By Jasmine Tyler, Acting Director – Office of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
President Obama has finally spoken about the marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington.
He said he does not — “at this point” — support widespread legalization of marijuana. But, more importantly, he said there is a “need to have…a conversation”. For the first time ever, he is framing the conflict between federal and state law as a question to be resolved as opposed to one in which it is simply assumed that federal marijuana prohibition trumps all.
He also said that the federal government has “bigger fish to fry” than to waste resources on possession and suggested that Congress should compromise with the states on the issue.
Pres. Obama knows he is confronted with a dilemma and has at last acknowledged that it’s time for a conversation. Let’s take him up on his offer.
Although his comments sound promising, he didn’t say that the federal government will leave state-regulated marijuana cultivators, distributors or sellers alone.
The Obama administration is on the verge of issuing a major position statement on marijuana legalization — and their history on medical marijuana offers important insights. Even though Pres. Obama pledged not to use federal resources to prosecute medical marijuana patients, the federal government has still raided and prosecuted medical marijuana providers, undermining state efforts to responsibly regulate medical marijuana.
We can’t let history repeat itself. We need to pressure Pres. Obama not to undermine marijuana legalization like his administration has with medical marijuana.
A recent Gallup poll found that, like you, most Americans oppose federal interference in states that have chosen to legally regulate marijuana. Voters in Colorado and Washington — and half of all Americans — have spoken. Now it’s time for the Obama administration to get out of the way so these states can effectively implement their laws.