Will Obama Soften Federal Pot Policy?February 12th, 2009 by josh farley
In a land where — despite its illegality — 1,800 pounds of marijauna is found in lawn statues and even sports columnists have grow operations, drug policy spectators want to know: how will Barrack Obama continue to fight our drug war?
It’s too soon to tell. But there are early signs that our 44th president may soften the federal stance on pot — at least its use for medical purposes.
A story in the Washington Times last week covered some raids of medical marijuana shops in California. But before advocates were quick to criticize, the story pointed out that Obama opposes such raids — he just hasn’t gotten around to installing his choices to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration, roles which are still filled by George W. Bush’s appointees. Those appointees continue to carry out the policies of our 43rd commander-in-chief.
The low-level civil war being fought between the federal government and the 13 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes is something we devoted a special report to. The next chapter in this story may be that Obama will side with the states instead of using federal dollars to raid such clinics. Here’s a quote from the story in the Washington Times:
“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,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
Here’s my next exhibit things could change: the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s scoop of Obama’s pick for drug czar. His choice? None other than Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.
The bottom line from the story — Kerlikowske is a relative newbie to drug policy debates, having devoted his 36 years in copdom to working to enforce the laws we already have. That said, the story from Vanessa Ho and Scott Gutierrez goes, Kerlikowske runs an agency in a “progressive” city, one with a “compassionate” stance toward medical marijuana users. Here’s more from the PI:
“He’s likely to be the best drug czar we’ve seen, but that’s not saying much,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit group focused on changing drug policies.
Nadelmann called Kerlikowske, 59, a “blank slate” because of his notable absence in drug-policy debates. But he was encouraged by the chief’s ability to thrive in a city famous for its drug courts, needle exchanges, methadone vans and annual Hempfest celebration.
I should note that there’s a big distinction between Obama’s stance on medical marijuana and his overall stance on marijuana. I think there’s a widespread misconception that its further acceptance as a medical use is a gateway to its acceptance for recreational use. Not so — many medical marijuana patients view it as a prescription drug, and one that should be treated as such.
We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out this story on tiny Cliff Village, Missouri — the latest place to legalize medical marijuana.