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  1. talltom
    Regardless of one’s opinion of President Obama as a political figure, it is hard to deny his skill as an eloquent orator. So it is notable, even newsworthy, when the Commander and Chief is publicly at a loss for words. Such was the case yesterday at a Presidential Town hall in Cannon Falls, Minnesota when a flustered, tongue-tied Obama attempted in vain to explain why his administration continues to oppose efforts to allow for the legal use of cannabis as a doctor-recommended medicine.

    Confused? Perhaps this transcript will help to better articulate the President’s position:

    Audience member: “If you can’t legalize marijuana, why can’t we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?”

    Obama: “Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, you know — well — – I’ll — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll leave it at that.”

    And leave it at that he did.

    It is curious that President Obama — someone who is use to speaking extemporaneously in public — could not articulate one single legitimate reason (nor could his former Press Secretary) why his administration believes in continuing the federal ban on marijuana, including the use of medical marijuana for ill patients. Obama’s failure to communicate becomes even more surprising when one considers that within just the past few weeks, high-profile members of the Obama administration have publicly put forward several alleged ‘justifications’ for why the federal government ought to be in the business of denying medical marijuana to sick people.

    For instance, the White House’s 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, released in July, devoted an entire section to rebuffing the notion of cannabis’ use as a legitimate therapy, stating: Marijuana and other drugs are addictive and unsafe, especially for use by young people. Unfortunately, efforts to “medicalize” marijuana have widened the public acceptance and availability of the drug.

    There is no substitute for the scientific approval process employed by the FDA. For a drug to be made available to the public as medicine, the FDA requires rigorous research followed by tests for safety and efficacy. Only then can a substance be classified as medicine and prescribed by qualified health care professionals to patients.

    In the wake of state and local laws that permit distribution of “medical” marijuana, dozens of localities have been left to grapple with poorly written laws that bypass the FDA process and allow marijuana to be used as a so-called medicine. … Outside the context of federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.

    In addition, less than one-month ago, Obama’s hand-picked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart formally denied a nine-year-old petition calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule Icontrolled substance without any ‘accepted medical use in treatment.’ Leonhart’s justification, as stated in in the July 8, 2011 edition of the Federal Register:

    "[Cannabis possesses] a high potential for abuse; … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; … [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. … [T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving its efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy."

    So if the Obama administration is willing to make such allegations in writing, then why is the President afraid to own up to and repeat these claims in public? Likely because he, like a majority of Americans, are aware that there isn’t a shred of scientific support for the administration’s ‘Flat Earth’ position.

    So if the President of the United States can’t publicly articulate why we continue to arrest over one-half million Americans each year for possessing marijuana, then why are we as a nation continuing to engage in this destructive and illogical policy?

    Paul Armentano
    August 16, 2011

    Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML and the NORML Foundation.



  1. stickboy239
    Obama is nothing without his teleprompter and while he was campagining he made a promise that medical marijuana would be legalized. Another lie for him.
  2. Blap
    This. Is. Fucking. Bullshit. We have been fighting about the same shit on it for over 90 years, personally I find it fucking pointless, we should legalize it as medicine and legalize it as a drug all fucking ready.
  3. Descartesx
    This is a big step to running up public acceptance of cannabis. Those who were unsure about cannabis earlier may have been encouraged by this to re-think their position.
  4. pathos
    Obama: From First to Worst on Medical Marijuana

    Posted: 10/9/11 07:20 PM ET

    During his run for the presidency, Barack Obama instilled hope in medical marijuana supporters by pledging to respect state laws on the matter. And for the first two years of his term, he was generally faithful to his promise. Yet suddenly, and with no logical explanation, over the past eight months he has become arguably the worst president in U.S. history regarding medical marijuana.

    1. In 1970, Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, which placed marijuana in Schedule I -- the most restrictive of the five schedules, which declared that marijuana has no medical value whatsoever. Since then, all seven presidents have been content to keep marijuana in Schedule I, even going so far as to have (1) DEA bureaucrats overrule the DEA's own administrative law judge on the matter, and (2) Health & Human Services reject scientific petitions for rescheduling.

    2. In 1978, the Carter administration created the "compassionate IND" program, which allowed patients to apply to (what is now known as) HHS to legally receive monthly shipments of the federal government's marijuana. Reagan left this program untouched for all eight years of his administration, but the first Bush closed the program to new applicants halfway through his term.

    3. From 1969 to 1992, it was relatively easy for state governments and private institutions to investigate marijuana's therapeutic uses: The mechanism was to get FDA approval for a research protocol, then obtain DEA permission to store and handle the marijuana, and then NIDA would provide the marijuana. After Clinton took office, his team created a new hurdle, requiring a separate HHS review of the scientific merit of an FDA-approved research protocol, which has essentially prevented all but a few research projects from moving forward over the last 18 years. Indeed, just last month, Obama's HHS rejected an FDA-approved protocol that would have researched whether marijuana can reduce PTSD among combat veterans.

    4. After California voters passed the first state medical marijuana law in November 1996, the Clinton administration threatened to take away the prescription-writing authority of physicians who recommend medical marijuana to patients. This bad policy was successfully blocked in federal court on First Amendment grounds.

    5. In 1998, the Clinton administration filed a civil lawsuit to close down the premier Oakland dispensary at that time; this case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 8-0 against that dispensary in 2001. Since then, the Bush and Obama administrations have routinely dragged dispensary owners into federal court. Most recently, on October

    7, Obama's four federal prosecutors in California announced a coordinated plan to shut down most dispensaries in the state.

    6. Clinton's drug czar actively spoke out against good ballot initiatives in 1996, 1998, and 2000. And Bush's drug czar campaigned against ballot initiatives and state-level bills for all eight years of the Bush administration. Obama's drug czar hasn't lobbied or campaigned against medical marijuana reform measures (yet), but he has publicly opposed medical marijuana generally.

    7. In 2000, Clinton signed into law a bill that made it harder for the federal government to seize property through civil lawsuits. Unfortunately, the federal government can still wreak havoc when it wants to, and the Bush and Obama administrations have both threatened some landlords (almost exclusively in California) with property forfeiture if they lease their properties to medical marijuana growers or dispensaries.

    8. The IRS started going after medical marijuana businesses under the second Bush regime, and the IRS has continued doing so under Obama. In a fluke of how federal law is written, the IRS is arguing that businesses can actually deduct the cost of the marijuana that they're selling, but businesses cannot deduct other costs (rent, salaries, insurance, supplies) that any other business would normally deduct. If this doesn't change, almost all dispensaries will either go out of business or become tax evaders; either way, the federal government will be deprived of tax revenues.

    9. This past spring, Obama's U.S. attorneys in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state issued letters to local and state government officials at carefully chosen times, for the purpose of killing medical marijuana reform measures or hampering implementation in each state.

    10. Over the last couple of years, medical marijuana businesses have been having trouble finding banking institutions that are willing to accept their money. When members of Congress asked Obama's Treasury Department for guidance, the Treasury Department said that each banking institution would have to determine its own tolerance for risk -- without defining what might constitute a risky situation. And now, just in the past couple of weeks, the Obama administration has been scaring California banks into dropping all businesses that are involved with medical marijuana.

    11. On September 21, Obama's ATF issued an open letter saying that gun shops cannot sell guns to medical marijuana patients -- or people who are known to be addicted to drugs other than alcohol or tobacco, ironically enough.

    So those are the footnotes for the chart. Depressing, huh?
    But there may be a way forward through this mess: Since Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico set up state-licensing systems for medical marijuana businesses in recent years, literally zero such businesses in these three states have been raided by the feds.
    (All the raids we hear about -- in California, Michigan, Montana, and Washington state -- do not involve any state-licensed businesses. At best, some of the targeted businesses were licensed by local governments in California under a loosely worded provision of California state law.)

    Technically, federal prosecutors can civilly or criminally target any marijuana businesses they want -- in any state -- until we change federal law. But, for the time being, the feds appear not to be targeting medical marijuana businesses with state licenses.
    It's worth noting that my organization has successfully enacted new laws that include state licensing in Arizona, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont over the last two years. (And D.C. and New Jersey have licensing systems, too.)

    So we may have a way forward. Unfortunately, the plan now assumes hostility from the former marijuana user in the White House who used to profess notions of hope, change, and compassion toward the less fortunate. Shame on him.

    Rob Kampia

    Executive director, Marijuana Policy Project

  5. coolhandluke
    i hate to rain on everyones huffington post parade, but if you look at all of those presidents before obama, not a single one has been facing anything even comparably as significant as the crisis we are in. i know but marijuana can be taxed and solve all of our problems, only we have a in debt up to our eyeballs and are teetering on the edge of collapse. the time and effort it would take to get a system in place to nationally tax and distribute marijuana would be too much right now.

    honestly obama did say a lot of shit that he is not doing, but come one people at the end of the day HE IS A POLITICIAN. every campaign is one of the lesser of two evils, do you guys thing mccain would have been better in office with palin? the fact of the mater is when our country is facing the kind of serious shit it is right now, social issues fall by the waste side, as they damn well should. if obama were in office when the country was running tip top shape i bet gay marriage would be legal, we would have a solid national heath care system, and he would have time to tackle more social problems. at the end of the day you people not being able to buy pot legally is not on the top of his to do list, rightly so.

    also that graph about past presidents is so fucking misleading, its why i quit reading the news forum. the reason all those past presidents didn't do all that stuff against mmj is because it was not around when they were in office. i would bet my bottom dollar nixon would have approved lethal action against dispensaries, and sterilization mmj patients. the huffington post is about as credible as news from that north korean agency.

    sorry if this comes off as a little harsh, but the worlds economy is falling apart, obama hasn't even thought about medical marijuana in the last few years. there is more pressing matters.
  6. pathos
    I was going to add a reply of my own re: Obama but had to quit unfortunately and sure as shit someone comes along and says what I was going to say. I am completely pro Obama and I think there is some relevance here.

    I get reprimanded for the damn chart that just came with the story and then another from a forum member. If I hot linked, and I don't even know what the hell that is, sorry. Uploading images as attachments creates little tiny images that you can barely see. Maybe not seeing the graph would have pleased people more.

    It also says "Arguably" so argue but why the need to be so harsh and vulgar?

    I think Mr. President is getting bad information and the "Drug Czar" bullshit is part of it. I knew the former Mr. Kirlekowski well and I think placing someone who is trained in Law enforcement with little to no knowledge in medicine in a position such as "drug czar" is asking for misinformation and misinterpretation.
  7. talltom
    Deciphering the White House jihad against pot

    When you get a new car, you start noticing the same model all over the highway. It's the same way when you figure out what California's marijuana dispensaries look like--green crosses and signage about "medicine" and "420" start popping up all over the City of Angels: On your commute to work, in your neighborhood, around the corner from your favorite restaurant. To put it bluntly, it's not hard to find weed in California.

    But that all might be about to change. The state's four U.S. Attorneys are gamely trying to alter the broadly popular status quo with arrests and threats of prosecution and property seizure for landlords who rent to dispensaries, a campaign announced in a rare joint press conference in October. Medical marijuana advocates call it an "intense crackdown" and have launched a lawsuit claiming the federal attorneys' tactics violate California's tenth amendment rights (Rick Perry, call your office).

    Medical marijuana: Which 16 states permit pot?

    State and local officials, meanwhile, are divided in their reactions to the influx of dispensaries in California, but many say that overly eager federal intervention is undermining the state-regulated medical marijuana system that they have taken pains to set up. In other words, as long as the federal crackdown contained itself to targeting egregious offenders of state law, it was hard for anyone to object; many applauded. But by raising the prospect of a federal assault on city mayors and town councils, Obama's Department of Justice could be making more enemies than friends in California.

    California's marijuana dispensaries got their start in 1996, when voters passed a state referendum making medical marijuana legal. They only truly expanded in 2003, however, when the state legislature laid out a set of rules for non-profit dispensaries to follow. Now there are nearly 2,000 of them across the state, dispensing marijuana to anyone with a prescription from a medical doctor.

    But when a 2005 Supreme Court case reaffirmed the mandate of federal officials to enforce national anti-marijuana rules, that placed California's U.S. Attorneys in a tricky situation. They somehow had to reconcile their mandate to enforce all federal statutes with existing state laws in California that seemed to violate the Controlled Substances Act. In 2007, the Bush administration's U.S. Attorneys responded by launching a campaign similar to the current one. That led to the closure of dozens of dispensaries, but had little lasting impact--today, there are more than two times the number of dispensaries than existed four years ago.

    Even still, the Bush-era campaign left scars on the minds of medical marijuana advocates. Most backed Barack Obama's presidential campaign in hopes that he would shape a more congenial federal environment. Advocates had reason to be optimistic: As a candidate, Obama talked about easing off enforcement on pot offenders and famously told an interviewer that of course he had inhaled--"that was the point." And the initial signs were promising: After Obama took office in 2009, the Department of Justice released the Ogden Memo, which stated, in so many words, that the DOJ should really only be prosecuting marijuana dispensaries that are using or abusing state law to traffic marijuana for a profit, and not waste its time (or tarnish its image) prosecuting cancer patients and their caregivers.

    But prosecutors and advocates both admit that the situation on the ground has changed since the memo's release: As fear of federal prosecution lessened, more states began adopting or considering medical marijuana laws; where the practice was already legal (as it was in California), there was a boom in the marijuana trade. Operating in a grey market between the federal prohibition and untested state rules, dispensaries of all kinds operated without much supervision. Cities and towns, some with an eye toward economic opportunity and others to codify community standards, began filling in the blanks left by the broad state law with rules and ordinances governing the operation of dispensaries and growers--where they could be located, how many would be allowed, what kind of security and verification procedures they must use.

    Though law enforcement officials could not point to any commensurate increase in crime, all that activity made the federal government uneasy: It realized that tacitly allowing states to regulate medical marijuana had far-reaching consequences that it wasn't entirely comfortable with. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney, acknowledged that his office took notice of the explosion of storefront dispensaries across California in the last two years, sometimes in violation of local zoning bans. With local and state officials writing letters to their U.S. Attorneys, asking for their thoughts on various schemes to license marijuana growers and distributers, the federal government decided to take a tougher line. This June, the Department of Justice responded with another memo recognizing this growing trend and clarifying its position, and reclaiming the prerogative to make arrests for any marijuana offenses: "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." Enforcement efforts against dispensaries in California followed soon after.

    California is a diverse state, and some local officials have cheered the greater federal intervention, citing their own frustrated attempts to close dispensaries that were clearly not in compliance with state law. Scott Smith, city attorney for Lake Forest, a town in Orange County, says that after fruitlessly spending $585,000 in legal fees fighting the dozen dispensaries in his town through the zoning board (eight of them in the same strip mall, near a Montessori school), his city contacted the U.S. Attorney for help. Smith points out that none of the dispensaries he challenged in court had even bothered to make the case that they were a non-profit--i.e., in accordance with California law. Others are part of national trafficking operations: The Feds are prosecuting the former owners of a now-defunct Hollywood dispensary for shipping marijuana to New York and Pennsylvania.

    But the U.S. Attorneys' enforcement actions haven't been limited to such egregious state lawbreakers. Indeed, they've sent letters to non-profit cooperatives warning that they could be prosecuted and their property seized. In Mendocino County, DEA agents raided the farm of a grower known for working closely with the local Sheriff to regulate marijuana, down to individually marking each of his plants with a zip-tie to confirm that it was allowed by state law.

    Marijuana advocates are largely skeptical of the Obama administration's intentions, saying that its crackdown is motivated not by a desire to fight criminality, but by a fear that the burgeoning medical marijuana industry was threatening its own authority. "They did not want to see a full blown state-by-state licensing system that would have legalized large-scale distribution of medical marijuana," Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access says. Hermes says that federal agents have even gone so far as to threaten state lawmakers in Montana, Washington, and Arizona with prosecution if they proceed with plans to legalize and regulate medical marijuana in their states.

    "At the end of the day, California law doesn't matter" to the U.S. Attorney, Mrozek counters, but "it is our position the marijuana stores operating in California are not only violating the spirit of California law, but are in fact violating California law." This is where California and Federal officials tend to part ways. State Attorney General Kamala Harris has voiced the concern that "an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California."

    Indeed, the irony is that federal intervention may be making it harder for California officials to convince marijuana dispensaries and growers to keep their operations above board and play by the state's rules. And U.S. Attorneys have even informed city officials in the cities of Chico and Sacramento that they could be prosecuted for setting up licensing schemes; similar messages were delivered to state leaders in Washington and Arizona.

    Marijuana advocates appear more concerned about the U.S. Attorneys' attacks on the prerogatives of local government, the most successful venue for their cause, than the new enforcement push. This new development has prompted Americans for Safe Access' tenth amendment lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder, accusing him of unconstitutionally "commandeering" local governments to enforce federal law. They say that the federal government has no business using threats to prevent state and local officials from enforcing state laws around medical marijuana, even if they violate federal statutes.

    Even on the pure practical level of enforcement, meanwhile, advocates argue that Federal involvement might not make the most sense. "Beyond prosecuting a handful of people or threatening a few landlords, it's questionable what the federal government's capacity is," Hermes says. While everyone, including the Feds themselves, acknowledges that the DEA has bigger fish to fry, local authorities have proven capable of taking action to enforce their own regulatory regimes: Just last year, the city of Los Angeles shut down over 400 dispensaries in an effort to regulate and zone them, a move criticized by the caregiver community, but one that brought at least a modicum of order to the city's chaotic pot infrastructure and was even quietly welcomed by some dispensaries.

    Study: Medicinal marijuana doesn't breed pot fiends

    While the legal battles around Los Angeles' ordinance and those in other cities appear never-ending, a local approach could prove more effective than the U.S. Attorneys' heavy-handed enforcement when it comes to smoking out which weed shops are for-profit or front for organized crime: L.A.'s rules, after all, had already managed to close the shop housing the $15 million trafficking operation now being prosecuted by the FBI. But future efforts at the state and local level are unlikely to be successful if officials continue to be threatened with federal prosecution for trying to make their own laws work.

    Tim Fernholz
    The New Republic
    November 9, 2011

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