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President Obama: Marijuana Less Dangerous Than Alcohol; Legalization in WA and CO “Important”

Posted on19. Jan, 2014 by .

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yes-we-cannabisIn a profile published online over the weekend in New Yorker magazine, President Barack Obama continued his softening towards marijuana legalization. In the interview, the president alluded to his own youthful marijuana consumption and clarified that, while he doesn’t believe it to be a healthy pastime and has discouraged his daughters from its use, it is a less dangerous substance than alcohol. President Obama also stated that current moves towards legalization are important experiments that can help end discriminatory arrest practices.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” President Obama stated when asked about the growing public support for ending marijuana prohibition.

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do and African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.” he continued, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

“It’s important for it [marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

You can read the full article on the New Yorker’s website here.

Perhaps President Obama will continue to evolve and find himself on the right side of history when it comes to marijuana legalization. It would take just one simple Executive Order to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and help institute some real lasting change in our nation’s failed war on cannabis. At a minimum, these statements show just how far we have come from the “Just Say No” era of American politics.

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Obama Drug Czar: We Will Go After Marijuana Distributors In Washinton And Colorado

Posted on27. Feb, 2013 by .

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In an interview with Canadian news magazine Maclean’s last week, Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, stated that despite recreational legalization in Washington and Colorado, they would still go after distributors and growers in both states. ”You’ll continue to see enforcement against distributors and large-scale growers as the Justice Department has outlined. They will use their limited resources on those groups and not on going after individual users,” said Kerlikowske, who is also a former Seattle Police Chief.

In an interview with ABC News, soon after the November legalizations in Washington and Colorado, President Obama said, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”

It is likely President Obama chose his words carefully by only mentioning individual users and not distributors or growers, despite many being led to believe there would be no federal interference at all within the two states.

Back when running for president in 2008, Barack Obama stated that medical marijuana was an issue for state governments, not the federal government. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he said, promising to end raids on medical marijuana dispensaries seen under the Bush Administration. Many soon learned his real intentions when the DEA raided four times as many marijuana dispensaries as Bush, in half the time.

Just last month Washington’s newly-elected governor Jay Inslee met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss Washington’s new legislation legalizing marijuana. Without going into any detail over what Holder actually said, Inslee said he was “encouraged” from what he heard.

Inslee also said he “thinks (Holder) is going to give us an opportunity to make our case to allow us to express and give effect to the voters’ will,” leading many to question why no solid statements on Holder’s position were given.

At this time no mention has been made over whether the federal government will be going against all distributors and growers, or just those who aren’t going through the proper channels under Washington state law to do so.

Also this month, Washington State Rep. Matt Shea (R) introduced legislation to permit the development of an industrial hemp industry within state. Whether or not the federal government will attempt to derail this remains to be seen.

“The constant contradictions coming out of this administration lead to a massive amount of uncertainty, but the bottom line is, according to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, anything made and sold that stays within the state of Washington is beyond their jurisdiction. Also there are states’ rights under the 10th Amendment,” noted Rep. Shea.

At this time, it appears both Colorado and Washington will move forward with the legalization process. Washington state is currently accepting applications for newly created pot consultant positions with the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

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Source: examiner.com
Author: Mikael Thalen
Contact: About Examiner.com Passionate, local writers | Examiner.com
Website: Obama drug czar: We will go after marijuana distributors in Wash. and Colo. – Seattle Political Buzz | Examiner.com

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Obama Considers Easing Up Federal Marijuana Regulation

Posted on03. Jan, 2013 by .

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President Obama and a key Senate Democrat said Friday they were willing to consider relaxing federal enforcement of the laws against marijuana for those who possess small amounts of the drug.

They were reacting to new voter-approved laws in Washington and Colorado that permit recreational users to have an ounce of marijuana at home. In addition, California and 17 other states allow the medical use of marijuana.

Despite this state-by-state move toward limited legalization, federal law still classifies marijuana as a highly dangerous drug and makes it a crime to sell or possess even tiny amounts.

“So what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, ‘How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that it’s legal?’” Obama told ABC News in an interview with Barbara Walters.

The president said he was not ready “at this point” to support widespread legalization of marijuana, but added: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined it’s legal…. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said his panel would consider legislation early next year that could ease federal law for marijuana possession.

“One option would be to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law,” Leahy said in a letter to R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Leahy asked Kerlikowske, the administration’s so-called drug czar, “what assurance can and will the administration give to state officials involved in the licensing of marijuana retailers that they will not face federal criminal penalties for carrying out duties assigned to them under state law?”

Leahy said Obama’s comments “reflect common sense. In a time of tight budget constraints, I want law enforcement to focus on violent crime. But now that we have a gap between federal and state laws on marijuana, we need more information and a wider discussion about where our priorities should be.”

Critics of the federal drug laws saw the comments from Obama and Leahy as a sign that Washington’s rigid opposition to marijuana may be ending.

“It’s a tentative step in the right direction,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said of Obama’s statement. “He said we need a ‘conversation,’ and that’s very promising. This sounds a lot like what he said about gay marriage a couple of years ago.”

Nadelmann said he would watch to see whether federal law enforcement officials at the Justice Department will insist on an aggressive anti-marijuana policy, despite the milder words from the president and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.

Recent polls have shown the American public is about evenly split on whether personal use of small amounts of marijuana should be legalized. The initiatives to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Washington and Colorado easily won passage Nov. 6.

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, said he hoped Obama’s comments would prompt Justice Department prosecutors in California to cease a crackdown on the medical cannabis industry that threatens to close his shops.

The U.S. attorney in San Francisco filed a lawsuit in July to seize Harborside’s two properties, even though its main dispensary is licensed and regulated by the city of Oakland and seen by many as a model of the industry. A hearing in federal court next Thursday may determine whether the dispensary must close its doors.

“It would be a tragedy if the leading example of responsible and legally compliant medical cannabis distribution is shut down next week on the verge of a change in federal policy,” DeAngelo said. “The word ironic doesn’t just quite have enough bitterness in it.”

In the past, the Obama administration has sent conflicting messages on medical marijuana. Soon after taking office, the president and the attorney general pledged to pull back from the George W. Bush administration’s policy of using federal agents to shut down dispensaries in California and other states where medical marijuana is legal. But U.S. prosecutors there have continued to take aggressive action against those who sell large quantities of marijuana.

Obama said he has a duty to follow the law as it now exists. “This is a tough problem because Congress has not yet changed the law,” he told ABC. “I head up the executive branch. We’re supposed to be carrying out the laws.”

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, said Obama could do more. The executive branch could take action to change the classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug.

“The president should lead on this issue instead of deferring to Congress,” Angell said.

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Source: latimes.com
Author: David Savage
Contact: Contact Us – latimes.com
Website: Obama considers easing up federal marijuana regulation – latimes.com

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Obama Says Individual Marijuana Consumers in Colorado and Washington Are Not Priorities

Posted on21. Dec, 2012 by .

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In an interview released today, President Obama said that going after marijuana consumers will not be a priority of the federal government in states such as Colorado and Washington, where voters approved ballot measures this November making marijuana legal for adults. He also highlighted the need for a conversation about how to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws.

Marijuana officially became legal in Colorado on Monday after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the voter-approved initiative into law. The measure adopted by voters in Washington went into effect last week. The initiatives also direct the legislatures of both states to create regulations in order to establish a legal market for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.

While it is heartening to see Obama reiterating his position on not spending federal resources going after individuals, this does not represent a significant change in policy. Federal policy has not focused on them for some time, as most possession cases are dealt with at the state and local level.

The question is how the implementation of market regulations will be treated. It is time for the Obama administration and the governments of Colorado and Washington to determine how to work together to advance those state-based systems without frustrating legitimate federal interests. We look forward to having this conversation with White House and Department of Justice officials.

It seems like such a conversation is more possible than ever before, and supporters of reform should be cautiously optimistic. As Dominic Holden at The Stranger put it:

Obama is, if nothing else, encouraging more conversation about marijuana legalization instead of promising to shut it down. And the more people talk about this issue, the more it wins.

 


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