Obama on Weed


“The war on drugs has been an utter failure. (W)e need to rethink and decriminalize our (nation’s) marijuana laws.”

-Barack Obama, January 2004 (Watch the video here.)

“I inhaled frequently, that was the point.”

-Barack Obama, November 2006 (Watch the video here.)

Q: “Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”

A: “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”

-Statement from Change.gov, the official website of President-Elect Obama, December 15, 2008

Okay, count me among those disappointed, but hardly surprised to see that Change.gov — the official website of the incoming Obama administration — answered the above question, which finished first out of over 7,000 public policy questions submitted to the website, in the most curt and dismissive way possible.

That said, as StoptheDrugWar.org’s Scott Morgan writes, Obama’s brevity is, in fact, quite telling.

As frustrating and insulting as it is to witness an important matter brushed casually to the side without explanation, Obama’s answer actually says a lot. It says that he couldn’t think of even one sentence to explain his position. Within the vast framework of totally paranoid anti-pot propaganda, Obama couldn’t find a single argument he wanted to associate himself with. That’s why he simply said “No. Next question.”

All of this highlights the well-known fact that Obama agrees that our marijuana laws are deeply flawed. He’s said so, and has back-pedaled recently for purely political reasons. If Obama’s transition team tried to give an accurate description of his position on marijuana reform it would look like this:

Q: “Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?” S. Man, Denton

A: President-elect Obama will not use his political capital to advance the legalization of marijuana. While he agrees that arresting adults for marijuana possession is a poor use of law enforcement resources, he believes that the issue remains too controversial to do anything about it.

In fact, Obama essentially said as much earlier this year when asked about the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.




Obama: “When it comes to medical marijuana, my attitude is if it is an issue of doctors prescribing marijuana, I think that should be appropriate. Whether I want to use a whole lot of political capital on (this) issue; the likelihood of that being real high on my priority list is not likely.” (Watch the video here.)

So then, disappointed as we are, how should we proceed?

Answer: Just as we have been.

To be fair to President-Elect Obama, he never pledged to legalize marijuana. Quite the contrary, during his Presidential campaign he backtracked from his previous comments supporting pot decriminalization, and he even went so far as to pick one of the chief architects of the modern drug war to be his Vice President. In short, to believe that the Obama team would have responded to the legalization question any other way was idealistic at best, and foolish at worst.

But that hardly means that we activists should write off the next four years.

In November, editors at the website Alternet.org asked me to draft “a progressive agenda for Obama” regarding marijuana policy. At that time, I listed several realistic, practical actions Obama could take to substantially reform America’s antiquated and punitive pot laws. (Note, legalizing marijuana by Executive Order was not on my wish list.)

These actions include:

1. As President, Obama must uphold his campaign promise to “not use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws” that legalize the medical use of cannabis. (Watch the video here.)

2. Obama can appoint leaders to the US Department of Justice, DEA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy who possess professional backgrounds in public health, addiction and treatment rather than in law enforcement.

3. Obama can support the autonomy and health of Washington D.C. voters by encouraging Congress to lift the so-called “Barr amendment” (passed by Congress in 1998 and reinstated every year since then), which prohibits the District of Columbia from implementing a 1998 voter-approved ballot initiative legalizing the use of marijuana by authorized patients.

4. Obama can call for the creation of a bipartisan Presidential commission to review the budgetary, social and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition, and to make progressive recommendations for future policy changes.

Ultimately, of course, it’s Congress, not the president, who is responsible for crafting America’s oppressive federal anti-drug strategies. Moreover, it is clear that in the coming years this battle will continue to primarily be fought — and won — on the state level, not in Washington D.C.

That’s not to say that we should not continue to keep the pressure on Obama by continuing to post questions to websites like Change.gov. (My suggestion for the next round of voting How about: “On Election Day, over 3 million voters decided to legalize the medical use of cannabis in Michigan, making it the 13th state to enact laws allowing the legal medical use of marijuana. While campaigning, you pledged: ‘What I’m not going to be doing is spend Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue.’ As President, will you and your Attorney General uphold this promise not to target and prosecute patients and providers who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws?“)

However, we must always remember that it will be the actions of tens of thousands — not the actions of just one man — that will ultimately bring an end to America’s vindictive and senseless war on cannabis consumers.

Now let’s get back to work!

  • Roland Up

    There is no way Obama will make any serious overt moves on cannabis laws in his first term. Though he may well redirect priorities and funding for law enforcement agencies away from cannabis, especially medical users, which is a pretty important step in the right direction.

    If I was in his position, I would do much the same.

  • Big in the USA

    So what if the new President is a junky, Bush was a Cocaine addict but it never did him or America any harm.

    In fact Bush is probably one of the best Presidents Ever.

    Remember how he dealt with Terrorist problem and how he put all the Terrorists in Jail and how he freed 45 million Iraqis – the man is a hero for Christ sakes.

    Give the president more drugs and let him run the country high as a kite, its Good for the Junky out on the street to have a roll model to look up to.


    Dude, you are a fucking idiot.

  • Chauncey

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • Katrina

    First, Bush is an idiot and he was NOT the best president ever, JFK was.

    Second, Obama is NOT a junky

    Third, I really think there are more important things to worry about in this country than legalizing marijuana.

    How about health care for all americans?

  • Daytripper

    I would put FDR head and shoulders above JFK in the "best president ever" category. JFK stuck us in Nam, & don't you ever forget that, kid. As to whether or not we will see anything of the kind, pun intended, during an Obama administration of a more realistic approach to cannabis use,

    I'd say, don't count on it. He ran more on your hopes than he did a real commitment to the cause, and if he can continue to string yo along with hope, you won;t complain as much as you did with George. That's just the way all pols operate.

  • sirmelksalot

    well said daytripper, well said, I don't feel like typing an intelligent rant so i'll stick with "people are dumb" everyone bought into his bullshit like it's never happened before, can't wait to hear all these "intelligent" people who voted for obama crying about him a month into office. mark my words obama will be as much of a puppet as bush.

  • End the Prohibition

    The FDA doesn't test whether new drugs are better than existing ones on the market, it only tests whether they meet the manufacturers’ claims and they’re within specified levels of safety.

    So why does EVERY prohibitionist say "there's better drugs out there"??? That isn't what the FDA tests!

    If the FDA doesn't test other drugs to see if they're better than what’s currently available then why should marijuana be forced to meet this standard?

    Marijuana is a GREAT drug for some things, and as safe as hell! That'd be enough to allow other drugs to pass the FDA's testing, so why isn't enough to allow marijuana to pass???

    The Government needs to send marijuana back to the FDA, and get them to test it right this time!

  • ezrydn

    Our LEAP Lobbyist, Howard Wooldridge, recently gave us all a bit of "insight." He said, in his numerous congressional meetings, he NEVER uses the words "legalization or legalize." Rather, he asks if the Feds will "allow the States to make the decision." And truly, that's where the decision needs to be made FIRST!

    So, take a note from Howard's comment. He's "inside." He knows what works and what doesn't. Listen to him! Our attack can't be in Washington, as they've battened down the hatches against us. Therefore, we need to turn the states! We're almost to the "half way" stage in the states process. Who'd have thought in '96 we'd be here by now? It's a long journey but a satisfying one. And I agree with the source story. It's not what Obama said. It's what he didn't say!

  • es

    Well, there may be more pressing issues at hand, like the supposed economic crisis or the nationalization of health care, but the legalization of marijuana really would help us out in the long run. If marijuana was legalized, it would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in agriculture, shipping, tourism, and retail. Not to mention the huge profits it would generate in taxes and the money we would save by not prosecuting marijuana users. There's really no question about marijuana use being good or bad. If alcohol, a much more dangerous drug, is legal, then it only follows that weed should be legal too. We're sitting on an economic gold mine and we're not even tapping into it.

  • legalize pot, save the country.

    the ripple effects of legalizing cannabis for recreational, medicinal and commercial use would really fix a lot of things.


  • Abztract1

    Best Presidents EVER?????

    You must have been high for the last 8 years.

    You are such a moron

  • Chad

    If the y won't legalize weed, then they should unleglaize alcohol, cause they pretty much dot he same thing.

  • Rizzo

    you can pay for the healthcare with profits from cannabis

  • Some Dude

    I doubt Obama will legalize pot. I'm sure his advisors would would talk him out of it. My reasoning: it's because he's black. I'm not racist, but I honestly believe that legalization won't happen under this administration because they don't want the nation to remember the first black president as being the one that legalized marijuana. It would do too much to reinforce stereotypes. Sorry guys.

  • steven

    As a medicinal user of medical marijuana myself, i have been enlightened to its potential. Katrina how can i state this so even you can understand it.By simply legalizing marijuana, millions of job opportunity are created, creating a potentially billion dollar industry. Which in turn will help stabilize the economy.Secondly Obama is a hypocritical egotistical bastard that invested almost 3 trillion dollars in his first 3 weeks of his presidency. And what do you know it fucked us over. There are 0 deaths a year from marijuana. Honestly has marijuana ever hurt YOU. During is recent speeches the stocks literally fell AS HE SPOKE And jfk wasn't the best president[quote post="5048"]First, Bush is an idiot and he was NOT the best president ever, JFK was.

    Second, Obama is NOT a junky

    Third, I really think there are more important things to worry about in this country than legalizing marijuana.
    How about health care for all americans?[/quote] Obama is slashing general health care organizations left and right.And the health care that is provided is getting used up rapidly because of all the illegal aliens.THE VERY LEAST HE CAN DO IS LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

  • Appreciate the info guys, thanks

  • ho2

    [quote post="5048"]Third, I really think there are more important things to worry about in this country than legalizing marijuana.

    How about health care for all americans?[/quote]

    Id worry more about the fluoroid (poison) that is mixed in the water. This very same product was put in the water and forced on jews in the concentration camps of 2nd WWar, it destroys the brain tissue and make people easyer to control. Dont ever shower in fluoroid water and DONT ever drink it!!!

  • Mad American

    Bush was the best president we all had jobs when he was in office.When it was announce Obama was are new president are economy went to hell.He's not going to do any thing but spend are tax dollars.Has far as him legelizing marijuana it will not happen it might help are economy out