From the Rolling Stone:
Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration’s high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush’s record for medical-marijuana busts.
The article chronicles the twists and turns of the Obama administration’s drug policy, and is worth reading in its entirety.
At least two lessons can be learned from this. One is to not take proclamations of enforcement priorities too seriously. They can change quickly, and what was opportune at some point, may not be at another. The other, related point, is that the only realistic way to get the federal government out of the medical marijuana issue is to actually change to legislation. This latter point is important, and relates to the rule of law. There is something discomforting about the execute branch stating that it will simply not enforce a policy that it finds unjust, without working towards changing the legislation.
Concerning drug policy in general, medical marijuana is just a small piece in a much larger puzzle. There is growing support (and evidence) that the war on drugs is a failure, and that change is needed. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, legalization must be considered. The current prohibition policy leads to tragedy, not just for drug addicts in America (and the West in general) who are prosecuted and imprisoned when they need care and support; the even larger disaster is the damage done to Mexico and a slew of other countries in Latin America, where drug lords take out the civil institutions the allow society to function.
Apparently, the Obama administration is not willing to provide change we can believe in when it comes to drug policy.
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