On the same day Barack Obama earned his second term, voters in Colorado and Washington approved the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use. Now, while this might make it a very happy Christmas for Santa and Peyton Manning, who just purchased like a zillion Papa John’s franchises in the Denver area, it’s not great news for the Federal government, which insists that prosecuting marijuana users by the thousands, issuing obscene sentences for a couple of joints, and harshing everyone’s mellow is the way to effectively prosecute a drug war they lost in the mid-1980s, when Nancy Reagan was forced to promote the program on an episode of Diff’rent Strokes.
As it turns out, the war has been as effective overall as was hiring LaToya Jackson as a spokesperson for the “Just Say No” campaign. And despite having a President who once proudly considered himself the member of a raggedy band of youths known as the “Choom Gang” who took it upon themselves to put their own dent in the domestic Hawaiian pot crop, it looks like we’re going to continue pushing forward, even where it’s clear America has spoken.
Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.
Even as marijuana legalization supporters are celebrating their victories in the two states, the Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts.
In the words of the mighty governor of Colorado, it might not be time to break open the celebratory Doritos just yet. Especially since there’s really no need for the Federal government to just swoop in and start collecting smokers without warning. Since it’s still technically illegal to light up under Federal law, they’re totally fine with enforcing their own laws whether you voted against them or not. Of course, since the Feds can’t be in all places at all times, they mostly rely on local law enforcement to do the dirty work for them, and at least that is now unlikely since cops have better things to do. Like smoke.
I think my favorite part of this story is actually how quickly Obama abandoned the youth demographic on this particular issue. Back in 2004, before he was ever charged with any responsibility in the matter, Obama voiced enthusiastic support for marijuana decriminalization during a debate in Illinois. And actually, someone even caught it on video.
And it’s not like the dear leader minced words:
“In terms of the legalization of drugs, I think the battle, the war on drugs has been an utter failure, and I think we need to re-think and decriminalize our marijuana laws,” Obama told students at Northwestern University in January 2004. “But I am not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to re-think how we are operating in the drug wars, and that currently we are not doing a good job.”
So why is it different now? Well, for starters, while polls might show the country leaning toward decriminalization – especially when you poll people under the age of 40 – Obama isn’t really in need of their vote any longer. Since he can’t run for President again, and if he chooses a third term he’ll have to do so on the Morsi Method, it’s unlikely he gives a flying f*** about anyone whose support mattered to him at any key point in the election process. Which means it’s highly likely marijuana decriminalization is off the table.
While I doubt the GOP is looking at pot smoking as a wedge to earn the support of younger voters, it might be worth a shot. And if it fails, at least we’ll have weed to turn to.