Jun 072013
 

barack obama president marijuana policy cannabis prisonBy Tom Angell

In little-noticed remarks during the commencement address he delivered at Morehouse College on May 19, President Barack Obama admitted that he might well have ended up behind bars for some of his well-known youthful indiscretions:

“[W]hatever success I have achieved, whatever positions of leadership I have held have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of connection and empathy — the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had — because there but for the grace of God, go I — I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed.  I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me.”

As a reminder, young Barry Obama was quite the marijuana enthusiast back in the day. As a member of Hawaii’s “Choom Gang,” he was partial to “intercepting” joints. In his memoir, he even fessed up to using cocaine on occasion.

The president is quite correct that if he as a young black man had been caught by the cops while partaking in any of these activities, he could easily have ended up in prison. And he probably would not have gone on to a successful career as a lawyer and politician.

If only the president took that sense of connection and empathy he so eloquently talks about and actually applied it toward any number of the thousands of people who are languishing behind bars today for doing exactly what young Barry Obama did.

The fact is, Barack Obama has exercised his powers to commute prison sentences and grant pardons far less often than any other modern president.

But that’s the thing about this president: He excels at talking about the need for a new approach while in many cases simply continues the same old policies. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of criminal justice and drug policy reform.

The president and his drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, repeatedly say that we “cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem” and give lip service to the notion that we need a balanced, health-focused approach to tackle the medical issue of substance abuse. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has even taken to using the hashtag #DrugPolicyReform on Twitter. Yet the rhetoric doesn’t match the policy reality. In budget after budget, this administration continues the failed, decades-old approach of emphasizing funding for punishment and interdiction programs over treatment and prevention services.

And the president and those who work for him have stood in the way of commonsense marijuana policy reforms. Despite his campaign pledge that “what I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” on marijuana, the Obama administration has regularly threatened medical marijuana providers who operate in accordance with state and local law. In one term, this president has overseen the shuttering of more state-legal medical marijuana providers than were closed by federal action during two full terms of the Bush administration.

According to federal stats, only one in 10 people in need of substance abuse treatment receive it, yet police spent time (and taxpayer money) making 1.5 million drug arrests in 2011. If the president really wants to change this situation, he could start by pushing to eliminate funding for federal anti-drug grant programs that incentivize local and state governments to arrest and punish people with drug problems instead of help them.

At a time when one in three black men can expect to spend time in prison, does Barack Obama really want to be remembered as the president who simply talked about reforming failed and harmful criminal justice policies but didn’t actually do it, or does he want to go down in history as a leader who accomplished the changes he said were needed?

It’s time for the president to make good on his words with some actual deeds. It’s time for him to show some empathy to those who are behind bars – where he admits he could easily have ended up. Come on, Mr. President: Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. Be a leader. Or at least follow the lead of the American people, a majority of whom support marijuana legalization and believe the overall war on drugs to be a failure.

Tom Angell is chairman of Marijuana Majority (http://MarijuanaMajority.com).

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • Cece

    Hypocrite

  • MedicalMattAK

    This man is more than a hypocrite he is a Destroyer of American Values. He hates American Colonial Ideals and Christian Principals. Muslim is the ONLY religion that KILLS someone for not believing the way THEY do.

    Is Obama Muslim?

    Was Obama born in Kenya?

    Obama WILL be at The The Bilderberg Group Convention this Year as Well ! This man is a tyrant and look… Lets see who is REALLY helping out the AVERAGE ‘Joe” ….Yes its the Republicans NOT the Democrats and NOT Obama !!!

  • kycountry

    if the truth was known, he still stands on toilet seats with the fan on high. i know very few people that started smoking in college that stopped because they graduated…what a d..k.

  • dgand

    Well said tom. I fully agree.

  • jontomas

    Good article, but this is curious.

    >>>”he could start by pushing to eliminate funding for federal anti-drug grant programs that incentivize local and state governments to arrest and punish people with drug problems instead of help them.”

    This seems to imply all recreational drug consumers have drug problems. It’s clear the majority who consume “illegal” drugs are marijuana consumers, and the majority of them have no “drug problems.”

  • Mmj patient

    I wrote my state representative BRIAN HILL 97th district in ohio here is my letter & his response to it:

    I’m writing to urge your support for House Joint Resolution 6, which would allow Ohioans to vote on regulating the adult consumption of marijuana.

    Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it with regulation. The historic votes on Election Day in Colorado and Washington – where, for the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition – underscore this political reality.

    The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. Furthermore, the criminalization of cannabis simply doesn’t work.

    Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans’ consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for state lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises and it is time for lawmakers to impose common-sense regulations governing cannabis’ personal use by adults and licensing its production. A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults – but restricts use among young people – best reduces the risks associated with its use or abuse.

    I encourage you to support House Joint Resolution 6 and let the Ohio voters decide if it is time to regulate marijuana.

    Scott Hill
    ………………………………………………………………………..,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    State Representative Brian Hill
    97th House District
    Dear Scott,

    Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding House Joint Resolution 6, which would put on the ballot the issue of legalizing marijuana here in Ohio. One of my favorite aspects of this job is the amount of feedback I receive when issues like this are proposed by my colleagues. Since its introduction by Representative Robert Hagan, I have heard from many on both sides of the marijuana topic.

    I have always been opposed to the legalization of marijuana, and remain that way now. For those who claim that medicinal marijuana helps to ease their pain and better certain symptoms they suffer from, there already exists on the legal market synthetic forms of marijuana. Legalizing cannabis in Ohio will only open the door to a world of problems that all stem from drug use: crime, introduction to other (more dangerous) drugs, and increased dependence to other drugs just to name a few. I realize that this legislation would leave it up to the citizens of Ohio to decide whether or not to legalize the drug. While I believe in the democratic system, I was elected and sent to Columbus to vote for the great people of the 97th House District on matters like this, no matter the polarizing effects they have on society. Should we, the General Assembly, vote the way the people don’t like, they can always put it up for a referendum vote and overturn our decision.
    I will continue to research the issue and learn everything that I can to cast an informed vote. However, with the drug problem that already exists in and around Muskingum and Guernsey counties, I don’t see at this time how legalizing marijuana use would help in any way.

    I am proud to represent you in Columbus, and my goal is to achieve those things that are best for our district, and for our state. Thank you again for taking time out of your day to write me regarding this issue.

    Have a nice day,

    Brian D. Hill
    State Representative
    97th House District

    • budjones

      This guy is an idiot, in his letter he is actually trying to educate you
      on how marijuana is bad, lmao as if he could actually change your mind.
      This guy is clueless. Then he tells you to have a nice day hahaha,what a
      dumbass.

  • Mmj patient

    C’MONNN OHIOANS! Lets get together & get this thing passed & DO NOTTTT re-elect brian hill nor any other govt people who are not for the people but just after that fat paycheck & dont care about the everyday workin people!!!

  • THX1138

    Just curious, is there a statute of limitations regarding
    the criminal activity he has openly “Confessed To”.
    If so, I would suggest an arrest to be made. Then watch how fast the laws are changed.

    THX1138

  • http://www.cannadad.blogspot.com/ brandon Krenzler

    obviously we all live in the united states of hypocrisy, and our leader is dictator in chief…

  • Howard

    So what else is new? This President has paid more lip service to more issues with the least actual reform, or even attempts at reform, of any president that has ever made such promises and then held the office. Quit pursuing federal drug laws that contradict state laws? Close GITMO? Champion civil liberties? Transparency? The list goes on. Not that I’m endorsing Bush, but at least with Bush I suspected something was coming and I wasn’t surprised, disappointed or made to feel like such a sucker. Now I have to wonder if the NSA will do something with this post?