After many petitions, open letters, rallies, and YouTube videos calling on the President to explain the slew of federal raids on medical marijuana providers and growers, Obama finally responded in a recent interview with Jann S. Wenner from Rolling Stone. But first a bit of history. In 2008, Obama promised to let states regulate medical marijuana, stating, "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." In March of 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder said, "It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana." The White House's stance on medical marijuana was then codified in the notorious Ogden Memo released by the Justice Department in October of 2009, which promised patients and caregivers would not be targeted for prosecution, so long as they maintained, "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law."
The combination of Obama's promises, Holders statement, and the Ogden Memo set off a medical marijuana boom. Instantly, the world was alive with caregivers, collectives, compassion centers, donation systems, and all sorts of ad hoc means for monetizing marijuana. Doctors sprang into action, as did newspapers, and landlords. Legalization seemed to be moments away. But it was not meant to be. Federal Authorities began quietly dismantling the industry by destroying grow operations, seizing property, and arresting growers, doctors, lawyers, landlords, and caregivers alike. Many people across the country have been sentenced to federal prison as a result of the raids.
After all this, the President spoke out. When asked what's up with his administration attacking medical marijuana more aggressively than Bush did, President Obama replied:
"Here's what's up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana — and the reason is, because it's against federal law. I can't nullify congressional law. I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.' What I can say is, 'Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.' As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes. The only tension that's come up — and this gets hyped up a lot — is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we're telling them, 'This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.' That's not something we're going to do. I do think it's important and useful to have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of the things we've done over the past three years was to make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. We've had a discussion about how to focus on treatment, taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to deal with this issue. I think that's an appropriate debate that we should have."
Ah, that's a relief; it was all just a big misunderstanding. The people were confused. If that's the case Mr. President, then free our people now. You have the power to grant pardons; have a heart. In this time of economic rebuilding, compassion will be key. If you want our votes, then free our people. We don't need another citizen in prison over cannabis. Mr. President, what would you do if your campaign depended on this issue? (See e.g. Dwight Holton in Oregon) How would you persuade the DEA to reclassify cannabis in time for November? I hope you have a plan sir, because it just may come down to that. You still have time to undue the hypocrisy carried out across this country in your name.
Are you in?