Empty Gestures From the Obama Administration

The Obama administration has always paid lip service to the idea of pursuing more sensible drug policy, but has rarely lived up to its promises. From launching state-to-state crackdowns on medical marijuana providers despite promises to let states determine their own policies to attempting to license the federal government’s marijuana patent for profit while claiming that marijuana has no accepted medical value, the Obama administration continues to disappoint on this issue. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske may say that the War on Drugs is over, but “legalization” still isn’t in the President’s vocabulary, and the war on marijuana users is still in full effect.

Given this unfortunate history, the administration’s signals of hope last week rang even more hollow.

The three pardons granted last week by Obama to former marijuana prisoners could be viewed as a step in the right direction for an administration that has consistently increased its enforcement against marijuana violations. It is certainly a boon for those three individuals, who will no longer have to deal with the stigma of arrest and incarceration haunting them the rest of their lives. Those three people will find it easier to find employment, apply for student loans and federal education assistance, and will finally be able to vote again.

The recipients of these pardons should be lauded for becoming pillars of their communities after their incarceration. But how many pillars have been torn from their communities by prohibition, whether for providing medicine to sick people or simply choosing to relax with a substance that is safer than alcohol?

Those three people should be celebrating. The mitigation of the effects the war on marijuana has had on their lives is long overdue. But that celebration provides no solace to the 853,000 people arrested in the U.S. in 2010 for marijuana violations, 750,000 of which were for simple possession. Nor does it comfort the families of those who have died at the hands of the police during marijuana raids, or those who have lost beloved family pets and property to marijuana prohibition.

The press conference given by Gil Kerlikowske last Monday is perhaps even more insulting to supporters of drug policy reform. The purpose of this event was to address concerns that minority populations were being disproportionately affected by drug laws and what could be done to fix this problem. While he proposed many positive efforts to reduce the effect that drugs have in the African-American community, he overlooked some glaring facts.

Even though marijuana use among whites is higher than in any racial demographic, minorities are arrested for marijuana violations at a staggeringly higher rate throughout the country. This disparity in arrests, as well as the accompanying disparity in sentencing for drug crimes has an undeniably detrimental effect on African-American and Hispanic families and communities that is directly tied to the ability of police to arrest people for marijuana. Even in New York City, where marijuana possession is technically decriminalized, law enforcement found a loophole to facilitate the arrests of over 50,000 people a year for marijuana violations. The vast majority of those arrestees are people of color. Until we remove the threat of arrest, we cannot adequately or realistically confront the impact of drugs in any community.

Kerlikowske is right: we cannot arrest our way out of our drug problems. Logic would suggest, then, that we stop trying. For the drug czar to propose fixing those problems for minorities while leaving policies in place that undeniably support systemic racism is disgraceful.

It may be a good sign that the Obama administration is looking at this issue with a little more interest, and is moving along harm reduction lines to solve it, but the fact remains that the government is still at war with marijuana users. We need to go further. There must be a legitimate dialogue in the White House to mirror the one occurring on an international level and among voters about the failure of marijuana prohibition.

27 thoughts on “Empty Gestures From the Obama Administration”

  1. We the people need too get rid of every turn-coat American prohibitionist, they who deny the freedoms expressed in the Constitution, have No right too tell the rest of us how to live or be in a position too incarcerate other Americans. I would like to add, that when it comes to being black, Obama and Holder are barely brown.

  2. The ONDCP is a pill popping nanny organization that has a serious addiction problem of being highly compulsive on controlling others AND to justify their existence by giving out false propaganda and provoking those who they believed are undesirables and unproductive to the ONDCP cause. The ONDCP has their own army (DEA) and their own constitution (the Controlled Substance Act of 1970) all supported by the United States federal government.

    Whatever it takes for purity.

  3. I think some how were looking at prohibition all wrong. Those with the most to losse if pot goes legal. Follow the money. Paper mills,Drug Cos’, Drug dealers,DEA,DEA equipment making Co’s,Helicopter pilots assotiation,and the list go’s on and on and on.We need to show people something other than smoking pot. Just a thought.

  4. How much corn does it take to make a gallon of ethenol? and how much hemp doe’s it take to make the same gallon? We really could help feed price’s for farmers.

  5. Thanks for good article. One suggestion:

    Re: “providing medicine to sick people or simply choosing to relax with a substance that is safer than alcohol”– that takes care of the “medical” and the “recreational” but let’s also take care to include the INSPIRATIONAL. This means the original and creative ideas that spontaneize in the first and sequent hours after use, pursuant not to “relaxing” but to energetic exercise and work as performed by those who understand not to waste the expensive (per gram, ounce etc.) encounter with cannabinoids on mere passive receptivity. Beyond just “smoking pot” as Thomas points out, there are the myriad of important innovative contributions users would be making to society once no longer blacklisted as the research itself has been.

    (Youngsters have been more afraid to be caught owning harm/dosage-reduction “paraphernalia’ than to waste a gram of herb in a few minutes via a joint or blunt which is easy to hide or throw away.)

    And, Thomas, to your list of “those with most to lose” add the number one enemy: $igarette companies whose profit margin depends on tricking tobacco users to buy the hot burning overdose 700-mg paperwrap format which kills 6 million human beings a year; legal cannabis would mean legalizing LONG-STEM ONE-HITTERS with 25-mg serving size, use of which could soon spill over from cannabis users into the inhalant tobacco-using population (over a billion worldwide) reducing to a tenth or less the amount of tobacco consumed– and then it’ll be “Bail Out Philip Morris!”

    I think ther right tactic is to attack the institutionalized $igarette format, promote one-hitters, e-chillums and vaporizers for any and all herb use injcoluding tobacco, destroy their profit base– then the Oligarchs won’t have all that money to invest in Johnny Boehner and other Republican enemies of cannabis legalization (yes, Virginia, there’s something worse than Obama).

  6. Clarence, you’re ridiculous comment helps nothing, least of all yourself and the movement you support. Anyone with the ability to read could prove you wrong in twenty seconds so I won’t bother to try, you likely couldn’t except any explanation anyway. I will however point out that your anger is misplaced. Read Thomas Clark’s post if you want to find a proper target for your anger. I’m no fan of our president’s failure to the cannabis community, but I’m smart enough to realize there’s much larger enemies out there than president Obama.

  7. There is something inherently wrong about a law ( the 1970 Controlled Substances Act) that requires such a high ranking public official, the Drug Czar, to mislead the citizens. This has led to such ridiculous scenes as the Drug Czar, Mr. Gil Kerlikowske, standing in San Francisco after fifteen years of medical marijuana in California, and proclaiming that marijuana is dangerous and has no medical value. Does anyone wonder why the Federal Government is considered unreliable when it comes to drug facts? The government’s credibility has been destroyed by it’s inability to tell the truth when it comes to drugs or the success or failure of current drug policy.
    As long as this requirement to mislead the citizens is in place, we will not be able to have the honest discussion needed to for us to move forward on the issues of drugs and drug law. Currently the American Medical Association is calling for marijuana to be rescheduled to allow for it’s use as medicine. Sixteen states and Washington DC have medical marijuana laws and polling nationwide is 82% in favor of medical marijuana. The only thing standing in the way are the unrealistic and untrue pronouncements of the Drug Czar and his fellow prohibitionists.
    Congress should pass an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that requires the Drug Czar to tell the whole truth about drugs and cease this ridiculous charade. Until then the propaganda, misinformation, death and destruction caused by our current drug policy will continue unabated

  8. I really hope everyone that posts here is going to vote for Ron Paul.
    Tell your friends, Family member, and niebors, to take a stand for our freedom…please help protect our rights

  9. While they have control over minorities (mostly males), and they slowly strip the rights of anybody they desire, the noose will only get tighter. You can blame Obama all you want, but in the end, he is just an inexperienced buffoon in way over his head. Until we are willing and able to stuff the pockets of Congress with billions of dollars it will only get worse.

    Like it or not, this country is for the money, not for the people.

    Norml’s ads have been turned down by all major mass media.
    The goverment has a patent on THC, and is now just waiting for the highest bidder to buy it.
    Congress is allowed to do insider trading and not take any drug tests.
    YOU, no longer have 2nd Amendment Rights.
    With all the new tech out there, you no longer have your 1st Amendment Rights(While talking to friends in public, you can be recorded, photographed and warrants can then be issued).
    With this action, you are losing your 4th Amendment Rights.
    Under Section 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act, if you are considered a terrorist or a threat to America, you can be held with no rights for an indefinite period of time. As an American citizen, this means you have no 5th and 6th Amendment Rights.
    As a capper read your 10th Amendment Rights.

    As for a new president, Newt is in the pocket of Big Pharma and wants to drug test you when applying for anything govermental(soon this will probably include your drivers license).
    Mitt Romney is Mormon. I don’t care how he worships, but he will Never help marijuana.
    Obama, buffoon, idiot pick your own words.

    Ron Paul is not just giving lip service, he has signed legistration, see H.R.2306. The sad part is because he is so for the people he will get shoved down by big money. Do vote for him if you want real change, but remember the electoral college is who elects the president.

    As for me, I wear a Ron Paul hat when I go out. I do this to start conversations when ever I can. It is no longer just a matter of voting. If we want real change we are going to have to join together as a group. But, as I mentioned earlier this can be considered anti-American and put anybody they decide in jail, no Miranda rights, no warrants, no prompt courts.

    I am a proud American, I am NORML, and I vote.
    As an American, it is my responsability to fight these injustices and I will to the end.

    Vote Dr. Ron Paul!!!

    Visit May4.org

  10. Everything in nature, including humans, follows the path of least resistence. Everything in nature is also self serving, including us. I gave up booze the moment I smoked my first joint, 45 years ago. It was a choice that I do not regret even today. I have had to learn to hide, lie and sneak in order to exist within the law. I am a medical professional who understands, more than most, the evils of alcohol. My choice, 45 years ago as a young soldier in Vietnam, probably saved my life. My parents were alcoholics and I was well on my way to follow in their tracks. The violence I grew up with, the abuse, the neglect, were all based in alcohol. If I had not been introduced to something different, I would have joined my parents in alcohol heaven. I wouldn’t have known the difference. They both died of tobacco and alcohol related illnesses at an early age. Marijuna gave me a chance to get off that path. America needs a choice. A choice that won’t kill them or injure them or make them stupid. I have missed 45 years of slurred speech, stumbling around, puking and peeing on myself, domestic violence, drunk driving, passing out, blacking out and falling down. I am grateful. It has been worth it to me that I had to live as a criminal on the run.

  11. Dear Justin, Just exactly has Obama done for the good of this country? He has done nothing good for America. He let G.E. move to China, while not collecting a single penny of taxes for over 15 billion in profits. He takes from drug lobbiests. He has increased our nations dedt a trillion dollers a year. he has led nothing. He passes every thing to someone else. He is a perfect example of a democrat. When i went to school we said every day the pledge and as I remember it says, “and to the Republic, for which it stands”. In a Republic we are free. In a democracy 49% of the people are told what to do by the other 51%. And now Newt is almost saying we should exexcute the drug dealers. Pharma drugs are killing almost as many people per year as automobile accidents. When was the last time somebody died from cannabis? NEVER!!! So Mr. Justin, maybe you learned something about Obama, and if not i will pray for you. And since Romney is a pupput of the system we are pretty much screwed again for any cannabis reform.

  12. Obama can definitely do more to decriminalize marijuana and force the Feds to stop raiding medical marijuana facilities that are following the state laws where they are located; however, it would be wrong of us to expect him to legalize it – simply because he is the first black president. The first black president cannot be the one to legalize marijuana. I hope it is legalized as soon as possible, but I do not want him to be scorned for it, and therefore I believe and accept that it is not his place to do so at this point in time.

  13. Obama is the first president to EVER lie to the Tokers of this country to con us out of our vote only to turn around and stab us in the back after he was elected. Even someone as bad as Reagan told the entire country where he stood on the issue’before hand.In my eyes Obama is far worse than Reagan was.Because he targeted ME.Thinking that I was just a gullible idiot.He talked his bullshit to get me of my couch to go vote for him.Spouting his lies about hope and change .No other presidential cantidate has Ever stooped that low.

  14. you can blame obama all you want,some of it he deseves,but this goes way past the president.this country is run by lobbist.if you think that obama can wave a magic wand and everything will be fine,your kidding yourself.the repeal of marijuana laws is very low on the list of things to do.as long as people of color are target of the justice system nothing will get done

  15. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
    Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

    Do Not Stop The War On Drugs
    Our society needs law enforcement gangs of deviant sexual perverted police. If you stop the drug war, these poor people will be out of a job. Andrew Schroeder badge # 6969 of the Illinois State Police, Freeport, Stephenson County. This guy was caught, August of 2007, buy my then 9 year old daughter with a pair of her soiled panties during one of his famous drug raids. Was he sniffing for drugs? We must keep the drug war on going so people like this can continue being legal perverts!

    Do Not Stop the war on little girls soiled panties!
    Do Not Stop Destroying Families
    Do Not Stop the killings!
    Do Not Stop the drug war.

  16. Did Kerlikowske really say we cannot arrest our way out of our drug problems? Was this at the recent press conference?

    I remember during the Clinton administration that the day Barry McCaffrey was named drug czar he said we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.

    Of course, the Clinton administration spent the following years arresting more and more marijuana offenders each year and bragging about the record levels of arrests.

  17. Gary Johnson has a better record than Ron Paul, other candidates and Obama. He would legalize immediately and stop the Ganja prison biz. He is a 58 year old athlete putting people, economy and proven ideas first, not the corporate police state.

    R Paul has failed twice, and is 76, without Gary’s success, ideas or energy. For quick change on Ganja to truth, Gary is by far the best choice.

    The only other choice is a long legal process for truth to prevail.
    End prohibition & get the US going again-Garyjohnson2012.com -he is not owned by the repubs and may run as a libertarian, but still runs to his own proven ideas and listens to people first. Time for a new view, not the bought off repubs and demos…or more of the same…? Rather not…

  18. Obama does not plan on doing anything with the marijuana issue whether it medical marijuana or the federal laws against. He laughs ever time it is brought up to him like it is a joke. Anyone for legalizing marijuana should not vote for him to be re-elected. If he is re-elected it is four more years we know nothing is going to happen.

  19. I think America needs to wake up and see the real number one drug problem in america which is the addiction to prescribed pain medications that our federal government is allowing all over the country from small towns to large cities we as americans consume billions of narcotics a year which in return are returning to the streets and being sold to our young children middle class upper class all the way down to the homeless the real problem is the fact that the FDA is allowing meny new pain clinics open each day in record numbers and without any real supervision yes they are suppose to drug test often and been seen by the doctor on a regular basis however that doesn’t happen there are to meny pain clinics to even think about keeping a eye on them all As far as medical marijuana I myself can say I was in pain management for almost ten years for a back and neck fusion and the doctors had me on so meny meds that it took from me my own dignity and my life became a mess now with help from medical marijuana I’m off all meds including antideppresents and I qiut smoking cigarettes I believe if more states legalized it and the federal government would back the states we would have less addiction and overdose from pain medications and cutting the crime rate of those who sell prescription meds on the streets to venerable people they are the ones our government needs to focus on locking up and less petty marijuana offenders ! Peace out

  20. Ok, I know Mr Ron Paul is an advocate for legalization but come on, he is literally a dumb ***. He will side with anyone to get a vote! I want legalization as much as the next recreational or medical patient, but I really cant even fathom voting for such an ignoramous. I live in Kentucky and we have some of the harshest laws on marijuana right now. Luckily the vote is coming back this year, it seems hemp is also already in. Just keep making these prohibitionists pull there hair out. As long as we show in force what “WE THE PEOPLE” believe, they cant deny us forever. Just dont put any more idiots in office like “RON PAUL”. Unless the only thing you care about is legalization or we are all up a creek without a paddle. Vote smart not by what they say they will do cause not one of them will ever do what they say. Oh wait obama and his federal health care omg one of them did what they said they would do, Not that its going to actually help anyone.
    And yes marijuana prohibition helps law enforcement gain equipment and money. Its very sad that our gov. will steal from non violent “pot smokers” but they do and until we “MARCH ON WASHINGTON” it wont stop! UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL!

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