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

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive 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.