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Obama Must Explain His Broken Promise on Medical Marijuana, and Soon

Posted: 10/20/11 10:28 AM ET

This week's news that support for the legalization of marijuana has reached a record high of 50% ought to bother Obama's re-election team a little bit. No, not because pot's more popular than the president, although that really says a lot. The problem, rather, is that Obama's heavily publicized and widely praised promise to respect state medical marijuana laws has recently been shattered into more pieces than the campaign can count.

In only a few short months, the Obama administration has presided over a vicious series of political assaults on medical marijuana patients and providers across the nation, carried out by numerous federal agencies. The situation just continues to get more ugly and insane from one week to the next:

  • Federal prosecutors have threatened to arrest state employees for administering state laws, resulting in stalled programs and reduced patient access.
  • U.S. Attorneys in California recently revived the Bush era tactic of threatening to seize property from landlords who rent to medical marijuana facilities.
  • After 9 years of failing to respond, the DEA recently denied a petition to reschedule marijuana, ignoring a vast body of scientific evidence proving the drug's medical efficacy.
  • Federal threats have caused numerous banks to close the accounts of businesses that provide medical marijuana to qualified patients.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms issued a surprising statement that medical marijuana patients may not purchase firearms.
  • The IRS is shaking down medical marijuana providers for millions of dollars based on an obscure tax provision aimed at drug traffickers.
  • A federal prosecutor even threatened to target newspapers that run ads for medical marijuana services.
  • And, of course, the DEA continues to raid tax-paying businesses that are legal under state law.

As the American people appear all but prepared to end our war on marijuana once and for all, the federal government is busy doubling down on the even-more-mindless battle against people who use the drug medicinally. The disconnect is staggering and continues to expand as support for full legalization surges into the majority, while medical marijuana maintains the massive 80% national support it's had for some time now.

Today, at this very moment, support for the cause of marijuana reform has never been greater, and tomorrow it will be greater still. The surging momentum of the issue is generating discussion all around us, even by the media that once ignored it, which now misses no opportunity to cover the controversy over cannabis.

Alas, it seems the only person not talking about it is our president, who campaigned as an agent of change, who once spoke with seeming sincerity of the need to "rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws," who was elected after promising to reform federal enforcement priorities in medical marijuana states, and who earned universal praise from the press and the public when his administration announced its intention to do just that.

Whether deliberately or through a willful failure to follow the issue at all, Obama has thrown all of it away amidst an extraordinary stampede of over-the-top anti-pot posturing that makes Bush's drug war leadership look lazy by comparison. The situation is spiraling as we speak into new depths of absurdity, and many of the people who've made things this bad are busy brainstorming ways to make it worse.

Still, if there is one lesson to be learned from the recent history of marijuana policy in America, it is that support for reform is galvanized when the law is enforced in a manner that shocks the public conscience. The Obama Administration's past attempts at pandering to demands for a more measured criminal justice philosophy prove that he was once paying attention. Now, as the tension escalates with each new federal threat, Obama's silence on the matter is becoming conspicuous and embarrassing.

The time has come for the president, and no one else, to come forward and explain to the American people why war is still being waged against patients and providers in states that permit the medical use of marijuana. What the people want has been perfectly clear for a long time, and if we can't have it, we deserve an honest answer as to why.

 

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