When Obama's supporters come to volunteer this evening, they will be greeted by a crowd holding political signs. It's not an Occupy protest or a Republican rally -0 it's a rally in support of medical marijuana access, organized by voters who feel left out of the electoral debate. From Washington, D.C. to Washington State, from New York City to Denver, Colorado, patients and their supporters will be asking, how can I vote against my health in November?
My organization, Americans for Safe Access, has been engaging voters since July with our Camp WakeUpObama campaign, helping to give a voice to patients and their families. Today campers mark the end of summer with nationwide rallies outside of Obama's campaign offices, because we're not being invited inside. Things would be different if the President would apply his campaign slogan, "Forward," to our cause: stopping the raids and prosecutions of state-permitted institutions, and moving public health policy forward by ending the conflict between state and federal law.
I can't ignore the fact that many responses to Camp WakeUpObama have been critical and to those of you who disapprove I ask, what else are patients supposed to do? In asking President Obama to fulfill his stated policy of respecting state compassionate use laws, we are not asking him to do anything unpopular: 80% of Americans support safe access to medical cannabis, 74% are against the stepped-up raids and prosecutions and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is polling at 7% in Colorado campaigning on this issue. Even two-thirds of Republicans support state medical cannabis laws. With the public on our side, why should patients and our loved ones be silent?
Camp WakeUpObama is not about encouraging people to vote for Romney or any other challenger, but about expressing our own points of view. When I wrote during the Democratic National Convention that pro-marijuana candidate Gary Johnson's poll numbers could make him a spoiler in the crucial swing state of Colorado, I wasn't criticizing third-party supporters, I was showing Democrats the proof that their standard-bearer's wrong-headed cannabis crackdown is costing the party votes. I never thought that Mitt Romney's campaign would be emailing reporters our talking points or that his vice-presidential nominee would publicly support state decisions on marijuana law. Though a lot has happened in the past few months, it's not too late for Obama to seize the issue.
Many of us want to be supporters of the President, to be a part of his movement. Obama has done great things for other patients but for my medical needs, which include cannabis, treatment has become only less affordable and more limited. When we listened to DNC speakers praise health care reforms for helping family members receive organ transplants, it was a painful reminder that our community had just buried Norman Smith, a man denied a transplant because of his doctor-recommended medical marijuana therapy. It was saddening to hear speaker after speaker talk about Obama expanding access to health care, when the same man ordered the destruction of our access to vital medicine. And it was frustrating to watch Obama's now-infamous Harold and Kumar video, in which he asked fictional stoners for support while turning his back on real-life medical marijuana patients.
In four years, Obama's DEA has taken action against far more medical marijuana facilities than during the eight years of Bush. Despite promises to govern according to science rather than politics, his administration is going to court to contend that marijuana has "no accepted medical use." And all of these raids, prosecutions, threatening letters, and asset forfeitures have occurred while Obama's Attorney General denies following an anti-medical cannabis policy. At least George W. Bush and John Ashcroft admitted they were waging a war on us.
Camp WakeUpObama brings forward the voices of those who feel conflicted about voting for someone who is prosecuting members of their community and closing down their trusted sources of medicine. I'm not a one-issue voter, but I should be able to vote for someone who cares about my health. I know that ordinary patients can make a difference - after all, it was the $20 donor who elected Obama.
It's 46 days before the election, and the President is having a good week. But support for Gary Johnson and the closeness of the race make Obama's unpopular medical cannabis crackdown an unnecessary roadblock to his reelection.
So today medical marijuana patients rally to wake up Obama and wake up his supporters. We want the President to apply his campaign slogan "forward" to medical cannabis: it is popular, it is good medicine, and it is good policy.
Follow Steph Sherer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stephsherer