By Ralph Schwartz
I have a few posts planned for this morning, and I’m on the second one now. But I wanted to acknowledge the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut, where 27 people, 18 of them children, died today. An event like this hits every single one of us, and I’m far from immune, as I have two elementary-age daughters and a daughter in middle school.
So I post with a heavy heart. Enough said on that.
President Obama will say in a televised interview on ABC tonight that the feds won’t go after pot smokers in Washington and Colorado, the two states where recreational marijuana is now legal.
Officials in both states have been waiting for a signal from the federal government about whether it would enforce national laws banning the use, sale or production of marijuana. In a statement sent to me this morning, Tom Angell, chairman of the national group Marijuana Majority, said Obama’s well publicized words on pot enforcement shouldn’t be taken as very significant:
As you’re probably aware, President Obama tells Barbara Walters in a new interview to be released tonight that “it would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational [marijuana] users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”
Here’s a statement in reaction from myself as chairman of Marijuana Majority:
“The president’s statement about not targeting individual marijuana users doesn’t mark a shift in policy. The federal government rarely goes after individual users. The real question is whether the Obama administration will try to prevent voter-approved marijuana sales systems from being enacted or if they will force individual users to buy marijuana from the black market, where much of the profits go to cartels and gangs that kill people.
“The president also tries to unjustifiably pass the buck to Congress, claiming that there’s not much he can do to change federal policy on marijuana because ‘Congress has not yet changed the law.’ The fact is, the executive branch was granted the power to unilaterally reschedule marijuana when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. The president should lead on this issue instead of deferring to Congress, a branch of government that he probably knows better than most isn’t exactly prone to getting a whole lot done these days.
“One positive thing to take away from this interview is that the president couched his opposition to marijuana legalization by saying he doesn’t support it ‘at this point.’ That could indicate his position on this issue may ‘evolve’ to catch up with the majority of voters who now support letting states set their own marijuana laws, not unlike how his position on marriage equality ‘evolved’ as it became clear the what direction the public was moving in.”
Click here for excerpts of the Obama interview, which will be released in full tonight.