Obama Flip-Flops on Medical Marijuana

Despite the President's vow not to prosecute medical marijuana patients, ATF targeting cancer victims, property owners.

President Barack Obama has become quite the drug warrior.

Last month, his Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a memo that stated that it is unlawful for anyone with a state-issued medical marijuana card to possess a gun or ammunition. This month, four U.S. attorneys in California announced that they are escalating prosecution of medical marijuana clubs by going after the assets of their landlords and property owners.

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama supported states' rights on medical marijuana.

When he was first in office, it looked as if Obama would do as he had said. Drug war opponents were pleasantly surprised in 2009 when a Department of Justice memo advised U.S. attorneys not to “focus federal resources” on “individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen” consistent with state law or their caregivers.

But this year, charges Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the anti-drug-war Drug Policy Alliance, Obama seems controlled by “over-zealous prosecutors and anti-marijuana ideologues.”

Now I believe marijuana should be legal, and not simply for medical use.

But I also recognize that federal law trumps state law. It must drive prosecutors nuts to watch criminal enterprises take legal cover under state law. Washington could remedy that by legalizing marijuana.

But when U.S. attorneys in California send out dozens of letters threatening landowners and lien holders with the seizure of their property and assets, they're not going after the drug trade. They are using the full force of the federal government to threaten people whose crime is renting.

“Although our initial efforts in the Northern District focus on only certain marijuana stores,” San Francisco's U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag explained in a statement, “we will almost certainly be taking action against others. None are immune from action by the federal government.”

You don't have to sell or distribute marijuana to have a target on your back. It's easier to go after landlords. Prosecutors have to prove defendants guilty beyond reasonable doubt in criminal court, but asset forfeiture law allows the government to seize property in civil court.

Nadelmann told me that he now thinks Obama today is as bad as his predecessors when it comes to the drug war.

In 1996, Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana; as of today, 15 other states have followed suit.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., protested that the ATF memo is unacceptable because “law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights simply because they hold a state-issued card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.”

Nadelmann cannot understand why the Obama Justice Department is willing to alienate real estate agents, property owners, gun owners and the Democratic base.

I've talked to folks in law enforcement who stew over medical marijuana businesses serving as fronts for criminal enterprises. But now the administration is threatening to go after cancer patients who own guns and small businesses that rent to marijuana shops.

That's why some states decided to pass medical marijuana laws in the first place. They do not want the heavy boot of federal law enforcement stomping on the wrong people.

- Article originally from My San Antonio.

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