The U.S. House is expected to vote soon – possibly today – on a bipartisan amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from undermining state medical marijuana laws.
Thank our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance for this speedy release on what could be one of the most important actual votes on US drug policy in years.
As the release reminds us, Obama campaigned on the promise to end, once and for all, the Federal raids on state medical cannabis providers. Instead of honoring his promise, he played a bait-and-switch.
Following the 2008 election, Obama's inauguration, and an announcement by Attorney general Eric Holder that the Feds would cease raids on medical cannabis providers, many providers made the fatal mistake of relaxing and letting down their guard. They pushed ahead and expanded their client bases, made some money, and then the onslaught of State, County and Municipal law enforcement raids began, in place of Federal raids. These ended up as little more than smash-and-grab jobs, where dispensaries were cleaned out of cash and inventory by law enforcement agencies dependent upon "drug seizures" to survive. It was the proverbial fattening of the calf before slaughter.
But all that changed recently with a flurry of Federal raids all across the US. In Oakland, the epicenter of the movement and the front lines of the war, every dispensary was shut down, and the Feds added insult to injury by raiding Richard Lee's Oaksterdam University, a cannabis cultivation and business management school that taught prospective dispensary owners the ins and outs of the business.
At one of these raids, a colleague of mine asked one of the lead DEA agents in charge (name withheld by agent) why these raids were happening. According to my colleague, who posted this on Facebook, the agent in charge replied, "Because your President is losing support among California conservatives and needs to look good to them. So, you guys are the sacrificial lambs."
The agent purportedly went on to state that as far as he and the DEA were concerned, they were committed to continuing drug prohibition, because "it drives the product into the black market and the price increases, and the dealers make more, and so we make more in seizures."
The biggest problem the US faces in attempting to shift drug policy is that the drug war has been a major economic engine for over 40 years, and now more than ever, police departments and correctional systems are dependent upon it to survive. There are over 2.5 million people employed by the American criminal justice system, a system that spends over $200 billion a year. Before the conversation can begin to change, those jobs need to be repurposed. But drug policy change in America is a Sisyphean struggle against massive, entrenched corporate interests, as shown in this recent piece on Alternet on why cannabis is still kept illegal despite overwhelming support in favor of taxation and legalization. With Connecticut just this week announcing it has voted to become the 17th state to legalize medical cannabis, it's clear the people want change. Now we get to see if the Obama Administration cares or not.
If anything, the "Obama experience" taught us that us that policy is being dictated elsewhere than the Congress and White House, and nowhere is that more evident than with the War on Drugs. ~ CS
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U.S. House to Vote on Bipartisan Amendment Blocking Funding for Obama’s Attack on Medical Marijuana Patients Protected Under State Law.
Conflict Coming to a Head as More States Pass and Implement Medical Marijuana Laws While Obama Administration Escalates Assault on Patients and Providers
Drug Policy Alliance: Obama Will Continue to Suffer Politically for Ignoring Public Opinion on Medical Marijuana
The U.S. House is expected to vote soon – possibly today – on a bipartisan amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from undermining state medical marijuana laws. The amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. Farr (D-CA), is a rebuke of President Obama’s aggressive assault on medical marijuana patients and providers.
“Both Democrats and Republicans are telling the Obama administration: enough is enough, stop wasting taxpayer money to undermine state medical marijuana laws,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance. “President Obama needs to realize his assault on patient access is not just immoral – but a serious political miscalculation. For more than a decade, polling has consistently shown that 70 to 80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana.”
On the presidential campaign trail in 2008, then-Senator Obama said his administration would not waste resources undermining state medical marijuana laws, especially if people were following their state’s law. Shortly after Obama was elected president, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys urging them not to waste taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources arresting and prosecuting people following their state’s medical marijuana law. In the last year, however, the administration has reversed course and launched an attack on state medical marijuana laws that is far more aggressive than the Bush Administration's medical marijuana policy.
The DEA is raiding many licensed and regulated medical marijuana providers that are legal under state law. The ATF is discriminating against medical marijuana patients by prohibiting them from owning firearms. The IRS is rejecting standard tax deductions from legitimate medical marijuana businesses operating in full compliance with state law. And federal threats have intimidated banks and landlords into refusing to do business with the medical marijuana industry. Even free speech is under attack – at least one federal prosecutor is threatening to target newspapers that accept medical marijuana advertising.
“History is calling on President Obama to protect terminally ill patients from suffering, and he is dangerously close to falling on the wrong side,” said Piper. “He will continue to pay a political price as long as his administration continues to waste taxpayer money undermining state law.”