Thursday, April 26, 2012
Democrats Lynch & Obama Betray Progressives on Medical Marijuana
In 1969, the vaunted Gallup Polling organization asked Americans about their attitudes towards legalizing marijuana. At that time, a mere 12% of Americans favored it, while 84% were opposed.
Today, support for legalizing marijuana has surpassed the 50% mark, with more Americans in favor than opposed. When asked about marijuana for medical use, support jumps to over 70%.
The advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws claims that marijuana is the third-most-popular recreational drug in America, behind only alcohol and tobacco. Some states have decriminalized marijuana's use, and some have made it legal for medicinal use. A growing crowd of Law Enforcement officials, as well as former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, have called for legalization.
So why are Democrats like Governor John Lynch (NH) and President Barack Obama digging their heels in on an issue that has become a no-brainer for most Americans?
Yesterday, the Republican-dominated legislature of New Hampshire passed a sweeping measure legalizing medical marijuana. . It would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions or the patient's designated caretaker to cultivate and possess up to six ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and 12 seedlings at a registered location.
But as he did in 2009, Gov. John Lynch declared he will veto the bill once again.
The NH House clearly has the votes to override his veto: the measure passed by a lopsided 236-96. However, the margin in the Senate was only 13-11 last month, short of the 15 votes needed for override in that chamber. The prime Senate sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe, (R-Strafford), said he was not giving up.
“We’ve gone from having one Senate Republican in support of this issue a few years ago to now having at least eight Senate Republicans ... I believe three additional Senate votes are very possible, and it’s a goal we’ll be working very hard to achieve in the coming weeks,” Forsythe said in a statement.
If Lynch’s position is frustrating, President Obama’s can only be described as an infuriating betrayal.
When he was running in 2008, Obama said he supported the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs” and that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” In fact, a Justice Department memo in March 2009 from Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal government raids on medical marijuana distributors who were in compliance with state and local law would end.
And yet, precisely the opposite has occurred.
During 2011, federal forces from several agencies raided 26 dispensaries across 13 Montana cities where medical marijuana is legal under state law. Other dispensaries were raided in California, Washington, Michigan, and Colorado. All told, the federal government has raided more than 100 dispensaries. All of the old Bush administration anti-medical marijuana appointees in key administration positions have been retained.
“I’m very disappointed,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), recently said. “They look more like the Bush administration than the Clinton administration...Obama now lags Pat Robertson in a sensible approach to marijuana.”
President Obama attempted to clarify his position on medical marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone, telling publisher Jann Wenner that he can't "nullify congressional law."
"What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. 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," Obama said. "I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.'
Of course, he can, and he has, quite recently:
The Executive Branch of government is a co-equal branch of government; in order to maintain the checks and balances that our system envisions, the Executive must exercise its own judgment. When Obama declared that the Executive branch would not defend legal actions against DOMA, (the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress) that is precisely what he did. He chose not to permit the Attorney General to act. When Harry Truman ordered the integration of the military in defiance of Congressional policy, that is exactly what he did as well.
His actions are in direct contradiction to his original campaign promises, and make no sense in the larger legal, moral or political environment.
If Obama loses progressive support on his left flank in his re-election bid, it is his own fault.
Blogger's Note: Before my father died of esophagal cancer, he expressed to me how he thought that Marijuana ought to be legalized - a strong turn of events for a man who was otherwise viewed as a conservative Republican. In his last days, medical cannabis was not available to him, so his pain was relieved by morphine, which put him into a state of near-sleep and confusion almost 24 hours a day. It was that experience that made Medical Marijuana an important issue for me.]