(Rolling Stone) Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration’s high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush’s record for medical-marijuana busts. “There’s no question that Obama’s the worst president on medical marijuana,” says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “He’s gone from first to worst.”
The federal crackdown imperils the medical care of the estimated 730,000 patients nationwide – many of them seriously ill or dying – who rely on state-sanctioned marijuana recommended by their doctors. In addition, drug experts warn, the White House’s war on law-abiding providers of medical marijuana will only drum up business for real criminals. “The administration is going after legal dispensaries and state and local authorities in ways that are going to push this stuff back underground again,” says Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a former Republican senator who has urged the DEA to legalize medical marijuana, pulls no punches in describing the state of affairs produced by Obama’s efforts to circumvent state law: “Utter chaos.”
That’s the point, Ethan. The Obama Administration wants it pushed back underground again. They want it de-legitimized. It’s not the marijuana they fear – they leave alone the patients and caregivers for the most part. It’s the organized and bankrolled marijuana movement they fear. Dispensaries in the neighborhood show the ignorant masses that retail marijuana sales and use by adults are less to fear than wine tasting tours.
Think about that. We have an uncontroversial well-respected social event called “winetasting”. In some areas of Oregon and California (and elsewhere, I’m sure), there are vineyards that open up to tourists, invite them in, and let them sample various wines. I see the signs for them on Interstate 5. So, driving down the freeway as a tourist, I’m enticed to go to a place where I’ll be served multiple varieties of alcohol, maybe purchase a few bottles, and then, presumably, resume my vaction trip down I-5. And it is assumed that, as an adult, I will drink responsibly and not get myself so blotto on fermented grapes that I pose a danger to others.
But a dispensary, where I first have to go see a doctor to get a permission slip, which is then checked along with my ID, that is something we are supposed to fear? And unlike the wine tasting, the buds aren’t consumed onsite and there aren’t billboards on the interstate leading me there. Somehow, we accept without questioning a society that has parking lots at taverns but can’t quite wrap our minds around trusting adults with pot?
The imaginary fears ginned up by prohibitionists fall flat when confronted with the mundane reality of a retail marijuana shop. People will begin to wonder why we tolerate teenage weed dealers in the high school parking lots and sketchy dudes offering nickle bags in the park when we could put the whole mess behind closed doors and put some regulatory controls on it. Then people would be less afraid of weed and more likely to try it, especially the seniors and folks on fixed incomes who keep seeing their prescription care costs rise with no relief forthcoming from Big Pharma or Congress. Then they’d find that marijuana works better for many of their ailments than the pills they take and it helps relieve the side effects and reduce the amount of the other pills they can’t eliminate. Then the profits of big pharmaceutical companies and related health care industries would plummet. Then there isn’t as much campaign cash to throw at Congress and the President to make them do things like restricting Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices in bulk discounts or forcing you to buy health insurance and fining you if you can’t afford it.
Big Pharma is like any other drug dealer. They’re just protecting their turf. The Obama Administration is just their enforcer, no more personally directing their medical marijuana raids than a marionette is controlling its dancing.