Thursday, May 3, 2012
In a Rolling Stone magazine interview on Wednesday, United States President Barack Obama responded to recent backlash over his alleged policy shift on medical marijuana.
In January 2004, then-Illinois Senator Obama said, “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our nation’s marijuana laws.” Since he took office as president, over 170 raids have been conducted on medical marijuana facilities across the U.S.
In the U.S. certain states have voted to allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, although it is still illegal to possess and consume under federal law. This has led to the recent raids and seizures on dispensaries by authorities with the federal government.
“What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana,” President Obama said. “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.”
On April 2, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raided Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California. Oaksterdam provides courses in which students can learn about the horticulture and business aspects of the medical marijuana industry, but does not distribute marijuana. Authorities confiscated marijuana plants, records, computers and seized bank accounts held by that department of the university.
“In many respects [the raids in California] are not a surprise considering that these dispensaries and cultivation centers are in violation of federal law, and always have been.” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Along with the advocates at NORML, multiple lawmakers have written letters to President Obama criticizing his alleged shift on policy. The lawmakers have also called for the federal government to allow states to regulate themselves.
While medical marijuana is legal in California, as well as sixteen other states including Washington D.C., the Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as an illegal substance. California state law requires dispensaries to run as non-profit, and those who do make a profit are subject to getting raided by federal and local authorities. “If you grow a small amount at home or buy some off the street then he doesn’t care, that’s what they’ve said,” St. Pierre said.