Obama Wrong on Pot Crackdown

Gay men and women smoke pot, and we are not alone. Straight men and women do too. In fact, let’s be real. Most of the country does. That is why in state after state, and ballot after ballot, voters are decriminalizing marijuana use and possession.

Marijuana is now legal under state law for medical purposes in 16 states and the District of Columbia, encompassing nearly one-third of the American population. More than 1,000 dispensaries provide medical marijuana; many are well regulated by state and local law authorities and pay substantial taxes. But though more than 70 percent of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, any use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Last week, the Drug Policy Alliance held its annual convention in California. In forum after forum, professionals from all walks of life, from law enforcement to science, called for the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. In fact, when he ran for President, Barack Obama stated publicly, on more than one occasion, that he would use his office to help create a more reasoned federal policy. Specifically, the future president, as a candidate, promised he would not waste or expend federal dollars to impede state policies. Call it a campaign promise broken.

The candidate who once defended the medical use of marijuana is now using Justice Department resources to override state laws on the issue. In the past month alone, federal authorities have done everything in their power to undermine state and local regulation of medical marijuana, particularly in California, where I have dual residency and a medical marijuana card. Obama’s silence speaks volumes. This is happening on his watch.

United States attorneys have recently authored letters warning dispensaries that regardless of state law, they have 45 days to shut down.  Prosecutors have threatened to seize the property of landlords and put them behind bars for renting to marijuana dispensaries. One US attorney has even promised to start targeting media outlets that run dispensaries’ ads, and many LGBT publications do. This administration is now engaging a shock and awe campaign on dispensaries that is greater than one ever launched by the previous Bush administration. It is an inexcusable disgrace.

Calling the federal government “bullies,” Drug Policy Alliance Director, Ethan Nadelmann, stated in a New York Times Op Ed “None of this makes any sense in terms of public safety, health or fiscal policy… Federal crackdowns will not stop the trade in marijuana; they will only push it back underground and hurt those patients least able to navigate illicit markets.”

Columnists and not politicians are protesting, to little avail. The situation with the Obama Administration and marijuana is not unlike AIDS. Under the Bush Administration, we never heard of ADAP waiting lists. People got their meds. A Democratic administration and a Democratic president took over the federal government and no AIDS patient got any more treatment, care, or funding. In fact, your situation has been compromised.

As World AIDS Day approaches, think of how many HIV patients use marijuana medicinally. Think of how many use dispensaries to get their medicines. Think of how much safer it is to acquire marijuana from a clinic than a street corner. Despite this, few candidates or politicians protest. Locally, even Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, supportive of the LGBT community in so many ways, refuses to be a voice for medical marijuana and its consumers. If you live in Florida, you can defend your use of marijuana medically, but only if you get arrested and go to jail first.

It is time for gay men and women to come out of the closet about our use of marijuana, medically and recreationally. It is time we did for cannabis what we did for gay rights, breaking down the doors of dishonesty and opening up the room for truth. It’s time for the people to start ‘Occupy Reefer,’ to blow smoke in the faces of the Obama Administration. I’d like to tell you to smoke a joint in public today, but in our archaistic state you could go to jail for that.


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