President Obama Has Outspent And Out-Arrested George W. Bush On Marijuana, Reports Say

June 12, 2013

Chris Roberts, SF Weekly

Liberals and libertarians are sometimes uneasy bedfellows, but both have no shortage of reasons to fear, loathe and otherwise vote against mainstream Democrats, as the current imbroglio over the National Security Agency's spying program displays. Here's another one: Under the administration of President Barack Obama, more money has been spent and nearly as many Americans thrown in prison over medical marijuana than was done under onetime favorite liberal punching bag George W. Bush, according to a pair of studies conducted by Americans for Safe Access and California NORML, both released today.

In that span, federal prosecutors have amassed a remarkable record: 90 percent of medical marijuana cases have resulted in convictions, an effective use of the $300 million spent on enforcing federal drug laws in medical marijuana states.

While current Attorney General Eric Holder's October surprise is credited with helping to derail California's marijuana legalization ballot initiative in 2010, mainstream Democrats rallying against medical cannabis began with then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in 1996. Reno then warned doctors in California that they'd lose their licenses to prescribe medication and be banned from Medicare and Medicaid programs. Those penalties were eventually blocked by a federal court, but the message was clear.

And it's getting clearer. Though Obama has said that the federal government has "bigger fish to fry" than medical marijuana, and while Holder and others have repeatedly said that dispensaries and cannabis growers obeying state law have nothing to fear from the feds, the fact is that the feds are shutting down state law-abiding dispensaries. Just this week, hundreds of dispensaries in Southern California received the same letters from United States attorneys that shut down a dozen pot clubs in the Bay Area.

Not to say we told you so, but we told you so. Prior to the federal Justice Department's coordinated crackdown on state-legal pot clubs, we noted in April 2011 that Obama's Justice Department was continuing medical cannabis prosecutions that began under Bush -- and opening up new cases and new prosecutions. Recall that Obama on the campaign trail, Obama in office and a just-installed Holder all said the same thing: they wouldn't do what they ended up doing.

This comes at a time when about one-third of the country's citizens live in a state with some kind of medical cannabis law on the books. That's 100 million Americans, about 1 million of whom are card-carrying medical cannabis users, the reports estimate.

Meanwhile, an effort to reform California's inconsistent laws on medical cannabis -- which were left up to local jurisdictions by the state that is now taking control back under federal pressure -- is stalled in the state Legislature, after a reform bill authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, (D-San Francisco),  was shot down by fellow Democrats from Southern California as well as the Assembly's Republican obstructionists.

Read the reports for yourself here and here.

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