Since the Obama White House started the We the People petition site, the petition system has been dominated by requests related to marijuana legalization and medical marijuana. The Obama administration promised to formally respond to petitions with enough signatures — 25,000, raised from 5,000. So last week as part of the late Friday news dump it issued a highly dismissive response to seven marijuana related petitions, including a marijuana legalization petition that was by far the most popular petition on the site. From the official White House response written by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske:
According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world’s largest source of drug abuse research – marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20′s. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.
Given that the main “criminal justice” problem related to marijuana use is that marijuana is illegal, I can definitely say legalization would provide an answer to that problem. For the Obama administration to say otherwise is both a lie and high disrespectful to the basic intelligence of the over 70,000 people who signed the petitions.
As a result of receiving only a single dismissive response to seven different petitions, a new petition on the We the People site has been started asking Obama to “Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you are listening.” That petition already has over 7,000 signatures.
President Obama has again demonstrated that instead of using the executive powers to greatly advance marijuana reform he has restated the decision to use his power to wage war against medical marijuana. On the issue of marijuana policy Obama is not only radically out of step with the young voters he’s depending on to win in 2012, but increasingly out of step with the mainstream of the country.