New federal marijuana policy a welcome change

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court struck a blow against the medicinal use of marijuana and against the notion that states can enact and enforce their own laws without being trumped by the federal government.  In the Gonzalez v. Raich decision, the High Court used the Constitution’s much-abused “interstate commerce” clause as a basis on which to uphold a federal prosecution of two women who grew and used small amounts of marijuana under a doctor’s care, in compliance with California’s law permitting medicinal use of marijuana.

The Raich opinion personified the perspective of the administration of George W. Bush toward medicinal marijuana useage as well as state’s powers.  On October 19th, in a partial but welcome reversal of that Bush-era policy, the Department of Justice issued new guidelines for United States Attorneys in those states (California and 14 others) that have medicinal marijuana laws on the books.  Henceforth, so long as individuals in those states are using marijuana for medical purposes and are in full compliance with the laws of their state, federal prosecutors are not to pursue prosecution of those people.  The Justice Department memo did provide that if any number of other factors were present (such as violence, sales to minors, ties to other criminal actions, and so forth), prosecution by the feds might be warranted. 

The October 19th memo does not signal a wholesale reversal of the federal anti-controlled substances effort; but it does illustrate that the Obama Administration, and Attorney General Eric Holder, are bringing a fresh and more common sense-based approach to at least this aspect of federal drug policy.

46 comments Add your comment

jt

October 23rd, 2009
6:45 am

It is just a pathetic attempt to get the stoner vote.

deathportal

October 23rd, 2009
7:18 am

I too think this is a step in the right direction, and hopefully one towards the eventual abolition of federal marijuana prohibition. I believe that this is a states rights issue.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the haters point out that Bob used to be a big-time drug warrior. But the operative words are “USED to be.” Kudos to Bob for changing his tune and admitting that he was wrong in the past. Not a lot of politicians would do that.

William

October 23rd, 2009
8:45 am

It does not matter that much really! I will increase the number of people who will depend on the federal & state agencies to provide for them the rest of their live. A dependant society who can bel controlled at will. Sounds so marxist to me.

Tripster

October 23rd, 2009
8:45 am

I think that people really need to look beyond the typical “Stoner” and see that there are many applications that “pot” can be used for. I don’t see it being legalized anytime in the near future.

TechLover

October 23rd, 2009
8:49 am

Bobbbbb, I, uh, umm, you know, HEY WHO ATE ALL THE CHEETOS?, uhhh, agree.

KC in Athens

October 23rd, 2009
8:50 am

With all the burlaries and violent crime out there, you’d have to be a complete idiot to think pot use is a crime worthy of prosecution. Illegalization contributes to thousands of deaths in Mexico every month, not to mention plenty more here. Legalization will help stop the murders folks.
Plus lets just quit stuffing the jail with potheads and reserve spots for burglars and violent criminals.

Knuckle Sandwich

October 23rd, 2009
8:53 am

Way to toe the Libertarian line, Bob. Keep it that way.

You're kidding, Bob

October 23rd, 2009
9:00 am

I am one of the haters deathportal speaks of. To hear this from Bob Barr is the pinnacle of hypocrisy!!!! I don’t care if he has changed his ways or not!!!

Please Mr Barr, spare me your supposed change of views. In your heart of hearts, you haven’t changed — it wasn’t politically convenient for you before but now it is. Pathetic!!!!!

Chris Broe

October 23rd, 2009
9:02 am

If you trolls dont stop getting stoned and commenting on this blog with your “far-outs”, and your “cool”, and your “don’t bogart that joint”, and your munchies and bong-hats and your black lights and crash-pads (with incense), and your bra-and-draftcard burnings and your sit-ins and your love-ins and your happenings and your groovies and your “how much is this stuff a pound, man……. ”

peace love dove!

WERKIN FOR A LIVIN

October 23rd, 2009
9:11 am

GOTTA LOVE THAT CHRIS BROE

TRUTH

October 23rd, 2009
9:12 am

As a card toting member, charter member at that, of NORML, I commend the Bobster for the complete turn around. Pot has never been addictive. Pot does not invite the user to try more mind altering drugs. Pot has been proven to have medicinal qualities. Alcohol does not. Heads smoke and pretty much stay still, get the munchies, and pretty much stay still. LOL!! Did I say stay still?? LOL… I said stay still…puff, puff, pass…..

Legalize IT!!!

Davo

October 23rd, 2009
9:18 am

Hopefully this business in California will be a tipping point event that will lead to legalization. I would like it to go one step further; don’t tax dope either. That way the fed is completlely out of the picture, unlike what you see now with cigs and alcohol.

You're kidding, Bob

October 23rd, 2009
9:19 am

Fine, fine. He’s changed. Great. Bob, put your money where your mouth is. C’mon over this weekend and we’ll roll up a few spliffs and I’ll get out my camera. What harm could it do? It’s only pot, right?

Until that day comes, please keep your trap shut about the legalization of marijuana. No one who supports the cause needs your help.

Chris Broe

October 23rd, 2009
9:24 am

What is the libertarian line? Any line that plays third baseman with the right/left dialogue? With all this talk about pot today, shouldn’t the Libertarian Party’s name be changed to the Toga Party?

Dont fall for it people. There are only two sides to any issue: Bookman’s and Wooten’s.

Left and Right. It’s called polarizing the polls (socio-political engineering) and the AJC conspired with Wooten and Bookman to present only two sides. And we fell for it, until it became so painfully obvious that those two uber-pundits were playing us against each other that the spell finally broke.

How many sides to an issue are there? Descartes said that every issue has four sides. God’s. The devil’s. Woman’s. and Man’s.

W said every side has an issue, (but I take issue with his aside).

So how many sides to an issue? Lets count them. Right, Left, Middle, Far Right, Far Left, 2 Lunatic Fringes, Right Center, Left Center, Anarchy, Monarchy, Martial Law and the designated hitter rule.

jconservative

October 23rd, 2009
9:27 am

Some things are best left to the States. If you are opposed to legal use of marijuana just make sure your state does not legalize it.

Lawman

October 23rd, 2009
9:40 am

I have been a federal lawman for 31 years and have fought this war on drugs my entire career. I was also in the Viet Nam war. I have come to the conclusion that both wars were and are unwinnable. I have seen the effects of gang drug wars and the innocent people killed by stray bullets over turf battles over pot, it is futile to keep up with this policy of defeating something that can not be defeated. We need to focus our resources on the harder drugs, heroin, meth, crack, coke oxy and hydrocodones to name a few. I have never been assulted by a pot head, but have been hospitalized by meth heads. The pot policy should be regulated and taxed as is liquor. If we did this we could eliminate the national debt in three years. Let’s be smart and utilize our limited resouces in a war that might be won, not one that will not be.

neo-Carlinist

October 23rd, 2009
9:40 am

Davo, unfortunately, the “tipping point” will come when the Fed realizes the “value” of legal marijuana (as with cigs and booze). then again, while this move seems reasonable and prudent, the cynic in me feels the impretus for this move has more to do with appeasing the liberal base in order to sidestep lack of results in the healthcare reform and Wall Street regulation battles. I guess it is a step in the right direction, and we (libertarians) should take what comes; regarless of the motives behind the step. I “don’t inhale” but I gotta tell you, seeing 40% of my home value and 65% of my IRA evaporate over the past 12 months, I might just move to California and get a script to relieve my stress…

LD

October 23rd, 2009
9:43 am

Can’t we all just get abong?

EW

October 23rd, 2009
9:50 am

Decriminalize, Regulate, and tax it. I’d rather pot pay for future bailouts than my tax dollars.

EW

October 23rd, 2009
9:54 am

For those who like to read, there is a great article about this is a recent Fortune magazine. http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/11/magazines/fortune/medical_marijuana_legalizing.fortune/index.htm

German Shepherd Dawg

October 23rd, 2009
10:02 am

Lawman,

Thank you for your service. I do admit I sometimes break a few of our more silly laws, but if you catch me doing it I always believe in surrendering peacefully. You’re just doing your job, and I’m just enjoying my own little world,

It would be a tax boon if marijuana were taxed – it’s a multi billion dollar industry just in GA I do believe based on the number of growers I know, and the war is a hypocrisy. I have said many times if we really want to “win” the war on drugs, we’d follow Singapore’s example. It’s pretty simple – if they catch you smuggling drugs, they put you to death. That little red box informing me of that policy on the immigration visa captured my undivided attention. I was ready to search my own luggage in fear a seed or even an aspirin was there that would cause me to be caned or hung. The government hung two Australians for smuggling heroin and a Singapore man from bringing in a pound of pot. Tough laws – they put you in jail for three days if you spit on the sidewalk.

But you can walk through the worst sections of the city at 3 am and feel absolutely safe. There are tradeoffs – but I like freedom, so I moved back here.

German Shepherd Dawg

October 23rd, 2009
10:03 am

LD – we could if more people smoked a little once in a while and lightened up…

LOL

October 23rd, 2009
10:09 am

Interesting how the civil war started over the states rights to govern themselves and after everything that went right and changed (slaves were freed and the country went on the long road of mending) we are STILL fighting about states rights now. It amazes me that there are people who whole heatedly believe that pot is a problem but will defend their right to drink as much liquor as possible. Have you ever seen the headline “Violent Stoner Shoots Six in pot fueled rage” or “Woman raped, GHB was in her bong”?
You conservatives crack me up with the fact that you don’t want big government to do anything helpful for American citizens, you just want big government to mandate who someone can marry, how much control a woman has over her own body (if men had babies wars would have already been fought starting with these words “You’re kidding? I can’t do what I see fit with my own body?”) and would love to see those “super violent potheads” serve mandatory minimums of ten years or more when rapists, child molesters and murderers qualify for parole in 7 years.
I was not a fan of Mr Barr when he was with the GOP but commend him for growing a pair and seeing where his former party was full of hypocrisy and switching to a party of true personal freedoms. Most of you trying to call him out are probably doing it because he agrees with a Democratic Presidents decision on a hop button topic.

Tyree

October 23rd, 2009
10:15 am

Shaking head in disbelief. Bob Barr making sense today. Refreshing change.

Jillian Galloway

October 23rd, 2009
10:23 am

We’d all have to agree that the prohibition is useless at preventing people from smoking marijuana. Because millions of people are still smoking the lack of legal supply diverts BILLIONS every year into the hands of the cartels. Fully two-thirds of the cartel’s incomes come from selling marijuana in the U.S.

These murdering butchers slaughtered more than 6,000 people last year to protect this income. Many of their victims were children, police officers, reporters and politicians.

We’ve got to END these murders! And if treating marijuana like alcohol is what’s required to achieve this then that’s what we have to do!

Don’t assist the cartels with your silence – demand legalization now!

Lifer

October 23rd, 2009
10:27 am

As a Londoner stated when they legalized homosexually, “Not only should
it be legal, I won’t be happy til’ it’s mandatory !!

Kirk Muse

October 23rd, 2009
10:57 am

Marijuana is the foundation of our so-called war on drugs. Remove
marijuana from the equation and the whole drug war will collapse.

The so-called war on drugs is a huge industry and huge bureaucracy.
Victory in the drug war is not possible, nor is it the goal. Victory
in the drug war would mean that the drug war industry and bureaucracy
are out of business.

There are basically two kinds of people who support the so-called war on
drugs:

Those who make their livelihood from it. This includes politicians and
bureaucrats who are probably on the payroll of the drug cartels. Al
Capone had hundreds of politicians and prohibition officials on his
payroll.

Suckers – taxpayers who have bought into the lies and propaganda of the
drug-war industry and bureaucracy.

Suckers – who are willing to deny liberty and freedom to others but
think that their own liberty and freedom will never be in jeopardy.

Suckers – who believe that criminalizing a substance will make it go
away. Suckers – who think that drug prohibition somehow protects children.

Suckers – who think that giving criminals control of dangerous drugs
somehow protects children and our society.

Suckers – who think that they live in a free country even thought the
United States is the most incarcerated nation in the history of human
civilization.

EW

October 23rd, 2009
11:21 am

Kirk, if you are stuck here and hate it so much..maybe you are the sucker, sucker.

RFWoodstock

October 23rd, 2009
11:55 am

Valid medicinal value, it’s a victimless crime, the War on Drugs WAY too costly, too many arrests for simple possession, tax it and use the money to pay for health insurance and to reduce the deficit. Need I say more?

Woodstock Universe supports legalization for a variety of reasons. Check them out and vote in our poll “Should marijuana be legalized?” at http://woodstockuniverse.com

Current poll results: 96% for legalization and 4% opposed. Add your vote. Poll runs through October.

Peace, love, music, one world,
RFWoodstock

Lawman

October 23rd, 2009
12:02 pm

German Shepard Dawg

You are very welcome but I am tired dawg, I can’t continue to fight a losing battle anymore. I am retiring in 45 days, when I became a lawman back 31 years ago, I sincerely wanted to do it because I wanted to help people. I was young and an idealist. I am older now and have changed my outlook considerably. I always thought it was a waste of your hard earned tax dollars to arrest someone for smoking pot, never really made too much sense too me, but then again I voluntered to fight in Viet Nam because I believed my government. I saw a lot of my friends die in the patty fields of southeast Asia for a cause we were “brainwashed” into believing, similar to the policy on marijuana. History will judge us as we judged those during the alcohol proibition. Stay cool my friend.

pat

October 23rd, 2009
1:53 pm

So far, the only thing obama did that I actually agree with.

Sam Houston

October 23rd, 2009
1:59 pm

Your dead wrong Mr Barr

Prohibition Fan

October 23rd, 2009
3:03 pm

I don’t see why people have to smoke pot. I drink 3 fifths of vodka every day, and if that’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for everybody. If you don’t want to live like I live, you should be in prison.

Pot heads are so hypocritical.

Shananeeee Fananeeeeeee

October 23rd, 2009
3:28 pm

Obama is as corrupt as they come. Change in 2010 and 2012, Change we are looking forward to.

Rational Reader

October 23rd, 2009
5:24 pm

Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, and the rest are as corrupt as they come.

They are all part of the Dem-Rep cartel which has seized all political power in the United States and butchered the electoral process so badly that only Dems and Reps can be elected.

ray

October 23rd, 2009
8:37 pm

Thank you Mr Barr…you seem to have a much needed common sense thinking…and i agree with Kirk Muse…take marijuana out of the equation and the drug war will crumble.

Just Say Know

October 23rd, 2009
10:39 pm

My argument is against the way we are handling drug policy. If you want to stop seeing drug related crimes then you need to take action and demand drug policy changes.

Any time you have laws on the books that are causing a nonviolent US citizen to be arrested every 17 seconds for drug charges and those laws have been in effect for almost 100 years and the goals of those laws are not being accomplished AT ALL. Then it’s time for the citizens to say enough is enough and look for better ways of dealing with that particular problem.

Americans are winners, we hate to lose but we keep letting our political representatives get us involved in wars that they have no intention of letting us win. The drug war is a real war and it is an unnecessarily harmful, completely unwinnable, and wasteful war. It is in fact a war against a certain large percentage of our own population that chooses to different degrees and with a wide range or results, to put a wide variety of different substances in their body and for a wide variety of reasons. It’s being fought in our communities with real guns, teargas, dogs and virtually every other tool of war available.

The goals of the drug war are to “reduce drug related death, disease, crime and drug use”. It has accomplished NONE of those goals after almost 100 years of prohibition policy, over 1 trillion tax dollars wasted, ever tougher criminal penalties, arresting millions of Americans and all the other effort and resources that have been put into it.

On top of that in the case of marijuana which accounts for roughly half of all drug arrests, that drug never was a serious threat to society, families, or individuals and it never will be. Because of that bad law being implemented based on lies by a few people that stood to gain financially from marijuana’s prohibition and them intentionally deceiving lawmakers, literally millions of Americans that choose to use that plant for ANY purpose are criminalized needlessly. In the US we arrest someone on a marijuana charge every 38 seconds.

Because of our prohibition policy bad laws have been put on the books that make it illegal for IV drug users to obtain clean needles. This results in AIDS and hepatitis being spread unnecessarily into our non drug using society on a huge scale.

Now take a look at the way the Swiss have dealt with their heroin problem. You can watch a lot about this in the video titled “Jack Cole Interview” on the JSK site. In Switzerland they set up government run clinics where heroin addicts can go and get pharmaceutical grade heroin. If you don’t have the money to pay for the drug it’s free. That instantly put every illegal heroin dealer in that country out of business… they can’t compete with free. Anyone that wants heroin can go into a government run clinic up to 3 times a day and inject it. There are medical personnel on hand and anyone that wants to kick their habit is given counseling and help toward that goal. The results are that there has not been a single heroin overdose there in more than 13 years. Switzerland has the lowest AIDS and Hepatitis infection in all of Europe. Crime fell by 60% because no one is stealing or prostituting their self to pay for their heroin and after a 10 year study, they documented that there has been an 82% decline in new heroin users. Now please tell me why our drug war seems like a better policy than that. No one went to jail and no one got killed. This program is also far less expensive than what we are doing and far less harmful.

Drug addiction of all types should be handled as a medical problem not a criminal problem. If a person kills or drives when they are too intoxicated to do so or breaks any legitimate law, we already have laws on the books to deal with those problems and if a real danger to society is recognized like it was with drunk driving, then those laws certainly should be adjusted accordingly. Trying to lock up every drug user or eradicate every plant that produces illegal drugs from planet earth are completely unattainable goals. We simply cannot afford to lock up every drug user and even if we could the vast majority go back to using drugs when they are released. Some countries even went so far as to execute drug users and even that has not succeeded. At some point we have to realize that a certain percentage of people are always going to use drugs and implement policy that minimizes the harms without devastating society.

Most drugs are made from weeds that without prohibition would be of far less financial value. According to a fairly recent documentary by Walter Cronkite, all the plants needed to supply an entire year’s worth of the heroin consumed in the US could be grown on about 50 square miles almost anywhere on earth and the entire years worth of heroin could be transported in a single cargo plane. Doesn’t it make more sense to have doctors treat the addicts than to try and stop the heroin production? It has to because law enforcement has only been able to prevent the production or transportation of about 10% of the heroin according to their own statistics.

Despite the drug war and all the money and efforts that have been put into it, drugs today are more potent, more readily available and often less expensive than they were when Richard Nixon started the modern war on drugs.

If you can show me ANYTHING that the drug war has accomplished when it comes to reducing drug related death, disease, crime or addiction that has significantly improved any drug related area over a long period of time I’d appreciate you telling me what it is.

Let’s compare the results of two roughly comparable major cities which both have a drug problem. The cities are New York, and Liverpool, England.

In New York, heroin and cocaine addicts suffer from tremendous medical problems. In Liverpool, England, most heroin and cocaine addicts suffer few medical problems. In New York, most drug addicts are unemployed criminals. In Liverpool, most drug addicts are gainfully employed taxpayers. In New York, crime committed by drug addicts is a major problem. In Liverpool, it is a very minor problem. In New York, drug addicts often have their children taken away and live under miserable conditions. In Liverpool, most addicts live with their families in stable homes and manage to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. In New York, thousands of babies are permanently damaged every year by their mother’s drug use. In Liverpool, health authorities report no cases of harm to infants as a result of their mother’s drug use. In New York, sixty percent of all intravenous drug users are infected with AIDS, and they are a major cause of the spread of AIDS. In Liverpool, only one percent of the intravenous drug users are infected with AIDS and they are a very minor source of infection for the rest of the population. In the United States, drug use is illegal and the police hunt down drug users to throw them in prison. Four thousand people died from illegal drugs in the US last year and we now have more than 600,000 people in prison on drug charges. In Liverpool, England, the police do not arrest drug users any more. Instead, health care workers seek them out and encourage them to come in for counseling and medical treatment. Both counseling and medical treatment are provided on demand. The medical treatment often includes maintenance doses of narcotics under the management of a physician. Liverpool, England, has adopted the same approach as the Netherlands and has had substantially the same results. They both chose decriminalization.
Sources for this article date back to December 27, 1992. Although the information is somewhat behind the times, the message remains the same.

The Constitutional right to freedom of religion, free speech, a free press, to keep and bear arms, to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure, to life, liberty and property, to be protected from having your property taken by the government without due process of law and without just compensation, to confront the witnesses against you, to be protected from excessive bail, excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment, to vote and others have been denied to millions of Americans in the name of the drug war.

More information about drug laws from Just Say Know:
Using Internet Explorer web browser: http://jsknow.angelfire.com/home
With All Other Browsers: http://jsknow.angelfire.com/index.html

MrLiberty

October 23rd, 2009
11:29 pm

This from the same man that voted for the Patriot Act without reading it. This from the same man that once told the Regular Guys that marijuana could never be legalized or used for medicinal purposes because it alters one’s perception of reality – as if Prozac doesn’t.

Too little too late Bob. The Libertarian Party (with a bit of my money I am proud to say), targeted your race with wonderful ads showing a dying old woman who was denied her medical marijuana because of laws that you supported and voted for. You were generally considered one of the biggest anti drug nuts – yes, I certainly mean nuts – in the Congress.

Easy to support freedom when you can’t vote for it anymore isn’t it Mr. Barr. While real patriots like Ron Paul keep getting elected and have never once waivered from his pro-freedom stance in any vote he has ever taken.

Of course freedom is the right answer. It always has been. Some people just seem to take a really long time to get that.

jconservative

October 24th, 2009
9:38 am

From Friday night to Saturday AM.

Nice piece of writing Lawman.

Is the consensus among the commenters that marijuana be legalized & taxed just as alcohol? Both Federal & State regulations & taxes?

I could support that. Bob Barr will this go into the next Libertarian Platform? How many votes would this gather for you?

freebird wilson

October 24th, 2009
1:30 pm

weed and prostitiution should be encouraged, lighten up, toke up, and make love…

David

October 24th, 2009
7:37 pm

Thank you Mr. Barr for the breath of fresh, sensible air. Too bad Georgia will be 30 years behind on this debate like we are on all other issues.

John

October 24th, 2009
11:33 pm

This country imprisons more people per capita than any other country on earth and a lot of them are drug charges. It is insane that we continue to destroy the lives of our citizens for something that is basically harmless.

Mrs. Norris

October 25th, 2009
11:03 am

I’m still waiting for Mexico to legalize marijuana so I can start my plantation. I also hope the U.S. legalizes it and then they can tax the h*11 out of that and lay off of tabacco for a while. Tobacco smokers are tired of paying off the national debt.

John

October 29th, 2009
9:18 pm

So, Mrliberty, you think Bob Barr should still be against legalization, because that’s what I’m getting from that, you’re saying that instead of wising up, he should have just stayed the way he was, he admitted he was wrong, that’s good enough for me.
I once believed all the BS they fed us in school but I don’t anymore, does that make me a hypocrite?

lenroc

November 2nd, 2009
9:15 pm

I am a hard working,self-employed craftsman,and a pothead. I challenge anyone to keep up with me on the job or with a bong. I work with a number of other skilled craftsman of various trades,also potheads,that do high-end,high quality work,and even in this economy, we are thriving. So much for being unproductive members of society!!!

lou

November 11th, 2009
8:30 am

I just want to agree with David,John,lenroc you guys are straight up.