After Defending Pot, Obama has to Pardon Medical Marijuana Growers He Jailed

(By Juan Cole)

Barack Obama has a weed problem. Not just that he’s admitted using it. He said clearly when campaigning for president in 2008 that he approved of medical marijuana.

Yet his Attorney General, Eric Holder and his Department of Justice went on to launch punitive campaigns against legitimate marijuana businesses operating within state law. It isn’t even clear these raids and arrests were constitutional, since no interstate commerce was involved.

He has averaged 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year since taking office in 2009, whereas even W. only averaged 20 a year. Most egregious are that many of these cases were brought against persons who needed the drug to ameliorate painful medical conditions.

Now Obama comes out and says pot is no worse than alcohol. So was he not in control of Holder and the Department of Justice? Was he seeking campaign money from Seagrams and Big Pharma, who are afraid of competition from marijuana? What explains this massive hypocrisy and willingness to ruin people’s lives to enforce a prohibition he doesn’t agree with?

Doesn’t he have a duty to pardon the 154 people he has prosecuted in contravention of his campaign pledge and in contravention of state laws?

Marijuana 365 reports,
“Obama lies. Chris Williams faces life in jail for medical weed”

And here is AFP on Obama’s new remarks exculpating marijuana:

Smoking pot no more dangerous than drinking: Obama (via AFP)

President Barack Obama says smoking pot is no more dangerous than drinking but calls it a “bad idea,” amid a push for legalization in several states. In comments to The New Yorker magazine published Sunday, the US leader also noted that poor minority…

35 Responses

  1. Good point. It may be a minor issue, but honesty is required and persecution with failure to investigate is tyranny. At least start with the medical need cases, to embarrass the right wing attackers of counterculture. Then have the FDA do a very well researched whitepaper on counterindications. And if it is truly as safe or safer than alcohol, reverse the whole lot of convictions, reassess that part of the war on drugs, and expose its advocates in Congress.

  2. Obama’s record of pardons is abysmal, one of the lowest in recent times. Everything he does has been with both eyes on reelection, so I suppose he didn’t want to be called “soft on crime.” What’s his excuse now?

    Maybe marijuana pardons would make Holder resign in protest, in which case, good riddance.

  3. Remember, under “rule of law” as practiced in the US Empire, we only look forward. Ask Dick Cheney and George Bush and a lot of others how it works… Pardons and commuted sentences are only for “connected” criminal financiers, like I. Mark Rich, and Good Buddies and CIA-agent-outing political operatives like I. Lewis Libby.

    Hmmm — do any of the persons prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for producing medical marijuana have “I.” for a first name?

    • Pardons and commuted sentences are only for “connected” …”

      Same with “looking forward.” No “looking forward” for Snowden, Manning, Kiriakou and all the other whistleblowers.

  4. He has averaged 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year since taking office in 2009, whereas even W. only averaged 20 a year….Now Obama comes out and says pot is no worse than alcohol. So was he not in control of Holder and the Department of Justice?

    First of all, isn’t this number meaningless without comparing the number of medicinal pot dispensaries, and how it has increased steadily over the years?

    But more importantly, what makes you think that the DEA sits around and waits for the Attorney General of the Oval Office to give them marching orders? The DEA is empowered to carry out its mission by federal law, passed by multiple Congresses and signed by multiple Presidents.

    Did you spend the Bush years claiming that the Bush administration sent out hundreds of millions of Social Security checks? Did you spend the Reagan administration talking about how Ronald Reagan is personally responsible for all of the enforcement actions the EPA took against polluters?

    The permanent executive branch agencies operating in accordance with federal law are not agents of the Oval Office. In many cases, they have not only federal law authorizing them to act on their own, but represent a significant political power center in their own right. You often find administrations fighting against “their own” federal agencies over changes of policy. That has certainly been happening under this President; he’s been taken to court by immigrations agents, for instance, over executive orders limiting enforcement actions.

    If you don’t understand that the DEA had a great deal of independence and power, both in the law and in the political arena, then you’re not going to understand the politics of prohibition and reform very well.

    • Uh, I think the President can call the DEA in and tell them to back off. In fact, Holder says he just did that re: recreational pot in Colorado.

      • the DoJ ‘policy memo’s’ are worthless…read them–all the way through because each one ends with 2 nice paragraphs saying the feds retain the right to bust anyone, anytime for anything.

        • Which, of course, they do retain that right. There is no action Obama can take to strip federal law enforcement of the right to enforce the federal laws that they have been specifically ordered to enforce via legislation.

      • “Uh, I think the President can call the DEA in and tell them to back off.”

        And given the tiny numbers of arrests – less than 200 in the entire country in five years, no? – it’s pretty clear that he has.

        Nonetheless, that’s not going to grind the entire machinery of a major federal agency to a halt, or eliminate its legal and political authority to continue to do its job. It still misses the mark quite badly to discuss the ongoing execution of the DEA’s mission as if it was happening at the personal behest of Barack Obama.

  5. Just so you know, the argument you’re making here was dismissed by the Supreme Court some 80 years ago, when it was brought to them by right-wingers attempting to strike down the New Deal, and continues to be a favorite of reactionary right-wingers, since its application would eliminate the modern welfare and regulatory states.

    • In the enforcement of law there is much discretion, and the executive certainly could pardon past offenders and decide not to go after certain offenders, provided that it was nondiscriminatory. It would be a direct contravention of law to refuse support payments, as well as a political liability.

    • If Joe is talking about Wickard v. Filburn, I guess my old legal brain can’t quite see the parallel and inference he is trying to make in his just-so-you-know “scare sentence.” Is the implication that people who advocate ending the prohibition idiocy on pot are attacking the long-standing reading of the Commerce Clause, the foundation of the federal regulatory apparatus? The pot prohibition, with its rich and corrupt history, is a lot closer to the 18th-21st Amendment set of issues and social disorganization than limiting how many acres of wheat a farmer could plant for home consumption in 1942, in a day of heavy federal price and production controls. And lookie here! Marriage among gays used to be illegal, too! And still is in a lot of places.

      I personally am a lot more worried about what our Supremes are doing with their version of judicial activism, telling us that corporations are persons for Bill of Rights purposes. Can’t hardly wait for their collective take on the NSA and the 4th and 5th Amendments (they Hoover up trade secrets and business-confidential and intellectual-property stuff too, to do what with, again? Share with corps and foreign governments?)… And a lot of other “reactionary right-winger” stuff.

      Sounds like more subtle pitching for leaving the Administration to do whatever it wants. Once again.

      • “Is the implication that people who advocate ending the prohibition idiocy on pot are attacking the long-standing reading of the Commerce Clause, the foundation of the federal regulatory apparatus?”

        Not all of us; just Professor Cole, who wrote, “It isn’t even clear these raids and arrests were constitutional, since no interstate commerce was involved.”

        You know, JT, you don’t have to defend every argument just because it is made on behalf of a cause you support. You are actually allowed to conclude that a particular argument by someone on your own side is nonsensical.

        You are allowed to say that “It isn’t even clear these raids and arrests were constitutional, since no interstate commerce was involved,” is bad Con Law, and inconsistent with the modern regulatory state, even if you support marijuana legalization – and you don’t even have to have any ulterior motive, beyond the truth, to do so.

        • Joe is the one who said my objection to using the 1978 telecom metadata case and applying it to everyone in the US was legally illiterate. A Federal judge later agreed with me.

        • Thank your for the ad hominem.

          The reasoning of the judge who ruled against the metadata collection was rather different from yours, though arriving at the same result. If you want to get into discussions of law, you need to think beyond the result, and get the reasoning right.

    • The comment Professor Cole decided to allow through was a second comment, and it’s not clear what I meant without the first.

      I was referring to Dr. Cole’s statement about drug laws being unconstitutional on the grounds that the drugs aren’t sold across state lines.

      That is the argument used by opponents of the New Deal in the 1930s, and their fellow travelers today, to try to strike down the modern regulatory and welfare state. It was struck down decades ago, and crops up only in the fevered rants of libertarian extremists like the Koch brothers and their hired mouthpieces.

  6. “Barack Obama has a weed problem.”

    He also has a trust problem that brings into question whatever he says.

  7. Mr. Indecisive in Chief.

    Very good point Dr. Cole.

    This seems in character for Mr. Obama though… He doesn’t believe in Guantanamo but doesn’t bring that up anymore.

    Believes in healthcare for all but botched it up after years and years of preparation… and we have no price controls.

    Pretends to be a liberal but has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president and is dying to prosecute Snowden…

    After 6 years of his rule I still have no idea what he stands for…

    • “After 6 years of his rule I still have no idea what he stands for…”

      Clue. Whatever appears to be in Barack Obama interests – at least in the short term..

  8. 5 years in and Obama has prosecuted 4 times the number of medical marijuana caregivers and patients acting as dispensary owners as bush jr. and now he’s the one throwing around the word hypocrite? Obama continues to be one of those LEADING hypocrites until he signs some MANDATORY EXECUTIVE ORDERS to correct his cannabis hypocrisy :

    1. REMOVE CANNABIS (THC and ALL cannabaniods) from schedule!
    2. RELEASE all non-violent CANNABIS PRISONERS NOW! and CLEAR ALL NONVIOLENT ‘CRIMINAL’ RECORDS.
    3. Give STUDENT LOANS for college BACK TO CANNABIS USERS!
    4. STOP EXCLUDING PEOPLE from receiving lifesaving organs from the ORGAN DONATION PROGRAM.
    5. STOP PUNISHING MILITARY USE FOR PTSD.

    Until these transgressions on the American people are corrected–Obama is still a HYPOCRITE to be SHAMED!

    • This heated insistence on executive orders, and the personal insults directed at the President for not pursuing that path, look exactly like the discourse around Don’t Ask Don’t Tell a month before Congress repealed it.

      As we all now (hopefully) understand, that repeal never would have happened if Obama had issued those executive orders. Doing so would have shifted the debate from the actual issue – which was a winner for the pro-reform side – to the personality and “lawlessness” of President Obama.

      Executive orders are a second-best, temporary solution when you can’t actually win on the issue. Why settle? The public mood is changing, and we are in the process of winning this one for real.

      • “Executive orders are a second-best, temporary solution when you can’t actually win on the issue. ” Maybe that’s why those Executive Orders and NS Findings and other obscure exercises of Imperial-Presidential authority are used by folks like Nixon and Reagan and the Bush League and now Obama (and even Clinton and Kennedy) to “set policy” and activate agencies in areas where if transparency and critical thinking were present, the Rulers “could not actually win on the issue.” And of course given the realities of captive legislature and gridlock and the ignoring of the general welfare by the Imperium, saying the remedy lies in moving an issue through Congress is a little disingenuous. For context:

        link to votetocracy.com

        link to slate.com

        link to americanfreepress.net

        I bet there are a lot of Executive Orders that Joe and others think are just peachy. Since those orders effectuate unpopular and unlegislatable policies they agree with. Like maybe the New Deal, about the foundations of which some concern was expressed above? Or the Global Interoperable Network-Centric Babblespace and its operations?

        • Digging through the hyperbole and verbiage, I’m able to get to this: Presidents use executive orders in cases where they don’t expect to get what they want through the political process.

          Yep.

          “And of course given the realities of captive legislature and gridlock and the ignoring of the general welfare by the Imperium, saying the remedy lies in moving an issue through Congress is a little disingenuous.”

          I guess that explains why Colorado and Washington just legalized marijuana; because political victory on the issue is so impossible, owing to the nefarious powers-that-be.

          I remember when you used to write comments like this explaining why the Military Industrial Complex was never, ever going to allow the withdrawal of American troops from those permanent bases in Iraq.

          As it turns out, there are politics in the United States, and sometimes powerful interests lose.

          “I bet there are a lot of Executive Orders that Joe and others think are just peachy.”

          Sure, like his recent series of executive orders on immigration. Still, I would have vastly preferred that Congress pass immigration reform. The EPA’s rule-making under the Clean Air Act has made real gains in the area of GHG emissions, but we still need a climate bill to pass through Congress.

          Executive orders absolutely have their place. You pick the right tool for the job.

      • Just almost exactly like the Right, though Right dics tend to be a lot more vicious and murderous. Stalin was not on the Left, by the way, nor Mao, and the Pol Pots are just the most successful of sociopaths and no respecters of political alignment. Basically, humans are stupid creatures, and can be led and bled by pretty much any old Pied Piper. But keep the tribal disdains alive; that’s how it works.

        • And the support for “the Left” supposedly “likes themselves a dictator,” again? And which dictators do they likes, that “dictates their wishes?” And there apparently is a category in mind of “the liberal left inhabiting blogs such as these” who likes “Left” dictators — can you name some names of inhabitants, give examples, maybe?

        • “Stalin was not on the Left, by the way, nor Mao, and the Pol Pots are just the most successful of sociopaths and no respecters of political alignment.”

          Wow.

  9. Yes, Obusha should pardon these unjustly prosecuted people, but it won’t make him any less of a disappointment. He has lied about his stance on all things Leftish since he backed down on FICA 2 weeks after he was elected, not even inaugurated yet! He’s been playing his Rubenesque Neo-liberalism game ever since. And we’ve all been trying to find the reason why. The reason(s) doesn’t matter. He needs to be judged by what he does. And what he does is hypocritical and harmful to those who voted for him.

  10. It doesn’t matter what the Feds say, we are rolling with this the way we have. I pity the fool who messes with Mrs. Jane.

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