Obama's Cannabis Crackdown Baffles His Base

Obama's Cannabis Crackdown Baffles His Base

By Tony O'Neill 10/28/11

DEA, IRS and AFT attacks have left medical marijuana advocates calling Obama the worst president ever on this issue.

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With the country up in arms about economic disparities and a financial crisis that just won't quit, it seems bizarre that President Barack Obama is focusing on doing something about those pesky medical marijuana dispensaries. The latest volley in the Obama administration's war on cancer patients, chronic pain sufferers and small businesses—despite a recent poll showing a majority of US citizens support pot legalization—is a DEA crackdown in California and Colorado that focuses on medical marijuana distribution networks. DEA agents raided Northstone Organics, a Redwood Valley medical marijuana dispensary, on October 13, while in California a major crackdown recently got underway. “While California law permits collective cultivation of marijuana in limited circumstances," announced US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in Sacramento, "it does not allow commercial distribution through the store-front model we see across California." In other words: screw what the voters say—we’re closing you down.

Rob Kampla of the Marijuana Policy Project recently accused Obama of being the worst president in history when it comes to the marijuana issue, and it’s hard to argue. Even compared to such bogeymen as Richard Nixon and Ronald “Just Say No” Regan, our current president—who has candidly discussed his own high school experiments with marijuana and cocaine—retains a hard-line and illiberal attitude toward medical marijuana. From keeping the drug Schedule One alongside cocaine and heroin, to blocking medical marijuana research, trying to crush legitimate medical marijuana businesses via the IRS, and even having the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms block MMJ patients from purchasing firearms and ammunition, Obama’s approach has hardly been a nuanced one. The president's visit to San Francisco drew protests from MMJ activists but whether any other 2012 candidate would be any friendlier to marijuana users than is doubtful. The only voice of reason in the Republican pack seems to be former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who has consistently favored legalization, describing marijuana users as "the largest untapped voting bloc." However Johnson, who has been excluded from a number of televised debates, would appear to have little chance of selection by Republicans. Still, President Obama surely faces a tough re-election battle, which begs the question of why he’s doggedly pursuing policies seemingly designed to alienate his base.