Whiff of Change in US Medical Marijuana Policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House won’t say it explicitly. Neither will the Drug Enforcement Administration. Yet there is a whiff in the air that U.S. policy is about to change when it comes to medical marijuana.

The message is clear, said UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, a former Justice Department official and an expert on crime and drug policy.

“It is no longer federal policy to beat up on hippies,” said Kleiman.

Tell that to the DEA.

In California this past week, agents raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles and seized 500 pounds of pot.

“It’s a little bit surprising, because I think current DEA management didn’t get the message,” said Kleiman. “The message is, this is no longer drug warrior time. We are not on a cultural crusade against pot-smoking.”

California law permits the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, though it is still against federal law.

Thirteen states have laws permitting medicinal use of marijuana. California is unique among them for the presence of dispensaries, businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services. Legal under California law, such dispensaries are still illegal under federal law.

“Anyone possessing, distributing or cultivating marijuana for any reason is in violation of federal law,” Sarah Pullen, a DEA spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said Thursday.

That may be the law, but it contradicts the medical marijuana position of the new president.

“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,” said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro, repeating past statements.

So on Friday, DEA officials in Washington declined to comment at all on the subject.

As a presidential candidate, Obama repeatedly promised a change in federal drug policy in situations where state laws allow use of medical marijuana.

“I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate,” Obama told the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., in March.

A year earlier at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Obama said: “I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users.”

At age 47, Obama is part of a generation that had plenty of exposure to pot.

In his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” he described time spent as a youth struggling with questions about his race and identity, and turning to drugs — including marijuana and cocaine — to “push questions of who I was out of my mind.”

The new president is unlikely to make any official change in policy before he has a new DEA chief and drug czar in place.

Yet experts believe it is already clear the Obama administration will change the strategy, if not the law, on medical marijuana.

Philip Heymann, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration who is now a Harvard professor, said it’s time for the agency to put more effort into fighting drugs more dangerous than marijuana.

“I do expect him to appoint an administrator who takes marijuana less seriously than is traditional for the DEA, as I think most Americans do,” said Heymann.

Heymann said he expects the Obama administration will eventually instruct the DEA to emphatically scale back raids on dispensaries, and conduct such raids only in instances where investigators believe a business is abusing the dispensary system as a cover for other criminal behavior.

So last week’s raids in California may be the last of their kind.

“The DEA’s not likely to want to confront a new president,” said Heymann. “It may simply be that they’re behaving as they have traditionally, and they haven’t anticipated the change Obama and his spokesman are signaling.”

Associated Press writer Michael Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

– Article from the Associated Press.



  1. Adimus on

    please don’t assume that we all share the same beliefs. an athiest is obviously going to have issues with you saying that. plus he didnt say man invented it. im gonna go ahead and guess that he believes that it evolved just like everything else (all things man has not invented). its a lot more constructive to say that once we discovered the plant we co-evolved to help each other (we spread the plant and the plant gives us medicine). i vote we argue about its origin after we band together for its legalization.

  2. Munch on

    Hopefully with the new President and the appointing drug czar we can bring a change to the laws of medicinal weed, and the unfair rading of medicinal dispencaries. Over grow the government

  3. Anonymous on

    i agree. god has nothing to do with this. lots of people smoke that don’t believe in a magic invisible man that lives in the sky. the science and evidence that can be proven is all that is important. you can’t even prove god exists much less did something. god made it is not a solid argument

  4. Anonymous on

    the pigs raided my house a couple weeks ago.. 20pigs, shotguns, body armor, shields. All for a half ounce of purple i used to relax after a hard days work. hopefully one day they will actualy worry about real drugs, stop crimes and catch criminals

  5. Aichebomb on

    Pharmaceutical corps do not make decisions on what’s good for the people. They make decisions based on what will further proprietary control over a drug .. In this case a drug that could mimic the medical benefits of marijuana. They’ll never create the perfect drug , in respect for what benefits the people, because like food science .. Their methods are based on reductionism..they isolate the component of the plant (thc) and out of context with the whole plant will never have the same wholistic qualities. And in a effort to further their interest, they lobby politicians to see things their way…. to pass laws in their favor. and like all reductionism they only see part of the whole. A more complete view would show that pharmaceutical interest are actually the primary cause of drug abuse and the largest force behind the “War on Drugs”. Why…… They can’t patent a natural plant that anyone can grow and pick. A plant that may also threaten the profits of drugs they’ve already produced. But they can do everything in their power to make it illegal, including using the media to broadcast the viewpoint that the plant is so dangerous. Since when do pharmaceutical company’s have more constitutional rights than the people. Please, lets open our eyes! The truth is in our history! Our children deserve the truth!

  6. Toad on

    well, I smoke pot almost everyday and my balls are fine. tell the DEA to go bust a meth lab if they want to be hero’s.

  7. Anonymous on

    yeah, looks like there trying to link testee cancer to weed but they dont have any proof. even if it issnt true this could hurt our cause,. apprently the percentage of cancer increase matches the same percentage increase in weed smokers. I think there reasoning is pretty weak. probably the cancer soceity’s way of keeping the real cure underaps.

  8. Anonymous on

    umm..yes..it is a seed that god planted on this earth..it grows wild like any weed..man did not invent this seed in a laboratory..it was invented upstairs like everything else natural found on earth

  9. thegroundisgood on

    When I was young I supported the medical use of cannabis because it was the trendy thing to do! I got married and my sister in law has educated me on the life saving properties of cannabis. This has changed my perspectives quite a bit. She has MS and is a breast cancer survivor, (double masectomy). She is in end stage hospice care. She wears a morphine patch and claims that it helps with the pain but does not help her live. She cannot walk–feel her legs, without cannabis. She is unable to feel the sensation of hunger without cannabis. It eliminates nausea from the RX and she swears that cannabis oil has kept her free from urinary tract infections often caused by cathaders. She says that it actually allows her to slow down enough cognitively to where she can actually have conversations when she is having a bad day. I have a newfound reespect for cannabis and am more than ever angered at the label that it often must wear. This is a good and natural gift from God.

  10. NMSTE on

    People need to NOT be silent about respectful usage of cannabis, enough is enough! Silence only supports the portrayed “Evil” of cannabis and not it’s resourcefulness, this is a simple form of a blessing from the earth it’s self with a medical resource that was sold as “Evil” and shameful..FORGET’ABOUT’IT! This is as perfect a resource as Doug Fir is to the Construction industry and the Printing industry, the Textile industry, the Fuel industry and on and on and on..Stand up for your RIGHTS and for those who can’t stand up for the compassion of another Human Being.
    Always help, never hurt
    No More Silence Thru Education

  11. jay on

    As i read this i can only think of the great change that is coming forward in the future of this nation.Marijuana as my letter to obama stated let science make the decision on the health of the human body.
    He stated in his throne speech that science will make the decision.
    In God do i trust and carnal man will be de-throned.
    Plant pot for peace
    happy healthy and high
    crazy bird

  12. Anonymous on

    I wonder if he could give Harper a call ??

  13. Anonymous on

    i hope the popular dea show on spike tv doesn’t give the antiweed ppl any traction.