Health Nation — 04 October 2012

The controversy over the legalization of medical marijuana never came up in the first presidential debate, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

A petition to get President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to answer at least one cannabis-related question in the debate was presented to the chairman of the Presidential Debate Commission, but the topic never came up.

But as the use of medical marijuana continues to gain public support, this election year could prove to be a turning point in the movement to legalize cannabis.

A 2011 Gallup poll says that 50 percent of Americans now believe that marijuana should be legalized for adult use. And voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will decide this November whether to allow for the limited legalization of cannabis for adults.

In Los Angeles, the City Council just voted to repeal a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries it approved just a few months ago. It’s an act that leaves the city without a law regulating an estimated 1,000 pot stores.

Yet federal laws and state laws are often at odds, and for many who advocate legalization, until the federal law is changed, there will always be uncertainty among the states as to what they can and cannot do.

Currently, seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana when recommended by a physician. Yet, an estimated $20 billion taxpayer dollars are spent every year enforcing marijuana prohibition.

Since the issue of whether or not medical marijuana is effective is a separate discussion, the two questions submitted to the debate commission by the Brownie Mary Democratic Club of California focused on what they described as “the direct conflict between federal law and state law.”

Citing the ballot measures in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the first question posed by the authors of the petition addressed what will happen if voters in those states pass the initiatives. Specifically, what they want to know from the candidates is “what will be the response of your administration?”

The second question hoped to ask the candidates if they will “do anything as President to help reconcile the differences between federal and state law“?

As neither of the questions were asked, and probably won’t come up in the next two debates, the candidates’ comments in the media are the clearest indication of what they will do.

In an interview with the Denver Post, Romney said “I oppose marijuana being used for recreational purposes and I believe the federal law should prohibit the recreational use of marijuana”

A spokesperson for Romney added that the Governor “has a long record of opposing the use of marijuana for any reason. He opposes legalizing drugs, including marijuana for medicinal purposes. He will fully enforce the nation’s drug laws, and he will oppose any attempts at legalization.”

President Obama’s track record on the federal enforcement of marijuana laws has been inconsistent, at best. During the 2008 campaign, Obama said he would not use federal “resources to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

Marijuana advocates have been stunned by the Obama Justice Department’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. Thousands of dispensaries have been raided or forced to shut down under government pressure.

“The medical marijuana community was ecstatic when Obama was elected,” Amanda Reiman, California policy director for the Drug Policy Alliance told the San Francisco Examiner. “But now four years later it feels like bait and switch.”

75 years ago this month, the U.S. government criminally outlawed the possession and cultivation of marijuana. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (NORML), the 1937 mandate has resulted in more than 850.000 arrests per year and more than 20 million arrests since 1965.


About Author

Richard Lenti

Richard Lenti has worked as a news writer for the last 20 years at various television stations in Los Angeles. He is a Golden Mike winner and a graduate of California State University, Fresno. With roots in print journalism, Richard is excited to be “published” once again; having people read his work as opposed to having it read to them. As a freelance writer his work has appeared in the Easy Reader, L.A. Jazz Scene, Irrigation and Green Industry, and the KCAL 9 Online website.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. Love when Romney talks Energy independence and industrial hemp equals more than 1,800 gallons of ethanol per acre green and renewable does not get mentioned