White House Rejects Popular Pot Petitions

By Tony O'Neill 11/01/11

Despite a White House website's promise to give petitioners a voice, a 150,000-strong call to legalize marijuana has been dismissed out-of-hand.

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Late Friday night, the White house slipped out a flat rejection of several popular online petitions calling for the legalization of marijuana. The We the People website, which claims to be “Your Voice In Government,” has failed to give a voice to more than 150,000 people who signed the petitions. Although more Americans support legalizing marijuana than approve of President Barack Obama’s performance, the White House continues failed policies set in place by disgraced former president Richard Nixon. “We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms,” claims the rejection statement, in a piece of "reefer madness"-style propaganda: as anyone who's visited ER on a Friday night can attest, it's not stoners—perhaps suffering from stomach-ache after eating too many Cheetos—who make up the lion's share of intoxicated admissions. It's drinkers.

Ignoring evidence that the decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs elsewhere has brought great benefits, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske states disingenuously: “As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.” In case you are in any doubt of Kerlikowske’s closed-minded approach, consider that the former Seattle Police Chief told KUOW radio, “Legalization vocabulary doesn't exist for me and it was made clear that it doesn't exist in President Obama's vocabulary." He also threatened that the federal government would sue California if it legalized marijuana via Proposition 19. With Kerlikowske running the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there's no room for opposing views.

Another former law enforcement officer, Major Neal Franklin of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), has a different take on legalization—and on listening to the voice of the people.
"It's maddening that the administration wants to continue failed prohibition polices that do nothing to reduce drug use and succeed only in funneling billions of dollars into the pockets of the cartels and gangs that control the illegal market," says Franklin. "If the president and his advisers think they're being politically savvy by shying away from much-needed change...they're wrong. The recent Gallup poll shows that more Americans support legalizing marijuana than support continuing prohibition, so the administration is clearly out of step with the people it claims to represent.” Franklin’s message to the flip-flopper-in-chief is clear: “President Obama needs to remember his campaign pledge not to waste scarce resources interfering with state marijuana laws and his earlier statement about the 'utter failure' of the drug war."

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Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.