White House: “We’re in the Midst of a Serious National Conversation on Marijuana”

We the PeopleIn October of 2011, the White House issued an official response to a petition NORML submitted via their We the People outreach program on the topic of marijuana legalization. Despite being one of the most popular petitions at the site’s launch, the answer we received was far from satisfactory. Penned by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, the response featured most of the typical government talking points. He stated that marijuana is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment and that its use is a concern to public health. “We also recognize,” Gil wrote, “that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.”

Well, just over a year later, the White House has responded again to a petition to deschedule marijuana and legalize it. The tone this time is markedly different, despite being penned by the same man.

Addressing the Legalization of Marijuana
By Gil Kerlikowske

Thank you for participating in We the People and speaking out on the legalization of marijuana. Coming out of the recent election, it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.

At President Obama’s request, the Justice Department is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington, given differences between state and federal law. In the meantime, please see a recent interview with Barbara Walters in which President Obama addressed the legalization of marijuana.

Barbara Walters:

Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?

President Obama:

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal.

…this is a tough problem because Congress has not yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And 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 say that it’s legal.

When you’re talking about drug kingpins, folks involved with violence, people are who are peddling hard drugs to our kids in our neighborhoods that are devastated, there is no doubt that we need to go after those folks hard… it makes sense for us to look at how we can make sure that our kids are discouraged from using drugs and engaging in substance abuse generally. There is more work we can do on the public health side and the treatment side.

Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

No tirade about protecting our children. No alarmist claims about sky rocketing marijuana potency and devastating addiction potential. Just a few short paragraphs stating we are “in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana” and deferring to an interview with the President where he stated arresting marijuana users wasn’t a priority and that the laws were still being reviewed. While far from embracing an end to marijuana prohibition, the simple fact that America’s Drug Czar had the opportunity to spout more anti-marijuana rhetoric and instead declined (while giving credence to the issue by stating it is a serious national conversation) it’s at the very least incredibly refreshing, if not a bit aberrational. We can only hope that when the administration finishes “reviewing” the laws just approved by resounding margins in Washington and Colorado, they choose to stand with the American people and place themselves on the right side of history.

“We the People” are already there.

113 thoughts

  1. I wonder how many unemployed people would find a job and go to work if it wasn’t for the darned ole THC in their system. You bet, when the pain is mostly gone working is a joy. Really, we like to work and man can we produce. Mlr

  2. Students enrolled in People Power and the Media class at Columbia College Chicago were given the opportunity to research a topic and to share their opinion in the public domain via blog and podcast. The topic selected was the controversial medical marijuana dispensaries in California and the clash between state and federal drug laws.

    This is their blog:

    The investigation of business owner, Matthew Davies, began in September of 2011 after a routine traffic stop where Davies was pulled over for speeding. From there, Davies told the officer he was responding to an alarm at his medical marijuana warehouse. This was just one incident in the chain of events that led up to Davies’ arrest even though he was allegedly following the California state law for his medical marijuana dispensary. He is now facing a minimum of ten years in prison after being indicted by the Federal Government. This situation is very unfortunate for something that is so unclear. California exercised the state’s reserved power to not punish medical marijuana users and distributers when recommended by a doctor, so they are not in any violation with the Federal Controlled Substance Act.

    The Federal Controlled Substance Act deemed marijuana, as a drug with “no currently accepted medical use,” however, there is research available proving otherwise. The University of California, San Francisco, conducted studies in December of 2011 where inhaling cannabis reduces pain significantly and can reduce the medical side effects including nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite from heavy medication such as morphine and oxycodone.

    It’s also understood that the Federal Government has the right to overrule any state law that contradicts Federal law due to the “Supremacy law,” which is Article VI, Clause 2, of the United States Constitution. However, the mere fact that the Federal Government’s stance on the use and distribution of medical marijuana being far different than the state of California’s stance needs to be addressed, ASAP.

    In the early days of the Obama Administration, Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr., announced that medical marijuana users and caregivers would not be targeted, according to a Washington Post article in 2009. California voters approved the sale of medicinal marijuana according to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. What makes this unclear is that Federal law should not be able to “trump” state law – it is a separate jurisdiction. According to the New York Times, the Federal Government could sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by Federal law, but such a severe response could raise complications for the Obama Administration.

    It is sensible for the Federal Government to get involved if and when medical marijuana dispensaries are operating illegally. If the Federal Government sees the distribution of selling medical marijuana illegal, they need to address the businesses doing it illegally rather than raiding the dispensaries of professional doctors and managers. It is undeniable that time and money would have been better spent if the Government shut down the dispensaries throughout California that were selling marijuana illegally to minors and non-patients. With that said, Matthew Davies was the operator of a legally owned dispensary and is therefore being unlawfully prosecuted. Our call to action is that the Federal Government needs to find an equal balance with state laws in order to prevent innocent people from being wrongly accused.


    Margaret, Emily, Jessica, Ramon, Kyra, Ashleigh, Bridget, and Molly, members of the People Power in the Media course taught by Hope Daniels, Associate Professor/Teaching Fellow, School of Media Arts, Columbia College Chicago.

  3. I need to change the classification of marijuana so my son can have a chance at living. He has an inoperable brain tumor that according to some studies could be cured by marijuana. There is no one on earth who wants the study of this drug to happen more than me. I never thought in a million years I would want my son using illegal drugs and espcially for a horrible illness. It is so obviously and blatantly not a harmful drug I can’t beleive our government really thinks we’re that stupid to hold onto untrue beliefs that cannot be backed by any scientific evidence. Just how dumb do they think we are. I need to know what I can do to make a difference….and fast….my child is running out of time.

  4. Drug enforcement is big business, employing thousands of people here and abroad. That’s a lot of jobs- most of them with good salaries and government pensions. It’s going to be very hard to switch these folks to a different career path and give up what they’ve got now and all the power that goes with it.
    Cancer victims and thousands of Americans with medical conditions that can be effectively treated with cannabis.
    The Liquor and pharmaceutical companies, the drug cartels in Mexico and Columbia and the srug dealers on the streets of our cities and towns.
    He gave away the store to the drug companies in negotiating Obama care. Did he give them marijuana too?

  5. I don’t think Cannabis will ever be legal as long as the Congress of NO (GOP) is the majority.
    Obama’s the only President willing to even consider changing the laws good for him!

  6. Well the answer is simple; if Marijuana was legalized people could be given the job to grow our hemp which can be industrialized to flourish economy. By providing paper; fuel; nutritious food; textiles; and much more; MJ would be the most important cash crop the world will ever see. there is much information on this website you can learn about. I had the misfortune of being ratted out because i smoked a bit of weed on the job instead of taking an hour long break, I would smoke every morning on my 3.6 bike ride to work and I was focused the whole day; not to mention i would have a great appetite upon arriving home and slept very well the night i did smoke grass. I was a very lonely person and herb helped me cope with the long hours of the day and allowed me to finish work on time, the only thing that made me retarded and paranoid were the police looking for any reason to lock people in jail which is also a privatized system which gets the fed more money, I call the system a vampire breed which sucks the blood of our youth and tries to brainwash our citizens by using social media, violent video-games and senseless ad campaign which only stunts brain development and will soon bring us back to the stone age, because people are so vulnerable Government takes advantage of this. There needs to be a balance, I say we go back to exchanging services for goods, and let the money be backed up by real tangible objects and not just debit. but real credit/assets. BTW (by the way) our constitution was written on Hemp.

  7. Strange how modern science doesn’t concur with any of his claims.what is it going to take for them to stop all the idiocy.I went to a school in the middle of a major heroin and perscription drug epidemic I’ve seen the worst of addition and I refuse to be patronized by the federal government.I’m tired of this argument, 5000 of recorded use zero deaths, no proof of long term health problems as a resunt of long term use.its over the money grab is over leave us be.

  8. theres tons of scientific evidence on OJMCB2; just use google… the info is out there; however one must research it to learn about it<companies are just afraid of losing their PROFITS (PROPHETS) HMMM,,,=interesting.

  9. People die every day due to tobacco products. Then marijuana has no reported deaths, and marijuana is still illegal. Also if you were too say its illegal because of the effect it has on you, that is bull because alcohol is legal and it has an even worse effect on you body and the day you make alcohol illegal ill understand why marijuana illegal.

  10. All Causes of death in 2009 Diseases of 2,437,163
    Heart 599,413
    Malignant Neoplasms 567,628
    Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases 137,353
    Cerebrovascular Diseases 128,842
    Lack of Health Insurance3 44,789
    Poisoning 41,592
    Drug Overdose (2010)238,329
    Intentional Self-Harm (Suicide) 36,909
    Septicemia 35,639
    Motor Vehicle Accidents 34,485
    Firearm Injuries 31,347
    Alcohol-Induced 24,518
    Pharmaceutical Drug Overdose (2010)22,134
    Illicit Drugs (2000) 17,0004
    Homicide 16,799
    Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) 9,406 Viral hepatitis 7,694
    Cannabis(Marijuana) 0=Zero deaths

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