Time For Some Rare Praise

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.

Obama’s commendable change in federal drug enforcement policy – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com

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.



  1. one12alpha on

    Though the memo essentially says the DEA can still prosecute without proving state law compliance. Or that compliance with state law serves as no defence in trial. I see the positive light that it is shown in. The media blabbed about it for a good day, and showed all our positive statistics. Which is more than can be said for the “tea party” movement. I’ve also seen several programs, some detailing the history of the drug legislation….which I think speaks for it self on our behalf. I’ve seen fewer “above the influence” type comercials that directly target marijuana as well. If there is one thing for you in politics, its good media coverage and TV audience brain wash.

    Thanks CC staff for the captcha spam filter. Its far less annoying than the spam.

  2. Anonymous on

    If enough people are behind the movement it will win out. Obama can’t be “soft” on drugs but he has done more for the cannabis movement than any president as long as I’ve been alive, whether it’s just a memo or not. It is SOMETHING. Any victory is a good thing. PUSH HARDER is what I think his memo says…….on our part. Protest more. Join NORML and MPP and donate time and money(if possible). Canvas for medical cannabis in your state if you don’t have it’s access. If more than 50% of the states are medical, it HAS to change federal law(if it doesn’t happen sooner). He can’t change it, the people have to change it, despite it is a war the government started…

  3. Anonymous on

    During his campaign Obama’s biggest financial supporters were West coast liberals. This is one of their causes and he may need them again. This could be seen as a nod in their direction.

  4. Dan-o on

    I disagree entirely. The memo means just a bit more than nothing and carries even less weight. Do you think , based on the text of this memo, that the DEA is going to change anything? Was the law changed? Did he even suggest that the law SHOULD change? NO. And we are supposed to believe that this was brought about because he saw wasted federal money! err…bailouts?! Talk about getting pissed on and told that it’s raining…

  5. Anonymous on

    Obama must be hearing about how much Cannabis patients and advocates are turning against him because of him allowing the DEA to stormtroop them. That looked pretty bad on him and he had to do some damage control pronto or risk alienating a large segment of the population. He already has enough enemies from the health care thing.

  6. Anonymous on

    Like the first commenter noted, this “memo” doesn’t pass legislative requirements onto judicial proponents; it is however a request from the highest authority. That authority, regardless whether it comes from the first black president, who happens to acknowledge legitimate medical cannabis, goes a long way. Rogue advocates who waste federal resources will be ostracized(hopefully). The fear of involvement with federal authorities is a major concern for all involved in current medical states, whether dispensary operator, caregiver, or patient. It also shows a balance of federal involvement with states rights. Not exactly the true “SOCIALIST” theme the GOP seemed to ring around Obama’s health care reform. Only time will tell the validity of this executive “suggestion”…

  7. Anonymous on

    Obama did nothing but pander and re-direct the discussion to the justice department rather than the Whitehouse and broken campaign promises.

    This was guidance only and is not a change in policy. Basically all the memo stated was that the administration doesnt believe that prosecuting individual patients or caregivers in compliance with state laws was a good use of resources. It also did NOT demand that the federal attorneys cease thier prosecutions leaving it open for them to continue based on a case by case basis and at each attorney general offices discretion.

    There is alot of applause being thrown about over a document that did absolutely nothing to relieve the state of affairs we are in due to the drug war.