Who Switched the Channel?
I don’t know what to make of the federal government’s recent crackdown on medical marijuana here in California. It seems that we are taking a huge step backward, as we witness the battle between the governing mechanism in Washington DC, and each of the individual governments representing the states.
When I taught U.S. History to eighth graders, and we got to the part about states’ rights, there was always a lively dialogue. Back in the 1780’s, when the government was being formed, this was a huge concern to each and every state, and each had its own reasons.
Things have not changed much today, though that fact brings little comfort. What bothers me the most, is that a lot of good people, hard-working, regulation-following folks, have their necks in a noose because the Obama Administration has decided to abruptly change tactics. As a presidential candidate he stated, "The basic concept of using medical marijuana ... (is) entirely appropriate," and pledged, "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue." Well, gosh, I think that’s exactly what’s going on here, and I didn’t even have to say it, because he already did.
If President Obama is not trying to interfere with decisions made by individual states, then why did the Department of Justice send letters this past spring, to state lawmakers who were debating legislation to allow for the licensed distribution of medical cannabis? Why did these letters threaten prosecution of those involved with said efforts if the measures went forward?
Why has the IRS assessed crippling penalties on tax-paying medical cannabis facilities in California, by denying these operations the right to file standard expense deductions?
Why has The Department of the Treasury strong-armed local banks and other financial institutions into closing their accounts with medicinal cannabis operators?
Why has The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms sternly warned firearms dealers not to sell guns to medical marijuana consumers, and stated that patients who otherwise legally possess firearms are in violation of federal law and may face criminal prosecution?
Finally, why has The Department of Justice sent cease-and-desist letters to the landlords of California dispensaries, whose tenants are operating in accordance with state and local regulations, and threatened them with civil forfeiture, criminal prosecution, and imprisonment?
These actions do not seem to represent the President’s campaign promise to “...not use Justice Department resources to circumvent state laws.”
President Obama also promised, "Science and the scientific process must inform and guide (the) decisions of my Administration." Therefore, I am baffled as to why The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a nine-year-old administrative petition that called for hearings regarding the federal rescheduling of cannabis for medical use, ignoring extensive scientific evidence of its medical value.
Additionally, The National Institute on Drug Abuse rejected an FDA-approved protocol to allow for clinical research assessing the use of cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, stating, "We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
Most recently, 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 cannabis for those patients qualified to use it, in accordance with state law.
If the Obama Administration wants to best serve its constituents, it will allow the local legislators to continue listening to the input of the voters, to establish guidelines for regulating safe access to medicine. This will also allow states to continue providing ongoing jobs and tax revenue.
Legislating medical marijuana operations and prosecuting those who choose to violate the state-mandated regulations should be a responsibility left to the state, not the federal government. It is time for President Obama to fulfill the promises he made to the medical cannabis community and to respect the decisions of voters and lawmakers in states that recognize its therapeutic value.
President Obama made promises he is not keeping. The current policies being employed do not represent an administration which is attempting to work with local governments, with input from local voters, and to allow science to dictate an appropriate course of action. What happened?
Is it possible that the corporate drug companies and the liquor industry make larger contributions to the President’s coffers than the medical marijuana industry?
It’s just a clarifying question, but it does not have to be considered rhetorical. President Obama?