Releaf Magazine
26Jan/140

DEA Chief Slams Obama For Pot Remarks: Reports

michele leonhart obama

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration slammed President Barack Obama this week for saying marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol, according to a report Saturday in the Boston Herald.

DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart reportedly told a group of sheriffs at a closed-door conference in Washington that she was frustrated by the administration's recent openness toward state legalization. Although Leonhart's remarks were not made publicly, her pointed references to the president could put her job in jeopardy.

"She was honest," Mike H. Leidholt, president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, told the Herald. “She may get fired. But she was honest.”

The administration so far has shown itself willing to let Colorado's and Washington's experiments with marijuana legalization move ahead. But those baby steps toward respecting state legislation appear to have sown dissension at the DEA.

Leonhart, a former Baltimore cop and long-time DEA agent before ascending to the agency's top role, staunchly opposes mainstreaming marijuana use. In 2012 House Judiciary testimony, she refused to answer a question from Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D) about whether she thought crack or heroin were worse for a person's health than marijuana. She said in December that legalization sends "mixed messages" to high-schoolers, and this month, one of her top deputies told Congress that legalization is "reckless and irresponsible."

Leonhart also appears to have been upset by a flag made of hemp that flew over the U.S. Capitol on July 4 at the behest of Polis.

Bristol County, Mass., Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson told the Herald that "she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4. The sheriffs were all shocked. This is the first time in 28 years I’ve ever heard anyone in her position be this candid.”

The flag was made with industrial hemp, which is not a drug.

"This shows how shockingly out of touch Michele Leonhart is," Polis told HuffPost in an email Saturday. "You would think that one of her lowest points would have been when she completely embarrassed herself by failing to state the obvious scientific fact that marijuana is less harmful and addictive than heroin. Almost half a million Americans saw her make a fool of herself."

A DEA spokeswoman contacted by the Herald did not comment on Leonhart's remarks, but reiterated the agency's opposition to legalization. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.

Aside from Obama's statements, it also appears that Leonhart was incensed that the unofficial White House softball team squared off against a marijuana reformers' team in a game covered exclusively by HuffPost. The White House staffers lost.

Tom Angell, founder of the reform group Marijuana Majority, told HuffPost in an email that he doesn't expect Leonhart to be fired for her "insubordinate speech."

"But in light of the president's newfound boldness in speaking out about the unfairness of marijuana prohibition enforcement, he should take the opportunity to significantly reform federal marijuana policy and rearrange the agencies that have mismanaged it for so long," he said.

-

Via Huffington Post

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10Sep/120

Pansies

Mason Tvert Responds To Ex-DEA Pressure On Eric Holder To Oppose Marijuana Legalization Measures

The Huffington Post

On Friday Reuters reported that nine former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency heads urged Attorney General Eric Holder to oppose marijuana legalization measures that will appear on ballots in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon this November.

"To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives," the nine said in the letter to holder obtained by Reuters.

Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told The Huffington Post that these ex-drug warriors position to keep the war on marijuana alive and well should come as no surprise, but that Holder should be wary of such requests.

"It is not surprising that these men, who have made a living off of marijuana prohibition, want their successors to continue profiting from the existence of the underground marijuana market," Tvert told The Huffington Post via email. "They just want to keep billions of taxpayer dollars flowing to their buddies. They know that marijuana prohibition isn't really improving public safety; just as our nation's streets weren't safer when Al Capone and his cohorts controlled the alcohol trade."

Tvert added: "For Eric Holder to act as the mouthpiece for these old school warriors of the irrational war on marijuana that is rapidly losing public support would be sending a message to tens of thousands of passionate supporters of Amendment 64 that their opinions do not matter. He will be telling them that Colorado must continue to live under a system of marijuana prohibition not because it makes sense, but because the federal government demands it."

Colorado's Amendment 64 which seeks the legalization of marijuana for adults age 21 and older appears to be popular among voters. A recent poll from Rasmussen showed that 61 percent of likely Colorado voters are in favor of legalizing marijuana if it is regulated the way that alcohol and cigarettes are currently regulated.

Politically, the measure has received support from both Democrats and Republicans in Colorado, as well as more than 100 professors from around the nation.

According to a new report by the Colorado Center on Law & Policy, the passage of Amendment 64 could be a boon for the state economy. Marijuana legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise around $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue for Colorado's budget, the report says.

And it's not just marijuana use advocates that are behind the measure. The NAACP has backed pot legalization measures in Oregon and in Colorado not because the group necessarily favors marijuana use, but because members say current marijuana laws lead to a disproportionately high number of people of color being incarcerated or otherwise negatively affected.

"Marijuana prohibition policy does more harm to our communities than good," said Rosemary Harris Lytle in a statement, president of the NAACP-Colorado-Montana-Wyoming State Conference. "That is why we have endorsed Amendment 64 which presents a more effective and socially responsible approach to how Colorado addresses the adult use of marijuana."

The NAACP provided this data in a press statement about marijuana arrests in Colorado:

African-Americans made up roughly 4% of the population in Colorado in 2010, but they accounted for about 9% of marijuana possession arrests and 22% of arrests for marijuana sales and cultivation. The numbers in Denver are particularly staggering. According to a report prepared by the Denver Police Department for the the city's Marijuana Policy Review Panel, African-Americans accounted for more than 31.5% percent of arrests for private adult marijuana possession, despite making up less than 11% of the city's population.

Tvert also spoke about the forecast that Amendment 64 will bring out young voters, who continue to overwhelmingly support President Obama in swing state Colorado. "At a time when President Obama is counting on the support of young voters in Colorado, such a message from Holder could do significant damage to his prospects," Tvert said. "Following the advice of these former DEA chiefs would not only be bad policy decision, but also a bad political decision."

The letter sent to holder is similar to one that the same group sent to Holder in 2010 urging him to oppose Proposition 19 -- a pot legalization ballot measure in California. It was defeated with 53.5 percent of voters rejecting it, Reuters reports.

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10Jul/120

Numbered days

The Fallacy of the DEA: Why the Agency Needs to Concede to Legal Marijuana

huffingtonpost.com

There's no denying the pressure that the Drug Enforcement Administration must be feeling lately. The popularity behind the marijuana legalization movement is at an all-time high, and prohibitionists are jumping ship at record rates to support cannabis reform. The drug agency has never been without opposition in its near 40 year history, but it's hard remembering a time when there's ever been this much heat on the narc outfit. The DEA is obviously still alive and well at present, but government bureaucracies are in no way immune from having to evolve with the times for lasting survival.

Looking back, 1973 was an epic year in the United States. The Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in January, the Watergate hearings began in May, the legendary thoroughbred Secretariat won the Triple Crown in June, and then a month later in July, the world was introduced to the biggest narcotics police conglomerate ever known to man: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

I say conglomerate because the DEA wasn't created from thin air. Instead, several existing agencies gelled together to form the inaugural drug enforcement monopoly. The main forerunners to the Justice Department's newest play-toy were the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), the Office for National Narcotic Intelligence, and many of the enforcement components from the U.S. Customs Service. These agencies ceased to exist entirely once the DEA came onto the scene, excluding Customs of course, which only relinquished some of its arsenal to the new kid on the block.

Coincidentally, the U.S. Customs Service was the first federal law enforcement agency I worked for, though it was several years later and towards the end of the organization's historic span when I was employed. I bring this up because the fate of U.S. Customs, as it was under the Treasury Department, is a perfect example of the government evolution I alluded to earlier. Ultimately, neither the Customs Service nor the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) could stand the test of time as standalone entities post-9/11, thus the merging of their authorities under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.

Going back to the DEA's similar rocky formation, President Richard Nixon's purpose for establishing the agency was to have a single and streamlined unit at the federal level to combat the nation's growing problem of drug consumption. Leading up to that point, the feds had no real teeth to combat the illicit narcotics industry. Actually, it's not that the feds didn't have the teeth, it's more that they weren't chewing and operating in sync with one another (as is still the case today with the constant red-tape and rivaling between certain agencies).

The concept of having a centralized narcotics bureau might have been admirable in the early seventies. However, we're now witnessing the long-term flaws associated with creating such a robust agency with the sole purpose of drug enforcement, especially considering one of the DEA's biggest targets is marijuana (which is obviously a commodity becoming more and more acceptable every day).

The growing tolerance towards cannabis poses a huge risk for the DEA, or at least the agency seems concerned with pot going mainstream. If this weren't the case, they wouldn't be so relentless in their fight against the medical marijuana industry. Polls consistently show that the use of cannabis via doctor recommendation is welcomed by almost eighty percent of the population. Yet, the DEA refuses to throw in the towel when it comes to this costly and unpopular crusade, even if it means trampling all over the rights of state and local governments in the process. Common sense should tell the DEA to give up on marijuana entirely at this point, including policing against recreational usage, which a majority of Americans now believe should be legally on par with alcohol consumption.

Many long-term factors were neglected when the DEA was formed in 1973. For example, what if public perception changed over time and people later determined that drug abuse and addiction should be treated as health issues rather than law enforcement ones? Or what if society came to agree that prohibition's caustic side effects weren't worth fronting a fruitless multi-billion dollar drug war each year? Or what if citizens deemed that one illicit substance in particular, the one realistically funding more of the DEA's annual enforcement budget than any other, was a plant that could generate a taxable fortune for a country in need of financial aid more than ever?

Unfortunately for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the organization is single minded for the most part, meaning there's no backup plan should Americans one day decide to do away with prohibition altogether. As a result, the agency has a vested interest in maintaining the Controlled Substances Act as it now stands. This is why the agency fights tooth and nail over losing its grip on any banned substance, let alone the most popular and abundant one.

Other agencies (i.e. FBI, ICE, ATF, etc.) have wider scopes, broader authorities, and more mission flexibility. If the threat from terrorism ended tomorrow, the FBI would certainly survive due to the agency's array of enforceable statutes. Likewise with ICE's investigative division, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as this DHS component actually has the broadest statutory authority of all federal investigative agencies.

One factor often overlooked regarding the futility of drug policing is the fact that the relationship between drug suppliers and drug users is essentially victimless. It's not as if Chapo Guzman and company are down in Mexico with their guns drawn to the heads of Americans, forcing their products into the mouths and noses of Yankee gringos. Rather, it is Americans seeking out the services of the cartels, and ironically and unfairly for Mexico, drug traffickers south of the border have American guns drawn amongst themselves as they compete over U.S. business.

The horrific bloodshed below the Rio Grande is reason enough to legalize marijuana entirely and immediately at this point, and for Americans who still don't get it, our shared boundary with Mexico is 1,969 miles long and unsecured. It's obvious the violence can't remain isolated to only Mexico if it's allowed to foster long enough. Indeed, the Department of Justice reports that Mexican cartels have already set up shop in more than 1,000 U.S. cities.

The southwest border will never be fully secured as long as much of the trade between South and Central America crosses America's southern border. However, there's no denying we'd be much safer if it weren't for the constant criminalization of our neighbors to the south. Illicit marijuana revenues make up around sixty percent of cartel profits per the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and it's the earning potential from this substance alone that tempts and lures most recruits into the narco game. Maintaining marijuana's illegality is only producing, enriching, and weaponizing more and more psychopath killers in Mexico, while simultaneously wasting valuable and scarce resources here in the United States.

Just recently, the DEA's administrator, Michele Leonhart, only reaffirmed her agency's stubborn position on marijuana. She was questioned in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and it's intriguing to me that a congressman from Tennessee, Steve Cohen, was the one who grilled Leonhart the most on the DEA's outdated stance towards cannabis. Not because Tennessee ranks second to only California when it comes to the domestic production of marijuana, but mostly because I imagine the DEA feels confident hedging its bet on "indefinite marijuana prohibition" with southern conservative mindsets. However, as a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), who is tasked with giving presentations in some of the bible belt's deepest parts imaginable, I feel confident stating that I don't think the south will be the DEA's saving grace when it comes to deterring pot legalization.

Obviously the Drug Enforcement Administration is at a crossroads right now, and in no way am I implying the organization should be eliminated or disbanded. However, when it comes to marijuana the ballgame is over, and resources need to be drastically and quickly shifted. The agency needs to bow down gracefully to cannabis's legitimacy at this point, instead of continuing to prolong the inevitable. The government was set up to be run by the people for the people, and it's time for the DEA to recognize this. It might've been in 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be public enemy number one, but it's nearly half a century later today, and prohibition itself has now become a much bigger nuisance to society (especially concerning marijuana).

Jamie Haase, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

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10Nov/111

The war on US

Deciphering the White House jihad against pot

ByTim Fernholz The New Republic

When you get a new car, you start noticing the same model all over the highway. It's the same way when you figure out what California's marijuana dispensaries look like--green crosses and signage about "medicine" and "420" start popping up all over the City of Angels: On your commute to work, in your neighborhood, around the corner from your favorite restaurant. To put it bluntly, it's not hard to find weed in California.

But that all might be about to change. The state's four U.S. Attorneys are gamely trying to alter the broadly popular status quo with arrests and threats of prosecution and property seizure for landlords who rent to dispensaries, a campaign announced in a rare joint press conference in October. Medical marijuana advocates call it an "intense crackdown" and have launched a lawsuit claiming the federal attorneys' tactics violate California's tenth amendment rights (Rick Perry, call your office).
State and local officials, meanwhile, are divided in their reactions to the influx of dispensaries in California, but many say that overly eager federal intervention is undermining the state-regulated medical marijuana system that they have taken pains to set up. In other words, as long as the federal crackdown contained itself to targeting egregious offenders of state law, it was hard for anyone to object; many applauded. But by raising the prospect of a federal assault on city mayors and town councils, Obama's Department of Justice could be making more enemies than friends in California.

California's marijuana dispensaries got their start in 1996, when voters passed a state referendum making medical marijuana legal. They only truly expanded in 2003, however, when the state legislature laid out a set of rules for non-profit dispensaries to follow. Now there are nearly 2,000 of them across the state, dispensing marijuana to anyone with a prescription from a medical doctor.

But when a 2005 Supreme Court case reaffirmed the mandate of federal officials to enforce national anti-marijuana rules, that placed California's U.S. Attorneys in a tricky situation. They somehow had to reconcile their mandate to enforce all federal statutes with existing state laws in California that seemed to violate the Controlled Substances Act. In 2007, the Bush administration's U.S. Attorneys responded by launching a campaign similar to the current one. That led to the closure of dozens of dispensaries, but had little lasting impact--today, there are more than two times the number of dispensaries than existed four years ago.

Even still, the Bush-era campaign left scars on the minds of medical marijuana advocates. Most backed Barack Obama's presidential campaign in hopes that he would shape a more congenial federal environment. Advocates had reason to be optimistic: As a candidate, Obama talked about easing off enforcement on pot offenders and famously told an interviewer that of course he had inhaled--"that was the point." And the initial signs were promising: After Obama took office in 2009, the Department of Justice released the Ogden Memo, which stated, in so many words, that the DOJ should really only be prosecuting marijuana dispensaries that are using or abusing state law to traffic marijuana for a profit, and not waste its time (or tarnish its image) prosecuting cancer patients and their caregivers.

But prosecutors and advocates both admit that the situation on the ground has changed since the memo's release: As fear of federal prosecution lessened, more states began adopting or considering medical marijuana laws; where the practice was already legal (as it was in California), there was a boom in the marijuana trade. Operating in a grey market between the federal prohibition and untested state rules, dispensaries of all kinds operated without much supervision. Cities and towns, some with an eye toward economic opportunity and others to codify community standards, began filling in the blanks left by the broad state law with rules and ordinances governing the operation of dispensaries and growers--where they could be located, how many would be allowed, what kind of security and verification procedures they must use.

Though law enforcement officials could not point to any commensurate increase in crime, all that activity made the federal government uneasy: It realized that tacitly allowing states to regulate medical marijuana had far-reaching consequences that it wasn't entirely comfortable with. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney, acknowledged that his office took notice of the explosion of storefront dispensaries across California in the last two years, sometimes in violation of local zoning bans. With local and state officials writing letters to their U.S. Attorneys, asking for their thoughts on various schemes to license marijuana growers and distributers, the federal government decided to take a tougher line. This June, the Department of Justice responded with another memo recognizing this growing trend and clarifying its position, and reclaiming the prerogative to make arrests for any marijuana offenses: "Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law." Enforcement efforts against dispensaries in California followed soon after.

California is a diverse state, and some local officials have cheered the greater federal intervention, citing their own frustrated attempts to close dispensaries that were clearly not in compliance with state law. Scott Smith, city attorney for Lake Forest, a town in Orange County, says that after fruitlessly spending $585,000 in legal fees fighting the dozen dispensaries in his town through the zoning board (eight of them in the same strip mall, near a Montessori school), his city contacted the U.S. Attorney for help. Smith points out that none of the dispensaries he challenged in court had even bothered to make the case that they were a non-profit--i.e., in accordance with California law. Others are part of national trafficking operations: The Feds are prosecuting the former owners of a now-defunct Hollywood dispensary for shipping marijuana to New York and Pennsylvania.

But the U.S. Attorneys' enforcement actions haven't been limited to such egregious state lawbreakers. Indeed, they've sent letters to non-profit cooperatives warning that they could be prosecuted and their property seized. In Mendocino County, DEA agents raided the farm of a grower known for working closely with the local Sheriff to regulate marijuana, down to individually marking each of his plants with a zip-tie to confirm that it was allowed by state law.

Marijuana advocates are largely skeptical of the Obama administration's intentions, saying that its crackdown is motivated not by a desire to fight criminality, but by a fear that the burgeoning medical marijuana industry was threatening its own authority. "They did not want to see a full blown state-by-state licensing system that would have legalized large-scale distribution of medical marijuana," Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access says. Hermes says that federal agents have even gone so far as to threaten state lawmakers in Montana, Washington, and Arizona with prosecution if they proceed with plans to legalize and regulate medical marijuana in their states.

"At the end of the day, California law doesn't matter" to the U.S. Attorney, Mrozek counters, but "it is our position the marijuana stores operating in California are not only violating the spirit of California law, but are in fact violating California law." This is where California and Federal officials tend to part ways. State Attorney General Kamala Harris has voiced the concern that "an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California."

Indeed, the irony is that federal intervention may be making it harder for California officials to convince marijuana dispensaries and growers to keep their operations above board and play by the state's rules. And U.S. Attorneys have even informed city officials in the cities of Chico and Sacramento that they could be prosecuted for setting up licensing schemes; similar messages were delivered to state leaders in Washington and Arizona.

Marijuana advocates appear more concerned about the U.S. Attorneys' attacks on the prerogatives of local government, the most successful venue for their cause, than the new enforcement push. This new development has prompted Americans for Safe Access' tenth amendment lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder, accusing him of unconstitutionally "commandeering" local governments to enforce federal law. They say that the federal government has no business using threats to prevent state and local officials from enforcing state laws around medical marijuana, even if they violate federal statutes.

Even on the pure practical level of enforcement, meanwhile, advocates argue that Federal involvement might not make the most sense. "Beyond prosecuting a handful of people or threatening a few landlords, it's questionable what the federal government's capacity is," Hermes says. While everyone, including the Feds themselves, acknowledges that the DEA has bigger fish to fry, local authorities have proven capable of taking action to enforce their own regulatory regimes: Just last year, the city of Los Angeles shut down over 400 dispensaries in an effort to regulate and zone them, a move criticized by the caregiver community, but one that brought at least a modicum of order to the city's chaotic pot infrastructure and was even quietly welcomed by some dispensaries.

While the legal battles around Los Angeles' ordinance and those in other cities appear never-ending, a local approach could prove more effective than the U.S. Attorneys' heavy-handed enforcement when it comes to smoking out which weed shops are for-profit or front for organized crime: L.A.'s rules, after all, had already managed to close the shop housing the $15 million trafficking operation now being prosecuted by the FBI. But future efforts at the state and local level are unlikely to be successful if officials continue to be threatened with federal prosecution for trying to make their own laws work.

 

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3Oct/112

Another USELESS state MMJ program

Growers selling medical marijuana on the Internet

kold.com

We need to elect a Minister of Marijuana, for the people. -UA

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The arrest of  a Tempe medical marijuana owner and her boyfriend was striking a chord, among Tucson card holders, waiting to legally buy the drug.

D.E.A. officials raided the dispensary and home of Rachel Beeder and her boyfriend James Chaney, after getting reports that the two were selling medical marijuana to those who said they needed it.

Beeder spoke to a KSAZ-TV reporter from her jail cell.

"I'm sitting in jail right now because the law isn't written right," said Beeder.

She said she would gladly go to jail for medical marijuana, because Arizona voters had said yes to providing it to those who needed it.  Beeder was licence by the state to be a care-giver and provide medical marijuana to up to five patients, but due to a lawsuit filed by the state, the law was on hold.

Tucson medical marijuana card holder Bob Cherry was not surprised to hear about Beeder's arrest, and that people were resorting to buying the drug illegally.

"I would hope I don't have to break the law and go to jail.  It's easy enough.  All it does is keep a cartel in business," said Cherry.

Cherry was frustrated with the state government, saying they had no problem charging him $150 for his medical marijuana licence, but they were not providing the service he had paid for.

Many card holders, like Cherry were getting tired of waiting, and turning to the Internet for their prescriptions.

A quick search of Tucson's Craigslist reveals a list of local growers who are willing to provide medical marijuana to card holders for a "donation."

In his ad, one grower stated "we are a family operated operation just wanting to help others."

Beeder said she was also trying to help those in pain.

"I am a good person out here trying to help these people who have medical issues that are taking drugs that aren't good for their bodies, and they're killing them."

Vicky Puchi-Saavedra, a Tucson woman who had applied for permits to open five dispensaries in Tucson was outraged, and concerned to see the "black market" for medical marijuana on the Internet.

Puchi-Saavedra said that was the easiest way to violate federal laws, and dispensing medical marijuana should be left up to licence professionals.

"You want to sell medical marijuana, you have to regulate it otherwise you're opening the door to the black market."

A D.E.A spokeswoman said the federal government does not recognize the term "medical marijuana."  It was still considered a controlled substance, and those trying to sell it would be arrested, and prosecuted for dealing drugs.

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18Jul/110

Science-free zone

Medical marijuana: A science-free zone at the White House [Blowback]

July 14, 2011 opinion.latimes.com

Stephen Gutwillig and Bill Piper respond to The Times' July 9 article "U.S. decrees that marijuana has no accepted medical use." Gutwillig is the Drug Policy Alliance's California state director; Piper is the group's national affairs director.

President Obama came into office promising to reverse George W. Bush administration practices and elevate science over politics. He explicitly applied that principle to drug policy, an area long driven by ideology and prejudice. He quickly began to make good on the pledge by promoting three evidence-based drug policies: eliminating the ban on states using federal funding for syringe exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis; reforming the racially unjust crack-cocaine sentencing disparity that punished crack offenses more harshly than powder offenses; and vowing to end years of federal interference in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

But as The Times' July 9 article makes dismayingly clear, the White House is putting the "science-free zone" sign back up.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Justice issued medical marijuana guidelines to U.S. attorneys that are at best confusing and at worst a flip-flop on administration policy. The department’s much-heralded 2009 memo on the subject fulfilled candidate Obama’s campaign promise and established a principle that federal resources would not be wasted prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers who are in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state medical marijuana laws. The department's update reiterates that the feds won't target individual medical marijuana patients but might bust large-scale, commercial medical marijuana providers. The memo unequivocally threatens federal prosecution of large-scale medical marijuana providers even if they are in compliance with state law, a significant step away from the principle at the heart of the 2009 policy. Disturbingly, the new "clarification" doesn't explain what the federal government considers to be the line between small and large-scale production -- likely an attempt to slow state-sponsored medical marijuana distribution programs while sowing anxiety and confusion for patients.

Most recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a formal citizen petition filed nine years ago to reschedule marijuana to make it available for medical use. When the DEA considered a similar petition during the Reagan administration, the agency's administrative law judge concluded, "Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people." The Obama administration’s rejection of the petition claims marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States … lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision… [and] has a high potential for abuse." Lest one think the DEA's ruling is just law enforcement run amok, the White House released its 2011 National Drug Control Strategy earlier this week, calling marijuana "addictive and unsafe." That document devotes five pages attacking marijuana legalization and medical marijuana.

The administration's disconnect from science is shocking. A federally commissioned study by the Institute of Medicine more than a decade ago determined that nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety "all can be mitigated by marijuana." The esteemed medical journal the Lancet Neurology reports that marijuana's active components "inhibit pain in virtually every experimental pain paradigm." The National Cancer Institute, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes that marijuana may help with nausea, loss of appetite, pain and insomnia. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, home to 90 million Americans, have adopted laws allowing the medical use of marijuana to treat AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other ailments. The federal government itself cultivates and supplies marijuana to a handful of patients through its "compassionate-use investigative new drug program," which was established in 1978 but closed to new patients in 1992.

Marijuana use, like any drug, certainly carries risks. When it comes to policy, however, these risks should be weighed against the harms associated with current marijuana laws. It is notable that every comprehensive, objective government commission that has examined marijuana throughout the past 100 years has concluded that criminalization of adult marijuana use does more harm than marijuana use itself. Moreover, the risks associated with marijuana use are demonstrably far less than those associated with Oxycontin, methamphetamine, morphine and other drugs currently available for medical use. It defies not just science but common sense for the Obama administration to be so aggressively anti-marijuana, especially for medical use.

It is not too late to reverse this science-phobic trend. The Department of Justice's recent medical marijuana guidance is vague enough that the administration can clarify it intends to scrutinize only  massive, rogue medical marijuana operations and that the DEA won't waste resources going after most providers in most states. The administration should clearly support responsible state and local regulations designed to make marijuana legally available to patients while enhancing public safety and health. If the federal government is unable to provide leadership in this area, then the very least it can do is get out of the way and allow local governments to determine the policies that best serve their interests. The president who promised change rooted in rational reflection shouldn't stand in the way of it.

-- Stephen Gutwillig and Bill Piper

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10Jul/110

Breaking news, cannabis doesn’t actually work….???

Federal Government Rules Marijuana Has No Accepted Medical Purpose

7/9/11 huffingtonpost.com

They get more ridiculous each week. -UA

The federal government ruled on Friday that marijuana has no accepted medical use and should remain in the same class of drugs as heroin.

The decision comes nearly nine years after marijuana supporters asked the government to reclassify the drug to take into account the growing body of research conducted across the globe that proves it's effective in treating certain diseases, reports The Los Angeles Times.

The paper spoke to advocates who criticized the ruling but are pleased that the government has finally responded, which allows them to appeal to the federal courts.

In May several medical marijuana advocacy groups under the name Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis filed a lawsuit insisting that the DEA finally attend to the 9-year-old request, reports LAist.

Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access told the Times, he was not surprised by the decision, which came shortly after the Obama administration announced it would not tolerate large-scale commercial marijuana growing operations.

It is clearly motivated by a political decision that is anti-marijuana," he said. He noted that studies demonstrate pot has beneficial effects, including appetite stimulation for people undergoing chemotherapy. "One of the things people say about marijuana is that it gives you the munchies and the truth is that it does, and for some people that's a very positive thing.

The Times also noted, this is the third time that petitions to reclassify marijuana have been denied. The first was filed in 1972 and denied 17 years later. The second was filed in 1995 and denied in 2001. Both decisions were appealed, but the courts sided with the federal government.

California and many other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal reasons and a push to legalize it in general is expected to appear on the 2012 ballot in California as Proposition 19, writes LAist.

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