Kentucky – enacted new laws significantly lowering the penalties for marijuana use and possession. In California and Connecticut, lawmakers took the dramatic step of making such activities non-criminal offenses.
Nonetheless, federal officials don’t yet seem to be hearing the public’s message – even when it is made clear to them on the White House’s own ‘We the People’ website. … But the Administration’s failure to heed public opinion is a gross political miscalculation.
Rather than rebuff the public’s calls for cannabis policy reform, the Administration ought to be embracing it.
… The bottom line: marijuana law reform should no longer be viewed by federal legislators as a political liability. For those lawmakers willing to advocate for common-sense reforms, this issue represents a unique political opportunity. The public is ready for change; in fact, they are demanding it. Lawmakers can either get with the program, or suffer the consequences.
After you have done so, please also take a moment to contact your members of Congress and urge them to support HR 2306: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. You can do so quickly and conveniently via NORML’s Take Action Center’ here. You can also contact the White House here.
Get active. Get NORML!
It was just last Thursday that the White House launched their petition website, “We the People.” That morning, NORML submitted a petition calling for the legalization of marijuana. In just four short days the petition has received over 35,000 signatures, making it the most signed petition on the website by nearly 15,000 names. Thousands of Americans are calling upon President Obama to end marijuana prohibition and more are joining in every minute.
While the caliber of the President’s response may, in the end, be questionable, what is unquestionable is that this outpouring of support generated a large, positive, media buzz for marijuana legalization. Including coverage on the Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC.
International Business Times:
Marijuana Legalization is Top Issue in White House Petition
New York Times Blog:
A Petitioning System Goes to Pot, and More
Local News Affiliates:
Such as KLTV7 in Missouri
If you haven’t already, you can join the 35,000+ Americans taking a stand for marijuana legalization by clicking the button below: