Obama's War on Weed

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

If one were a cynic, one might also view U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy's threat to target advertising as a less-than-subtle threat to control the debate.

True: Federal law prohibits advertising illegal drugs. Google, for example, agreed to pay a $500 million fine this summer for taking online ads promoting rogue Canadian pharmacies.

But pot dispensaries are legal businesses within their states. Under Duffy's threat, the feds will have their say, while the pro-pot message would be erased from public view.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, tells Riverfront Times that Duffy's threat gave him the willies.

"They're on much thinner ice going after the newspaper," says Scheidegger, who otherwise believes the feds should enforce its own laws against marijuana. "...Maybe there is a political strategy."

It's called the "shut them up" strategy.


There will be pushback

Federal law is, for now, on the side of the prohibitionists.

Scheidegger downplays the state victories handed to medical marijuana. He says if the American people want to change the law, they need to encourage Congress to do so.

Yet that ignores a basic political reality: It's extremely difficult for any politician to stand up for marijuana. He or she will be quickly painted as pro-pothead.

Like women's suffrage, the medical marijuana movement has — in ten states, anyway — benefited by the direct democracy of citizens initiatives. These elections have taken the pulse of voters in a way that congressional elections cannot.

In six other states and Washington D.C., medical marijuana was legalized by local lawmakers. Other statesare bound to vote in favor of decriminalizing pot in the next few years in spite of federal laws.

Phoenix attorney Ty Taber sees it as a major states' rights issue. "Basically, the citizens of these states...they want marijuana legalized," he says. If Obama wants to play hardball, he says, "You're going to get pushback."

Taber represents Compassion First, a company that helps set up dispensaries. The firm sued Arizona after Governor Jan Brewer, in blatant defiance of voters' wishes, derailed the dispensary portion of Arizona's new law by instructing the Department of Health to reject applications. She simultaneously sued the federal government, asking a judge to rule on whether the state's new law was legal. (Ironically, the U.S. Justice Department's civil department is defending against the lawsuit — and if the feds win, Arizona might just get its first dispensaries.)

Compassion First wants the program implemented as Arizonans intended, and to remove blockades Brewer has thrown in its path. For instance, Arizona requires dispensary owners to have been residents for at least three years.

But the point isn't so much whether or not the company will win its lawsuit or not — it's that they're fighting back, and they're not alone.

Across the country, advocates are returning fire of their own in the court system. Which means Obama won't be able to do battle by the relatively cheap means of letters and threats. He'll likely end up burning through millions of dollars in litigation — money he doesn't have.

Taber thinks the president may have underestimated his foe.  "The people behind this marijuana movement — they're committed. They are zealots. And these are smart people — not stoners saying, 'Hey dude, pass another slice of pizza.'"


Half-hearted crackdowns don't work

The latest crackdown will be bad for the pot business. No question. But Obama could be doing much, much more.

He could go after patients. Over the summer a federal judge ruled that the DEA could peek at the names on Michigan's patient registry. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, said Judge Hugh Brenneman Jr., patients can't expect privacy.

The feds could also hit pot-tolerant cities. The law doesn't allow municipal workers to be jailed in such prosecutions, but cities or counties could be heavily fined just for setting up zoning requirements for dispensaries.

There's a huge downside to that, of course. Obama will only appear mean and small for having sickly grandmas arrested. And fining cities just enrages residents picking up the tab — the very people the president will need a year from now.

All of which leaves him fighting at partial speed. That, in turn, leaves the "zealots" Taber mentions betting their money and freedom that even if the feds throw the book at some, it won't be them.

Last week, the feds raided several growing operations in California and Oregon, including one in Mendocino County that appeared to be playing by the state rules. But it seems safe to assume that few of the hundreds of other growers in Mendocino County did not uproot their crops in response — just as the hundreds of dispensaries in California did not immediately close their doors after the feds' ominous warning on October 7.

The industry seems to be practicing a form of civil disobedience. And it has tens of thousands of seriously sick people behind it, who will holler loudly if they're forced back to the black market.

Indeed, there are some signs that Obama's crackdown will be what the SF Weekly's Chris Roberts calls a "Passive Aggressive" strategy. Rather than offend Americans with news footage of police raids, Obama has launched a war of attrition.

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38 comments
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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.

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.

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.

jinx
jinx

obama...leftist...lol

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.

 
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