When it comes to the subject of marijuana, Barack Obama appears to talk out of both sides of his mouth. As a candidate, Obama intimated that he would respect state laws regarding medicinal marijuana and would not prosecute medicinal marijuana sales and use in states where it is legal. “It’s not a good use of our resources,” he said at the time. When Obama took office, the Justice Department released a memo that seemed to confirm that position. But in the years since Obama’s inauguration, his administration has shifted course. Now, Attorney General Eric Holder is vigorously prosecuting medicinal marijuana growers and sellers.
That effort appears to be intensifying. On October 7, Obama directed his Justice Department to employ an aggressive array of enforcement actions against California’s medicinal marijuana producers and distributors, as well as the landlords who lease space to operators of marijuana dispensaries. All told, President Obama’s Justice Department has conducted well over 150 federal raids in at least seven states, and U.S. attorneys have threatened local and state officials in 10 states with criminal prosecution for failing to adopt proposed medicinal marijuana laws.
In September, the administration unveiled an online petition system that allows people to start their own petitions and sign other people’s petitions. Petitions that receive more than 5,000 signatures are supposed to get reviewed by White House officials and receive an official response. Petitions expire one month after they are created. Two of the most popular petitions concern marijuana. One of them, which received 17,026 signatures, calls for the administration to stop interfering with state marijuana efforts. The other, which received 74,169 signatures, calls for the administration to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.
The administration responded to both petitions with the same vague, factually unsupported form letter. The letter states that, “Our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects,” and that although “we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem,” “the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts.”
This is the same tired excuse that the Bush administration offered for its opposition to the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
If the Obama administration recognizes arrests are not going to solve the problem, then why are we spending $14 billion a year on marijuana-related arrests? Why are people being sentenced to life in prison for marijuana-related crimes? And more importantly, why did Obama direct the Justice Department to target dispensaries a week after these petitions received the minimum amount of signatures necessary to receive a response?
The fact is, marijuana is less deleterious to the human body than alcohol. In fact, there are no scientific studies that conclusively prove that marijuana poses real health risks to humans. To the contrary, 16 states have recognized its medical benefits and legalized it for medicinal use. By hiding behind the “science” that doesn’t exist, the Obama administration is trying to brush off the 74,000 Americans who signed the petition to legalize marijuana and the 70% of voters who would like to see medicinal marijuana legalized. This administration’s marijuana stance makes neither scientific nor political sense.
Fortunately for voters, there is a presidential candidate who supports legalizing marijuana: former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Sadly, Johnson has been systematically excluded from the Republican debates and has not had the opportunity to articulate his bold plans to reform the nation’s drug laws. I hope that Johnson will seek the Libertarian Party nomination next year, since it appears that the Libertarian candidate will be on the general election ballot in all 50 states. Pro-marijuana voters can expect nothing from Barack Obama.
Kristin Davis is a former Manhattan madam who went to jail for supplying Governor Eliot Spitzer with call girls.