Obama Considers Easing Up Federal Marijuana Regulation

December 28, 2012 By 8 comments
President Obama Smoked Marijuana Frequently

President Obama and a key Senate Democrat said Friday they were willing to consider relaxing federal enforcement of the laws against marijuana for those who possess small amounts of the drug.

They were reacting to new voter-approved laws in Washington and Colorado that permit recreational users to have an ounce of marijuana at home. In addition, California and 17 other states allow the medical use of marijuana.

Despite this state-by-state move toward limited legalization, federal law still classifies marijuana as a highly dangerous drug and makes it a crime to sell or possess even tiny amounts.

“So what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, ‘How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that it’s legal?’” Obama told ABC News in an interview with Barbara Walters.

The president said he was not ready “at this point” to support widespread legalization of marijuana, but added: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined it’s legal…. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said his panel would consider legislation early next year that could ease federal law for marijuana possession.

“One option would be to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law,” Leahy said in a letter to R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Leahy asked Kerlikowske, the administration’s so-called drug czar, “what assurance can and will the administration give to state officials involved in the licensing of marijuana retailers that they will not face federal criminal penalties for carrying out duties assigned to them under state law?”

Leahy said Obama’s comments “reflect common sense. In a time of tight budget constraints, I want law enforcement to focus on violent crime. But now that we have a gap between federal and state laws on marijuana, we need more information and a wider discussion about where our priorities should be.”

Critics of the federal drug laws saw the comments from Obama and Leahy as a sign that Washington’s rigid opposition to marijuana may be ending.

“It’s a tentative step in the right direction,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said of Obama’s statement. “He said we need a ‘conversation,’ and that’s very promising. This sounds a lot like what he said about gay marriage a couple of years ago.”

Nadelmann said he would watch to see whether federal law enforcement officials at the Justice Department will insist on an aggressive anti-marijuana policy, despite the milder words from the president and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.

Recent polls have shown the American public is about evenly split on whether personal use of small amounts of marijuana should be legalized. The initiatives to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Washington and Colorado easily won passage Nov. 6.

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, said he hoped Obama’s comments would prompt Justice Department prosecutors in California to cease a crackdown on the medical cannabis industry that threatens to close his shops.

The U.S. attorney in San Francisco filed a lawsuit in July to seize Harborside’s two properties, even though its main dispensary is licensed and regulated by the city of Oakland and seen by many as a model of the industry. A hearing in federal court next Thursday may determine whether the dispensary must close its doors.

“It would be a tragedy if the leading example of responsible and legally compliant medical cannabis distribution is shut down next week on the verge of a change in federal policy,” DeAngelo said. “The word ironic doesn’t just quite have enough bitterness in it.”

In the past, the Obama administration has sent conflicting messages on medical marijuana. Soon after taking office, the president and the attorney general pledged to pull back from the George W. Bush administration’s policy of using federal agents to shut down dispensaries in California and other states where medical marijuana is legal. But U.S. prosecutors there have continued to take aggressive action against those who sell large quantities of marijuana.

Obama said he has a duty to follow the law as it now exists. “This is a tough problem because Congress has not yet changed the law,” he told ABC. “I head up the executive branch. We’re supposed to be carrying out the laws.”

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, said Obama could do more. The executive branch could take action to change the classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug.

“The president should lead on this issue instead of deferring to Congress,” Angell said.

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Source: latimes.com
Author: David Savage
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Website: Obama considers easing up federal marijuana regulation – latimes.com

  • SpecialHam

    With pharmaceutical companies and private jail lobbyists, I’m pretty skeptical that if there’s going to be any changes, they won’t be very vast.

  • Juicehog

    It would be a shame to see this charade of Marijuana being a “dangerous” drug continue, even after all the progress our country has made to understand it’s true potential. But what has been said of Pharmaceutical Companies, and Private Corrections Lobbyists being true, we all have to face the truth. At this point, it’s gonna be the promise of more or residual cash flow for the government that makes the choice. It’s always about $$$!

  • Guest

    The federal law that classifies marijuana as a schedule one drug is a contradiction because FDA gives approval to sell maranol, liquid THC in gell caps. So clearly marijuana has medical qualities and cannot be a schedule one. The other two things that makes a drug schedule one are: dangerous and very addicting, both of which are untrue of marijuana.

    Heroin is also a schedule one, but it has no medical properties, is highly addictive, and is dangerous. However, that is about heroin, not opiates in general, or pure opiate from the plant.

    Marijuana is pure, from the plant. Maranol is an extract. How can they say maranol is okay, but the plant is not?

    Makes no sense. They cleary have an agenda, one we need to break down.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neil-Fontaine/1684524255 Neil Fontaine

    FDA approves maranol, a THC extract in pill form. Doesn’t that mean, marijuana has medical qualities according to the FDA? If so, how can it be a schedule one drug?

  • Organish

    That’s how they want it. Marinol (dronabinol) as an Rx is far more profitable to Big Pharma (and their “friends”) if Regular Joe/ Jane can’t grow their own!

  • heavensent

    Marinol is the “synthetic” form of THC. it is not natural in anyway shape or form and the only way you can get it is if for Chemo patients, AIDS patients and a few other diseases. it is made by Big Pharm and that is the only way to get it.
    a friend of mine has AIDS and his script which is paid for by tax payer $$ costs $1600 a month. He trades his meds for other things and smokes weed…. his preference but he is abusing the system… if he is doing it and getting away with it for the last 14 yrs i have known him then many thousands of others are abusing this part of the system and costing tax payers millions if not more every year. if they legalize cannabis then the big Pharm would lose out on many millions of $$ in revenue and they can’t let that happen… greedy bastards

  • heavensent

    The Medical Marijuana growers need to band together like the big PHARM has been doing for decades and grease the wheels and pockets of our government to get the LAWS changed in their favor… this seems to work in the past for pharmaceutical companies… the FDA approves drugs that cause cancer, liver damage, DEATH… all in the name of MEDICINE but they are unwilling to say that medical marijuana has any medicinal value what so ever… The UK has hidden sites where the government grows specifically Sativa dominate strains to make a “medicine” that the government uses to treat MS(with great success) . it is not available in this country because our FDA thinks because of the marijuana laws, they can’t allow it to be used or sold in this country. UK is charging a fortune to the patients who need this product and insurance companies won’t cover it at this time because its a new drug. Most patients who can benefit from Medical Marijuana can’t afford to purchase the meds because of debilitating diseases. There has to be a more humane way to get the meds to the people that need them without it being a legal issue.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PMCUNYFXC55K5OL4RSFLWRQ3S4 Jack

    yea that would be great if they all would get together and end this but they have prisons that are corporate owned and they need to keep them full so law makers will keep them full so they get there political kick back they dont care about people any more its all about the money they get tax payers flip the bills and they take advantage of it. yea if they would take the DEA and put them after thieves and violent crimes yes it would be a much better world. but they like to let child molester out of prison to harm kids that’s what makes no sense!