That Didn’t Take Long

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Just a week after Attorney General Eric Hold announced he was calling off raids on medical marijuana dispensaries so long as the complied with state law . . . another medical marijuana raid:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard St. in San Francisco’s South of Market district mid-afternoon.

They hauled out large plastic bins overflowing with marijuana plants and loaded several pickup trucks parked out front with grow lights and related equipment used to farm the plants indoors.

The dispensary had been operating with a temporary permit issued by the Department of Public Health.

“Based on our investigation, we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony Williams said in a prepared statement.

[…]

A source in San Francisco city government who was informed about the raid said the DEA’s action appeared to be prompted by alleged financial improprieties related to the payment of sales taxes. DEA Special Agent Casey McEnry, spokeswoman for the local office, would not comment on that information.

The clear implication of Holder’s statement last week was that the feds were going to defer to state medical marijuana laws. That doesn’t exactly jibe with sending in the DEA storm troopers because a medical marijuana dispensary underpaid or didn’t pay its state sales taxes.

Meanwhile, reader Cory Spicer emailed this afternoon:

I am watching Obama’s “online town hall” speech and I am thoroughly disgusted.

A couple days ago he opened up a forum for users to submit and vote on questions. Several of the categories had questions relating to marijuana/drug law reform as their leading vote-getters, including the most popular overall question (in terms of both total votes and yes/no spread). So how did he react?

Well, first he answered four questions that received fewer votes. Then, before the fifth question was asked, he mentioned as a somewhat snarky aside that the marijuana question was “very popular”. The audience laughed a bit, and Obama joked about how he wasn’t “sure what that says about the online community” (this got a big laugh).

Then, he gave an unequivocal “no, I don’t believe that legalizing marijuana would help our economy”, offering no elaboration or supporting facts. The audience then gave him the heartiest round of applause for the day, and he then moved on to other, less popular questions.

I didn’t see the Town Hall, but if true, this is pretty galling. Politicians regularly dismiss legalization arguments out of hand, but can never offer a good explanation for their position. Obama’s “explanation” seems to be to laugh it off, and hope it goes away. It isn’t just stoners making the case for legalization anymore. It’s the Economist, it’s Foreign Policy, it’s a sizable cadre of respected economists, it’s the former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. If Obama’s going to continue the failed drug war, particularly the prohibition of marijuana, he ought to come up with a good reason why.

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24 Responses to “That Didn’t Take Long”

  1. #1 |  Fritz | 

    He’s a fucking douchebag, and he’s sending us straight into the shitter. Hopefully more people will come to see him for the ‘no talent ass clown’ that he is. I can’t even look at him anymore, let alone listen to him. Fuck the entire establishment.

    Sorry, I’m cranky today.

  2. #2 |  Ben | 

    Anybody ever get the feeling, reading stories like this, that there’s a pattern, just outside of public understanding, happening all around us?

    We’ve created a monster over the past 60 to 90 years. Now that monster can not be controled, because all they have to do is smile and make a snarky comment and everyone that matters fawns all over them (they/them refers to any pol who grants an interview/news confrence).

    There is no way for any of us to say to Obama “Maybe the reason the question was so popular was because a majority in this country agree that drug policy over the past 90 years has failed and we want change.”

    Hell, you can’t even send a snail-mail letter to him anymore, due to concerns sparked by the Anthrax letter scare.

  3. #3 |  Ginger Dan | 

    Ben — I know how you feel, it more and more it seems if you haven’t had the partisan Kool-Aid you are outside the system, just floating, watching it implode. It’s Astral Politics.

  4. #4 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I made a comment earlier today in the Morning Links entry about Obama and the drug war. I came very close to making a sarcastic comment whether his calling off the medical marijuana raids really signals a change, but thought I should give him the benefit of the doubt.

    In general, I think the President is limited in what he can do to turn the drug war around. There are huge powerful vested interests in maintaining the drug war. He may be the Commander in Chief, but his job security still depends heavily on not ruffling too many feathers. Personally, I doubt that he’ll lose very many votes as a result of his perpetuating the drug war. The American Public is fully capable of joking about drugs even as they willingly support the drug war, just as they repeatedly slo-mo the VCR to see Janet Jackson’s boob while dialing the FCC to complain about how their children were traumatized.

  5. #5 |  Bill | 

    What Fritz said.

  6. #6 |  Robin | 

    Hehe, those silly drug raddled losers who submit questions to the president on the “internet”.

  7. #7 |  John | 

    If you look at the top ten questions for each category “Marijuana – Legalize it” and variations of that theme show up under the headings of:

    Healthcare reform #2
    Green Jobs and Energy #1 & #2
    Financial Stability #1, #2, #3,#4
    Jobs #1, #3
    Budget #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7

    Appropriateness of category questions aside, just as a simple experiment in responded to the people, he should’ve made an actual real honest statement about the topic when there was such a clear and strong interest in it.

  8. #8 |  Andy | 

    With respect to the DEA raids, I highly doubt it has anything to do with what Holder announced. I don’t think Holder and Obama are stupid enough to make a statement only to completely defy it a few days later. Seems to me the DEA is simply a rogue agency that is now looking for new ways to continue their activities.

    The way Obama handled the legalization question is disappointing. He didn’t have to answer the question with respect to the economy, he simply did that to make the question sound more ridiculous. I guess the lowly internet users aren’t good enough to engage in conversation with representatives at a town hall. The newspapers have been asking the legalization questions in editorials all over the country. If one of these papers could pose the question at a press conference, maybe while discussing the Mexican drug war, we might see a more serious response. It really isn’t a hard question to answer, even if you want to be “politically safe.” Simply say you will charter a commission to study the issue and that will be good enough for me, at least for now.

  9. #9 |  Matt D | 

    I can’t really get worked up over either incident.

    Re. the DEA raid, it’s hard to tell what “alleged financial improprieties related to the payment of sales taxes” means, but it could be a fancy way of saying “we think they were dealing on the side” which obviously would merit a raid.

    Re. the pot questions–it’d be nice to see him take a stand for legalization or at least discuss it in depth, but I’m not sure what the point would be, given that it’s congress that would have to actually act on the issue, and support in congress seems lukewarm at best (not to mention a large portion of congress seems determined to oppose in the strongest way possible just about anything that Obama suggests, wants, or supports).

  10. #10 |  Greg N. | 

    In the wake of the bailout bonanza I’ve been pretty disappointed with Obama. But in conversation, I’ve been saying, “But, he’s been great on medical marijuana.” Should’ve known it would work out this way. I feel like Lucy just pulled the ball out from under the collective Charlie Brown voters.

  11. #11 |  z | 

    If he doesn’t think legalizing marijuana or cocaine is a good policy, I demand that he turn himself in to authorities and confess his crimes.

  12. #12 |  Andy | 

    Another note: MSNBC has been doing a surprisingly decent job covering the Mexican drug war and the issue of marijuana legalization. I have heard an MSNBC newscaster ask whether legalizing marijuana in the US would have the effect of crippling the drug cartels in Mexico TWICE today. In both cases, the newscaster criticized Obama for simply laughing off the matter at the town hall.

  13. #13 |  Marty | 

    these people who open the clinics invest their time and money and passion into these businesses just to have it all taken away on the whim of the govt. Imagine some govt assholes taking your car (or any other property) on a whim.

    time for Jim Bell!

  14. #14 |  Brandon Bowers | 

    Obama was one of the vocal supporters of the TARP bailout despite 200 leading economists submitting an open letter arguing against it. He has no more intellectual curiosity than Bush did, he’s already made up his mind on every issue and simply dismisses anyone who disagrees with him.

  15. #15 |  claude | 

    “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our nation’s marijuana laws.” -Barack Obama, January 2004

  16. #16 |  Matt D | 

    I’m still not sure what anyone expects of Obama here. How exactly do you think the media and the GOP would react to Obama declaring support for legalization? He’d be shredded, and pointlessly so, since there is no way that such a bill would ever make it through congress to his desk in the first place.

  17. #17 |  claude | 

    Well, after having nothing else to do and reading forums around the internet, i think the obama might get called out on this one. The way he handled that question seems to be a pretty hot topic this evening. The peeps are not happy.

  18. #18 |  MacGregory | 

    Paul Armentano has a good response for this over at NORML. And, as you can imagine, some fiery comments follow.

  19. #19 |  Michael Chaney | 

    I’m for full legalization and I’ve never used any illegal drugs. And, yes, growing up in Indiana I was exposed to MJ quite a bit. The only alcohol I’ve ever drank is wine. And even if everything was legal, I still have no interest in using any of it.

    It’s not just stoners who care about these things.

    I’m not going to begin to go into why I believe in legalization, it would take more space than I have here and more time than I have now. Suffice it to say I believe alcohol prohibition is a fine example of both sides of the coin.

  20. #20 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » The Lethality of Marijuana Prohibition | 

    […] Sullivan chides Obama for his churlish response to questions about decriminalizing marijuana earlier today. Sullivan writes that the issue is […]

  21. #21 |  ghjost | 

    lol @ Greg N.

    AAAAAAARRRRGH! *thud*

    good grief.

  22. #22 |  Chance | 

    I agree with some of the comments above, and they square with what I and others have said: supporting recreational drug legalization, in any form, is a no-win situation for Obama and most other politicians. His snarky comments (which did disapoint me) will not piss off most left wing legalization proponants enough to not vote for him next time, and most libertarians probably weren’t voting for him in the first place.

    Let’s say he HAD said something like “Good point, there are pluses and minuses to that argument, but we should at least explore the possibility of legalizing marijuana”. The next 3 news cycles would have been dominated by talking heads and pundits from groups with words like “Family”, “Children”, “Drug Free”, and “Concerned” in their titles. Republicans would have had a field day, police groups would be up in arms, and many dems would have turned on him as well.

    High risk, low reward to support ending the drug war. You have to get the biggest voting blocks on your side first, and then you’ll provide enough cover for the politicians to act.

  23. #23 |  Phelps | 

    I feel vindicated.

  24. #24 |  Creeping tyranny and the war on drugs - E.D. Kain - American Times - True/Slant | 

    […] scratch – it’s been creeping up on us for decades – but I wish he’d do more than just laugh it off when confronted with the very real problems and tragedies that this stupid, expensive war on drugs […]

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