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Robert J. Corry, Jr. Headshot

The Audacity of Dope: Obama Breaks Medical Marijuana Promise

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Election 2008: What a wonderful time to be a medical marijuana patient in Colorado! Voters had just elected Barack Obama as the President of the United States of America. "Hope" was in the air. Thousands of Colorado medical marijuana patients and caregivers were certain that the Federal government would cease trampling on their State constitutional rights after Inauguration Day.

Candidate Barack Obama had explicitly stated, "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana; it is not a good use of our resources." Watch:

Later in the campaign, Obama promised, "I will not be using Department of Justice resources to try to circumvent state laws on the [medical marijuana] issue," since America has violent crimes and terrorism to deal with. Watch:

Instead, mere hours after the new President was inaugurated, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") unleashed a campaign of terror on medical marijuana patients in California. Optimists in the marijuana movement attributed this to nasty Bush holdovers and career bureaucrats throwing one last temper tantrum.

In the wake of these raids, new U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, laughingly reassured us that Candidate Obama's statements are "American policy" now that Obama has become President:

Our hope for change was re-energized.

On October 19, 2009, our hope was further bolstered with the issuance of formal written guidance (PDF) from the U.S. Justice Department related to medical marijuana.

The issuance of that guidance seemingly removed one of the last significant impediments to upstanding business entrepreneurs serving Colorado's suffering medical marijuana patients. A new industry started to form, creating jobs, paying taxes, and leasing vacant commercial space. The cobwebs began to clear from Colorado's dormant economy.

Then, on February 2, 2010, amid gasps from nearly the entire marijuana reform movement, medical marijuana patients, and other open-minded science-based thinkers, Obama formally nominated former Bush DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart, to head the Obama DEA.

Leonhart has a notorious career as a jack-booted administrator of the least successful government program in modern history, i.e. the Drug War, and has a fawning affection for the highest-paid DEA snitch of all time, Andrew Chambers, a criminal who has been found to have committed perjury by at least two federal appeals courts. Any hope that Obama would chart a new course on drug policy was dashed by this horrible nomination.

Only ten days after the Leonhart nomination, the belligerent Obama DEA dropped the equivalent of a nuclear bomb on Colorado's medical marijuana patients with an armed militarized raid on small-time home-based medical marijuana farmer Chris Bartkowicz. The day of this raid, the DEA Agent in Charge, Jeff Sweetin, declared open federal warfare on Colorado's entire nascent medical marijuana community.

"Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law," Sweetin told the Denver Post. "The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody. They're violating federal law; they're at risk of arrest and imprisonment."

Sweetin's apocalyptic declaration of war and threat to "arrest everybody" terrified Colorado's sick and suffering medical marijuana patients. The day after the raid, I filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility against the DEA agents involved in the raid. My complaint was quickly and decisively backed by U.S. Congressman Jared Polis.

To this date, months later, neither Congressman Polis nor myself have received any response to our pleas to the Obama administration to uphold its "American policy."

Although Sweetin eventually backed away from his full frontal declaration of war, and Obama sent him to Quantico, Virginia, Sweetin's words pale in comparison to what Obama's Justice Department had in store next.

On February 16, 2010, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado filed a criminal prosecution against Bartkowicz in federal court. Obama appointed John Walsh as U.S. Attorney, and Obama's hand-picked federal prosecutor further upped the ante, successfully requesting that the Court place a gag order on the Bartkowicz defense from even mentioning his intent to comply with Colorado state law at the jury trial.

The Obama Administration's court filings reveal that Bartkowicz faces a grotesquely disproportionate 20 years to life in prison only because he went on television to discuss what he believed were legal actions in growing medical marijuana.

Progress is being made against Marijuana Prohibition. Soon, this modern-day Prohibition will be as extinct as a saber tooth tiger. In the meantime, however, that cornered tiger still has sharp claws and long teeth that can destroy human life and freedom. Obama has done the opposite of what we thought, and what he promised. Instead of caging that tiger, he has unleashed it.

Colorado's medical marijuana community should fear the Obama Justice Department. An objective analysis reveals that, as far as Colorado medical marijuana is concerned, eight years of George W. Bush were better than one and a half years of Obama. Bush Justice did not prosecute a single Colorado medical marijuana grower or patient over eight years. Obama has conducted numerous medical marijuana raids and property forfeitures, and seeks to steal Chris Bartkowicz's youth from him. With Obama's term not even half over, there seems little "hope" for "change."