The Obama administration has been under consistent criticism for its ongoing raids and prosecutions of medical marijuana facilities and users. And it looks like the president is trying to do some damage control.
Politico reports on the recent press blitz on the issue. In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama “clarified” his position, telling publisher Jann Wenner that he can’t “nullify congressional law.”
What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law.
I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes, Obama said.
Clearly trying to appeal to the youth and recreational user vote, the president followed the Rolling Stone interview up with an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where he confirmed that Congress wouldn’t be “legalizing weed….anytime soon.”
The Department of Justice is continuing raids on compassionate use facilities, despite the fact that voters in those states have legalized medical use and small scale possession. This is after statements suggesting the Department of Justice was directing prosecutorial resources away from states where medicinal marijuana use is legal. President Obama’s statements are not so much a clarification as they are a confirmation that the raids will continue.
But like the president’s stance on gay marriage, we could be watching evolution at work. There’s more than one way to influence policy and change federal law, and when it comes to medicinal marijuana, we are just in the start of that process.
Photo from eggrole via flickr.