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April 13, 2012

"Pot Groups See Obama 2012 Flip-Flop on Medical Marijuana"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent piece from US News and World Report, which gets started this way:

President Barack Obama touted a progressive attitude on medical marijuana on the campaign trail, but since taking office, Obama's administration has hardened its stance and supporters of the drug are crying foul on the flip-flop.

In a March 2008 interview, Obama told the Oregon Mail Tribune that medical marijuana ranked low on his list of priorities. "I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate," Obama said.  "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue."

But the numbers tell another story. Since October 2009, Americans for Safe Access, a group committed to legalizing medical marijuana, estimates the Justice Department has carried out 170 raids on dispensaries and cultivation facilities in nine states. "Every time a dispensary is shut down, there are literally hundreds of people waking up that day wondering where they will get their medication," says Kris Hermes, the spokesperson for the Americans for Safe Access.

Hermes says he's confident that the number of raids since the president took office is actually around 200. "He's broadened his attack," Hermes says. "Until Obama was elected, George W. Bush had the most aggressive posture toward medical marijuana...he's been even more aggressive than his predecessor."  Americans for Safe Access estimates that during the entire eight years of the Bush administration, roughly 200 raids were carried out, something Hermes says the Obama administration has accomplished in less than four years....

Pro-marijuana groups say Obama has expanded the attack on medical marijuana from DOJ to a wide array of other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, which has lead dozens of audits of medical marijuana businesses. The IRS has also aggressively penalized medical marijuana businesses for selling an illegal drug by requiring the businesses to pay federal taxes on gross income, not net income, eliminating the tax break most businesses receive from deducting payroll costs.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development released a memo in 2011that allows public housing agencies to evict tenants who use medical marijuana. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also issued a memo in September banning the commercial sale of firearms to medical marijuana patients.

There are 16 states and the District of Columbia that have their own medical marijuana laws. And experts say U.S. attorneys' threats against local and state officials who enact medical marijuana laws in their states have even slowed down the implementation of new laws in Arizona, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington.

April 13, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Permalink


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Obama is head of the executive branch of the federal government. Federal law recognizes no such thing a "medical" marijuana. The President is obligated by his oath of office to take care that the laws "be faithfully executed." There are many things to complain about with Obama, starting with national bankruptcy, but remaining faithful to the oath he took is not one of them.

Take it up with Congress, people. You're beating a mummified horse.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 13, 2012 10:47:17 AM

Whenever I see this issue expressed, it bothers me since the comments tend to have a half-way nature to them. The Rolling Stone article, e.g., notes that there was a shift in the policy after about two years of more lax treatment. I would like a full account on why this happened. Those who criticize his "flip flops" should look at the full story. They might still have a reason to complain (depending on your stance on the merits) but let's hear the whole story.

Per the first comment, curiously, executives who also had a duty to "faithfully execute" laws such as these (or sodomy or gambling or) tend to selectively do so. Prosecutorial discretion is also present here and it would not be a violation of his oath if he restricted his efforts to those who broke state laws, especially with all the other federal laws he has to enforce. This too would be part of a full expression of the accounts. See also, the RS piece.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 13, 2012 2:00:08 PM

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