Cannabis Non Grata
Drug raids, medical marijuana, and legalization make for a controversial 4.20
By Jessi StaffordPosted Apr 18, 2012
The polarization of pot. Marijuana advocates blast Obama. Medical marijuana flip-flop.
These are a few, among the many, news headlines surrounding President Barack Obama’s policies on the aggrandized war on drugs. Associating an American president’s name with drug talk is no innovative scandal (“I did not inhale.”), but Obama is getting flack by members of the media for what he is supposedly not doing: keeping his promises.
The critiques are coming in from all sides in the upswing to next year’s elections, with uproarious claims that the president isn’t doing enough for the war on drugs, while others say he is reneging on his agreement to cease federal crackdowns in states with conflicting drug laws for the legal, or medically dispensed, stuff.
According to a statement on the official White House website (www.WhiteHouse.gov), “Confusing messages about marijuana use that are being conveyed by proponents of ‘medical’ marijuana perpetuate the false notion that marijuana use is harmless.” On the other hand, the paragraphs that followed had a more lax stance, proclaiming “smoked” marijuana is bad, but, maybe, usage in other varieties is okay. “Marijuana itself is not an approved medicine under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) scientific review process. Yet 16 states [Louisiana is not one of them] and the District of Columbia have permitted marijuana to be sold as ‘medicine’ for various conditions. Although, some of the individual, orally administered components of the cannabis plant...have medical value, smoking marijuana is an inefficient and harmful method for delivering the constituent elements that have or may have medicinal value.”
The fuss is that it seems the President isn’t making good on his 2008 campaign trail assertion: “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” A memo in 2009, dubbed “the Ogden memo,” backed up this claim, asking legal departments to be cognizant of resources spent on raids and prosecution, without making any changes in policy. Since then, the Obama administration has essentially forgotten this promise, but that’s old news.
The reason for the intense press outrage this month is due to Obama’s presence in Colombia to attend the Sixth Summit of the Americas.
The theme that turned heads? Legalization.
Some leaders of Latin American countries have given this some serious thought, the rationale being that legalizing marijuana and cocaine would end the violence associated with criminal offenses and the drug trade. (See: alcohol prohibition).
Right before this pot-fueled brainstorming session in Colombia, federal agents led a raid on Oaksterdam University, a medical marijuana training school in the San Francisco Bay area.
According to reports, Oaksterdam’s doors were barred by United States marshals, with the charge led by the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Though so many states recognize medical marijuana as legitimate, the DEA continues to classify it as a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin, and denoted it as dangerous and with no medical value, going against even the half-stance taken on the White House’s website.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Allen St. Pierre, executive director for NORML, a group working to reform drug laws, argues that legal implications might be binding the Obama administration’s hands. “In essence, the administration is sort of hamstrung,” St. Pierre said, making it all about 2012 campaign funding. The article states, “St. Pierre says letting states regulate marijuana as they please would burn up a lot of the president’s political capital, adding that Obama has to take action or he risks earning a reputation in 2012 election as soft on drugs.” At this point however, it seems the Obama administration might have to stop playing both sides.
In 2011, an addendum to the aforementioned “Ogden memo,” took a hard turn. According to the online journal Raw Story, Deputy Attorney General James Cole reiterated that the 2009 Ogden memo absolutely did not mean drug policies had changed and clarified that the administration is “committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States.”
In contrast, an ABC News poll that same year found that eight in 10 Americans favor the legalization of medical marijuana.
Louisiana doesn’t have much to worry about, as medical marijuana dispensaries are not legal here and even synthetic pot, like the “controversial” K-2, is cause for legal action.
In fact, Louisiana may have some of the harshest drug laws in the country. In 2010, an article on CNBC.com, entitled “Southern Discomfort,” quoted Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge as saying, “though many may not agree with me, I believe marijuana is a gateway drug, and this is an opportunity for evaluation on the front rather the backend,” in support of proposed increases in marijuana penalties.
There is controversy in America regarding Obama’s drug policies from all sides, with each wanting more from the administration. In an election year, Obama’s stance could either go out in a blaze of glory or a puff of smoke, but he can’t stay smoldering on the sidelines much longer.