The Obama Administration’s Confusing Marijuana Reform Stance

The Obama administration’s stance on marijuana reform – especially where related to medical marijuana – is confusing at best and a betrayal of the American people at worst. Surprisingly, despite the fact that the Presidential election is literally around the corner, Democrats are not holding the Commander in Chief accountable for what by any standard should be considered a flip-flopped policy. And being that the Democrats are the supporting party for the medicinal marijuana movement, it appears that on this issue, the Obama administration is off the hook, because the Republicans certainly aren’t going to pressure this issue into a higher state of publicity.

Of course, the immediate argument on the side of the Democrats is that Obama merely inherited a War on Drugs that was already 40 years in the making. However, his original platform based on “Change” appeared to be working early in his term, as federal agencies focused less attention on medical marijuana growers, users, and suppliers, letting states create their own legislation for medical and general marijuana reform. In fact, under the Obama administration, 16 states passed medical marijuana legislation, including Obama’s home state of Hawaii.

For a short time it appeared that the federal government was going to keep its hands off state-level marijuana programs, and medical marijuana dispensaries, websites, suppliers, growers, testers, reviewers and of course patients made use of the programs by the thousands. The medical marijuana industry seemed to be working – patients were getting the treatments they needed and jobs were created in a field that had never existed before.

But in early 2011, something changed. Suddenly the federal government began targeting, raiding and arresting people involved in many levels of medical marijuana programs. The people arrested were often normal, law-abiding and contributing members of society who were properly licensed to grow, possess or distribute medical marijuana and were operating within the laws of the state they live in.

According to the federal government’s behavior, state’s rights in this regard are not protected. So what was the catalyst in the Obama administration that prompted this change? We can’t be sure.

But the ramifications of this switch in policy have been far-reaching. Consider the case of Richard Flor, who owned several successful medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Montana; all operating legally according to the state’s laws. Flor, his wife and son were all arrested and incarcerated in federal prison for their roles in these dispensaries.

Richard Flor died after serving just a few months of an unknown sentence in federal prison as a result of his numerous medical conditions, including diabetes and dementia. His wife and son remain in prison, serving 2 and 5 years sentences respectively for operating a business within the laws of their state. (Steigerwald, Lucy Montana’s First Registered Medical Marijuana Caregiver Dies in Federal Prison Hit & Run Blog August 31, 2012.)

So while the issue might have temporarily escaped the attention of Democrats at the moment, it’s only going to return when things settle down after the election. This is an American oversight at the moment that almost certainly will be corrected.