Opinion Brief

Obama's medical marijuana 'reversal': A 'blatant contradiction'?

The Justice Department has threatened to crack down on medical marijuana businesses, even those allowed under state laws — and advocates aren't pleased

Medical marijuana advocates were thrilled in 2009 when President Obama's Justice Department advised federal attorneys to avoid prosecuting patients who use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws, or their caregivers. Now, the thrill is gone. Deputy Attorney General James Cole has issued a new memorandum offering "guidance" on the earlier policy: All marijuana use and commerce is illegal under the Controlled Substance Act, Cole reiterated, and the new crop of state-sanctioned, large-scale marijuana warehouses and dispensaries are in federal crosshairs. Is this a flip-flop on pot?

Obama broke his word: There's obviously a "blatant contradiction" here, but Obama's trying to have it both ways, says Jacob Sullum in Texas' Odessa American. As late as last summer, his administration told Congress that state-approved pot purveyors could rest easy, as Obama had promised during his presidential run. This new "unacknowledged reversal" is a ploy to "get credit for tolerance" and for being tough on drugs."The week of lying dangerously"

The new guidance isn't that different: I'd characterize the Cole memo as "a modest change in policy," not a reversal, says Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, in Salon. The Obama team was clearly surprised by the new crop of "multimillion-dollar operations" that sprouted up after the 2009 memo, and those big-time growers are on notice. But regarding mid-level dispensaries, "we're in a kind of wait-and-see mode as to what prosecutors will do state by state.""Crackdown on medical marijuana ahead?"

Obama just lost the pot vote, either way: The Obama team insists, with some validity, that the "facts on the ground" are what have changed since 2009, not its marijuana policy, says Phillip S. Smith in AlterNet. But most medical marijuana advocates feel betrayed. The Cole memo hasn't just "dried up any reservoirs of good will" from Obama's first 18 months, it's sparked a "Cold War" between Obama and the pot community."Obama admin memo on medical marijuana stirs dismay and anger"

Recommended

Legal experts stumped over whether Jan. 6 committee can force GOP lawmakers to testify
Bennie Thompson.
capitol riot aftermath

Legal experts stumped over whether Jan. 6 committee can force GOP lawmakers to testify

Trump raised nearly $50 million more than next highest Republican in first half of 2021
Donald Trump.
fundraising

Trump raised nearly $50 million more than next highest Republican in first half of 2021

Cori Bush prepared to spend 2nd night outside Capitol as eviction moratorium expiration looms
Cori Bush.
making a point

Cori Bush prepared to spend 2nd night outside Capitol as eviction moratorium expiration looms

Fearing the doctor
A cross.
Picture of Ryan CooperRyan Cooper

Fearing the doctor

Most Popular

Tom Brady's 'gentle' roast of Trump at Biden's White House: 'Deeply vicious'?
Tom Brady, Joe Biden
Quotables

Tom Brady's 'gentle' roast of Trump at Biden's White House: 'Deeply vicious'?

Former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87
Former Sen. Carl Levin.
rest in peace

Former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee arrested at voter rights protest
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is arrested on Thursday at a voter rights protest.
good trouble

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee arrested at voter rights protest