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White House Rebuffs Marijuana Legalization Petitions

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #707)
Politics & Advocacy

As promised, the White House has responded to the online petition to "Legalize and Regulate Alcohol," and seven other similar pot petitions as well, but the response wasn't favorable. That's not particularly surprising, given that the person chosen to deliver the response, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Gil Kerlikowske, is mandated by law to oppose legalization.

"Isn't it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol?" asked the petition submitted by "Erik A" of Washington, DC. "If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?

The threshold for an official response was at least 25,000 signatures by 30 days from October 3. The marijuana legalization petition was by far the most popular, with more than 74,000 signatures as of Friday night. Another seven petitions similarly calling for one form of pot legalization or another, which Kerlikowske also included in his response, carried an additional 76,000 signatures.

The marijuana legalization petitions far exceeded all others. Currently, the other leading contenders are banning puppy mills (30,234), abolishing the TSA (28,515), and two other issues that are closely related to marijuana reform -- allowing for industrial hemp (20,498) and ending the war on drugs (18,614).

The official response from drug czar Kerlikowske is certain to disappoint and infuriate marijuana legalization supporters and drug reformers, but should come as little surprise. Under the 1998 ONDCP Reauthorization Act, the drug czar is required by law not only to not spend any money to study legalization but also to "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize" a Schedule I substance, a category that under federal law includes marijuana. The drug czar could no more come out for marijuana legalization than the 17th Century Holy Office could endorse a universe without the earth at its center.

That the administration chose the drug czar to respond sends a strong signal that legalization talk will go nowhere in this administration. That it chose to release its response during the late Friday afternoon "news dump," when it will hopefully vanish over the weekend suggests that it realizes it isn't going to win many political points with its position.

"Our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug's effects," Kerlikowske begins before warning that "marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment." He then wheels out marijuana treatment admissions and emergency room visits, reminds that potency has increased, and concludes that "simply put, it is not a benign drug."

Kerlikowske asserts that the administration is "ardently support[ing] ongoing research" into marijuana as a medicine, but scoffs at smoked marijuana as a medicine. Then he actually addresses the petition.

"As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem," the drug czar continued. "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."

Instead, Kerlikowske recommends, not surprisingly, his own 2001 National Drug Control Strategy, "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." What is needed is not marijuana legalization, but more drug treatment and more drug courts, Kerlikowske concludes.

The legalization petition was drafted in response to the White House's We the People campaign "because we want to hear from you," according to the web page. "If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it is sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."

The drug czar's recitation of the harms associated with marijuana use is certainly debatable and will doubtlessly be thoroughly criticized in days to come. But as the administration response makes clear, that marijuana is a dangerous drug that Americans cannot be trusted with to use responsibly is the official line, and they're sticking to it.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


The_LaughingMan (not verified)

I just saw this "response" and posted a new petition because of it please sign it and spread this around!/petition/open-debate-full-legalization-taxation-and-regulation-marijuana-and-not-simply-deny-people-debate/qGLlfrcJ

Open for debate the full legalization, taxation, and regulation of Marijuana, and not simply deny the people that debate

According to the latest Gallup poll 50% of Americans support full
legalization of marijuana and only 46% are against this. The response
to the first round of petitions regarding legalization has been simply
to say "no legalization". In a democratic country when the majority
feel this is a worthy issue to debate simply saying "No" is

The fact of the matter is that the prohibition of
marijuana only creates and exacerbates issues related to consumption. We
learned this lesson with alcohol and ended that prohibition, this
resulted in a huge drop in organized crime organized around the illegal
alcohol trade. As marijuana is a far safer substance than alcohol should
make this an easy choice. While legalization would not solve all issues
it would be a much better solution.

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 12:19pm Permalink
JohnKPortland (not verified)

In reply to by The_LaughingMan (not verified)

The white house issued a single canned response to 7 petitions with an aggregate of over 100,000 signatures on its marijuana policy.  This is highly disrespectful of the many people who put their names to the 7 petitions.  

Help me get this petition (link below) going, ask the white house to respond appropriately to each petition:

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 5:52pm Permalink
Mike Parent (not verified)

Mr President  , why do ask for petitions and then dismiss them, out of hand?  Your minions can keep ignoring the people, but you can't.  See you at the polls. 

Dems and Reps, different pages from the same bad book!'

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 1:37pm Permalink

The whole goal here was to ensure that Obama would not have to release a statement himself or say anything on a web or tv broadcast against cannabis legalization so he can try to blame everyone else for the crackdowns on cannabis and play the role as our "Hero...if re-elected." next year and then most likely pull the same stunts for four more years. I feel the most beneficial thing we can do is force him to personally take a stand regarding this issue. His press secretary tried to get him disassociated from the medical marijuana crack down by the IRS, ATF and DEA because he realizes the danger of pissing off his youth base along with half the country. We need to force him to make a stand in one direction or another or he will do anything he can to wiggle out of any responsibility on this subject. till after he is re-elected when it doesn't matter any more to him.

So. . .

Why not start another petition asking for a response from the correct office regarding rescheduling cannabis? The We The People site says that the petition will be sent to the proper policy makers and the response will be made from there and according to the CSA rescheduling power is granted to the President of these United States not the ONDCP.

Or why not a petition that cites all the studies on the norml blog regarding the ONDCP response proving that all of the "scientific" data cited in the response has been disproven or is irrelavent and then request a response that takes into account "what current science tells us about marijuana, not decade old studies or studies that prove cannabis is as addictive as coffee. From the proper office with rescheduling power, The Office of the President."

Or why not a petition that requests an open scientific debate between the ONDCP and drug law reformers, since this is "A perfectly legitimate topic to debate. As our President noted in his last online town hall meeting."

We need to not allow the president to distance himself from this topic and push it off onto other offices. He is doing everything in his power to attempt to seperate this from himself before the 2012 political games start and if he succeeds he will have Cart Blanche. He has shot himself in the foot and he knows it and he is trying to escape the consequences, we need to stop that from happening.

Sorry if there are any spelling errors. I am at work and the spell check isn't working. 

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:15pm Permalink
435345w3454 (not verified)!/petition/regulate-tobacco-and-alcohol-manner-similar-marijuana/0xLz2Wmr

There is another petition making its rounds guys, this one will require Gil to make a statement about making Tobacco, and alcohol illegal just like Marijuana.

Lets see him caught in his contradiction.

There are also other petitions already up asking Gil to phrase his anti-marijuana arguments in ways that do not also apply to alcohol or tobacco.

The fight isn't over yet.

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:44pm Permalink
JohnKPortland (not verified)

The white house issued a single canned response to 7 petitions with an aggregate of over 100,000 signatures on its marijuana policy.  This is highly disrespectful of the many people who put their names to the 7 petitions.  

Help me get this petition (link below) going, ask the white house to respond appropriately to each petition:

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 5:51pm Permalink
thetruththetru… (not verified)

please sign and help circulate this petition!!/petition/honestly-address-specific-grievances-150000-us-citizens-who-already-demanded-marijuana-be-legalized/cTd9kJjq


full text of the petition:


we petition the obama administration to:

Honestly address the specific grievances of the 150,000 US citizens who already demanded that marijuana be legalized.

Gil Kerlikowske shamed himself and the current administration by submitting a condescending restatement of the governments repugnant positions on drug policy as a response to 150,000 US citizens demanding the legalization of marijuana.

We demand that Barack Obama himself, not Gil Kerlikowske (who is legally barred from voicing support for the legalization of any schedule 1 substance), give a direct answer to the following question:

Why does marijuana remain a schedule 1 substance despite the fact that %50 of Americans want it legalized, ample evidence from reputable research organizations proves its medical efficacy and safety, and numerous prestigious federal boards and non-governmental research organizations recommend that its possession, use, and sale be legalized and regulated?

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 7:39pm Permalink
strangepuppy (not verified)

In reply to by EvilPoet (not verified)

Make them explain the patent.

When Obama was a Senator in my state I approached him regarding Medical Cannabis and all he could do was back pedal, and bullshit. I had hoped for better from him. How stupid am I... Ron Paul in 2012. Obama has already been bought and paid for. It is time to clean house, and senate, and all of this 1% Tall Poppy bullshit.

Pigs, Fat cats, all monsters in my book.

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 4:59am Permalink
help us (not verified)

please support my petition,
i think it's worded well and addresses the whitehouse's response to the earlier cannabis petitions.
they only give you 800 characters so i had to trim but i think it covers important talking points.
it takes 100 votes before it shows up on their site for public viewing so we have to spread it around and get 100 before it can really take off and get a response.


please check it out and vote and share it everywhere!!

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 8:21pm Permalink
help us (not verified)

please support my petition,
i think it's worded well and addresses the whitehouse's response to the earlier cannabis petitions.
they only give you 800 characters so i had to trim but i think it covers important talking points.
it takes 100 votes before it shows up on their site for public viewing so we have to spread it around and get 100 before it can really take off and get a response.

please check it out and vote and share it everywhere!!

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 8:24pm Permalink
darkcycle (not verified)

In reply to by help us (not verified)

Sorry, Help. How is that a good idea? What possible good can it do for the legalization effort to start a petition to prohibit already legal substances? It won’t make them look like hypocrites(any more than that halfassed response to the seven legalization petitions did already). And it won’t make the petition effort look like any more of a sham. If it reaches the number, then what? they just respond with the “alcohol and tobacco are a part of our culture” claptrap. Wastes time and effort to no end. Sorry, Help yourself.

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 11:31pm Permalink
AdvocateReason (not verified)

In reply to by darkcycle (not verified)

     I have to disagree.  I think thiis is just the kind of controversy that will get it the media attention it deserves. :]  I think it's a fantastic way to get the media to cover this story.

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 5:47am Permalink
GordonFreeman1960 (not verified)

Just as every other scam this president has suckered the American People into, this 'Petition' idea is a useless joke, and not a very funny one at that. The only petition Obama won't be able to ignore will be at the Polls in November of 2012. 

Sat, 10/29/2011 - 11:36pm Permalink
Desert Rat (not verified)

In reply to by GordonFreeman1960 (not verified)


Maybe that answer was the best we could ever expect from a drug czar.  Don't get me wrong, I support drug treatment when the alternative is a long prison term for an individual.  I am curious, however, whether the drug czar supports drug treatment for all who have tried marijuana (including our last three presidents) or whether he thinks it's a good idea only for those who are caught?
The other thing that I have always wondered is whether the current drug czar would support taking Monticello and Mount Vernon through the RICO act if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson suddenly came back to life and continued to grow hemp on their plantations?
Does it really matter whether you ask a valid question or a ridiculous one when you know that all you will get back is lies and spin?  
You are absolutely right Gordon!  I am upset that we all were deceived.  I hope that they understand that this vocal and supportive group of people who initially campaigned and voted for Obama will actively campaign for his removal.  
Sun, 10/30/2011 - 2:27am Permalink
AdvocateReason (not verified)

In reply to by GordonFreeman1960 (not verified)

     or the media reporting on the backlash it doesn't matter.  It all starts with the petition - and that's why its important.  And if NBC, ABC, CBS decide this is a big enough issue where the Obama administration responded to the petition that accrued the greatest number of signatures late on a Friday in an attempt to avoid the major news cycles or responded to several disparate marijuana-related petitions with the same word-for-word condescending piece of garbage without even addressing the issue of hemp we'll just have to wait and see.  But petitioning the government is a valuable tool guaranteed by the Constitution.  And if the media picks this up - it will work.

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 5:54am Permalink
Desert Rat (not verified)


This reminds me of the Ronald Reagan statements that marijuana causes brain damage.  The response was not a presentation of evidence or facts.  Nothing other than opinion is reported.  It took about six years of freedom of information act requests to finally determine that the monkeys with brain damage had been suffocated when given the marijuana through gas mask like devices for periods of time long enough to cause brain damage.
I guess it was wrong to expect that drug czar Kerlikowske might actually horrify us with the evidence.  I'm sure that if he had any verifiable and irrefutable evidence of anything that he said he would have presented it and we would see it on the headlines of every major paper in America tomorrow.  It is clear that Obama and Kerlikowske want us to believe that they are ready for a dialog but the reality is that they are not really ready to talk. 
This is an insult to the 20,000,000 Americans that have become second class citizens after being imprisoned for marijuana.  This is an insult to the 100,000,000 Americans who have risked federal arrest for trying marijuana.  This is an insult to the 80% of our people that support medical marijuana.  This is an insult to the 50% of Americans who support regulation of marijuana.  This is a rude slap in the face to any American citizen who expects honest answers from their government.  
Sun, 10/30/2011 - 1:21am Permalink


It is NOT the government's job to legislate morality or lifestyle!  It's as _simple_ as that.  Even if the government were going to legislate marijuana it should be done at a STATE LEVEL!  Get the federal government out of marijuana enforcement!  Pass H.R. 2306! Tell your representatives ->
"[Prohibition] attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes." - Abraham Lincoln
Sun, 10/30/2011 - 4:25am Permalink

The best thing to do is get these paid liars to testify under oath about cannabis' safe, accepted medical use in the United States. This fact is admitted by the federal government and may not be denied under oath without committing perjury.

Here's the proof:

It cannot be lawful to arrest anyone under the claim that marijuana has no safe, accepted medical use in the United States and at once assign U.S. patents to the United Sates Department of Health and Human Services and GWPharm for proven safe, accepted medical uses of cannabis.



Even a few dozen lawsuits across the country demanding reparations would be enough to force their hand.



Check and mate, folks. Check, and mate.

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 9:45am Permalink
Dan Simonds (not verified)

I am very disappointed in the response to the legalization of marijuana, so I just posted a new petition. I need signatures to get this moving. If the "law" says the government can`t condone legalizing marijuana, then put it on the next ballot for the "voters" can decide. Here is the link: Thank You!/petition/put-legalization-decriminalization-marijuana-next-ballott-so-we-people-can-vote-issue/Y2z4pwNY 

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 11:14am Permalink
Heath Robinson (not verified)

In reply to by Dan Simonds (not verified)

You mis-spelled ballot on it.  You used two 't's'.  It's not Ballott.

I like the idea and all, but it's not even close to a Constitutional method for changing law.

Fri, 11/04/2011 - 9:13am Permalink
Tony Aroma (not verified)



Does anybody know if this collective response to several related marijuana petitions included the petition in support of industrial hemp?

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 8:22pm Permalink
Daniel (not verified)

There are at least two new petitions on the White House site calling for the removal of Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske.!/petition/replace-gil-kerlikowske/Lbk7p73H!/petition/publicly-request-resignation-gil-kerlikowske/KVxx6PK1

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 10:04pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by Daniel (not verified)

 to take his place.  

The problem is with the government, particularly the Executive branch -- president, VP, justice dept., and especially the ONDCP and the quasi-legal mandate for whomever holds the office of drug czar to act exactly as Gil has.  

It is time to demand the ONDCP and DEA both be defunded and disbanded and the CSA trash-canned, and don't bother with trying to do it by petition, obviously those petitions are useless, Obama's administration has shown us just how useless with their response to the "legalize" petitions.

It is time for Americans to sue their government, a huge class action lawsuit claiming a violation of the unalienable right to ownership one's own body and to choose one's own lifestyle.  

It is time to force the government to stop acting like it owns each and every one of us, from the crown of our heads right down to our toenails, and including controlling every penny we earn and every substance we ingest.

Mon, 10/31/2011 - 3:48am Permalink
theresa jenkins (not verified)

i think it should be legalized it would cut down on crime and prison wouldn't be over crowded it would stimulate the economy  people would buy it. there would not be as many car accidents or speeders road rage would be down the economy would get boost with the food chains and convent stores will be booming.. .

Mon, 10/31/2011 - 1:20am Permalink
Tony Aroma (not verified)



Even if everything the Drug Czar said is true, it still doesn't explain why making it illegal is the solution to any of those issues. I could understand wanting to control intestate commerce, as that's something the federal government can and should do. But to ruin someone's life over simple possession makes no sense. Especially if what the drug czar said is true.

So here's the question I think should be posed to the Drug Czar:

How does giving someone a permanent criminal record and preventing them from going to college benefit the individual or society?

Mon, 10/31/2011 - 12:04pm Permalink
DC_8513 (not verified)

This is what we need to do People of the United States of America. We need to get the Obama Administration out of our White House & put someone that has some common since in there. Vote for, Gary Johnson or Ron Paul.

Mon, 10/31/2011 - 12:24pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by DC_8513 (not verified)

the nomination; but Ron Paul does, so even if you prefer Johnson, caucus/vote for Ron Paul (he could choose Gary Johnson for his VP, giving Johnson a better chance at the presidency after Paul's term is over).  Additionally Ron Paul has the best plan to restore America:

Here is how to help Ron Paul win the nomination:

However, time is short, so move on it soonest.

Mon, 10/31/2011 - 3:17pm Permalink
David Hart (not verified)

A neat way of crystallising things might be for a petition to be worded "What percentage of American citizens would need to be in favour of legally regulating cannabis before this administration was prepared to give the question serious consideration?"


(though as a non-US citizen, I suspect I'm probably not the best person to start one up)

Tue, 11/01/2011 - 6:36am Permalink
changenow (not verified)

In reply to by David Hart (not verified)

Great idea.  Done.  Please take a look, sign and spread the word.


"We petition the Obama Administration to: Announce how many of us have to voice support for a change in cannabis (marijuana) laws before we are taken seriously?"

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 11:54am Permalink
Rman (not verified)

I'd never even heard of the original petition.


I've signed all of the petitions listed in this thread, and sent the link to all of my friends and family.  We ALL need to do the same.  Spread the word.  End the madness.

Fri, 11/04/2011 - 10:58pm Permalink
John Q (not verified)

A grown-ass man has the god-given right to put whatever the fuck he wants into his own goddamned body.  My body is my own.  My body my choice.  Everyday Obama goes w/o granting a blanket pardon to all drug offenders and ordering their release is another day I hope he suffers in purgatory. 

Sat, 11/05/2011 - 7:00am Permalink

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