The Politics of Pot: Where Our Nation Stands in 2014
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 03/28/2014 in Medical Marijuana Legalization
Six years ago, Barack Obama entered the oval office with an agenda and political stance far different than the one currently being executed today. Obama upheld and implemented a policy which he firmly believed to be the fairest, most straightforward way of going about governing the democratic nation. Instead, he circumvented an issue that at present, needs to be addressed the most – medical marijuana. Obama stated, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state Laws on this issue,” like this, he assured the American people that Bush-era dispensary raids and high-profile seizures would be adjourned once and for all.
Attorney General Eric Holder, under the Obama administration revealed plans in August of 2013 to bridge the gap between historic racial disparities amongst incarcerated citizens. In trying to significantly reduce the clogged prisons with nonviolent inmates, Holder noted America’s jailing system as “shameful.” Holder announced that the administration would work hard to drastically scale back low-level drug penalties. In fact, Holder said, “By reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation.” He then went on to instruct all federal prosecutors around the country to develop, “specific locally tailored guidelines” toward each and every potential arrest, keeping federal charges at a hopeful minimum.
(Above: A judicial panel gathers together under the Obama administration to evaluate past and current legislature regarding medicinal marijuana.)
In the dawn of Colorado and Washington’s recreational legalization, America turned to the Obama administration for answers on how the federal government would respond. Rather, in an interview with ABC News, Obama responded to a question about legalizing marijuana on a federal level with, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” In fact, he noted, “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.” When the interviewer, Barbara Walters, asked the president about his past relationship with marijuana he responded, “There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid. My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society.”
This interview quickly gained national attention; some positive, some not so much. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance explored the possibility of Obama’s responses as being a “tentative step in the right direction,” he said it, “reminded me so much of gay marriage.” He took a positive approach to the interview responses, insinuating that the president’s initial opposition of gay marriage shifted due to “evolving” feelings, leading him to eventually support it in 2012.
Veteran activist, founder and chairman of Marijuana Majority, Tom Angell, criticized the Obama administration for its utter lack of comprehensive progress regarding the marijuana movement. “The president should lead on this issue instead of deferring to Congress, a branch of government that he probably knows better than most isn’t exactly prone to getting a whole lot done these days.”
(Above: Injustices are occuring every day under our democratic nation dealing with medicinal marijuana and the dispensaries and cultivators that provide the medicine for patients in need.)
Over the course of the past year, the Obama administration has more than gone back on their word – they’ve prioritized a governmental crackdown on medical marijuana that far surpasses any bold federal busts that George Bush ever executed. In fact, the federal government has been known to shatter through glass windows, confiscate cannabis plants and raid fully operational, law-abiding dispensaries. Time after time dispensary owners, employees, medicating individuals and even landlords unaware of their tenants businesses have been subject to arrest, and furthermore, imprisonment. As far as the government sees it, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are one in the same – and that, in itself, is problematic. Throughout his first three years in office, over 100 raids on dispensaries have taken place. Where it stands now, Obama remains on track to far exceed former president Bush on busts and arrests regarding medical marijuana. The executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia boldly stated, “There’s no question that Obama’s the worst president on medical marijuana. He’s gone from first to worst.”
According to Rolling Stone, a senior drug-enforcement official under the Obama administration pledged “that the question of whether marijuana is medicine would now be determined by science, ‘not ideology’.” In 2009, the front page of The New York Times headlined “OBAMA ADMINISTATION TO STOP RAIDS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSERS.” The first two years of Obama’s presidency appeared promising until Obama renominated Michele Leonhart, a former Bush administration DEA leader in 2011, whose position had initially been revoked for using tactics, “typically reserved for the worst drug traffickers and kingpins.” Well known for her anti-medical-marijuana views, Leonhart’s agency released a paper entitled, “The DEA Position on Marijuana.” Headings included, “Smoked Marijuana Is Not Medicine,” and “The fallacy of marijuana for medicinal use.”
Melinda Haag, U.S. appointed Attorney then went on to re-declare not only a war on drugs, but more specifically, a war on medical marijuana. “We will enforce the Controlled Substances Act vigorously against individuals and organizations that particiape in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.” Since then, there has been noticeable prejudice taken against medical marijuana patients. In September, the ATF put out a statement that gun retailers may not sell “any firearm or ammunition” to “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.” Therefore, if your doctor recommended medicine just so happens to be marijuana, say goodbye to your constitutional rights.
In sum, the federal crackdown that’s seemingly swept the nation over the past year has grown increasingly problematic on a host of different levels. And the arrests, federal sanctions and grueling seizures have effectively instilled fear and distrust at the very heart of the people. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that actions speak louder than words. And this systematic crackdown has spoken volumes about the administration’s intent. One sheriff, Tom Allman lamented about the injustice law abiding citizen’s are now having to face, as the DEA chopped down one man’s legally cultivated crop on the Sheriff’s territory. Of the unlawful crackdowns and unfair treatment to innocent individuals, Allman had this to say, “Thisis a huge step backwards.”