I was so very excited about all that sensible drug policy we were going to get out of President Obama in his second term. I mean sure, Obama had spent a good deal of his first term waging more raids on medical marijuana clinics in four years than Bush had waged in eight. And his administration defended DEA agents who point guns at the heads of children during drug raids. And his appointees continued to defend the carnage in Mexico as merely the consequence of good, sensible drug policy.
Sure. There was all of that. But there were also all of these progressive pundits who kept telling drug war reformers that they should go ahead and vote for Obama anyway . . . because they just knew, or at least they were pretty sure, or at least they had heard rumors, that maybe, possibly, Obama would turn the corner and show some leadership.
Remember Marc Ambinder? Under the headline "In His Second Term, Obama Will Pivot to the Drug War," Ambinder wrote . . .
According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War . . . the best thing a president can do may be what Obama winds up doing if he gets re-elected: using the bully pulpit to draw attention to the issue.
Although, president Obama thinks it's entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether our drug laws are doing more harm than good, he has absolutely no intention of having that discussion in the United States until after he is reelected to a second term. With exactly 204 days remaining until the election, that makes possibly ending the war on drugs the 204th reason to vote for President Obama on November 6th.
Obama appears to be part of the growing number of politicians who are willing to recognize that not only is the drug war a failure, but that the only solution to the crime and misery it exacerbates is community engagement, treatment for addicts, and appropriate consequences for abuse by casual users.
Yeah, so never mind to all of that. Here's Charlie Savage at the New York Times:
Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.
Even as marijuana legalization supporters are celebrating their victories in the two states, the Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts.
Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol.
More Coloradans voted for pot than for Obama. No matter. We can't have something as silly as "the will of the people" undermining the might and authority of the federal government. Court action to undermine the initiatives is only one option the administration is considering. Here's the other one:
One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. The department could then obtain a court ruling that federal law trumps the state one.
Notice what words and phrases do not appear in the New York Times article: pivot, possibly ending the war on drugs, whether our drug laws are doing more harm than good, the drug war a failure, crime and misery [the drug war] creates.
You'd think that if Obama were going to "pivot," simply leaving alone two states that overwhelmingly legalized pot and gave him their electoral votes would be the best place to start.
As for "bring some cases against low-level marijuana users....," I think that means you, Harold and Kumar. Hope you guys aren't dog people.