Is Weed In or Out? President Obama’s Changing Stance on Medical Marijuana

By Katie Smith   

On October 7, 2011, the Department of Justice informed the public of California that legal action could be taken against people who make, distribute, or facilitate the dispensing of medical marijuana. This statement against medical marijuana sharply contrasts the stance that Barack Obama took when campaigning for the office of the president. During his campaign, Obama assured voters that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws,” quotes Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization dedicated to fighting for medical marijuana usage. Obama’s contradiction of previous statement has, to many Americans, made it seem as if he has reneged on his own word to not use the Justice Department in the national medical marijuana debate.

   Taking a more conservative approach toward medical marijuana, Obama looked toward his predecessor, George W. Bush, who sent out warning letters in 2007 to dispensaries in California.  While the Bush administration talked business, it seemed as if their bark was worse than their bite, considering that no legal action was ever taken against companies or businesses.  As notes in their article, “it’s unclear if the federal government has the resources or inclination to act on these new threats in a significant way, but for the price of postage they have engaged in wholesale intimidation of the medical marijuana community”. The Obama Administration too, has taken to sending out warning letters to those that might find the information pertinent to their way of business or life, but the result remains to be seen in whether Obama will be more effective than his predecessor. Obama has conducted several hundred drug searches in several states, and has engaged in intimidating correspondence with authorities in ten states, who, if they accept medical marijuana propositions, could be facing criminal charges by the federal government. 

   As Obama approaches the beginning of campaign season for a second term in office, many Americans, especially those affiliated with medical marijuana associations, are outraged by his strong armed tactics. “It is unconscionable that the federal government would override local and state laws to enforce its will over the will of the people,” states Kris Hermes, a spokesperson for ASA, one of the most massive marijuana rights groups in the United States. Many marijuana advocacy groups, like ASA, believe that each state should be able to create its own law regarding marijuana, but the federal government seems to be adopting an “all for one, and one for all” type policy.

   Not only are organizations that crusade for medical marijuana upset with the tone Obama has taken with the issue, they are also concerned that this change will turn patients who use medical marijuana, to other more unsafe outlets to buy their drugs.

   Lastly, notes that supporters of medical marijuana point to a failing economy as a reason why the Obama Administration should reconsider taking money that could be used to aid the economy, and putting it toward outlawing marijuana.

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