President Obama: ‘The voters have spoken.’ Feds should not target pot use in Washington and Colorado.

by on December 14, 2012 · 6 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach

Woman passes a blunt at a pro-marijuana rally in front of the state capitol in Denver, Colorado, on April 20, 2010.

President Calls for National “Conversation” on Reconciling Conflicting State and Federal Laws, and Holder May Decide What to Do Within a Month.

In his first public comments on the issue after both the states of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of  marijuana, President Barack Obama said that the feds should not prosecute that kind of use in those states. “You’ve seen the voters speak on this issue,” he said. The President was interviewed by ABC News and it was released today.  In that interview, he stated:

“It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal. 

At this point (in) Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And, as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions.”

On November 6th, Washington and Colorado became the first states in the country to legalize the possession of up to an ounce of  pot for private us by an an individual.  This is “straight up” legalization, not just medicinal marijuana, as in California and 17 other states.

But, as all observers know, pot is still an “illegal narcotic” under federal law. And despite the legalization by California voters of medical herb, federal law officials have even intensified their efforts to crack down on pot dispensaries over the last two years.  This is because there has been no direction from the White House otherwise, and the Department of Justice maintains  that pot remains a federally controlled substance.

A Justice Department spokesperson also said on Friday that the President’s comments do not mean that Department officials have finalized their review of the Colorado and Washington laws. Reuters reported that:

Asked whether Drug Enforcement Administration agents were arresting people for possessing pot in Colorado and Washington, spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said “DEA’s focus has always been to disrupt and dismantle large-scale drug trafficking organization-not to arrest individual users.”

Before everyone rushes to go out and buy their federally-approved rolling papers and bongs, the President did tell ABC that, as Reuters reported:

… [the President] would not go so far as to say pot should be legalized altogether. There are also concerns about drug use in children and violence, the father of two told ABC, according to its website.

Obama himself admitted to regularly smoking pot in high school in his 1995 memoir, “Dreams of My Father,” but has expressed regret.  “I want to discourage drug use,” he told ABC.

Obama: We need a conversation on how to reconcile federal and state laws

The President did say the situation “a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law.”  He then told ABC that “what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about” how to reconcile federal and state laws.

The President has ordered U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to examine the issue.  After a speech he made in Boston this past Tuesday, Holder stated that his Justice Department is still considering its options but will act “relatively soon,” possibly with a month.

“I think we will come up with a policy that will be respective of federal law but also will make sure we are effective in our fight against crime that truly has an impact on the American people.”

Congress Expected to Act

The US Congress is expected to act on the issue – possibly as early as January, when it reconvenes.  Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy stated on Thursday that he will be holding a hearing next month. Leahy also called for the reconciliation of state and federal laws by Congress by the amendment of federal law to allow small amounts of pot in those states that have voted to legalize it.  In a letter on drug policy made public, Leahy said:

“In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington.”

Polls have shown that for the first time now, a majority of American voters support the legalization of marijuana. Hopefully, the Justice Department and Congress can get their respective acts together and hop on the side of the people. The people have spoken, and they continue to speak.

Legalization advocates and their supporters, as well as medical her supporters and those with common sense need to keep up the pressure on this issue – now is the time.

Much of the above was based on an article by Susan Heavey at Reuters .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dickie December 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Well this is great news . . .
and in addition to making it easier for those of us who choose to to get our buzz on, it will hopefully put support, material and substantive, to real research about all the good things that marijuana/hemp/whatever might contribute to our health and well-being. The feds have pretty much discouraged any serious research until very recently and it is becoming clear from what is being done that there is chemistry within the plant that has significant medicinal implications.I for one hope to see federal grants available for such research within a couple of years . . .

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avatar Kennon December 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I am pretty sure the voters of Colorado and California spoke a long time ago on this topic and that didn’t stop the Atty General from making felons out of decent people following their own state medical laws for the last 4 years. There is too much money in drug enforcement for the government to let this go willingly. Mark my words this is far from settled.

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avatar Wizard of Cape May December 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm

His DEA is still shutting down dispensaries that operate within CA law. You can’t believe anything he says.

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avatar Frank Gormlie December 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Overly broad generalization, ol wizard – we can’t “believe anything” Obama says? For a Romney supporter, that’s awfully easy for you to say.

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avatar mr.rick December 16, 2012 at 8:54 am

As most people from OB my age, me thinks this whole thing is about 40 years too late. My shit has already been screwed up since the mid 70s. We need to get it worked out so young people’s lives aren’t screwed up from something that happened when they were 15 or 16 years old. Just limit the damage as much as possible.

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avatar John December 18, 2012 at 9:15 am

Tell me about it… try this one on, about 3 decades ago ago when I was in the Navy under “operation zero tolerance” I was observed at a park 30 miles from any Navy base, on a Sunday, by an off duty base security petty officer passing a joint.
The rat covertly wrote down the sticker number of my vehicle and looked it up the next morning, and I was placed under arrest at my squadrons’s hangar and taken to base security where I was ordered to submit a urine sample. It tested positive for marijuana, due to the questionable circumstances for probable cause I chose to fight it, requesting a courts martial rather than NJP. (NJP would mean an automatic conviction and processing for a bad conduct discharge, I was just 3 months from completing my 4 year enlistment.)
I was convicted at a special courts martial and did 30 days in the brig (including 3 days confinement with bread and water). Two days after release from the brig my enlistment was up and received an honorable discharge due to 4 years of great evaluations.
The point? A special courts martial conviction under article 134 amounts to a federal felony conviction. Article 134 is the “Catch all” article of the UCMJ that includes everything from drug offenses, bestiality, you name it. I might as well have punched out my CO, fornicated with his dog, and painted “FTN” on his new sports car, as had the audacity to burn one. (though I did inhale)
For 29 years I have not been able to gain employment in any job requiring a security clearance, bonding, or even most business insurance coverage. 7/11? Nope. They sell California Lottery tickets, the business has to be bonded.
I’ve always worked but can’t tell you how many good jobs I landed but was turned away on as soon as the background check went through.
For taking a hit off a joint on my day off.
But hey I’m pretty sure the rat got the promotion he was looking for.
At this point we can expect the feds to keep going after it, because it’s against the law. Why is it against the law? Because it’s illegal. More important is the asset forfeiture scheme that law enforcement runs, keeping most of the proceeds to do as they see fit with, with no due process for those they take them from. The drug war is big money in many ways.

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