With the U.S. Department of Justice announcing an overhaul in drug prosecution, state-level marijuana legalization, and now President Obama’s seemingly “kind-of-but-not-really” endorsement of marijuana, marijuana reformers may have reason to hope. However, there’s still been more talk than action on a federal scale and most of the radical change has been on the state level.
The New Yorker published an interview featuring President Obama on Sunday in which the president made some noteworthy statements. Obama gave a two-sided opinion of marijuana, saying “I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my life.” Obama then added that “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
That statement reverberated through news and aggregate sites like Reddit and the Huffington Post, to name a few, and now many marijuana advocates are thinking that marijuana may have high hopes of some form of federal legalization, or at least deregulation. Obama does think that there’s a racial disparity in marijuana arrests, as most people arrested for pot possession are minorities.
“It’s important for it [marijuana reform] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished,” Obama continued. The administration has been gradually loosening its language in regard to marijuana reform, but little has yet to be done.
Many states have been ahead of the president, and many more are joining them in marijuana reform. Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use and about 22 more have either decriminalized it or have approved it for medical use. More states are in line for marijuana reform.
The people of Florida, a major presidential battleground state, started a petition to have medical marijuana placed on the state ballot in November. The state required the petition to gain 683,149 signatures for the law to be placed on the ballot. United for Care, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said it logged about 1.1 million signatures. Some have indicated the Florida political landscape’s uncanny similarity to that of the entire country and believe that a Florida medical marijuana law could set the tone for the other states.
“Florida looks like the country as a whole,” said United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollora. “If Florida does this, it is a big deal for medical marijuana across the country.”
Some others say that a large scale, federal marijuana reform is the only thing left that will create a legacy for Obama that’s not solely riddled with scandal and backdoor trade deals. Occurrences of federal misconduct regarding “drug reform” have plagued the Obama administration.
Feds have raided legal dispensaries, two homes, and grow operations in Colorado and, at the time, never gave any reason why. Upon the raid, authorities seized $1 million worth of plants without any cease and desist or court order and no arrests were made. Later, the feds revealed that they were searching for supposed ties to the Colombian drug cartels.
Indeed, marijuana does look hopeful and states have increasingly accepted weakened marijuana regulation. But that’s where the change has begun and will continue to travel. The president and Congressional members on Capitol Hill have a long-developed habit of sitting on their hands.