Federal misstep leads to the end of failed policy

In October of last year, the Obama administration sent out a memorandum to federal prosecutors along with the FBI and DEA instructing them not to waste taxpayer funds going after medical marijuana users who are in compliance with state laws.  Although the Deputy Attorney General was careful to state that this memo is in no way intended to recognize the herb as medicine, the following opening sentence of the memo appears to contradict that very assertion:

“This memorandum provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana…”

If this is not a recognition of medical marijuana, then exactly what is it?  While there are a lot of qualifiers and disclaimers throughout the document, there is also the following passage which appears to be further recognizing the medical use of marijuana for a variety of ailments:

“As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources…”

The memo goes on to state that this recommendation in no way diminishes the ability to enforce the Controlled Substances Act against any individual in any state, regardless of state or local provisions.  However, it also makes it abundantly clear that the reason for this change of policy is due to limited resources–not compassion for the sick or the pursuit of justice.  There is simply not enough money to fight against one of the only booming industries this country has now got, yet there is somehow general consensus among both the House and Senate (not to mention the President’s administration) that ending our failed prohibition of certain drugs is strictly off the table.  Science and sanity have no sway, or so it would seem.

As more and more states follow in the footsteps of California–where the cannabis plant has now become big business, there is bound to be a cascade of legislative documents and legal quagmires which will arise as long as the federal government attempts to turn a blind eye to the appeals of groups such as the American Medical Association; the American College of Physicians; International Paper, Inc.; Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy; and a growing list of others who are demanding that our laws be reevaluated and redefined in light of extensive research which has shown the failings of our current policy.

In addition to the failings of our current system and the lack of available funding (which are deeply intertwined), there are a number of areas where a simple change in policy has the ability to create thriving new industries–some of which could be incredibly beneficial to society, for medical reasons as well as economic and environmental.

Once upon a time our government was forced to encourage the growing of hemp to help fight World War II.  We eventually won and the propaganda machines were once again used to turn this incredibly versatile plant into the “devil weed” which must be wiped off the face of the planet.  But now we have new wars and much bigger problems which can only be addressed by growing lots of hemp and re-evaluating a policy of prohibition that continues funding terrorists and other criminal organizations throughout the world.  There is only one obvious solution, yet it’s anyone’s guess as to how long our national politicians will attempt to keep their heads in the sand waiting for something to happen.

As luck would have it, that is precisely where those politicians will do the most good in the immediate future.  They have already effectively acknowledged that they no longer have an infinite amount of money to continue throwing at this unwinnable war, and have deferred their federal jurisdiction in favor of state laws.  Just like when Roosevelt repealed the prohibition of alcohol, he did so by once again allowing the control of liquor to return to the states.  Although we are dealing with a far different type of document here, the scenario and sentiment are virtually identical.  Prohibition will obviously never achieve positive results and our federal government is willing to let the states help reshape the laws from the ground up.

Whether or not the author would agree with this interpretation of the memo seems inconsequential, as the mitigating factor here is obviously financial and the only wealth being created out of this whole scenario all revolves around the growth of a pseudo-legal plant.  It seems highly unlikely that any of our national politicians would now take a public stance against the growth of industries associated with medical marijuana, but what about industrial hemp–the cousin that Popular Mechanics once claimed was a “New Billion Dollar Crop”–in 1938!!


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