Pubdate: Tue, 08 May 2012
Source: Week, The (Delavan, WI)
Copyright: 2012 Bliss Communications Inc.

Marijuana In America


In 2008, President Obama promised to give the medical marijuana world 
breathing room. Now he's bringing down the hammer.

What gives?

President Obama's Drug Enforcement Administration has taken the 
position that "medical marijuana is not medicine," going so far as to 
call the drug amortal danger," says Michael Scherer at TIME.

When President Obama won the White House in 2008, few groups had more 
more hope for change than proponents of medical marijuana, the 
dispensaries allowed to sell pot under some state laws, and the 
cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other patients who benefit from the drug. And 
in the first two years of Obama's term, things looked pretty good for 
the medical marijuana industry: Attorney General Eric Holder told 
federal prosecutors to lay off individuals complying with state laws, 
and they did. Then the hammer came down, and now, the Obama 
administration is "cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries 
and growers just as harshly as the administration of George W. Bush 
did," says Michael Scherer at TIME. What happened?

Here, three theories:

1. Obama doesn't want to look soft on crime The most plausible 
explanation for Obama's about-face is that he became "worried about 
Republican accusations that he is 'soft on drugs,'" says Jacob Sullum 
at Reason. That's an old (and baseless) GOP line of attack, but Obama 
probably "thought himself especially vulnerable to such criticism" 
given his own youthful drug use and the rapid proliferation of large 
medical marijuana dispensaries under his relaxed watch.

And since U.S. attorneys were never really on board with his soft 
touch, it was easy to just "let the drug warriors in the Justice 
Department do what drug warriors do."

2. He doesn't think potheads vote Comedian Jimmy Kimmel nailed it at 
the White House Correspondents' Dinner when he needled Obama for the 
crackdown on weed and pointed out, "You know, pot smokers vote, too," 
says Chris Weigant at The Huffington Post. But it was his punchline - 
"Sometimes a week after the election, but they vote" - that describes 
the White House mentality: We can alienate the "marijuana vote" at no 
cost. But Team Obama is wrong.

The pro-weed voting bloc is big, it's diverse, and now it's mad. It's 
also worth noting, says Rob Kampia in California's Monterey County 
Herald, that legalizing medical marijuana polls in the high 70s, 
making it "far more popular than Obama."

3. States pushed too far, leaving Obama little choice It's so easy to 
score medicinal pot in states like California and Colorado that 
they've "effectively legalized the drug for recreational use," says 
Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. This "abuse of medical marijuana 
laws" certainly weakened Obama's ability to keep the Drug Enforcement 
Administration at heel. I wish the DEA would stand down, but "I also 
wish some states had exercized more discretion and care in allowing 
for medical marijuana." Indeed, the bottom line is that "federal 
prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local 
officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is 
still illegal to grow, possess, or sell under federal law," says TIME's Scherer.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart