Time: What Is President Obama’s Problem With Medical Marijuana?

Michael Sherer at Time Magazine has posted online today a particularly astute examination of the Obama administration’s flip-flop on marijuana policy. Below are some key excerpts. Michael’s full article appears in the newsstand edition of Time.

What Is President Obama’s Problem With Medical Marijuana?
via Time.com

[T]he Obama Administration is cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers just as harshly as the Administration of George W. Bush did. In 2011, the Department of Justice revised its guidance to U.S. Attorneys, allowing them to target any medical marijuana activity except for ill patients and their immediate caregivers. The Drug Enforcement Administration has made it clear that “medical marijuana is not medicine,” and even called it a “mortal danger.” … In many states, U.S. Attorneys have advised state and local officials to back away from plans to create rules and regulations that would codify the medical pot industry, in some cases raising the possibility that lawmakers could be prosecuted for promoting drug use that is legal under state law.

Over the last few weeks, I have talked with nearly a dozen people in the medical marijuana business, three U.S. Attorneys, White House officials and local officials who oppose the federal crackdown for a story that will appear in this week’s newsstand issue of TIME. The answer on the ground is, predictably, far more complicated than either medical marijuana advocates or the Obama Administration is willing to describe. And it all comes down to this: Despite Obama’s promises during the 2008 campaign, federal prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is still illegal to grow, possess or sell under federal law. As a result, a once broad exemption from prosecution for medical marijuana providers in state where it’s legal has been narrowed to a tiny one. … [T]he nation is left with an uneasy status quo: The federal government is not trying to eliminate medical marijuana altogether, but it has decided that it cannot stand for the commercialization or large scale production of marijuana for the stated purpose of helping the sick, even when that production is technically within the bounds of state law.

[I]n a different world, the federal government might work with state and local officials to more tightly regulate the growing of marijuana for medical purposes. But since pot is illegal under all circumstances under federal law, the opposite has been happening. Attempts, particularly in California, to more tightly regulate and thereby provide greater legal protection for the drug, have been shut down by the federal government.

And so, medical marijuana is left in a no man’s land. Individual sick users are safe from prosecution, but they are likely to find it harder in the coming months to get the drug. Growers and dispensers are not protected by state law from federal prosecution, especially if they become large enough to get noticed by federal investigators. And the likely result is that more of the medical marijuana industry will be pushed underground in the coming years, making it more difficult for local officials to track the business. This arguably will only increase some criminal activity, as large amounts of money and a very profitable commodity move through the system by way of small-time dealers working without sophisticated security systems.

…“What this really screams for a cohesive national policy.”

But there is no such policy on the horizon. Obama has shown little interest in elevating the issue. Some in federal law enforcement–and at the Office of National Drug Control Policy–hope that the advent of new pharmaceutical replacements for grown medical marijuana, like the Canadian drug Sativex, [Editor’s note: Sativex is a British drug, not a Canadian manufactured product — though it is legal by prescription in Canada.] will make the entire issue moot in the coming decade. But that looks unlikely in the short term, given the lack of concern among the general public with medical marijuana. A 2010 poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press found that 73% say they favor “their state allowing the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes if it is prescribed by a doctor.”

In other words, don’t hold your breath for clarity anytime soon. The haze is here to stay.

56 thoughts

  1. This really pisses me off. It’s the same thing by all past presidents. And this president is still a first class Ass-Hole on this one issue. Peace, Buster Jones Albany,GA.

  2. It is not the buzz thats the issue, it never has been the buzz, and it never will be the buzz. Thats just what they use as the problem. The real problem they have with this is the plant itself.
    Its the plant. It can put the people on a different plain in this country if they grow enough of it. It would kill the cotton industry. It would kill the pulp wood industry. It would kill the man made fiber industry. This is why they don’t want this available to the masses. It helps us as a nation instead of only the elite. Its that simple. Its the plant, not the buzz.

  3. Riddle me this Potman
    Once sativex is established and accepted
    How can any laws against the green
    plant be reasonable

    And this Obame guy sure turned out to
    be a crumb.

  4. Sativex is nothing but a tincture of the whole Cannabis plant. Ground up flowers dissolved in ethanol. The same thing Bayer and others sold one hundred years ago. If I make the tincture from a natural plant I go to jail.

  5. Hopefully Time Magazine getting this story out there will raise awareness and gain support for this issue.

  6. Simply put, the Federal Governments views on marijuana are based on an hysteria debunked time and time again by science.

  7. The excuse about the medical marijuana providers getting out of hand is complete and utter bullshit. They have strict standards for the cannabis they buy. It showed it on television, specifically the shows about Harbor Side. They won’t buy it if there is mold on it or there was an insect infestation and on and on. The stuff that gets rejected winds up on the streets is what I’m getting as the feds main gripe. Well, maybe if the feds would have come up with guidelines for it’s legal retail sale to adults for both recreational and medical purposes to make it the least priority and non-prosecutable with an American tolerance policy like the Dutch gedoogbeleid we wouldn’t be in this mess!

    You know the feds don’t give a shit out the state and local government needing the revenues from it because they’re not hurting. They’re getting paid from outside and get transferred so they aren’t vested in the community, don’t give a shit about the locals. You know, the people.

    The feds should be glad U.S. citizens are running their own cannabis markets and trying to keep the peace, you know, instead of the Mexican cartels. The Mexican mafia has weapons sent south from the U.S. because of they are fighting the Mexican army, and they can get go back to Mexico permanently to escape the feds. U.S. citizens can’t go to Mexico permanently because then they would be growing in Mexico. Duh. Or,they’d get deported. The Mexican mafia can rotate its personnel in and out just like the feds can rotate their personnel in and out. It’s just turnover of outsiders fucking up the state and local regulation of cannabis that makes order out of the chaos.

    Mr. Obama, do not pass the buck to Congress, and wait for them to change the law.

    Ordo ab chaos.

    Obama must have a national gedoogbeleid for the U.S.

  8. When our elected officials do not represent the majority of our views they need to be removed from office and replaced by someone who does represent the views of the majority. Big pharmaceutical and other businesses cannot control our government. Even elections seem rigged these days.

    I don’t care who the candidates are im voting for Ron Paul. He is our only chance of fixing the mess we are in now. Most people I speak to want anyone except Obama. Hopefully this doesnt equate to Romney because he will be no better. Vote Ron Paul 2012 and lets fix our country.It is long overdue!

  9. Marijuana Laws are based on nothing more than hearsay, and that isn’t legal folks.

  10. Where are the “small government, personal liberty, states’ rights” Republicans on this issue? The platform practically writes itself: “we are against medical marijuana, but we think that states should make policy decisions like this, not an overbearing federal bureaucracy.” Given the latest Gallup poll numbers for young people and “liberals,” they could do serious damage to Obama’s base support. I’ve heard that he needs the youth vote to turn out for him like it did in the last election. Maybe with the press this issue is finally getting, Republicans will have the guts to pin Obama against the wall with this one. I doubt it. Instead, Romney says that he doesn’t believe in medical marijuana at all. I’m sure he supports and would continue the DEA’s war on it. He would probably support making caffeine and contraception illegal as well.

  11. “medical marijuana is not medicine,” and even called it a “mortal danger.”

    Has our President and federal government officials,in the DEA and justice department lost their minds?
    Also, this leads me to believe that some people in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy of our government is profiting big time by keeping Cannabis illegal.

  12. The Executive is out of control. It’s easy to think of a president as the “leader” and figurehead who runs the whole show from his new house.

    He just reads speeches written for him and takes orders from the higher ups who remain unmentioned, because explicitly naming the people in control behind the scenes–that would like announcing a coup de etat has occurred. Some refer to them as the military industrial media complex, or the ones paying the highest bribes.

    The executive is like the legislative and the judicial. Individuals join these branches of government that are very well and long established before they arrive for their first day of work. They are joining monolithic organizations with established pecking rules and status/power structures.

    The president’s office in the Executive is no different. Sure he picks his Cabinet but the president and the cabinet are not the whole of the Executive. Old Oval office conversations sound like presidents are receiving orders or instructions over the telephone. Nixon’s conversations are especially telling because of his rambling, repeat-what-I-hear but in vulgar terms style of speech. Nixon created the Controlled substances Act and, if you listen to the audio, he created a monster HMO system that has lead to the hospital-insurance-pharma triad of skyrocketing prices for all three, the most over-priced health care system with a ridiculous lack of access.

    Nixon: Drug War. POS Health Care System. Resigned to avoid exposure of even worse misconduct. Why else would he resign if it all came out in Watergate?

  13. Id much rather have everything legal but until Obama opens his eyes the rest of the country and I will continue to unwillingly support illegal ways to get the product.

  14. I always thought bribing a politician was illegal. I guess that was what they were too busy legalizing to get around to the debate on marijuana.

  15. I’m still hoping for a miracle to occur before the next election. That being that we are given a choice, a real choice, to elect someone that is compassionate and intelligent to be our next president.

    I dare not hold my breath though! If possible, I’ll write my vote in for Ron Paul. Even though I don’t think he will win, I’ll consider it a protest vote. If enough of us vote this way, our point will be made and considered by the status quo.

  16. Despite what anybody says about this issue being about safety, the children blah blah blah, it all comes down to one thing – money, money money. And it helps big Pharm, big biz and big law enforcement (not to mention other industries threatened by non medicinal hemp) to keep the competition illegal. Welcome to the age of darkness!

  17. I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point.
    Barack Obama, When asked, “Unlike other presidents, did you inhale?

  18. I doubt many know of Medical Marijuana Inc of San Diego that’s hooked up with Dixie Elixirs of Denver to distribute non-THC, cannabidiol-only health products online that are FDA approved. They’re coming out in CO first in May then rest of US by August. Very exciting. Will be big step forward in getting hemp farmed in US again.

    [Paul Armentano responds: The products in question have most definitely not gained FDA approval. CBD remains a schedule I drug under federal law; thus products containing it can not be legally marketed in the US.]

  19. I fall into the camp that believes the alcohol tax is one major root for keeping this civil right (which was stolen under false pretense of social emergency) from being returned to the people.

    Money, money, money… taken off the backs of citizens who were abused as children.

    80% of the alcohol is drunk by 20% of the people, and they get eighty-six billion dollars a year from the alcohol tax. ADHD Adults are where they currently get most of that $86 Billion, and if cannabis were legalized that money would be a lot harder to find. And a lot harder to take away from a rich person, effective as they have been at reducing their tax burden over the past 30 years.

    just my opinion.

    and we get never-ending noise about the moral questions as a smoke screen in our News media, just to cover the real issue: that people suffer and are forced to waste so much time when they are caught, that human lives are being wasted, that some of our brightest people are thrown away due to decisions born of need and drive, not choice.

    Where would our president be if he had been caught smoking weed in college, and was kicked out and had all his loans revoked and had to start paying them off immediately?
    Where would our president be if after being caught for pot possession, he’d been forced to take busses instead of driving, to get to his Probation Officer’s office several times a month?
    Where would his family be?
    My point is that we are not living like Superman when we ignore the costs to society and disregard human lives. Want to be like Superman? Value human life above business interests.

  20. 23 Dead, 9 Hanged From Bridge In Nuevo Laredo, Mexico


    Hmmm…what’s this all about? I remember about a year ago when the Mexican street warfare and mass killings, and news about mass graves, was making big headlines. Americans were too afraid to travel to Mexico, for fear of being kidnapped and killed by drug cartels. More attention was being directed toward whatever sort of awful policy or reason could be responsible for such horrors.

    Hillary Clinton as Secy. of State gave the answer, well, it was not the right answer, but it was a response, albeit misleading and a cheap rhetorical trick.

    She had said that it was specifically the “demand for drugs in the US by Americans” that was responsible for the mass killings in Mexico, intimating that it was OUR fault.

    She was right that it was US’s fault, but claiming that the demand for drugs by American citizens, was the direct cause of the unending tragedy. She was plain wrong, intellectually dishonest, and misleading. It was a red herring, a distraction.

    First, the demand will never go away. NEVER. Making inanimate objects “illegal” through paternalistic laws that are insulting violations of human rights, even though cannabis is essentially harmless relative to almost everything else, does not change people’s behavior. Sadly and truthfully, despite claiming that they are concerned with “safety,” they *don’t actually want* to change people’s behavior. They want to bust people, punish them, and profit from them, like parasites. And they want to remove hemp from the so-called free market, destroying competition like good little communists.

    Clinton’s claim was basically finger-pointing at Americans who use drugs, normal citizens and civilians who are free and endowed with inalienable rights, like the right to be free from pain. Blaming average folks for what happens in Mexico should have resulted in an apology for a false accusation that was merely a distraction from the real problem.

    The prohibition and not the demand, is undoubtedly the cause. The real blame falls on particular Americans in a very small minority who invent, maintains and support unjust prohibition policy. It’s not the citizens who are actually the victims, but the public officials, the “drug police,” the corrupt legislators, the dozen or so over-sized federal agencies that misuse public resources yet produce no significant results besides causing a great deal of damage. They fail to change demand, fail to change the supply in any significant way, fail to change peoples’ minds, fail to make a useful living.

    They create organized crime directly by motivating the sorts who want the exorbitant prices that are demanded for black market goods.

    This could be easily tested by initiating an armistice in the drug war and regulating cannabis for an extended period of time, so that people aren’t forced to buy it from hoodlums and degenerates in organized crime. It would end their sales and end the turf wars that compete for those sales. Organized crime would evaporate, like it did with the end of alcohol prohibition, because the incentive, the enormous profits, to participate would just go away.

    But we all know that won’t happen. It would mean public officials would have to admit they were wrong and also brutally harsh, and they would have to take responsibility for the many killed, imprisoned or robbed of their possessions and dignity. In addition, blaming US “demand” as the cause of the problem is just stupid. The demand will not go away, they are too daft to admit it while raking in cash to line their own mattresses.

    So instead, it’ll have to be legalized on a state by state basis, one at a time, as is happening with medical cannabis.

    When Colorado votes to legalize this November, and regulate cannabis like alcohol, and it passes (by exceeding 1.3 million votes) it will set a trend–like California’s precedent setting passage of medical marijuana–with other states following right behind them, till all the states are on board and the feds will hang their heads in shame and defeat and admit that prohibition is the actual crime.

  21. What’s Obama’s problem with medicinal M word .
    First of all .,. it’s illegal . M word is THE:
    DEA keyword for cannabis prohibition . DOJ and
    Supreme Court Law says [unlawfully] mari juana
    is the illegal product of drug enforcement and
    will be treated as dangerous to historical law
    about the ruling to begin cannabis referral to
    mastered modern thought and network known as a
    reason to not allow dangerous wording : M word
    known as dangerous drug name “ma ri jua na” as
    cannabis historically does not promote use the
    Modern Department of Justice may consider as a
    symbol of manna sativa and indica other than *
    the use of European referral to Elizabethean #
    Law on Hundred Year Counsel known as sativa L.
    problem with “loco weed” being a danger to the
    futures of cannabis rather then the dangerous~
    product “ma ri jua na” which is banned at USC.
    Manna Taxes system of dangerous use of drugs .
    [The U.S.C. is the abbreviate of the United @#
    States Code for use by Supreme Courts aligned]
    to begin cannabis referral to State [2] decrim
    inal iz ation by use of Terry Doctrine and the
    following use by accorded secret book of Law .
    (cannabis Dutch is not club legal) !@! Montee.
    When the law in forecast on 2012 feu promise~n
    accorded to Cannabis Requite will be legal the
    United States Code will refer to space program
    aligned to NaSa [2] Accord Modern Nature and *
    the program will be given adjec: Human Space 2
    see to Saturn AcqiRen as a deal on Qenhomes Ca
    n*ti dos as group 2 Edition Network beginning#
    Olympic Dealing to eco#tea accord with William
    Prince to enterprise futures as imposed AU2.i2
    and this law will be forecast as higher time N
    edu to begin MANA.E5 Law on pre doping rights.
    [actual forecast law if you can find it USSC+]

    What did Bush begin . . . medical cannabis the
    referral to Green Cross organization . What is
    medical cannabis Dutch strain illegal . . . .#
    3 illegals are Durban , Shiva Caps and Kalima.
    They are included in cannabe compas sion money
    product on DOJ dislike of serv referen to Cote
    as the West Coast Laws on misused money and on
    use of illegal [dangerous] product with compas
    sion regard to advisors with means to begin @!
    mistrusting State CA economy to embellish then
    the State funds of non*referral to unpaid Gov2
    reason to begin Manna Legal California Decrim#
    with accord known to be Kamala as choice with$
    Govern unalloted the problem on climate center
    known as doctorate in supposition on SyTELinit
    base2 begin newer accord with Master Editions.
    [also a probable law . hard to find US SC CA+]

    Did GW Bush say he wants medicinal cannabis to
    be legal in states with ways to begin higher 2
    thought as reguard in case of medical freedom.

    Yes it was his adminer before War on Terror ll
    Continue before the problem State# scandal the
    African child use leader will try Federal Syri
    a bom settin known as trial of milaire refurb.

    Sorry [[Apology]] to bother you with law . , .
    NORML may allow this if you want _\|/_ I.deal.

    Thanks to Acqi St. Pierre for the article . 🙂

  22. as long as we have a party system goverment it will never be legal on a federal level.we as americans need to stand up and take our goverment back from the highest bider.

  23. jman, you are 100% Right. Money & Big biz rules this country. They are taking away Americans Rights. One at a time.

  24. Obama… the Kenyan word for idiot. Please make him the next EX president and vote him out of office!!!

  25. “It is not the buzz thats the issue, it never has been the buzz, and it never will be the buzz. Thats just what they use as the problem. The real problem they have with this is the plant itself.
    Its the plant. It can put the people on a different plain in this country if they grow enough of it. It would kill the cotton industry. It would kill the pulp wood industry. It would kill the man made fiber industry. This is why they don’t want this available to the masses. It helps us as a nation instead of only the elite. Its that simple. Its the plant, not the buzz”. — Well said Atlanta Toker its MONEY! Ohhh and also that “for the people by the people” is so totally full of shit! ITS “for the people by the lame ass government” and I say that when over half and sometimes a lot more people in this country support some kind of reform and the government doesn’t do anything about it.

  26. Some of this article is a little confusing to me! The author says that “law enforcement” is not going after “ill patients”. Than why have I been arrested twice for possession when medical marijuana is the ONLY drug that significantly helps me with pain. Why is it that in New York State possession of 1 pot plant is equivalent to possession of a kilo of cocaine? Sure sounds to me like law enforcement is going after EVERYONE!!!

  27. We are going to keep living under a MONARCHY with FEDERALISM to back it up. Birds of feather flock together when it comes to MARIJUANA PROHIBITION and you have the KING who wants to carry the big stick. How many laws have been broken by the 21ST CENTURY INQUISITORS to put their point across towards marijuana users. This is still the battle between NATURAL vs SYNTHETIC=BIG PHARMA. At least 42% of the people that die in this country are related to BIG PHARMA DRUGS and approved by the FEDERAL DEATH AUTHORITY. The KING should get his head out of his ass and look at the real reality instead of fantasy of the NEW WORLD ORDER of a POLICE STATE and the ORWELLIAN MENTALITY. It’s time for the WALL of MARIJUANA PROHIBITION to come down and let the people make their own choices on what to ingest into their own bodies. Beware of what comes out of the KINGS mouth for he has spoken. HAIL TO THE MONARCHY!

  28. I’m sure its not because he is lobbied(legalized bribery) by big pharma,alcohol,tobacco,oil,private prisons,and whoever else is against it.

  29. Obama just endorsed gay marriage, why won’t he endorse marijuana use? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there are more marijuana users that gay people who want to get married in the US.

    Granted, this is purely based on my own observations. I currently know one gay couple who want to get married, and numerous pot smokers. By the way, the gay couple also smokes it up from time to time. Something to consider Obama…

  30. Cannibis was grown and smoked by most of our nation’s Founding Fathers; George Washington etc… and even Bush jr. Clinton & Obama have used it and may be smokin’ it still in secret, yet Americans are denied the right to do so. The only solution today is to force a State to State referendum to abolish the Federal Government because it has outlive it’s purpose and does not represent any Freedoms which were written into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. Every State should vote to secede from the District of Columbia! STATES RIGHTS NOW!!!

  31. We would’nt need a budget if we would use the“ bud “to get the revenue needed. If your fine with gay marriage , then will where your grand children come from. Do what is right Obama!

  32. it’s a piant !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! whats the probiem,god put it here for a good reason.

  33. The President took the politically expedient act of endorsing gay marriage. It is well known that,when younger, he was a frequent marijuana user.(who knows? maybe his smokes now have a bit of weed) he should now be pressed to endorse legal marijuana.

  34. If there should be a prohibition on anything, it should be all those horrible pills the doctors had me on while I was in the military and had no access to MMJ. Side effects included but were not limited to: Migraines, loss of sex drive, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, extreme mood swings, violent behavior, suicidal ideation (which too frequently becomes suicide), weight gain, etc. Now that I am on MMJ and recovering from BigPharm’s POISON, I am much happier and healthier. My eyesight, sex life, mood and attitude for life have all returned. I can function and be productive in society again. Remind me why this is illegal?

  35. So it’s ok for men to marry men and women to marry women, Mr. President ,that’s cool I get it and I agree. So big human rights violation and against the constitution. So where are our civil rights and liberty. End prohibition and let me marry, Marry Jane.

  36. Obama’s Presidency is a betrayal to the medical marijuana community. Could it be that his Presidency is paid off by the drug cartels who suffer competition from the legal independent marijuana growers? And could it be that his Presidency is paid off also by the Private Prison Industry Complex? And could it be, Obama is sucking out tax money to build his private police force comprised of the DEA, DOJ, and others?

  37. Buggsy ., Har Har !!#$ OK* The King is likened
    to playing a Game of Worth to the pot~ential *
    Deal of the Century with Modern Nature on Anew
    Free Trust Help Line to advent Master Edition*
    of the Oeber Manna Legal race of Olympic #$@!!
    Proportion.s AND Give Up On Doping . [+] Bryan

  38. THANK YOU ATLANTA TOKER!! i believe you have hit the nail on the head. those industries that ‘run’ this country would suffer the most from legalizing cannabis. why cant more people see that. that is the corruption in this country. how can we fight against those who really run the show…they are the group in the “crystal palace” if you will….where is true freedom in america……

  39. This is bullshit.
    Stop being so hypocritical. You’ve smoked weed yourself. It’s literally the only drug that should be legalized, and your reversing all the progress different states have made. Especially California. WTF!?!?!!?

  40. I find it absolutely assinine that the “Obammer” administration is openly willing and so concerned with making gay marriage legal, which has no financial or legal positives in doing so, but the legalization and/or decriminalization of marijuana for recreational and/or medicinal use is completely out off the question. Who gives a good goddamn if gays can marry or not? I’m not opposed to it, as a matter of fact, I support it, but really though, what good is it going to do for our country? Is it going to help our economy or lower the crime rate? Is it going to produce more jobs or help our environment? The answer is a big NO. It won’t do anything buut allow gay and lesbian couples to say they’re gay and married. I personally feel it’s either time Obama pulls his head out of his ass, or gets a glass stomach so he don’t have to cause he needs to get his priorities straight and make decisions that really matter and make a difference!

  41. what is the standard appeal to frivilous money
    at state decrim and new “legality” . Well Duma
    ~s ., it’s Gay Marriage . Will Obama~n agree ,
    Republic funding to show he is liberal and now
    indifferent to LGBT couples getting a monies *
    grant for Lesbian Gay Bi~ Tran AND what does $
    it mean to Nation Legal_\|/_ as Obama is tired
    uh the fascien reguard known as Republic[en] $
    fascism meeting with support forum about the.n
    Skull n Bones first working with WarSupport.er
    setting known as MilaTara and now trying to uh
    get the ideal to get more embezzle from newer@
    Fascist so called German.s who are known to uh
    not have g*bye seeya left for spaces unknown.s
    after the WW of German Occupation . So what is
    Obama{n} wanting to prevent the liberal fascen
    to show we have a BiPartisan grant to get Anew
    Free Trust.ed National Legality . . . LGBT 😀
    is a mucho pay!!ola grant for decrim so we’ll*
    want Decrim2 at UnitedStates * Canada * Mexico
    and Europe after we begin accord with the Engl
    and Lon!don! Games . . . My opinion . Thanks B

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