Posts Tagged ‘marijuana policy project’
by Rob Kampia, Special to the Washington Post
Rob Kampia is executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama raised hopes among those who support medical marijuana by pledging to respect state laws on the issue. But his administration has reversed course and massively escalated the federal government’s attacks on medical marijuana businesses, most of which are legal under their states’ laws.
This is perplexing because medical marijuana is far more popular than Obama is. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from January 2010 found that 81 percent of Americans supported legalizing medical marijuana. A CBS News poll from October found that 77 percent of Americans support allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions. By contrast, the president’s approval rating last October hovered around 42 percent — and is currently about 47 percent.
The shift has been clear. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in March 2009 that the Obama administration would end the Bush administration’s practice of raiding medical marijuana providers that violated federal statutes. A memo from the Justice Department later that year said the department would not prioritize prosecutions of individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
But last year the tide turned. Obama’s Justice Department authorized a series of letters from U.S. attorneys across the country threatening to “vigorously” prosecute individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. In some cases the U.S. attorneys suggested that government employees who help regulate their states’ medical marijuana systems could be prosecuted for “facilitating” a crime.
There was more. The IRS cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries, refusing to allow them to deduct such standard business expenses as rent and payroll. Last September the National Institute on Drug Abuse refused to provide federally grown marijuana to a Food and Drug Administration-approved research protocol seeking to measure the extent to which marijuana helps combat veterans with their post-traumatic stress disorder. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives outlawed gun sales to medical marijuana patients. And federal prosecutors in California announced that they would crack down on dispensaries across the state, saying that they intend to seize the property of landlords who lease space to these businesses that are legal under state law.
Last month Obama clarified his position on medical marijuana, saying on a late-night show that “we’re not going to be legalizing weed . . . anytime soon.” This after he had recently told an interviewer: “I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana — and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law.”
Simply put, Obama has become more hostile to medical marijuana patients than any president in U.S. history.
To put Obama’s implosion in perspective, consider what Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) wrote in his 2010 book “Fed Up!”: “When the federal government oversteps its authority, states should tell Washington they will not be complicit in enforcing laws with which they do not agree. Again, the best example is an issue I don’t even agree with — the partial legalization of marijuana. Californians clearly want some level of legalized marijuana, be it for medicinal use or otherwise. The federal government is telling them they cannot. But states are not bound to enforce federal law, and the federal government cannot commandeer state resources and require them to enforce it.”
Perry also wrote, “If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”
The five presidents from Richard Nixon through George H.W. Bush allowed medical marijuana research to proceed unhindered.
The three presidents from Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush allowed patients to apply to the federal government for waivers to use medical marijuana legally under federal law.
Obama appears to be to the right of Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Ronald Reagan and even George W. Bush on this issue. It’s hard to imagine how this helps Obama politically, and it’s easy to imagine how forcing patients to purchase their medicine from an illicit provider instead of a regulated business hurts people who are suffering from cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.
by Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press
It may seem odd that one of the top national advocates for the legalization of marijuana is a young lawyer who doesn’t like the drug.
Karen O’Keefe, 33, said she tried pot a few times as an undergraduate at Michigan State University but that “it just made me feel stupid and want to go to sleep.”
Still, O’Keefe — who grew up in Grosse Pointe Farms and graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School — is adamant that Michigan and the nation should “treat marijuana like alcohol — regulate it and tax it.”
Some people are “surprised, and don’t see why it’s an issue I’d work on. But more and more people realize that there are a lot of reasons to change the policies” other than wanting it for personal use, she said.
“I’ve been involved with a number of social justice issues over the years — opposing torture, opposing the death penalty, opposing wars that I thought were unjust. And this is another situation like those.”
Keeping the drug illegal, she said, is “a bad policy because it causes a huge amount of suffering without actually achieving a positive purpose.”
O’Keefe is director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., though she works from an office in West Hollywood, Calif. Her new hometown is “extremely marijuana-friendly and very well-regulated,” with seven licensed dispensaries selling pot, she said.
In 2006, the West Hollywood City Council passed a resolution directing police to make marijuana possession their lowest priority, “similar to what passed recently in Kalamazoo,” she said about the enforcement ordinance voters approved in November.
She has close at hand data from countless studies, including a recent Harvard study that estimated the combined cost of enforcing marijuana laws in the U.S. and the loss of possible tax revenues to be more than $20 billion.
She also has the University of Michigan’s latest data from its long-term “Monitoring the Futures” study of youth drug use. It shows marijuana use among teens is on the rise — a finding that opponents of legalization say portends ominous results if the drug is legalized.
“At present, 1 in 15 high school seniors is a daily or near daily user of marijuana,” said Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator at U-M for the study. Teens’ perception of the risk of using pot declined in the past five years, tempting more of them to use it, Johnston said.
The same study showed that 80% of 12th-graders surveyed across the nation said marijuana was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get. O’Keefe said legalizing it would allow for regulation and more parental oversight, as with alcohol, instead of the current dangers of the illegal marketplace.
“Right now, the situation with marijuana is just like it was in the days of alcohol prohibition,” she said. “Back then, you had people getting killed — sometimes by law enforcement, sometimes killing law enforcement and sometimes killing each other — over alcohol.
“Now, people don’t go robbing each other’s houses and shooting them for alcohol. But they used to.”
There is no easy way to say this, so let’s just cut to the chase. Cannabis reform is failing miserably. Try to think of Cannabis Freedom as a corporation, and we are all stockholders in that corporation. Instead of working to gain profits, like a normal corporation, we are trying to increase cannabis freedom. Nixon announced his “War on Drugs” in 1971. Since then, cannabis reform groups have been working to end the War on Cannabis. As you can see from the chart below, cannabis arrests in America continue to skyrocket to astronomical numbers. So it is pretty clear that cannabis reform is failing in a major way. As a stockholder in Cannabis Freedom, Inc., I no longer have faith that continuing down the same path will yield positive results. The proof is in the pudding. So, like any organization, if we are failing to meet our objectives, the answer is to find new leadership and new direction to change the course of failures; and hopefully find a path to begin achieving the goal of actual cannabis freedom. In order to do that, we must fire the failing power structure, and look for leaders willing to do what it takes to get the job done.
One of the main issues is that we have too many groups working against each other, and pretending they are working on the same goals. They are not. NORML hates MPP, and they both do not care for ASA,; and DPA tries to stay above the fray, but also can be a bit distant in their interactions in the community. It is a terrible jumblefuck power struggle that continues to hamper opportunities for real and meaningful reforms. Most people who have been sitting around watching the “Dance of the Ineffective” for so long have literally given up on trying to make sense of it all. Most try to justify some affection for this group or that group, but overall it seems like most of us rank and file activists and advocates look on wondering “What the fuck is going on?”
It is not any one group’s fault, or sole problem. It is all of the groups’, and all of our problem. Most of these organizations have substancial budgets dedicated to reforming policy related to the War on Drugs and ending cannabis prohibition. I guess my real question is “Why don’t we put all of the resources into one effort, and focus our collective resources and message on accomplishing our objectives?”
It makes no sense to continue to pretend that if we do the same things over and over that somehow we will achieve victory. 40+ years of failure tell us that we will not. It is time to restructure the cannabis and drug policy reform game, and find a way to overcome the many obstacles in our way. We can no longer afford to sit back and watch the monkeys fuck the football.
I, for one, am over the constant beauty pageant that is the cannabis reform movement. It is tiring to watch the same bullshit being put forth by the same folks year after year and hoping that if we keep watching long enough that something will change. I simply no longer have faith that it will. We are drowning in prohibition at this moment, and we hear very little comfort or reassurance out of any of the appointed leaders of this movement. If anything, I hear a lot of talk about 5 years and 10 years from now. How fucking depressing. The mentality and ambition of our movement is questionable at best. It is like we believe we are destined to fail, and that we have no power to change or influence the world we live in. It is like the message is, “Just wait. People will come around to us.” HUH?
I just cannot get behind the “wait and see” strategy of the current reform environment. I cannot bring myself to participate or support in such lame efforts and lack of charisma. I demand leadership that wants to fight and wants ultimate victory. I am tired of the passive aggressive bullshit that we pretend is real leadership.
Here are the facts….we are getting our ass kicked and we have no one with any position in our camp that has the passion or will to fight the real fight. We continue to see the normal “appearances” being made, but we see very little in the form of results. If A+B+C=Failure, then chances are it is time to replace A, B, and/or C. Results are important, and the results could not be more clear…..cannabis is more illegal than ever; and we are losing even the small pyrrhic victories we have won, which are coming back to blow up in our face. Yay!
So why are we continuing down this path? Why are the folks who fund these efforts not more interested in real results? Sure…maybe I am making it more simple than it actually is; but the reality is that we are fucking losing. Any good organization, like Cannabis Freedom Inc., would regroup and restructure the plan after continued failure….so why is there no demand for real results, or new leadership in absence of these results? Do the folks funding these efforts enjoy throwing good money after bad, and watching us continue to fail to provide real reform? I just do not get it….
I have not sat in any of these Board meetings to understand what the fuck goes on really, but I can tell you that I know people who have, and it seems like there is more strange bureaucracy inside of our movement, than there is with the fucking assholes we are fighting. We need to cut back on the red tape and organize a more lean and more dedicated effort if we ever hope to achieve victory.
Results are key. Our results are not great. The bottom line is that we cannot do this any longer. Tear down the chaotic and confusing structure of reform, and rebuild with passionate and charismatic leaders who can get us to the Promised Land. I have seen enough of the dumb shit. You are fired as my cannabis reform representatives. I would hope other would join me and demand that this movement consolidate its message and put our time, energy, and resources towards the simple goal of making cannabis legal for adults to use when they please for whatever they please. The rest of this bullshit is just nonsense and really needs to come to an end. Either we will evolve, or we will continue to lose ground in the battle for cannabis freedom.