Obama Is Asked To Defend His Administration’s Opposition To Medical Cannabis — He Can’t

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 16, 2011

    [Update! A slightly edited version of this commentary, entitled ‘If Obama can’t articulate his position on marijuana, why won’t he reconsider it?’, is is now online at The Hill.com’s Congress blog here. Please review and leave your feedback for members of Congress and their staff here.]

    Regardless of one’s opinion of President Obama as a political figure, it is hard to deny his skill as an eloquent orator. So it is notable, even newsworthy, when the Commander-in-Chief is publicly at a loss for words.

    Such was the case yesterday at a Presidential Town hall in Cannon Falls, Minnesota when a flustered, tongue-tied Obama attempted in vain to explain why his administration continues to oppose efforts to allow for the legal use of cannabis as a doctor-recommended medicine.

    Confused? Perhaps this transcript will help to better articulate the President’s position:

    Audience member: “If you can’t legalize marijuana, why can’t we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?”

    Obama: “Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, you know — well — — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll leave it at that.”

    And leave it at that he did.

    It is curious that President Obama — someone who is use to speaking extemporaneously in public — could not articulate one single legitimate reason (nor could his former Press Secretary) why his administration believes in continuing the federal ban on marijuana, including the use of medical marijuana for ill patients. Obama’s failure to communicate becomes even more surprising when one considers that within just the past few weeks, high-profile members of the Obama administration have publicly put forward several alleged ‘justifications’ for why the federal government ought to be in the business of denying medical marijuana to sick people.

    For instance, the White House’s 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, released in July, devoted an entire section to rebuffing the notion of cannabis’ use as a legitimate therapy, stating:

    Marijuana and other drugs are addictive and unsafe, especially for use by young people. Unfortunately, efforts to “medicalize” marijuana have widened the public acceptance and availability of the drug.

    There is no substitute for the scientific approval process employed by the FDA. For a drug to be made available to the public as medicine, the FDA requires rigorous research followed by tests for safety and efficacy. Only then can a substance be classified as medicine and prescribed by qualified health care professionals to patients.

    In the wake of state and local laws that permit distribution of “medical” marijuana, dozens of localities have been left to grapple with poorly written laws that bypass the FDA process and allow marijuana to be used as a so-called medicine. … Outside the context of federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.

    In addition, less than one-month ago, Obama’s hand-picked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart formally denied a nine-year-old petition calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any ‘accepted medical use in treatment.’ Leonhart’s justification, as stated in in the July 8, 2011 edition of the Federal Register:

    [Cannabis possesses] a high potential for abuse; … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; … [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. … [T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving its efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.

    So if the Obama administration is willing to make such allegations in writing, then why is the President afraid to own up to and repeat these claims in public? Likely because he, like a majority of Americans, are aware that there isn’t a shred of scientific support for the administration’s ‘Flat Earth’ position.

    So if the President of the United States can’t publicly articulate why we continue to arrest over one-half million Americans each year for possessing marijuana, then why are we as a nation continuing to engage in this destructive and illogical policy?

    156 responses to “Obama Is Asked To Defend His Administration’s Opposition To Medical Cannabis — He Can’t”

    1. Ned says:

      One look at the ONDCP report and you see what we’re up against and why Obama just wants to avoid the whole thing. The depth and elaborate complexity of the ONDCP prohibition belief system is daunting. These folks have been hard at work every day constructing their orthodoxy for decades. Unwinding them and our Federal government from the status quo has proven and will continue to prove nearly impossible.

      With all that’s gone on, the politics have gotten much trickier, and for Obama, heading into an election year it’s better to say nothing either side can freak out about. National level politics often means allowing bad status quos to continue when the issue is a matter important to only millions as opposed to tens of millions of people. Even as polls show a pretty evenly divided country regarding legalization and majorities for “medical” use, it remains too easy to get tangled in political seaweed if a President tries wading in.

      For example, the world of the FDA and medicine is a world of isolated compounds and labs, science, testing etc. The fact is that cannabis is used mainly as an unrefined plant creates all kinds of problems. It probably wouldn’t be so much that way if the plant wasn’t already loaded with so much cultural and thus political baggage. I imagine there are dozens of plants and herbs used in say, Chinese medicine that are quite potent and can easily be harmful to health if used improperly but they aren’t illegal. Until we get people in the Federal government to unwrap their minds from their rigid, inflexible “drugs are specific compounds in dosed pills” ideas, herbal pot is going to “tilt” their brains.

    2. Jackflash says:

      Same questions different state. Notice a pattern yet?

    3. Ll says:

      He is speechless because HE KNOWS THE TRUTH.

      I have finally come around to the fact that Ron Paul is electable, and he is the only candidate from any party would would actually command the DEA to allow research into medical marijuana.

      I will vote for Paul. Bye bye, BO!

    4. stompedonmyrights says:

      He can’t tell the truth Fire his ass at the next election. He is a worthless leader that is all lip service. He isn’t for the people just the corporation. I have no respect for people like him who just lie their way through life. Follow the dam Constitution Obama and get your head out of your A**.

    5. Calcula7ed says:

      FDA you’ve been in the “business” of safe guarding consumers, yeah right, for over 100 years and you still remain quiet on this issue? Their is a word for industries such as yourselves. SELL OUTS! The same FDA that allows the use of Marinol? The same FDA that can’t seem to give anyone a straight answer on who it is exactly that they work for? The same FDA that allows the continuation of toxic pills to be administered to those seeking relief only to become addicted/degraded or die from the toxicity? WTF?! FDA you better start shaping up or the next thing you’ll know is the company that started out for the people, usually does, has evolved into a corporate safe, usually does, for certain industries that only aided in your demise from a once credible administration. If you cannot find it within yourselves to allow this beneficial commodity known as cannabis to be utilized then I’m afraid that everything that you’ve worked so hard to create will be in vain. Yes the issue of cannabis IS that big. It can make or it can break you. This could save the FDA and give you a chance to regain the consumers confidence in your abilities in safe guarding the consumers. You don’t think people will respect that?! From that point you could re-establish and re-invent completely. I guess what you have to ask yourself is, are you compliant with the way things are or are you going to re-instate the FDA to it’s once proud affiliation by proving that it does stand by it’s promise to those that it “supposedly” protects? Does this sound familiar? It should. You might say that you’re protecting us to this day, and I would agree to a point. Why doesn’t it feel like it then?

      Don’t get me started on Leonhart. “I get paid to lie and guess what your tax dollars pay my salary and benefits thanks.” Are you serious!? This is who the president allows to speak for him in matters dear to his constituents? Their should be no wonder why some are upset with BHO. He can’t even speak for himself. He has everyone else DO it or WRITE it. The messenger is not only held accountable for his/her words/actions but for the words/actions of those that he/she professes/represents. Unlike the voter when he/she elects someone to represent them and is given the cold shoulder, from the top down it is solidified through acts of “self” interested fact analysis based on an unsubstantial foundation. If these words are misguided or misinformed then it should come as no surprise to the resistance that it faces. Personally, I do like BHO but I have to admit that I’m disappointed when it comes to the issue of cannabis and the “self interest” that is derived from no FACTS to which its illegality should be in question. I don’t believe in coincidence. Please Mr. President we can’t do this without you.

    6. barry says:

      its wrong to lock ppl. up for marijuana no matter medical or not this has to change

    7. maryjanesuncle says:

      Please..more apt..the man reads a good teleprompter…

    8. Lionel Rodriguez says:

      The BS keeps stacking up. A plant that kills no one.
      that is not addictive and can enhance the lives of millions who are suffering from illness and the effects of so called modern medicine. The greatest country on earth doesn’t give a damn about the dying
      and suffering of its people and actively punishes them
      with grotesque sentences. definition of capitalism, a society motivated by profits at the price human life.
      when will be move past the ignorance and began to succeed to a more humanistic society. Medical marijuana will not solve all my health problems but it will enhance the quality of life to a point where I might become productive again, please get involved
      free god plant of peace

    9. Jed The Head says:

      It makes you wonder where his money is coming from and what those that provide that money are telling him to do about this issue. It goes without saying they do not want to see legal cannabis in any form.