CT Politics

Connecticut Politics

White House drug czar: We’re having a “serious conversation” about pot

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We are, according to the White House drug czar as of Tuesday afternoon, “in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.”

Whoa. That’s huge coming from the White House.

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said that Tuesday in response to three online petitions asking the White House about marijuana legalization.

Using the words “serious national conversation” is major progress for the MJ legalization crowd. Yes, recreational marijuana use is now kosher in Colorado and Washington, but even users there are still in limbo until they have federal legitimacy.

As Tom Angell, an advocate with the Marijuana Majority said Tuesday:

“From ‘legalization is not in my vocabulary and it’s not in the president’s,’ as Gil Kerlikowske often used to say, to ‘it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana’ is a pretty stark shift. Of course, what really matters is to what extent the administration actually shifts enforcement priorities and budgets, but I sure do like hearing the US drug czar acknowledge the fact that marijuana legalization is a mainstream discussion that is happening whether he likes it or not.”

Here’s what Kerlikowske, whose real title is “Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy,” wrote Tuesday in the form of an auto-response to the tens of thousands of folks who signed legalization petitions:

Thank you for participating in We the People and speaking out on the legalization of marijuana. Coming out of the recent election, it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.
At President Obama’s request, the Justice Department is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington, given differences between state and federal law. In the meantime, please see a recent interview with Barbara Walters in which President Obama addressed the legalization of marijuana:

Referring to a Barbara Walters interview? Uh, really? OK…here goes:

Barbara Walters:

Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?

President Obama:

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal.

…this is a tough problem because Congress has not yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal.

When you’re talking about drug kingpins, folks involved with violence, people are who are peddling hard drugs to our kids in our neighborhoods that are devastated, there is no doubt that we need to go after those folks hard… it makes sense for us to look at how we can make sure that our kids are discouraged from using drugs and engaging in substance abuse generally. There is more work we can do on the public health side and the treatment side.

Joe Garofoli

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