Medical Marijuana Should Be No Cause for Concern


The Obama administration has declared that medical marijuana is no longer a top priority for prosecution. (Photo Illustration by Marti Eisenbrandt/The Observer)

Published: November 5, 2009

The Obama administration recently made yet another departure from its predecessors by declaring that it would no longer prioritize legal ramifications for medical marijuana users or their authorized suppliers in states that allow the use of the drug for medical purposes.  In previous years, the Bush administration had taken a strong stance on prosecuting any sale of marijuana, regardless of the states’ policies on the matter.

Obama’s critics worry that this is a step towards the complete decriminalization of the drug and that allowing state governments to permit the use of medical marijuana would have deep, negative social and financial implications.  The Los Angeles district attorney, Steve Cooley, (the same guy who’s made a name for himself by prosecuting director Roman Polanski), is against the decriminalization of medical marijuana. He said, “the time is right to deal with this problem.”

I say we have bigger fish to fry. The issue is that, out of all the problems that the United States has to deal with at this time, the prosecution of medical marijuana sellers, users and even casual pot smokers should not nearly be close to the top of the list.

In 2005, the Supreme Court, under former President Bush’s administration, ruled that the federal government’s anti-drug laws could override the state’s rulings on drug use. This means that the federal government could step in and terrorize small-time marijuana users like the dozens of Californians who were prosecuted for (legal) medical marijuana use around the same time, all while unnecessarily wasting government resources.

The Obama administration’s recent memo notes that the government has limited resources that could be allocated towards solving other problems. When it comes down to it, during the Bush administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency only seized one percent of drug-related assets of the $64 billion-a-year industry. I wouldn’t call that an epic success. All of the money spent pursuing medical and casual marijuana users is money that isn’t going to education, healthcare or national security. Is that really where our priorities should lie? Definitely not.

I’m not advocating the complete decriminalization of marijuana or rampant drug use in our country—life should not be a version of Grand Theft Auto—but let’s shift our priorities. Is someone smoking a bowl in McMahon (I know, I know, we’re not allowed to smoke anything in the building, but let’s be real) really causing that large of a problem for our national landscape? Not particularly, so let’s not treat these people as if they were.

Let’s refocus our priorities and our money toward things that have a far larger reach. And who knows?  Maybe if the money used to prosecute small-time marijuana use were reallocated for  medical research, then we might not have such a need for medical marijuana in the future.