Obama's New Medical Marijuana Statement: What Just Happened?

Posted in:
Today's news that DOJ is officially calling on federal prosecutors to respect state medical marijuana laws is already a top story in every major news outlet. Although the announcement merely formalizes existing administration priorities, it has done so with considerable fanfare and the medical marijuana community is naturally quite thrilled about it.

This event -- and the substantial attention it has drawn -- provides yet another important measure of the rapidly evolving political landscape surrounding marijuana policy in America. It's important to understand how this happened, which is why I think this comment from Glenn Greenwald is a little bit off the mark:

The Obama administration deserves major credit not only for ceasing this practice, but for memorializing it formally in writing.  Just as is true for Jim Webb's brave crusade to radically revise the nation's criminal justice and drug laws, there is little political gain -- and some political risk -- in adopting a policy that can be depicted as "soft on drugs" or even "pro-marijuana."

It's just not at all clear to me at this point what political risk exists with regards to protecting medical marijuana. Public support has ranged from 70-80% for a long time. We have a 9-1 record passing state-level initiatives to legalize medical marijuana, losing only in South Dakota. Obama's campaign promises on this issue earned only praise, while contrary statements from Romney, McCain and Giuliani ignited a firestorm of public outrage. Who even opposes medical marijuana anymore other than paranoid politicians, power-hungry police and creepy old drug war demagogues?  Even Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly are cool with it.

The real story behind what happened today, I believe, is that the new administration sees public support for medical marijuana as the safest course from a purely political standpoint. They didn't have to issue this statement at all, let alone on a Monday morning, and I can only assume that they're perfectly content to make major headlines with it. As such, this event is significant not only for its implications with regards to medical marijuana, but also because it fundamentally reframes the political calculus that has long driven drug policy decision-making in Washington, D.C.

There are many good things to be said about all of this, but praising Obama's political courage may serve only to unintentionally re-inflate the dubious notion that there's anything to fear by standing with us in the first place.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!



"Buzz" it up on yahoo!

I noticed it's nearly impossible to find any anti medical marijuana stories anymore. Thank god.

might be that scuzzball Pawlenty who showed political courage

by vetoing a MMJ bill that would only have applied to terminally ill patients. He took his marching orders from the Minnesota cops, but he was probably defying the will of 90% of Minnesota voters. The bill was watered down so much that most of the already limited number of enemies of MMJ could live with it, but not the cops or Pawlenty. He wants to be President and apparently feels the support of cannabis hating cops is necessary to the goal of winning the Republican nomination. I hate to say something complimentary about such a nasty sadist, and maybe this is better looked at as calculation than courage, but it's not every pol who will go against such overwhelming public opinion.


Cousin Barrack has asked prosecutors to back off from pursuing cases against human beings who use the only side-effect free drug in existence (at least that I know of) and the Drug Policy Alliance is hailing it as a "victory." I call it just another chapter in the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American people.

BTW -- Northern Sun Merchandising features a bumper sticker that reads, "Medically speaking, what harm does marijuana do to terminally ill patients?"

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School