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Will Public Opinion Force Washington’s Hand on Pot?

White House mum on shift in polls on decriminalization, while Congress may produce bill to let states legalize and federally tax pot.

by
Bill Straub

Bio

April 11, 2013 - 12:49 pm
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Obama, along with predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, has acknowledged using marijuana in his younger days. He remains coy about his policy intentions. But in an interview with Barbara Walters, broadcast in December, the president replied that the administration “has “got bigger fish to fry” than strictly enforcing federal marijuana laws.

“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said.

Now some members of Congress are looking to get involved. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) have joined forces on a pair of bills. One would shift responsibility for marijuana regulation to the individual states and create a framework for federal taxation in places where it is legalized. The second would remove the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority over marijuana and allow states to choose whether to allow marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.

“This legislation doesn’t force any state to legalize marijuana but Colorado and the 18 other jurisdictions that have chosen to allow marijuana for medical or recreational use deserve the certainty of knowing that federal agents won’t raid state-legal businesses,” Polis said. “Congress should simply allow states to regulate marijuana as they see fit and stop wasting federal tax dollars on the failed drug war.”

Blumenauer noted that there has been a dramatic shift in the marijuana policy landscape.

“Public attitude, state law and established practices are all creating irreconcilable difficulties for public officials at every level of government,” he said. “We want the federal government to be a responsible partner with the rest of the universe of marijuana interests while we address what federal policy should be regarding drug taxation, classification and legality.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012 before dropping out and running on the Libertarian Party ticket, has long advocated marijuana legalization, arguing that it is “insane to arrest roughly 800,000 people a year for choosing to use a natural substance that is, by any reasonable objective standard, less harmful than alcohol, a drug that is advertised at every major sporting event.”

“By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco – regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use – America will be better off,” Johnson said. “The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society.”

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Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

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All Comments   (27)
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It could be that people are sick and tired of overbearing, militarized law enforcement and are starting to decide that the War on Drugs at the federal level is (and was) a mistake and are shoving back via the legalization ballot initiatives. Move the legalization argument out of DC and back to the state capitals for all drugs, not just pot, and put the DEA et all out of business. Republicans can adopt that argument and do quite well with it as a vehicle to restore constitutional rights (property forfeiture among others) by getting the federal goons out of their warfighting suits. Might be a productive approach. It's not what you decide. Rather, it is where those decisions are made, with the closer to the individual the better. Cheers -

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Indeed. The people are tired of the moral majority type moralising and authoritarianism and are now rejecting it and slapping it down everywhere it appears. Whether gay marriage, wannabe anti-science senators who conjure up magical lady parts, pot smoking... it's all being rejected.

And the conservatives want to turn the conservative message dial to 11.

Yeah that'll work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Perhaps public opinion regarding legalizing pot has changed because so many millions of people now take legal, mind-altering prescription drugs, from pain-killers to anti-depressants, and they just think, "So what". Besides, legalizing pot is a winner for Democrat politicians because a) it creates more blissed-out people willing to surrender their autonomy and well-being to the government and b) paranoia makes voters easier to manipulate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On the contrary, it's a disaster for the democrats, the biggest profiteers from the war on drugs aside from the cartels are the trial lawyers, the police and prison unions, all of whom mainline money into the DNC.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thats one of the silliest propositions to come down the pike in a long time! The GOP has long been the lead on federalized drug interdiction and supporting legislations. Go back and look at all the legislations on drugs criminalization and enforcement and see who originated and cosponsored those bills. Geesh!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I agree with you, but legal pot will still leave plenty of other drugs from which these groups can profit. Trial lawyers never lose because they always have so much else to mine, such as the ever-increasing realm of "hate speech" and "hate crimes".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Are any of you suffering from cancer? Have any of you tried to LIVE on the drugs that the current set of "doctors" prescribe for pain? How about you try to ingest 3 different kinds of artificial opiates 3 times a day and still funtion normally. You people with all these high and mighty morals that think your opinion and those of talking heads should take the "one size fits all approach" should go talk to some sick people in the nations cancer wards before you open your pieholes like you know something! How many car wrecks are recorded each year due to pot use vrs alcohol? same for violent crime?

Dont worry your pretty little empty heads because the gubbermint is hard at work putting together "studies" that want to label you as "impaired" at 5 nano-grams of pot in your bloodstream and to put THAT into perspective: if you smoked a joint today...2 weeks from now you would STILL have 5 nano-grams in your bloodstream. Tax and spend politicians are drooling at the new revenue source, police and prisoners for profit companies are drooling at the sight of new neverending profits, and oblowmecare will label you a metal defective if you have EVER smoked it and use that as a reason for taking your guns away (like they are doing RIGHT NOW to people who are on or EVER USED anit-depressants).

Pot takes away my pain and unlike ALL opiates, it does NOT make me sick and too useless to move without getting dizzy or puking my guts out.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not talking about legitimate medical use of marijuana but legal recreational use.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't think many people dispute the benefits of medicinal pot in situations like yours or begrudge your use of it. I hope your pain subsides. May God bless you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Law has made a criminal out of everyone.....except my parents... ;-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The de-facto legalization of marijuana is already under way , To my thinking it's a disaster. The drug is a very subtle killer of motivation. Studies have shown widespread use in adolescence may be indicated in later schizophrenia. With our economy struggling, productivity down, legal cheap easily available cannabis will consign lots of young people to lives of uselessness.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Unlike marijuana, alcohol is a killer of humans, as in actual death. You don't need studies to determine that it "may" cause problems. Do you want to make that illegal?

What's with people and their totalitarian leanings?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Social conservatives never met an authoritarian argument they didn't like, and social conservatives are politically statist. It's a nauseating combo.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, they're every bit as bad as the leftists.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
trangbang -- its interesting that in the case of global warming the consensus of the scientific community is that it's real, yet you reject it, slamming the very notion of consensus, claiming it's a scam and all about the money. But when it suits you to buttress an authoritarian position on pot, you're all over it. It's this lack of any hint of consistency that leads most voters to not take social conservatives seriously.

Oh, and work on your manners.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hey dope , I'm talking about the effects of the drug and the general consensus among treatment professionals not your delusional political fantasies. Maybe you ought to smoke a fat one and quit being such an obnoxious cretin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Killer of motivation???...the last 3 Presidents may disagree.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's a huge sample size. Obviously you can find all kinds of people who've smoked weed and they're the belle of the ball now. Amotivational syndrome is a well documented side effect of marijuana abuse. Read the literature. Additionally the thc content is much higher now through the growing of sensamilla and hybrids than it used to be. It's a subtle but dangerous drug.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Hey, man, I don't smoke tobacco or dip snuff, or chaw tobacci, 'cause its bad for ye, but howsa 'bout handin' me one of them thar mary-ja wana thingies. I mean, the gobmint says it's alright."

If you don't think this new 'tax stream' won't be abused, you're out of your ever-loving mind.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another couple of years of obama and rino republicans and we will need to make LSD legal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The country is figuratively going to pot so might as well make it literally going to pot too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...decriminalization hasn’t been directly addressed by the White House."

Last time I checked, its a congressional responsibility to address these issues by their constitutional legislative authority -- NOT the executive branch!

"...the DOJ will have to determine whether to ignore the violation of federal law or crack down."

NO, the executive branch is sworn to uphold the constitution and enforce the laws of the land as enacted by the congress!

How we ever got to the place we think a president is king and dictates the governance of the nation is pretty sad! I guess thats the lesson learned from radical partisan political activists blaming a president for all things.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So you're saying that even though Obama/Holder may not agree with a particular law that they've been sworn to uphold said law? And in fact do?

Must be some pretty good weed in your pipe eh?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well; Clinton got his ideal "blow" in the Oval Office. Maybe Obama will get his too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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