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Why the Obama Administration Loosened Marijuana Laws

By October 19, 2009

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The Obama administration surprised liberals and libertarians today by announcing a firm reversal of federal policy on marijuana use for medicinal purposes, as permitted by state laws. Thirteen states presently allow the sale and use of marijuana for medical reasons.

Explains the Los Angeles Times:

"... Justice Department officials are telling prosecutors and federal drug agents that they have more important things to do than to arrest people who obey state laws that allow some use or sale of medical marijuana.

"The move clarifies what some critics had said was an ambiguous position of the Obama administration on the controversial issue, especially in the battleground state of California, where authorities have raided numerous clinics and made arrests over the years. Some of those California raids followed Obama's inauguration in January, after, as a presidential candidate, he had pledged to stop them."

All well and good. Makes solid common sense to quit wasting tens of millions of federal dollars to stop ailing Americans from alleviating their pain... which is the reason the Obama team gave for abruptly changing their hard-nosed stance.

But I wonder if that's the main reason. Or if the driving concern is as much (or more?) political than either compassionate or budget-minded.

Hear me out: Obama advisors are flummoxed by surprisingly lackluster Democratic fundraising results since President Obama took office. And many segments of the Democratic base are less than pleased with the President's inactivity on core issues.

Under-35 boosters feel largely forgotten by the President who they near-unanimously sent to the White House. And long-time party base liberals feel stung by the President hedging his campaign promises on healthcare reform, gay rights, Bush's brutal "war on terror" tactics, and many other issues.

Loosening marijuana laws ranks as a high social policy priority among most Democrats, especially the under-35 crowd, as well as a smart economic policy per a sizable portion of economic conservatives and minimal-government libertarians.

Despite the President insensitively sneering last April at a popular marijuana-related question at an online press conference, and soon after, the White House clarifying that marijuana policies will "never" be on its to-do plate... the Obama-ites have suddenly found different religion on the topic.

Here's what I think happened: the Obama politicos did their polling, and found that, as the rest of us already realized, there's plenty of political upside, and little political downside, to loosing marijuana laws. Likely all voters who oppose medical marijuana use would never support Obama's agenda anyway.

So besides their self-proclaimed common-sense frugality, the Obama administration realized the politically appeasing gains to be made by reversing the Bush administration's irrational, ideologically-based crackdown on the use and sale of marijuana for medical purposes.

But who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? Whatever their newly found reasons, the Obama administration did the right thing. And I suppose that's all we need to care about.

Next up: Maine voters decide on November 3rd whether or not "to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution."

Of course, the next logical step should be legalization of all marijuana use, similar to the re-legalization of alcohol in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But don't look for Obama to take up that cause. Not ever. Political bravery is just not his forte.

Take a few moment so to read Pros & Cons of Legalizing Marijuana. And shout-out your thoughts at my Readers Respond page: Should Marijuana Sale and Possession Be Legalized?


October 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm
(1) saul meshach says:

Brialliant article, clear and concise thinking, pultizer prize for you my friend.

October 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm
(2) Pied Piper says:

The author here is smoking pot. The Department of Justice conducted polling and changed policy to raise money for Dems from under 35 donors? Puff, puff, pass…

October 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm
(3) usliberals says:

LOL… never smoked it in my life, Pied Piper. Not even once. :)

But I don’t like the government interfering in our personal choices and habits. Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol, and should be legalized… and highly taxed.

October 20, 2009 at 2:52 am
(4) daniel says:

Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol and most prescription drugs and has proven medicinal uses . Its long past time that this insane prohibition should end . Want to cut the profits of the Mexican drug cartels , legalize pot and the domestic growers will take away the profit . Lets reduce our overcrowded prison system , let these non violent marijuana users out , and stop all prosecutions for Marijuana use and cultivation . I want my tax dollar spent on arresting , prosecuting and jailing violent predators , murders and rapist , not some kid or patient who smokes or grows pot . There is also a hugh market for industrial hemp , currently Oregon is the only state you can legally cultivate it . It is already grown in Canada and thru out europe and asia . The seeds produce oil and food products , high in protein and the essential fatty acids , the stalks fiber for composite boards and other construction material and clothing . The canvas and rope of the 19th century and earlier was made from hemp also the original blue jeans , its much softer than cotton and wears much longer . In fact if you do research you will understand the symbiotic relationship humanity has had with this miraculous plant for thousands of years . To keep it illegal is just nuts .

October 20, 2009 at 3:12 am
(5) Daniel says:

Just want to add Deborah you should try some tasty hemp ice cream , kind of a nutty flavor or hemp milk both with zero cholesterol , these products are available thru out California . You might also want to check out some hemp silk blended clothing or pure hemp , treat yourself to the best you will love it . Piper you should smoke it , it will help to loosen you up a little and perhaps give you a new prospective .

October 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm
(6) Andrea says:

Well put! Thank you, as always, for a refreshingly logical perspective, one that I didn’t think about right away and that makes a lot of sense =)

October 22, 2009 at 12:49 am
(7) June Cleaver says:

With the terrible health care reform bills circulating in Congress, people may have to rely a lot more on natural remedies.

October 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm
(8) Expierenced Concernist says:

Indeed; your remarks and comments toward this marijuana subject hold me speechless. I am an expierenced user of the drug. There is alot more to the drug than the drug itself. When a group of people participate in a gathering around marijuana, its not only for the effects. Marijuana brings the worst of enemys together through socialization, by smoking. its a great thing. and it should be legal. :) thanx

October 27, 2009 at 2:08 pm
(9) Anna says:

To June Cleaver-
Get out of the 50′s.
First to say I do not smoke, eat, or otherwise partake of the cannibus plant.

But I do know that it is high time (pardon the pun) to legalize marijuana, whether it is recreationally used or medicinally necessary.
To put anyone in jail, or before a court, for possessing a joint is about as insane as can be.
Do not decry the healthcare reform. THAT is also necessary, and medically needed.

October 28, 2009 at 12:48 pm
(10) WWeiss_TheLonelyModerate says:


Very good article. I knew there was a motive behind the WH decision but wasnt sure what it was. I believe you may have found the answer.

“But don’t look for Obama to take up that cause. Not ever. Political bravery is just not his forte.”

Loved it. We are finding that Obama is as spineless as any other politician. We hoped for and voted for real change and got the same results as before.

October 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm
(11) Augusto says:


i don’t know how the government could control people growing or buying off the streets but what i do know is that the government has the scientist capable of making the best hybrids of marijuana possible so good that no one or very little people would even want to settle for regular “street” weed. Also we came up with the declaration for gods sake I’m sure one of the dumb asses in office can think of a way to control tax on weed. Legalizing and taxing marijuana alone in California would generate $1.4 Billion. And for all the people saying it shouldn’t be legal because it kills braincells and is highly addictive here are all the marijuana myths and facts that people usually don’t know.
Marijuana Can Cause Permanent Mental Illness.
There is no convincing scientific evidence that marijuana causes psychological damage or mental illness in either teenagers or adults. Some marijuana users experience psychological distress following marijuana ingestion, which may include feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia. Such experiences can be frightening, but the effects are temporary. With very large doses, marijuana can cause temporary toxic psychosis. This occurs rarely, and almost always when marijuana is eaten rather than smoked. Marijuana does not cause profound changes in people’s behavior.
Marijuana is Highly Addictive.
Most people who smoke marijuana smoke it only occasionally. A small minority of Americans – less than 1 percent – smoke marijuana on a daily basis. An even smaller minority develop a dependence on marijuana. Some people who smoke marijuana heavily and frequently stop without difficulty.
Marijuana is More Damaging to the Lungs Than Tobacco.
Moderate smoking of marijuana appears to pose minimal danger to the lungs. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains a number of irritants and carcinogens. But marijuana users typically smoke much less often than tobacco smokers, and over time, inhale much less smoke. As a result, the risk of serious lung damage should be lower in marijuana smokers. There have been no reports of lung cancer related solely to marijuana.
Marijuana Has No Medicinal Value.
*Fact: Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders.
Marijuana is a Gateway Drug.
Marijuana does not cause people to use hard drugs. What the gateway theory presents as a causal explanation is a statistic association between common and uncommon drugs, an association that changes over time as different drugs increase and decrease in prevalence. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the United States today. Therefore, people who have used less popular drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD, are likely to have also used marijuana. Most marijuana users never use any other illegal drug. Indeed, for the large majority of people, marijuana is a terminus rather than a gateway drug.
Marijuana Kills Brain Cells.
None of the medical tests currently used to detect brain damage in humans have found harm from marijuana, even from long term high-dose use. An early study reported brain damage in rhesus monkeys after six months exposure to high concentrations of marijuana smoke. In a recent, more carefully conducted study, researchers found no evidence of brain abnormality in monkeys that were forced to inhale the equivalent of four to five marijuana cigarettes every day for a year. The claim that marijuana kills brain cells is based on a speculative report dating back a quarter of a century that has never been supported by any scientific study.
Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Damages the Fetus.
Studies of newborns, infants, and children show no consistent physical, developmental, or cognitive deficits related to prenatal marijuana exposure. Marijuana had no reliable impact on birth size, length of gestation, neurological development, or the occurrence of physical abnormalities.

October 28, 2009 at 4:17 pm
(12) WWeiss_TheLonelyModerate says:

The real question is why is Marinol legal and marijuana is not for medical purposes.

Marinol is nothing but the synthetic version of the pshychoactive ingredient, THC, in marijuana.

Oh thats right, a lobbying drug company was able to get permission to peddle their warez.

Well hopefully the leaders of our police state find satisfaction in a bankrupt country with the highest number of people in jail per capita in the free world.

Ghee I wonder if there is a correlation.

July 28, 2011 at 10:31 am
(13) Tom Foolry says:

Personally, I believe that marijuana shouldn’t be readily available for the same reasons prescription drugs aren’t. They should only be prescribed in needed cases by a doctor that’s been to a medical marijuana school. My opinion, at least.

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