During the 2008 election cycle I was a ‘non-traditional student’ in college. They referred to students over 24 as ‘non-traditional’ at my university. I’m not sure if that’s standard or not. I was nearing the end of pursuing my bachelor’s degree, majoring in public policy and minoring in legal studies. It was a truly exciting time to be on a college campus. The 2008 election was the first time in many years that both major party candidates were not part of the previous administration.
It was a chance to do something new. America’s economy was in ruins, and people were looking for a change, which I think is why Obama’s campaign putting the word ‘change’ in so many campaign ads and slogans resonated with American voters. Americans wanted something different, and for those of us that have fought for marijuana reform over the years/decades, we really, really wanted change.
I was very hopeful when Obama took office that he would make sweeping changes to federal marijuana policy, potentially even ending federal prohibition altogether. Time has proved that not to be the case. Obama was more progressive in some areas when it came to marijuana policy, but raids continued, and obviously federal prohibition continued.
Former United States Attorney General Eric Holder, has made statements after leaving Obama’s administration that America needs to take a hard look changing marijuana’s classification at the federal level. That was a slap to the face to patients and reformers in my opinion because Eric Holder not only didn’t even try to make a move like that when he had the power to initiate change, he actually testified before Congress opposing any such move.
Politicians have a way of getting on the right side of history, but only after they no longer have the power to do anything about prohibition. That is appearing to be the case with President Obama, who discussed marijuana policy in a recent interview with Bill Maher. Tuesday is going to be the biggest election in the history of marijuana reform in America, and President Obama talked about it in the interview. A special thanks to Tom Angell who transcribed the statements for Marijuana.Com from the interview, the full version of which can be found at the bottom of this article:
“The good news is is that after this referenda, to some degree it’s gonna call the question, because if in fact it passed in all these states, you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another,” Obama told Bill Maher in an interview taped earlier this week and released Friday night.
“The Justice Department, DEA, FBI, for them to try to straddle and figure out how they’re supposed to enforce laws in some places and not in others — they’re gonna guard against transporting these drugs across state lines, but you’ve got the entire Pacific corridor where this is legal — that is not gonna be tenable,” he said.
NJ.Com also included the following excerpt from the interview in one of their articles:
“I don’t think that legalization is a panacea,” Obama said. “But I think that we’re gonna have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drugs laws generally.” He called opioids the biggest “drug crisis” right now, one that is “ravaging entire communities all across the country.”
I’m going to be honest – these statements piss me off a bit. The most recent Gallup poll found 60% support for marijuana legalization in America. There are already states that have legalized in America, and have been successful in doing so by virtually every measure. This election is going to be huge, I don’t want to downplay that. But to suggest that all of a sudden that prohibition is going to be called into question for the first time after Tuesday is preposterous. Reformers have been shouting for the last 8 years (actually longer!) the same things that Obama said in this interview.
Yes President Obama, we do need to have a ‘more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana’ in this country. The conversation has been going on for quite awhile in reform circles, and believers of compassion, justice, and logic. Welcome to the party! Oh wait, you are out of the White House soon, and don’t plan on doing anything prior to leaving office? How convenient!? OK, sorry for ranting, but my goodness. To be fair, here we have a sitting President saying these things (albeit too late), so it’s still significant. But it’s bittersweet to say the least.
image via YouTube