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A large issue in modern American politics is the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Indeed, recent Gallup polls show that 50% of Americans favor complete legalization; i.e., to regulate marijuana like alcohol or tobacco (Gallup Poll). Still many others favor partial legalization for patients of certain diseases. Clinical studies have shown cannabis to have positive effects on patients undergoing chemotherapy, and there is a wealth of firsthand evidence from patients of multiple sclerosis that makes a strong case pushing for the legalization for medicinal purposes. Despite the amount of studies calling for these restrictions to be lifted, however, medical marijuana is still illegal in most states, and federally speaking cannabis has no medicinal use and is classified as a Schedule I Narcotic. Still, while no states offer complete legalization of cannabis, more and more are offering medical marijuana for patients with a diagnosed need. In the campaign trail of Barack Obama, the president-to-be stated that he was not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue [medical marijuana]. The policies of the Obama Administration seemed to be much in line with this statement for the first half of Obamas term. In October of 2009, a federal memo was sent out, regarding the Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana. The memo went on to say that the pursuit of [marijuana related crimes] should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For a good while, this was an effective status quo, but a pseudo-legal substance puts the people who use it at great risk, as some individuals found out. The Obama Administration, which displayed tolerance of medical marijuana patients in its early days, took an abrupt about-face in the second half of its term. Obama promised change in the War on Drugs, but statistics show the number of marijuana arrests remains as high as it did

in the peak years of the Bush administration. In fact, Obama is already ahead of the Bush curve set for number of marijuana arrests in a presidential term, making him potentially the president with the most arrests under him in his term. The Administration started showing an explicit distaste for medical marijuana in July of 2011. The DEA rejected a 9 year old administrative petition to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule II, which would have meant marijuana had documented medicinal uses. The administration made a slightly bolder move in September of the same year. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms released a public statement to All Federal Firearms Licensees stating that any person who uses marijuana is prohibited by Federal Law from possessing firearms or ammunition. Even a person completely compliant with their laws regarding medical marijuana was therefore a felon if they owned any firearms. Effectively, because of their medical condition, patients who use medical marijuana are (through no fault of their own) separated from their second amendment right to bear arms. The loss of gun rights was important, but not on the forefront of many peoples minds, as many more issues were at hand for the medical marijuana dispensaries. The IRS denied tax breaks to dispensaries as legitimate businesses, resulting in losses that would have been put towards development in any other business. Furthermore, many banks would not operate with dispensaries, for fear of being prosecuted as a money-laundering agency. Still, with business booming even under these added strains, the Obama Administration was not happy with the status of the perceived commercial drug trade in California (indeed, cannabis continues to be Californias largest cash crop, at an estimated $14 billion per year) and it announced further crackdowns in October of 2011. As a result of these crackdowns (which consisted of legal action against dispensaries and federally-sponsored raids) around 2500 jobs were lost, mostly by legally

employed workers. This, ironically, resulted in an increase in illegal drug trade in California, effectively taking the profits out of the hands of American workers and putting them into the illegal drug trade that the Administration has been so quick to scorn. Effectively, the Obama Administration was keeping true to their word of not explicitly prosecuting patients; they were simply attacking the entire system, from production to end-user, and giving no quarter to anyone caught in the crossfire. Oakland, in particular, saw some of the beginnings of the most recent federal crackdown. In October, four US attorneys announced that they had sent warning letters to several dispensaries, saying they were operating in violation of federal law and gave recipients two weeks to discontinue the sale of marijuana or they could face criminal prosecution. Separately, the IRS sent back-tax bills to the dispensaries, claiming millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. While the federal government was trying to put these dispensaries out of business, the city of Oakland was benefitting from the additional tax revenue on medical marijuana and the dispensaries provided a significant portion of tax dollars paid to the city. The people of Oakland saw themselves being put against the federal government, and the government was seizing the property of dispensaries and interrupting the flow of medicinal marijuana to the patients. It finally got the point in November where NORML stepped in with a lawsuit against the Federal Government, to halt the Obama Administrations crackdown on Californias medical marijuana patients and providers. Citing the Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, they also equated the reverse-decision on the prosecution of medical marijuana patients to entrapment of the patient and provider. The Obama Administration has acted in quite a misleading, deceptive manner with regard to medical marijuana, and its response to the more social problem of complete legalization was

responded in an equally inept way. The War on Drugs has failed is the slogan that is being touted by proponents of legalization nowadays, and it is easy to see what they mean. Despite marijuana being as illegal as ever, it remains as the most popular illegal drug in America, and its popularity is growing. Use among high school students is unusually high compared to alcohol and tobacco; a relationship reflected in the fact that while tobacco and alcohol are illegal for high-schoolers, they must find someone legally able to purchase the drugs to obtain them. For an illegal drug like marijuana, the black market is likely to sell it to whoever has the means to purchase it, regardless of age or maturity. In effect, this makes illegality a more dangerous option than regulation with respect to underage use. Still, the tried and true method of prohibition prevails, though it failed for alcohol during the Great Depression. The Administration continues to say there are no studies linking marijuana with any medical use, although such studies do appear in medical literature. When asked about these studies, or when asked for studies done on the use of medical marijuana, the response of the Administration has been to not only decrease the number of people who can legally perform studies on the cannabis plant to 14 in the nation, but to discourage any research attempts by stating that the Administration is not looking for the medicinal effects of marijuana at the current time. As much as the Obama Administration has shown its disregard for the medical marijuana community, it has shown even less respect towards the legalization movement. The We The People government website, where citizens can send in petitions for the White House to answer, has seen many petitions for the complete legalization of marijuana. Its first policy was to ignore the marijuana petitions as they came out, choosing to answer questions that had gotten significantly less signatures and support. They also attempted to remove some of the highest ranking marijuana petitions from the site, but to no avail. With a combined signature count of

over 150k, the marijuana issue had to be addressed. The official response came from the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske. In his response, he ignored the central point of many of the petitions, instead simply stating that it is not a benign drug and that it would remain illegal because it was a part of the Presidents National Drug Control Strategy for it to remain so, offering little justification in the way of hard facts or scientific studies. In conclusion, the Obama Administration seems to be handling the issue of marijuana prohibition in the exact same way the American Government handled the prohibition of alcohol; by sweeping it under the political rug, for another day, trying to force ideals on a nation that simply wont accept them, and ultimately ignoring the calls of its people to legalize a substance that has been proven to be no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, which sit atop a legal pedestal in America despite the obvious dangers associated with drinking and smoking. If the movement towards medical marijuana acceptance and general acceptance of marijuana continues to gather strength as it has in the past decade, it is likely the prohibition of marijuana will end as the prohibition of alcohol did. Whether the Obama Administration will be willing to work for or against the general will of the plurality in this matter has yet to be seen, but it is likely to be an important point in the upcoming election.

Bibliography Comparing Prohibition of Alcohol and Legalizing Marijuana. ginac729. http://ginac729.hubpages.com/hub/Comparing-Prohibition-of-Alcohol-and-Legalizing-Marijuana Obama administration issues medical-marijuana non-interference guidelines. http://www.drugwarrant.com/2009/10/obama-administration-issues-guidelines/

Medical marijuana patients face 5-to-10 years in prison for owning a gun, says ATF. http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2011/09/medical_marijuana_guns_prison_atf.php Oakland marijuana dispensaries concerned over potential prosecution, taxes. Brittany Schell. http://oaklandnorth.net/2011/10/17/oakland-marijuana-dispenasires-concerned-over-potentialprosecution-taxes/ Medical marijuana popular as N.J., D.C. near legalization. Jennifer Agiesta. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-thenumbers/2010/01/medical_marijuana_broadly_popu.html Why is the Obama Administration Suddenly Fixated on Stomping out Medical Pot? Paul Armentano. http://www.alternet.org/drugs/154070/why_is_the_obama_administration_suddenly_fixated_on_ stomping_out_medical_pot/ Federal Lawsuit Seeks To Halt Obama Administration's Crackdown On California's Medical Cannabis Patients And Providers. NORML. http://norml.org/news/2011/11/10/federal-lawsuit-seeks-to-halt-obama-administration-scrackdown-on-california-s-medical-cannabis-patients-and-providers Obama Administration Wages War on California's Medical-Marijuana Industry: Here Are the SoCal Targets. LA Weekly. http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/10/california_medical_marijuana_crackdown.php Obama's Reefer Madness. John McWhorter. http://www.theroot.com/views/ufos-and-obama-s-reefer-madness?page=0,0 What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana. By Gil Kerlikowske https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#%21/response/what-we-have-say-about-legalizingmarijuana Obamas War on Pot. Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obamas-war-on-pot-20120216 Marijuana Arrests by Administration. NORML. http://stash.norml.org/bigbook/arrests-by-admin.html