Obama's War on Weed

In a strange about-face, the president tries to hack medical marijuana off at the knees

The new federal crackdown on medical marijuana announced on October 7 by the four California U.S. Attorneys sent chills throughout the industry. It was a stunning reversal by the Obama administration.

Only two years ago, Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden wrote his infamous "Ogden Memo," announcing the feds wouldn't bother businesses in compliance with their own state laws. It proved a dose of Miracle-Gro to California, where pot-selling stores multiplied since voters approved the state's 1996 medical-marijuana law. By late last year, California reportedly had more dispensaries than Starbucks outlets.

Colorado also made it legal in 2000, seeing a similar explosion of new storefronts. The same thing was happening to varying degrees in sixteen states, from Arizona to Washington, New Jersey to Delaware.

But the feds' tolerance wasn't quite what it seemed. While legal weed grew from an estimated $10 to $100 billion industry — no one's quite sure of the exact figure — activists noticed an alarming undercurrent to the rhetoric: Raids on growers and dispensaries actually increased under Obama.

As hundreds of thousands of state-approved, doctor-recommended patients happily bought their medicine in well-lit stores from knowledgeable "budtenders," the ire of cops and prohibitionists rose.

The first sign of Obama's subterfuge came in late 2010, as California prepared to vote on a ballot proposition that would have legalized growing and possessing small amounts of marijuana for anyone over the age of 21. Under pressure from teetotalers — nine former Drug Enforcement Agency chiefs begged Obama to oppose the measure — Attorney General Eric Holder said that it didn't matter what Californians thought. The feds would continue to bust people regardless of the election.

The measure got 46 percent of the vote, but not enough to pass. Yet the medical side of things kept going strong — too strong for Obama. When the Oakland City Council prepared to authorize large-scale cultivation centers, Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for California's Northern District, issued the first in what would become a series of letters from her fellow attorneys general. She reminded residents — in no uncertain terms — that marijuana was still criminalized under federal law, considered equal to heroin or meth, irrespective of its medicinal value.

Nor did she care what California law said. Her "core priority" would be to prosecute "business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana" under federal law.


Over the next few months, U.S. attorneys from Maine to Washington wrote their own increasingly menacing letters. In Washington, the feds even threatened to arrest state workers who helped facilitate the industry.

Then the Obama administration released a new letter to "clarify" Ogden's memo. Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole verified the about-face: The only people safe from arrest were the "seriously ill" patients and their caregivers.

Everyone else? Be forewarned.

The letter didn't just target those directly involved in the trade. Cole was also threatening supporting industries — read: banks — with money laundering charges for dealing in the proceeds from marijuana. Obama had launched a full-on attack on the industries essential to any functioning enterprise.

Banks responded by canceling their weed-related accounts. "Perhaps there may be a few financial institutions here or there that are still accepting accounts," says Caroline Joy, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bankers Association. "Those facilities don't want to reveal who they are."

The president's push grew louder last month. The U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau warned medical-marijuana patients that they couldn't legally use pot and own or buy guns.

Then came a one-two punch.

On October 5, the IRS ruled that one of the largest California dispensaries, Harborside Health Center, owed $2.5 million in taxes because federal law precluded standard deductions for businesses engaging in illegal activity.

In other words, Obama was not only blowing off state laws. He was declaring that legal businesses were now nothing more than criminal rackets. And he was carving away every tool they needed to function.

Harborside's owner said he'd go out of business if the IRS didn't reverse course. Dispensaries nationwide saw it as a crippling decision.

Then came another blow two days later: the bombshell dropped by California's four U.S. Attorneys.

They were now going after people who leased stores and land to the pot industry. Violators were given 45 days to close doors, uproot plants and kick out renters. The penalty for not acting: seizure of property and arrest.

Laura Duffy, the U.S attorney from California's Southern District, went so far as to threaten media with prosecution for taking pot advertising. (Disclosure:  This newspaper accepts such ads.)

There was no doubt about it: Obama was intent on killing an entire industry — in the middle of a depression, no less. Left unexplained was why, especially since he was giving the finger to voters in sixteen states just a year before he would face them in his own election.

Democratic strategists were perplexed. Roger Salazar, a California party consultant, believes the president may be trying to reach out to a broader base. But that doesn't explain the attack on his own base; Democrats support medical marijuana at high percentages. It doesn't even make sense in luring conservatives. With the country in economic tatters, no one has weed high on their radar.

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38 comments
Angelica Sellers
Angelica Sellers

it looks to me like some people get very rich as long as the black market would be the only chance to buy marijuana. why else would they try to target the pot related businesses (in a time where every penny of taxes and every job is needed so badly). guess a few of the big shots are deeply involved in the black market themselves. just follow the money if you find no obvious reason behind such actions.

Danieljoeoconnor
Danieljoeoconnor

the global government entities including the united nations have told all the member countries like the u. s. that they must keep cannabis illegal. it has nothing to do with states rights arguments. this is the new world [law and] order. but they are fooling themselves because it's too easy to grow. it's like it was for the moonshiner during prohibition. he ended up being about the main one against repealing prohibition. in cali many in the cannabis culture [mainly growers] voted against prop 19 [legalization] cause they feared the mega farm competition. bottom line:things are not always as they appear.

Alicia Papin
Alicia Papin

Barney Frank and Ron Paul have worked together to legalize but only one of them is runnng for the white house. Guess who I'm voting for in November.

Peterbarnidge
Peterbarnidge

Ron Paul is the only sensible candidate running

William Helm
William Helm

All one has to do is look at DEA's budget and that is why they'll fight to keep it illegal .

kevin
kevin

insane. target the weed smokers cause thats the krux of all the problems in america. gee these businesses actually want to pay taxes and have legit businesses but the gment think weed is worse than herion or meth. its stupid and obama is pretty stupid for not seeing a whole new industry to add jobs.

K Phlypp
K Phlypp

Umm, under the 10th Amendment, the Federal gov't only has the powers granted to it in the Constitution. All other powers belong to the people or the states. As the Constitutiion does not grant the Federal gov't the right to govern what one consumes, or to illegalize a naturally growing herb, what the Feds are doing is unconstitutional, and a violation of states' rights. Of course this should not come as a suprise...The Constitution no longer means anything, and in fact, America sold out to a private corporation, The Federal Reserve, about 100 years ago. What may be a bit more of a shock to most is that if the Feds continue this illegal War on Drugs, it will lead to another civil war. Hope you are ready.

James Hodges
James Hodges

Interesting to see all the pot heads posting in here... It's about time Obummer did something right. He swore to uphold the laws of the land.. it's about time he did so.

halfdead
halfdead

It was here long before the US government, and it will be here long after they are gone. You will NEVER stop people from using it. So to the powers that be, just do whats right and LEGALIZE!

Phil
Phil

I don;t smoke not even cigs .But I think that they should legalize weed, They could tax it sell it like cigs and make alot of money . It would help get us back on our feet. The goverment is not thinking right if they did they would see what it could do for us money wise. People should vote on anything and everything not our goverment. We are the ones that should pass or not pass everything .Our goverment should not be the one.s to vote it needs to be us .So let the people decide not our goverment so far they havent done us any good but put us in debt that we will never get out of .

justirritated
justirritated

I agree with halfdead. Obama just sealed his fate with me. Way to lose voters dumbass.

FreeFrank
FreeFrank

Tax revenue would sharply increase yet the feds won't legalize..another reason this economy is being hurt On Purpose..

KITTY
KITTY

While Obama may be able to stop the sales of medical marijuana, neither he nor all the feds in the United States will be able to stop people from smoking God's gift to mankind. People have smoked weed for thousands of years in every culture all over the world. It's like trying to wipe out prostitution...it ain't gonna happen!

A Gallop poll released October 17th shows 50% of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, up from 46% last year. Medical marijuana opened the door to legalization and that door will open wider and wider until weed is finally legal. And for good reason. Weed is the 2nd largest cash crop after corn in America. Legalizaing marijuana and taxing it would reap billions in tax revenue in the long run and would put a big dent in crime. Legalizatioin would also save untold billions in state and federal monies used to incarcerate tens of thousands of people now in custody for weed related offenses. This combined with tax revenues from legalization would reap rewards for the taxpayers and state and federal governments in staggering proportions. It would be a win win situation for everyone. And since our national debt is out of control, revenues from legalization and the savings of from not prosecuting marijuana related offenses would benefit us more than anything ever attempted.

I was a student in the 1960's when weed swept college campuses like wildfire. I tried it, liked it, and have smoked ever since. I will smoke until the day my bong is pried from my dead cold hand. I never thought I would see the day where weed would become legal, but now there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Weed will become legal in the not to distant future and when it does, we will all be better off, whether one smokes or not. It's a win win situation whose time has come! Gotta go, it's time to fire up the bong!

A Gallop poll released October

Whyme
Whyme

Bravo to the RFT and VV for finally writing an article critical of a leftist. While i did vote for Hopey Mchange, I am starting to see that he is just like all the rest and we have been fooled again.

ldffly
ldffly

I have never had a thing to do with marijuana. Indeed, I've never even been offered the drug, unlike our current President and very likely his immediate predecessor.

I do have a speculative explanation for this. I believe the assertion of federal supremacy in this area has to do with the state challenges to federal supremacy in the matter of ObamaCare. If the federal AG has to go to court defending the federal health care law against state supremacy claims, their argument that federal law trumps state won't hold as much water as it could so long as their averting their eyes from the various state contravention of federal prohibition of marijuana sale and possession. A good judge, seeing the feds not prosecuting large scale growing and dispensing operations, but prosecuting some state for claiming citizens cannot be forced to buy health insurance, would want to know why the asymmetry.

I personally think that what the feds are doing in these matters is lousy. I hope it backfires on them politically.

halfdead
halfdead

Well, I know who I'm NOT voting for in this upcoming election. Obama just lost a supporter.

Danieljoeoconnor
Danieljoeoconnor

k phlypp is correct. obama takes his directives from the global corporate banking cartel called the federal reserve. they have controlled the issuance and printing of our money since 1913. they create plentiful money[boom] to get everyone in debt. then they call in their loans, stop printing money[bust] and buy up real assets like homes and power companies etc. at firesale prices til they eventually own everything and the people are dumbed down to china style tyranny. no one is allowed to see their books and no one over sees their operations. obama , by being a manchurian candidate, has furthered the republican new world [law and] order agenda more than any avowed repub could have dreamed of doing.

jinx
jinx

obama...leftist...lol

 
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