by David Downs
The re-election of President Barack Obama Tuesday represents the least bad outcome for the medical marijuana and overall decriminalization movement, given the President's track record, and his rival's statements about the issue.
GOP candidate Mitt Romney promised to fight medical marijuana "tooth and nail" if he was elected. Barack Obama's administration has cracked down on the medical marijuana industry in the last year, while stating that it respects state medical marijuana laws.
We expect elements of the crackdown to continue in the next four years, if only because there's too much bureaucratic inertia to stop the 70 year-long federal war on the plant. But many activists hope the President will tackle drug law reform, now that he doesn't have to win another election.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi has said Congress needs to address the medical marijuana issue, and the administration has floated trial balloons about pot law reform in the election's run-up. The apparent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington will test the re-elected President, of course. Law and order types within and outside the Democratic party will demand swift retribution on the states. States rights advocates on the right, as well as progressives on the left will demand the Administration stay out.
Kris Hermes, spokesperson for medical marijuana lobby Americans for Safe Access agreed President Obama was the least bad option.
"That pretty much hits the nail on the head," he said. "At least it's a familiar face now. We don't expect necessarily a change in stance from President Obama, but we're certainly still willing to work with him to develop a sensible public heath policy with regard to medical marijuana. Failing that we have an ongoing lawsuit against his administration that we will pursue until marijuana is reclassified."
Update: 11:03 p.m.
Amendment 64 and its opponent, Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper agree: Colorado has legalized pot for adults 21 and over.
Reuters and the Associated Press is also calling Washington Initiative 502 as a win. The state of Washington becomes the second state in the same night to legalize pot, after about 75 years of national prohibition.
It's poetic pot legalization is beginning in the Western states, given that Colorado was the first state in the Union to pass anti-pot legislation in the early 20th century. Other Western states followed suit, and led a movement to urge the federal government for a national ban. The feds initially didn't want the job.
Seventy-five years later, Morgan Fox, with the Marijuana Policy Project in D.C. says "Americans have been sick of the war on marijuana for quite some time. Coloradoans and Washingtonians decided to take it into their own hands."
Polls predicted accurately I-502 as a winner, and A64 as a nail-biter. "Our opponents came out in force in the last few weeks and tried to spread a lot of misinformation," he said.
Now, Colorado and Washington have the opportunity to show the country how to regulate and control the drug, Fox said. He thinks the states will succeed and doesn't see the feds interfering.
"I think we're probably going to see some level of federal enforcement," he said, but the Administration lacks the political will to shut the state systems down if they're implemented safely.
"Personally I'm looking at this as the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition."