Anyone that reads my blog knows that I’m extremely critical of the Obama administration, particularly on the “national security” front (read: warmaking and civil liberties denying front). But its only fair to praise Obama when he does good things, and his change in federal medical marijuana enforcement policy is a very good thing.
Criminalizing cancer and AIDS patients for using a substance that is (a) prescribed by their doctors and (b) legal under the laws of their state has always been abominable. 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 a change that has concrete benefits for many people who are sick and for those who provide them with treatments that benefit them. So credit where it’s due to the Obama DOJ, for fulfilling a long-standing commitment on this issue.
What I want to focus on is Glenn’s point about the political equation. Obama could very easily have stuck with a vague policy change or leave sick people alone rhetoric. That he put this policy into writing is important. Because doing so gains him very little in the political calculus and exposes him to some risk of being portrayed as “soft” on crime or drugs. Canadian readers will know that we are facing a similar political equation here: the minority Conservative government is pushing “tough” on crime legislation as a major part of its agenda to transform Canada. There is opposition, but the Liberals and NDP are scared of being portrayed as “soft” on crime and so the legislation has passed Parliament and sits in the Senate for (hopefully) a sober second thought.
We need our politicians to display the type of courage shown by President Obama and to actually take a principled stand against an abominable policy. Let’s hope they do it.