When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he vowed to take a “hands off” approach to medical marijuana. “The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,” said a White House spokesman in 2009.
But Obama has broken that promise by repeatedly approving Department of Justice raids on legal dispensaries from coast-to-coast and looking the other way as patients are denied their right to relief.
And not only is Obama looking the other way, he’s completely ignoring the issue: during yesterday’s Twitter Town Hall, the president neglected to answer 4911 questions about his pot policy. “Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, court rooms?,” asked the inquisitive public of the president. It was the most asked question of the Town Hall, receiving nearly 3 times the number of retweets as the second most-asked question.
The president also refused to answer related questions during a YouTube question and answer session earlier this year. But last week the President’s Justice Department released a memo insisting that they will continue enforcing the federal government’s anti-pot law.
“Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law,” wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who frets over “increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes.”
In addition to having what pot advocates call a “chilling effect” on various states’ possible legislation for medical marijuana, the Obama administration’s continued war on pot will have political ramifications, as well.
On the most obvious end of the political spectrum, Obama will have to explain to his liberal and progressive supports why he both broke a political promise, not raiding medical marijuana dispensaries, and why he denies patients the right to herbal remedies.
On the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, Obama will face Tea Party and Republican activists who champion states’ rights. He is, after all, extending his federal power into states where voters approved of medical marijuana, like Montana, and risks whipping the masses into a frenzy.
If he wants to avoid being shouted down by red and blue voters alike, the President will start changing course and evolve on medical marijuana, or face the electoral consequences.
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