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White House Rejects Petition To Legalize Marijuana

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WASHINGTON -- The White House has rejected several marijuana legalization petitions, one of which called on the federal government to stop interfering with state marijuana legalization efforts.

"As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem," wrote Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in a statement released late on Friday. "We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use."

The statement came in response to a petition submitted by retired Baltimore narcotics officer Neill Franklin as part of the White House's "We The People" project, an effort to allow ordinary Americans to gain the attention of policymakers through an online portal at the White House website. Any petition garnering 5,000 signatures within 30 days of submission is guaranteed a response from the White House; Franklin's petition received more than 17,000.

"It's maddening that the administration wants to continue failed prohibition polices that do nothing to reduce drug use and succeed only in funneling billions of dollars into the pockets of the cartels and gangs that control the illegal market," said Franklin, who serves as executive director of advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in a statement released Saturday.

Franklin's petition comes as federal prosecutors have escalated enforcement actions against medical marijuana dispensary owners in California, vowing to shutter state-licensed businesses and threatening landlords with property seizures for violating federal drug laws. Franklin has also called on the president to remember his campaign promise not to waste government resources interfering with state-regulated marijuana dispensaries.

The White House's rejection statement was directed at seven other marijuana-related petitions, which together garnered more than 150,000 signatures. One such petition, which called for marijuana to be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol, received almost 75,000 signatures.

"Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses," the White House wrote in its official response. "That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition."

Read the full response from the White House below:

When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug's effects.

According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health -- the world's largest source of drug abuse research -- marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health -– especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20's. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.

Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.

As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.

That is why the President's National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities. Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we've seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We're also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.

Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.

Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President's approach to drug control to learn more.

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