Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but that has not stopped a fuzzy industry of marijuana farms and dispensaries from rising to serve the 15 states that allow the drug to be used for medical purposes. Under President Obama, the federal government had seemed to make a point of paying little attention — until now.This has been building for some time, but the DEA's new focus is on those that are unambiguously following state law:
As some states seek to increase regulation but also further protect and institutionalize medical marijuana, federal prosecutors are suddenly asserting themselves, authorizing raids and sending strongly worded letters that have cast new uncertainty on an issue that has long brimmed with tension between federal and state law.
It's a sweeping intervention that instantly divorces the Obama Administration from its stated policy of not focusing resources on individuals who are clearly compliant with state law. Unlike the numerous recent dispensary raids, which could theoretically result from competing interpretations of state law, this new incursion constitutes a direct threat of arrest against state employees acting in good faith to administer perfectly lawful state programs.Of course, ending marijuana prohibition would be ideal, but this particular issue could be easily solved by changing marijuana's morally and medically preposterous Schedule I designation under the Controlled Substances act. (Schedule I substances allegedly have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and no accepted safe use. All three of those statements are absolutely false when it comes to marijuana, as shown by synthetic THC's placement in Schedule III, a much less restrictive category.)
I hear complaints that dispensaries are advertising too much and giving away marijuana to healthy people. It's perfectly within Congress's power to regulate the industry, or failing that, any sort of guidelines issued by the DOJ would be closely followed by dispensaries and growers eager to avoid federal interference. Clearly the DOJ has something else on its mind. Take it away, Scott Morgan:
The federal agenda is obviously to avoid allowing state regulation to further legitimize the industry, and they're willing to keep things messier than necessary just so they can continue citing that messiness as evidence that this can't work. They're protecting the argument that medical marijuana is out of control by interfering with efforts to control it. It's a slippery and typical drug war propaganda tactic that, once understood and exposed, should begin to lose its potency.
For 15 years now, opponents of medical marijuana have been saying this can't be done because it's illegal under federal law. Yet today, medical marijuana is a $1.7 billion industry that is helping sick people, creating jobs, generating substantial tax revenue, and even taking money away from murderous cartels in Mexico. There is no reason, old or new, legal or practical, that this important progress can't continue.
The forward momentum of the marijuana reform movement now depends on the willingness of state officials to take a stand against federal interference and reveal these empty threats for what they are. But beyond that, the time has come for the American public to send a message to the President who promised more compassionate policies than his predecessor. If Obama hasn't yet figured out how the American public feels about the war on medical marijuana, then let us each take a moment to politely remind him.