Will Obama Legalize It?

Over the last eight years, America’s 25 million regular marijuana users have lived under a dark cloud – namely, the federal government’s draconian assault on their lives and liberties. The police made an unprecedented 6.3 million pot arrests under President Bush, who also reneged on a campaign promise to let states decide their own medical-marijuana policies, resulting in the indictment of more than 100 state-authorized cannabis patients and providers, many of them now serving multi-decade sentences in federal prison. Meanwhile, John Walters, our nation’s longest-serving and least competent Drug Czar, railed senselessly about weed – blaming pot smokers for September 11, equating the therapeutic use of cannabis to “medicinal crack,” and alleging that not one single American is serving time behind bars for pot possession.

Now our community turns its hopeful eyes to a new president, and perhaps our best opportunity in more than three decades to help usher in a new direction in pot policy. So what are some practical and immediate steps the Obama administration can take to de-escalate the senseless war on marijuana smokers?

First and foremost, the new president must uphold his campaign promise to end the federal prosecution of state-authorized med-pot patients and providers. President Obama can do this by appointing leaders at the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General’s office who will respect the will of the voters in the 14 states that have already legalized the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. Obama can further protect the health and safety of patients by encouraging the relevant government agencies to review a 2002 petition to reschedule cannabis so that doctors can prescribe it legally. (As a candidate, Obama described such a change in pot’s classification as “entirely appropriate.”) The president should also demand that the DEA abide by the Bittner decision, a 2007 ruling by the agency’s own administrative law judge that allows for the cultivation of medical-grade cannabis by non-governmental entities.

Finally, Obama can use the power of the Executive Office to encourage broader marijuana-policy reforms, specifically by calling for the creation of a bipartisan presidential commission to review the budgetary, social and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition. A rational, open-minded examination of this issue would almost certainly lead the Obama administration to join forces with leading Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) in calling for an end to federal penalties for any cannabis use by adults.

These are just a few of the actions that Barack Obama could – and should – take as America’s 44th president. But will he? The answer remains largely up to us. Remember, the new administration presents us not with a solution, but with an opportunity. It’s up to us to seize it by continuing our civic engagement well beyond Election Day.

– Article from High Times.

Comments