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The NORML Stash Blog » Obama Administration http://stash.norml.org The Growing Truth About Cannabis Tue, 12 Feb 2013 01:23:20 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.2 Is it right to blame President Obama for medical marijuana crackdown? http://stash.norml.org/is-it-right-to-blame-president-obama-for-medical-marijuana-crackdown http://stash.norml.org/is-it-right-to-blame-president-obama-for-medical-marijuana-crackdown#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 18:48:17 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=26962

I received an email as part of a blast that went out to several people in the activist community.  It was commenting on a Boston Herald piece about Ethan Nadelmann’s comments on the Oaksterdam Raids:

And most important for activist leaders: “Nadelmann said the big question was whether the crackdown that began last fall was orchestrated by the Obama administration or by local federal officials.” 

Ethan Nadelmann is a smart guy. Hopefully Cali activists don’t go blaming Obama right away without knowing who actually authorized this hit…I mean, raid…against a political leader. Oh wait…Russ Belville already did…

I’m sorry, what did I do? You mean my “buck stops here” comments?  My odd belief that the Chief Executive of the Executive Branch has some say-so over the actions of Executive Branch departments like Justice and Treasury?

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Well, yeah. Sorry, you don’t get to brush away President Obama’s complicity in this. To wit:

  • If he knows US Attys are doing this and authorized it explicitly – he is to blame.
  • If he knows US Attys are doing this but didn’t authorize it explicitly – he is unable to control his own executive departments and is to blame.
  • If he doesn’t know US Attys are doing this – he is willfully ignorant on the issue and is to blame.

Me and Dr. Mitch Earleywine at the 2008 NORML Conference, when I still had the audacity to hope for change. I still have that hat, though I've almost burned it three times.

The “Stockholm Syndrome” some Obama supporters are engaged in baffles me – and I was one of his most die-hard supporters! I was a political talk radio host backing him when Hillary was the juggernaut and taking plenty of “you’re a sexist” heat for it. I spoke for him at an “Artists for Obama” rally in Portland that is still on YouTube. I drove from Portland to Denver to blog the Democratic Convention just to be there for the historic moment.

So what will it take (besides the continued rendition, warrantless wiretaps, failure to prosecute Wall Street, caving on public option healthcare, authorizing drone assassinations, extending millionaire tax cuts, fill in the rest of the non-marijuana disappointments) to convince you Obama is not any sort of friend to the marijuana movement?

I truly had that hope for change. I heard him in 2004 say “the war on drugs is an utter failure and we need to re-think and decriminalize our marijuana laws, but I am not for legalization.”

I heard him say in 2008 that going after providers in medical marijuana states was not a wise use of federal resources because we have “terrorism” and other things to worry about.

I heard his Attorney General talk about what Obama promised in the campaign was now federal policy.

Good enough for Dubya, good enough for Obama

And then I watched as he nominated George W. Bush’s DEA Administrator to keep her job.  A woman who referred to the slaughter of Mexicans by drug violence as a “signpost of success” in our fight against the drug gangs (not “cartels”… cartels cooperate with, not murder, each other).

“Our view is that the violence we have been seeing is a signpost of the success our very courageous Mexican counterparts are having,” said Michele Leonhart, acting DEA administrator. “The cartels are acting out like caged animals, because they are caged animals.”

The president is laughing at just about half of America these days

I watched as Rasmussen’s and Gallup’s polls shot up five and six percentage points, respectively, in support of legalization during Obama’s term, to the point where now, for the first time in history, more Americans support legalizing marijuana than support maintaining prohibition.

But when soliciting federal policy advice online on nine separate occasions, the issue of marijuana legalization is blatantly ignored, unless it is being laughed at.

During the president’s time in office, marijuana arrests of healthy people have remained steady and raids of providers of marijuana for sick people have skyrocketed.  And this former marijuana smoker who “inhaled, frequently, that was the point” has either ignored that and let it happen or is actively directing the persecution of my people!

The response I often get is that Obama’s the best hope we have for positive move in the future.  A Republican (likely Romney) in office would be disastrous!  Really?  What might he do, go after Berkeley Patients Group, Oaksterdam, and Harborside?  Use the IRS to undermine medical marijuana businesses, pressure banks to not do business with medical marijuana providers, threaten the gun rights of medical marijuana patients, threaten governors of states not to implement their own laws on medical marijuana, and block legitimate researchers from studying medical marijuana while granting Big Pharma the rights to cannabinoid patents and starting FDA trials of cannabinoid medicines?  Continue the policies of federal grants to local police to target drug offenses, but not other crime?  Leave untouched the abomination of civil asset forfeiture?  Allow American guns to be walked into Mexico?  (Wait, to be fair, Obama did preside over reducing the racist crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity from 100-to-1 to just 18-to-1… Obama’s crack policy: only 1/5th as racist as Bush’s and Clinton’s!)

Who knows?  Maybe a Republican businessman like Romney, facing these disastrous economic times, beholden to the Grover Norquist pledge to never raise taxes, lets those wacky liberal left coast blue states go their own way with raising tax revenues by “sin taxing” those dirty hippies’ wacky tobaccy.  Maybe the evangelical wing of the right wing and the Bible Belt gets behind Pat Robertson’s calls for legalization and pressures Romney from the right.  Maybe violence in Mexico gets even worse and we see more of it spilling into the Southwestern US and the political will for legalization from conservative Arizona and Texas pushes Romney some more.

I often compare the marijuana rights movement to the gay rights movement, and in this article the comparison is apt.  Much like the gay community, the Democratic Party takes the marijuana vote for granted.  It’s the “Who Ya Gonna Vote For – a Republican?!?” lesser-of-two-evils marketing strategy that has made the Democratic Party such a powerful bloc, able to pass its agenda through Congress despite public disapproval… Oh, wait, sorry, that was the previous president and his Congressional majority.  This president couldn’t pass it’s publicly popular agenda with a Congressional majority because he negotiated away the popular parts to appease the Republicans whose lousy governance got him elected in the first place, Republicans who are never appeased and will vote against their own ideas when appropriated by Obama just to see him fail.

Another response I get is “I’m not a one-issue voter,” which comes from someone concerned that a Republican in office and the judges he appoints will be far more devastating to many more issues the person is concerned with, say, reproductive rights, the environment, finances, taxes, etc.  That’s a fair point.  It tells me you find other issues more compelling than (if you’re a pot smoker) than ending your own criminality.  It tells me you don’t really see the War on Drugs as an issue on par with others, despite its direct effects on racism, corruption, violence, imprisonment, suffering, economies, employment, environment, education, and public trust in law enforcement and government.  That’s fine, everyone has their perspective.

But think of the three issues considered “third rails” in American politics – abortion, guns, and Social Security.  Why must every politician tread lightly around these subjects?  Why is a politician’s stand on these topics a virtual litmus test for office in most districts?  Because the most die-hard supporters of those issues will never vote for a candidate that doesn’t support their issue.  Because these supporters raise millions of dollars in small and large donations to their ideological think tanks and lobbying non-profits to maintain constant pressure on the candidates to support their issue and they back it up with campaign cash.  But here in the non-profits struggling to pressure Washington on legalization, we rely on the large donations of three billionaires and barely raise a few million among all of us combined from all our stakeholder donors.

Another response I get is “Obama can’t legalize / ease up because…” followed by some excuse – GOP intransigence, first black president, has to get re-elected, too many other issues, whatever – and closed with “…but in his second term, he’ll be able to do what he wants on the marijuana issue!”  I don’t understand how that works, when Obama in his second term has to lay the groundwork for the 2016 Democratic nominee (Hillary?) to win the office.  If “He supports pot!” was going to cost Obama a second term, isn’t a Democratic president’s support going to hurt the next nominee as well?

For me, the choice gets simpler by the day.  I cannot vote for someone who has exhibited not just indifference to the drug war but outright complicity in it.  I cannot vote for someone who has laughed at my issue in public.  I cannot vote for someone who has smoked pot himself and is smart enough to know the policies he maintains are unscientific, unjust, and cruel.  That doesn’t mean I’m voting for the Republican nominee or the Libertarian or the Green or anyone else.  I haven’t decided that.  I may not vote the presidential contest at all, focusing only on state and local races and issues.

If Obama and the Democrats won’t take our issue seriously, they won’t get my support.  It’s time we held our ground on our issue like the NRA, Pro-Choice America, and AARP hold ground on theirs.  No support from tokers without support for tokers!  And, mark my words, a GOP constituency growing ever-older and becoming a white minority needs more young and non-white voters… and legalizing marijuana is an issue that could net them both.  Democrats, you dismiss us at your peril!

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NORML SHOW LIVE #885 – The Most Dangerous Crime in Oakland? Teaching About Pot http://stash.norml.org/norml-show-live-885-the-most-dangerous-crime-in-oakland-teaching-about-pot http://stash.norml.org/norml-show-live-885-the-most-dangerous-crime-in-oakland-teaching-about-pot#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 01:57:25 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=26954
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  • Debut of Toker Talk Radio Podcast; discussion of the federal raids of Oaksterdam, calls from 330, 480, 650, 831, and 970 area codes – Subscribe Here

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  1. Oaksterdam, Richard Lee, raided by federal authorities
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  3. Detroit Lions player busted for second time with marijuana
  4. Kentucy v. Kansas in NCAA Reefer March Madness Finals

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  • District Movement – Medicinal Marijuana for Veterans

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  • Dale Sky Jones, Chancellor of Oaksterdam, on federal raids

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  • Calling President Obama at 202-456-1111 to stop federal raids
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Rolling Stone examines Obama’s War on Marijuana http://stash.norml.org/rolling-stone-examines-obamas-war-on-marijuana http://stash.norml.org/rolling-stone-examines-obamas-war-on-marijuana#comments Thu, 16 Feb 2012 18:55:53 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=26632

Who in the world could have changed the guy who said "I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws" in 2004 into the most anti-medical marijuana president in 2012? (Graph of Big Pharma campaign donations. Credit: OpenSecrets.org.)

(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.”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obamas-war-on-pot-20120216#ixzz1mZRQyCZx

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.

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42 of 98 Washington State Legislators Call on DEA to Reschedule Marijuana http://stash.norml.org/42-of-98-washington-state-legislators-call-on-dea-to-reschedule-marijuana http://stash.norml.org/42-of-98-washington-state-legislators-call-on-dea-to-reschedule-marijuana#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2012 20:36:12 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=26476

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart - the last remaining member of the Bush Administration working for the Obama Administration.

In a move preceded by its Governor Chris Gregoire and other governors like Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee and Vermont’s Peter Shumlin, 42 Washington State Legislators today petitioned the DEA’s Administrator Michele Leonhart to reschedule marijuana at the federal level to recognize medical use.

We write in support of the petition that Governor Chafee and Governor Gregoire recently submitted to initiate rulemaking proceedings for the reclassification of medical cannabis (also known as marijuana) from Schedule I to Schedule II of the CSA.

We are also concerned that qualifying patients with serious medical conditions who could benefit from medical use of cannabis do not have a safe and consistent source of their medicine that has been recommended by a licensed health care professional in our state. The divergence in state and federal law creates a situation Where there is no regulated and safe system to supply legitimate patients who may need medical cannabis. More to the point, it is clear that the long-standing classification of medical use of cannabis in the United States as an illegal Schedule I substance is fundamentally flawed and should be changed. The federal government could quickly solve the issue if it were to reclassify cannabis for medical use from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug so that it can be prescribed, which we believe the petition provides substantiated peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support.

The solution lies ultimately with the federal government. We urge the DEA to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reclassify medical cannabis as a Schedule II drug so qualifying patients who follow state law may obtain the medication they need through the traditional and safe method of physician prescribing and pharmacy dispensing.

Reacting to the news, NORML’s Allen St. Pierre replied to an activist who’d asked if this was the first time a state legislature has initiated such a rescheduling petition.  ”While 36 states from 1980-1994 passed numerous toothless medical cannabis reforms (most of these bills took the form of the legislature and governor ’memorializing’ Congress and the Executive Branch to change cannabis’ scheduling to II or below),” St. Pierre noted, “I think you maybe right that a state legislature itself to date has not formally petitioned the feds for down scheduling.”

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DoJ argues Scalia’s decision in Raich medical marijuana case requires him to support Obama health insurance mandate http://stash.norml.org/doj-argues-scalias-decision-in-raich-medical-marijuana-case-requires-him-to-support-obama-health-insurance-mandate http://stash.norml.org/doj-argues-scalias-decision-in-raich-medical-marijuana-case-requires-him-to-support-obama-health-insurance-mandate#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2012 18:58:36 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=26206

I got yer stare decisis right here, pal...

All marijuana law reformers recall the case Raich v. Gonzales.  This is the Supreme Court’s decision that invokes the Interstate Commerce Clause to support the federal power to ban medical use of marijuana, even if the states allow it.  Angel Raich argued that she was growing California marijuana with California seeds in California soil using California water, California sun, California shovels, pots, and implements, for a single Californian (herself) to use solely for medical (i.e. non-commercial) purposes.  There was no “interstate” and there was no “commerce”.

Sadly, the Supreme Court, with the concurrence of Justice Antonin Scalia, disagreed, arguing a precedent from Wickard v. Filburn, a 1940s case where a wheat farmer wished to grow a personal store of wheat over what was then a federal rationing program of wheat for the war.  In that case, and in Raich, the Supreme Court considered wheat and marijuana both to be fungible – that is, you can’t tell personal wheat or marijuana from commercial wheat or marijuana, and the mere possibility that the personal stash could hit the interstate market puts regulation of both in federal jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, the uber-conservative Justice Scalia is now being penned in by the precedent of his decision.  The Obama Administraion, as part of its health care package, included a mandate that requires people to buy health insurance, with fines as punishment for failure to comply.  This is anathema to conservatives, who feel (at least when it’s not marijuana) that the federal government has no right to dictate what people buy and sell.

Talking Points Memo reports that Raich may be the petard by which Justice Scalia has hoisted himself:

[Angel] Raich claimed that Congress could not regulate her cultivation of marijuana for personal use because she was ‘entirely separated from the market. The Court rejected that artificial limit on Congress’s commerce power, because “marijuana that is grown at home and possessed for personal use is never more than an instant from the interstate market,” (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgment). The same principle applies here. Because of human susceptibility to disease and accident, we are all potentially never more than an instant from the ‘point of consumption’ of health care.

The Obama administration claims that the exercise of federal power in Raich is at least as legitimate as the insurance mandate, arguing that letting people remain uninsured undercuts regulation of interstate commerce by passing medical costs onto taxpayers. Georgetown legal scholar and outspoken Affordable Care Act opponent Randy Barnett, who represented the plaintiffs in Raich, fears Scalia may buy into this.

Others believe he’ll find a way to oppose the mandate. Their argument goes that Scalia’s decision in Raich was motivated by a partisan desire to “punch some pot smoking hippies in the face,” and that he won’t hesitate to take a different tack when it comes to the health care reform law.

Adam Serwer noted at the time that Scalia may well have an escape hatch: as Judge Henry Hudson noted in his ruling to strike down the mandate, Raich was about regulating “activity” (i.e. growing marijuana in one’s backyard) while the mandate is about regulating “inactivity” (i.e. not buying health insurance). Invoking this could help Scalia fend off charges of inconsistency.

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Ethan Nadelmann in New York Times on Obama’s “Reefer Madness” http://stash.norml.org/ethan-nadelmann-in-new-york-times-on-obamas-reefer-madness http://stash.norml.org/ethan-nadelmann-in-new-york-times-on-obamas-reefer-madness#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2011 20:51:17 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=25796

Author and Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, at 2009 Albuquerque Reform Conference.

Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann has penned an excellent op-ed appearing in today’s New York Times entitled “Reefer Madness”.

Perhaps not since the civil rights era has law enforcement played such an aggressive role in what is essentially a cultural and political struggle. But this time the federal government is playing the bully, riding roughshod over states’ rights, not to protect vulnerable individuals but to harm them.

At the federal level, there have been few voices of protest. Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill shy away from speaking out. Republicans mostly ignore the extent to which anti-marijuana zealotry threatens core conservative values like states rights, property rights and gun ownership.

Mr. Obama briefly showed a willingness to challenge the drug-war mind-set that permeates the federal drug-control establishment. He needs to show leadership and intervene now, to encourage and defend responsible state and local regulation of medical marijuana.

Dr. Nadelmann will be our guest on Tuesday’s edition of NORML SHOW LIVE, airing at 1pm, 4pm, and 10pm Pacific on The NORML Network.

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Harborside’s DeAngelo points fingers over medical marijuana crackdown, except at mirrors http://stash.norml.org/harborsides-deangelo-points-fingers-over-medical-marijuana-crackdown-except-at-mirrors http://stash.norml.org/harborsides-deangelo-points-fingers-over-medical-marijuana-crackdown-except-at-mirrors#comments Wed, 26 Oct 2011 05:07:21 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=25681

Steven DeAngelo and Russ Belville comparing hats

As the federal government continues a renewed crackdown on medical marijuana distribution in America, some in the movement are beginning to point their fingers at others for bringing down the wrath of the feds.  Today’s case in point (and hat-tip to Cannabis Warrior’s Mickey Martin): Steven DeAngelo, the head of Harborside Health Center, which I believe is America’s largest medical marijuana dispensary.  In response to a report “Feds Target Leader of Marijuana Legalization Movement” in the Bay Citizen, DeAngelo points the finger at Oaksterdam Founder Richard Lee:

To some, the backlash against Oakland’s dispensaries seems like retribution for its lenient attitude towards marijuana dispensaries. Last year, the city backed off on a plan to permit four enormous pot farms only after Haag issued a stern warning. Lee’s Oaksterdam was also the headquarters the Prop. 19 campaign.

“I warned everybody from the City Council on down who was pushing for those four huge farms that there would be consequences,” said Steve DeAngelo, who runs Harborside. “And I warned people who were pushing Prop. 19 that losing elections would have consequences.”

“In large part what we’re seeing is the consequences of an overreach by our community,” DeAngelo said.

A completely non-profit operation selling medicine at $15/gram only to sick people for medical uses.

DeAngelo seems to be saying here that if only we’d stayed with the status quo, not tried to legalize for all with Prop 19 and not tried to industrialize medical production, the feds never would have initiated this crackdown.  DeAngelo must be smoking a new strain of pot called “Kettle Black”.

Are we to believe that the IRS  hit Harborside with a bill for $2.5 million back taxes for 2007 and 2008 because Richard Lee fought for full legalization, not because various square magazines like BusinessWeek were touting “The Latest Fiscal Buzz: Medical Marijuana” about Oakland’s dispensaries, “three of which grossed a total of $19 million last year, all cash”?  DeAngelo was then arguing for taxes on medical marijuana far above the rates for liquor, tobacco, and pharmacies as a way of enticing cash-strapped local governments to accept taxation of federally-prohibited commerce and move them to support further legalization through reliance on those revenues.   Certainly that didn’t arouse any federal ire, right?

A sick or disabled person inhales medication from a twelve-foot long delivery device in the "Prop 215 Area" of the first HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup, sponsored by Harborside and featuring an appearance by Steven DeAngelo.

If there are fingers to be pointed for arousing federal retaliation, some of them have to come back to Harborside.

But it was Richard Lee dropping $1.5 million of his own money in a failed bid to keep healthy folks like me out of a jail cell that earned a federal crackdown generally and Harborside the attention of the IRS specifically?  Please.

A pole dancer at the THC Exposé, a medical marijuana event featuring numerous dispensary sponsors (not Harborside, though). But whatever you do, don't put legalization on the ballot! We wouldn't wan't the feds to think we're overreaching.

The medical marijuana vanguard had better understand, and quickly, that, as far as the feds are concerned, there aren’t ‘well-intentioned compassionate caregivers altruistically providing a professionally-run taxpaying non-profit service for the sickest, most disabled patients’ vs. ‘money-grubbing pot dealers using the guise of medicine to bank fortunes selling pot at $15/gram to mostly-healthy potheads who lied to a pot doc.’  To the feds, we’re ALL in the second category. Valerie Corral and WAMM are as much federal felons as Dr. Feelgood’s bud tent on Venice Beach.  To the feds, marijuana trafficking organizations working in the eight-figure-sales range with 80,000 customers such as Harborside are even bigger federal felons than Dr. Feelgood’s five-or-six-figure weed store.  Trying to make nice with law enforcement by calling out ‘those bad apples’ who are ruining it by attracting law enforcement attention is just aiding our opponents in their divide and conquer strategy.

Stephen DeAngelo explains "Flip the Switch" at the NORML Conference (photo by L.K.)

DeAngelo argued in his “Flip the Switch” speech at NORML Conference that his example of non-profit cannabis commerce at Harborside would be a ‘legalization’ that a skittish public would grow to accept.  He argued that while 70% support medical marijuana nationwide, only 40% support(ed) full legalization.  Therefore:

With a well regulated network of legitimate dispensaries already in existence; when the fears of our fellow citizens have been answered; when the hundreds of thousands have grown to tens of millions, and cannabis consumption has become part of the mainstream fabric of life, our fellow citizens will finally be open to the call for a scientific and rational cannabis policy that they have resisted for decades.

In the 21st Century, medical marijuana support has flatlined and support for legalization of marijuana has almost doubled.

Where DeAngelo sees “25-30% of Americans approve of the legalization of medical cannabis or decriminalization of non-medical cannabis, but are unwilling to extend that support to the full legalization,” I see more Americans believing medical marijuana is a ruse for the outright legalization they increasingly support.  In 2005, Gallup’s support for medical and legalization, respectively, was 78% and 36%, leaving us 42% of people who support medical marijuana, but support locking people up if they are “too healthy” for marijuana, too.  That figure was virtually unchanged from the 44% gap reported in 1999.  But by 2010, medical-only support had fallen to 70% and this year, legalization is now a majority position at 50% (vs. 46% opposed).  So now only 20% of Americans support locking up the healthy, but not the sick, for cannabis.  That skittish ‘lock up the healthy pot smokers’ swing voter pool DeAngelo is aiming for has shrunk by half in just six years.

Two medical professionals outdoors in a San Francisco parking lot counseling thousands of medicating patients on the uses of cannabis to promote wellness.

“Flip the Switch” argued that we continue the tenuous medical-only model, fighting to expand the conditions for which cannabis may be recommended, until there are tens of millions of medical marijuana patients.  DeAngelo’s (and Dennis Peron’s and others’) notion that we’ll end prohibition by declaring “All Use is Medical” (or “Wellness”) just hands to the prohibitionists a clear-cut endorsement of one of their prime talking points: that ‘medical’ really does deserve quote marks and really is a ‘camel’s nose under the tent’ and a ‘Trojan horse’. If we say a trip to the dispensary is a wellness visit to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, then so is a trip to the pub, strip club, and race track. ‘Medical’ loses all meaning if it is so broadly defined as to mean ‘anything that makes me feel good’.

New Yorkers Rob Cantrell and Danny Danko inside the Oregon-patients-only medical cannabis café that patients in wheelchairs can't access.

That’s not to say marijuana use isn’t truly medical (it is) or doesn’t promote wellness (it does). It is to say it’s a lousy political strategy. The problem is that it makes the argument about whether I can put something good for me into my body with a state’s approval and a doctor’s recommendation. It doesn’t matter whether it is good for me; legal cigarettes and alcohol prove I have the right to put things that are bad for me into my body as well. To rest the argument on the fact that using cannabis can be medically good for us is to emphasize that not using it medically is bad for us.  It is to accept that the gov’t has a right to prevent us from doing things that are bad for us.

EVERY demographic has increased its support for marijuana legalization since 2005

Also, increasingly, the public is with us on legalization and beginning to believe medical marijuana arguments are insincere (even as they are beginning to understand the medical marijuana benefits are real).  South Dakota tried a medical initiative in 2006 and got 48%; in 2010 they got 36%.  Arizona barely got 50% vote for their medical initiative when they got 65% in 1996.  Oregon voters rejected a dispensary system as the state’s largest paper called ‘bullshit’ on the medical argument and pleaded with advocates to just honestly open the debate for legalization.

Cocaine and Reagan did more to derail legalization efforts than fighting for legalization ever did.

DeAngelo argued in “Flip the Switch” that “I have been in this movement almost four decades, and for most of that time, we made little to no progress—until we began to fight for the right to use cannabis medically.”  I disagree a bit – an open and honest non-medical campaign achieved decriminalization in eleven states in the 1970s and legalization support has risen from 1-in-8 to half of Americans – but he’s right to the extent that California’s Prop 215 was our ‘Battle of Midway‘ that substantially tilted the War on Drugs in our favor.  However, I believe that the public support for medical marijuana is built on a ‘lesser of two evils’.  Smoking pot is evil, the public believes, but allowing dying people to suffer is more evil.  It maintains the fiction that smoking pot for fun is evil.  Thus medical support falls from 78% to 70% as more Americans recognize that some people are smoking pot for fun by exploiting the concern for sick people.

Remember Prohibition?

Do we have to keep re-learning this lesson?

Continuing to fight only for medical marijuana is to fight for marijuana to be only medical.  Alcohol prohibition did not end because the ‘wets’ instituted a commercial system for medical alcohol (though that certainly existed) and insisted ‘all drinking is medical’.  It ended because the ‘wets’ insisted on their right to drink a beer and convinced Americans that the evils of Prohibition were worse than the evils of drunkenness.  We may never convince some people that smoking pot for fun is anything but evil, and we surely can’t do so when we implicitly agree with them.  We can convince them that it is less evil than caging people over it and turning Mexico into a bloodbath.  However, we can never convince them that getting a checkup from a doctor with a stethoscope at a rap show so you can twist up a blunt in the “Prop 215 area” is anything remotely ‘medical’.

This is as incongruous as signing Cypress Hill to play the next AMA convention.

Prop 19, rather than being an overreach, was instead a catalyst to the 50% Gallup poll for legalization we just received. Prop 19 forced the legalization debate out of the pot-pun headlines and onto “Meet the Press”.  As I always say, when we’re talking about it, we’re winning, and Prop 19 forced everybody to talk about it.  The problem is not an overreach by legalization advocates, it is an overreach by medical advocates desperately trying to cover their recreational cannabis distribution services (and let’s face it: in California, it is) with a fig leaf of medical justification.  The bigger problem is a voting public that dislikes being bamboozled more than it dislikes marijuana smoking.

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Obama Administration prepared to prosecute media that take marijuana dispensary ads http://stash.norml.org/obama-administration-prepared-to-prosecute-media-that-take-marijuana-dispensary-ads http://stash.norml.org/obama-administration-prepared-to-prosecute-media-that-take-marijuana-dispensary-ads#comments Thu, 13 Oct 2011 00:12:33 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=25552

Your Bill of Rights does not fully apply in the shaded states

Considering that Barack Obama doesn’t believe medical marijuana patients have Second Amendment rights, why should he think medical marijuana providers have any First Amendment rights?  NORML Board of Directors’ Bill Panzer and West Coast Cannabis’s publisher Ngaio Bealum are quoted extensively in this latest story of the federal government’s increased offensive against one third of the country that has approved medical marijuana.

(California Watch) Federal prosecutors are preparing to target newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that advertise medical marijuana dispensaries in California, another escalation in the Obama administration’s newly invigorated war against the state’s pot industry.

U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, whose district includes Imperial and San Diego counties, said marijuana advertising is the next area she’s “going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California.” Duffy said she could not speak for the three other U.S. attorneys covering the state but noted their efforts have been coordinated so far.

“I’m not just seeing print advertising,” Duffy said in an interview with California Watch and KQED. “I’m actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It’s gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate – one has to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our children – it’s against the law.”

Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in “any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication.” The law could conceivably extend to online ads; the U.S. Department of Justice recently extracted a $500 million settlement from Google for selling illegal ads linking to online Canadian pharmacies.

Duffy said her effort against TV, radio or print outlets would first include “going after these folks with … notification that they are in violation of federal law.” She noted that she also has the power to seize property or prosecute in civil and criminal court.

When the drug warriors imprisoned Marc Emery, they said, “there’s one less pot of money [for the legalization movement] to rely on.”  Duffy here is worried about the message sent to the children (the truth that it is medicine) and the mainstreaming of marijuana.  This has nothing to do with law enforcement officials worried about the public safety and everything to do with hamstringing efforts in medical marijuana states to gain full legalization by ballot initiative in 2012.

What they don’t understand is that there is massive public support for medical marijuana, not just in the 16 states and DC but nationwide.  There is also an emerging zeitgeist of a massive government out of control, unresponsive and out of touch with the people, serving the interests only of massive corporations to the detriment of the people’s needs.  There are more long-term unemployed and greater income disparity in America than since the Great Depression.  Against this backdrop, what politician wants to be seen as killing jobs, undermining emerging growth industries, placing government between doctors and patients, and running roughshod over basic American freedoms of the press and right to bear arms?

Apparently, President Barack Obama.

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Tell The Obama Administration to Halt Its Attack on Medical Marijuana http://stash.norml.org/tell-the-obama-administration-to-halt-its-attack-on-medical-marijuana-3 http://stash.norml.org/tell-the-obama-administration-to-halt-its-attack-on-medical-marijuana-3#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2011 23:30:12 +0000 Paul Armentano http://stash.norml.org/?p=25545

If Obama's mom tried to get medical marijuana for her cancer today, her son would imprison the co-op that provided it to her.

On Friday, October 7, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, along with the four US Attorneys from California, announced plans for a coordinated effort against operations in California that provide safe access to marijuana for those patients qualified to use it in accordance with state law.

These actions are incompatible with the Administration’s pledge to respect the decisions of voters and lawmakers in states that recognize the medical efficacy of marijuana. They will result in limiting patients’ regulated access to medicine and they will also cost California necessary jobs and needed tax revenue.

Legislating medical marijuana operations and prosecuting those who act in a manner that is inconsistent with California law and voters’ sentiment should be a responsibility left up to the individual states, not the federal government. It is time for this administration to fulfill the promises and assurances it gave to the medical marijuana community, not to reject them. Please contact the White House and urge President Obama to abandon the administration’s escalating war on cannabis consumers.

Read this article:

Tell The Obama Administration to Halt Its Attack on Medical Marijuana

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Obama Administration’s Medical Marijuana Policies Now Worse Than Bush and Clinton Policies http://stash.norml.org/obama-administrations-medical-marijuana-policies-now-worse-than-bush-and-clinton-policies http://stash.norml.org/obama-administrations-medical-marijuana-policies-now-worse-than-bush-and-clinton-policies#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2011 19:51:00 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=25529 (Hat tips to Drug Policy Alliance for the headline, which was their 2nd subhead, and California NORML for some of the list of grievances…)

Barry Billboard

"If you inhaled in New York City, today you might be Barry the Drug Criminal"

When originally asked as a candidate his stand on the issue of medical marijuana, President Obama had pledged not to be “using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue”.

Today, four US Attorneys from the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice announced plans to “outline actions targeting the sale, distribution and cultivation of marijuana.”  Sixteen dispensary owners in California have received letters giving them 45 days to shut down before the federal government shuts them down and seizes their assets

The Obama Administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has openly declared that the mere act of registering to use medical marijuana in accordance with state law is reason to suspend a citizen’s Second Amendment rights.

Additionally, President Obama has been using the resources of other federal departments to circumvent state laws on medical marijuana.

The Obama Administration’s Internal Revenue Service has ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries cannot deduct common business expenses, a move that cripples the ability of any business to remain viable.

The Obama Administration’s Department of Treasury has pressured banks to no longer hold accounts for medical marijuana businesses that are heavily regulated, taxed, and surveilled by the state of Colorado.

President Obama had pledged that “science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health”.

Yet the Obama Administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration has blocked legitimate requests from researchers to study marijuana’s medicinal effect.

The Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has rejected a Food and Drug Administration approved study of medical marijuana for treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.

President Obama has appointed the heads of all these departments.  In fact, he even appointed to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration Michele Leonhart, the acting administrator who had been appointed by President Bush.

It is by these measures that President Obama may be judged as more aggressively battling medical marijuana than the previous two administrations in the medical marijuana era.  However, there is one critical difference between President Obama’s War on Medical Marijuana compared to President Bush:  George W. Bush never bothered to ask us what we thought about it.

President Obama has asked the American People on nine separate occasions for suggestions on public policy.  In every instance, the subject of marijuana legalization and medical marijuana support have been the top concerns cited by Americans.

President Bush never openly mocked us on the issue.  Of course, if President Bush had bothered to address our medical marijuana questions, it couldn’t have been any more incoherent than President Obama’s recent response.

Full disclosure: I voted for, campaigned, fund-raised, phone-banked, and publicly spoke on behalf of the Obama Campaign in 2008 when I was still a progressive talk radio host on satellite radio.  It won’t happen again.  Some tell me we’re more likely to see legalization under a Democratic administration; I see two Republicans running for president espousing marijuana regulation.  I see arrest graphs showing greater rise in marijuana arrests under Clinton than any president but Nixon. At this point in my childless life, I must take Keith Stroup’s words to heart and “never again vote for any politician who would treat you like a criminal”.

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