Obama Administration Responds to Marijuana Petition

A grassroots, online petition urging the Obama administration to leave the decision of marijuana legalization up to the states has prompted a formal response from the White House. handonkeyboard.jpg

However, as with previous statements made by the president on this issue, our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know it’s often less about the carefully-worded politicking and more about what isn’t said.

The response came from the White House drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske. This was the same individual who previously stated that legalization with regard to marijuana was “not in my vocabulary, nor is it in the president’s vocabulary.” He has shifted this stance slightly to say that the country is currently in the midst of a serious national conversation about the government’s approach. Still, he stopped short of saying that the federal government had any plans whatsoever to curb its crackdown on medical marijuana facilities in California. Further, he didn’t say that the government intended to concede any power to states like Colorado and Washington, where voters have opted to legalize recreational use, possession and sale.

So it’s certainly not an about-face on the issue, but we are cautiously optimistic that the government may at some point in the future adopt legal policy that is more in line with the will of the people. Numerous polls have indicated that between 51 to 68 percent of Americans support the idea that states – not the federal government – should have the right to develop marijuana policy, regulation and enforcement.

The petition that prompted the response was written two months ago by nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist David Sirota, also a best-selling author living in Colorado. It requested a change in federal drug laws that would prevent the federal government from pursuing civil or criminal action against those in the marijuana industry in states where it is legal. The petition did not suggest stripping the federal government of its authority to pursue action in states that had not adopted pro-marijuana laws, but rather bipartisan reform with regard to enforcement in states that had.

It garnered more than 46,000 signatures.

But even as marijuana advocates are pointing to the response as a successful use of political pressure, the fact is, we aren’t likely to see any abrupt changes anytime soon.

In fact, Kerlikowske never directly answered the petition’s request. Instead, he revealed only that the U.S. Justice Department is carefully reviewing the legalization laws passed in Washington and Colorado. He then made reference to a Barbara Walters’ interview the president gave in which he stated he doesn’t support marijuana legalization. But again, it’s what he didn’t say: In that interview, he never directly says whether he supports legislation that would cede authority on this matter to the states.

Ultimately, this recent response is actually more of a non-response. The administration is continuing to refuse to deal with the issue directly. As federal prosecutors continue their barrage of assaults on California dispensaries, it’s as if the White House is doing all they can to ignore the greater issue here, which is that people are tired of this war on pot. It’s costly, has ruined lives and is ultimately ineffective.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Obama: Pot’s in the “conversation”, Jan. 9, 2013, By David Sirota, Salon.com

More Blog Entries:
Obama: Legalized Marijuana Users Not a Top Priority, Dec. 27, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog