Entries in Marijuana (8)


Marijuana Users Not High Priority for President Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama says recreational users of marijuana in states that have legalized the substance should not be a "top priority" of federal law enforcement officials prosecuting the war on drugs.

"We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama said of pot users in Colorado and Washington state during an exclusive interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters.

"It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal," he said, invoking the same approach taken toward users of medicinal marijuana in 18 states where it's legal.

Obama's comments on marijuana are his first following Colorado and Washington voters' approval of Nov. 7 ballot measures that legalize the recreational use and sale of pot in defiance of federal law.

Marijuana, or cannabis, remains classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I narcotic whose cultivation, distribution, possession and use are criminal acts.  It's in the same category as heroin, LSD and "Ecstasy," all deemed to have high potential for abuse.

Obama told Walters he does not -- "at this point" -- support widespread legalization of marijuana.  But he cited shifting public opinion and limited government resources as reasons to find a middle ground on punishing use of the drug.

"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama said. "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?"

The president said he has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to examine the legal questions surrounding conflicting state and federal laws on drugs.

"There are a number of issues that have to be considered, among them, the impact that drug usage has on young people, [and] we have treaty obligations with nations outside the United States," Holder said Wednesday of the review underway.

As a politician, Obama has always opposed legalizing marijuana and downplayed his personal history with the substance.

Obama wrote in his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, that he would smoke pot regularly with his high school buddies who formed a "club of disaffection."  The group was known as the "Choom Gang," says Obama biographer David Maraniss.

"There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid," Obama told Walters.  "My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society.

"I want to discourage drug use," he added.

While the administration has not prioritized prosecutions of marijuana users and small-scale distributors in states where it's legal, it has not ceased prosecutions altogether.  The Justice Department has continued raids on pot providers -- including in states where they are legal -- in an approach that experts say is more aggressive than Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush.

"I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana -- and the reason is, because it's against federal law," Obama told Rolling Stone in an interview earlier this year.

It "is a murky area," Obama told the magazine, "where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users.  In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we're telling them, 'This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.'  That's not something we're going to do."

Obama and the Office of National Drug Control Policy say the negative impacts of widespread marijuana legalization loom large.

Legalization would lower the price of "weed," thereby fueling its use and triggering more widespread negative health effects and subsequent costs of care, the administration says in its official policy position.  Officials also say legalization would do little to curb drug violence or eliminate cartels.

"When you're talking about drug kingpins, folks involved in violence, people who are peddling hard drugs to our kids and our neighborhoods that are devastated, there is no doubt we need to go after those folks hard," said Obama.

"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," he said.  "There's more work we can do on the public health side and the treatment side."

More of Walters' exclusive first joint, post-election interview with President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama airs Friday on 20/20 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC stations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poll: Majority Supports Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Most Americans support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, an issue that may be high on the agenda of newly re-elected President Obama and the 113th Congress, given the increased importance of nonwhites -- including Hispanic voters -- in the nation’s political equation.

On two other prominent social issues in last week’s voting, a bare majority continues to support legalizing gay marriage, and this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds a new high -- 48 percent -- in support for legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use.


A PATH: Fifty-seven percent of Americans in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 39 percent opposed.  That’s virtually identical to results of a similar question last asked in mid-2010, with support up from its earlier levels, as low as 49 percent in late 2007.

Debate on the issue was heightened by restrictive immigration policies enacted in Arizona in 2010 and Alabama in 2011, and in June, when Obama moved in another direction, granting immunity from deportation to many undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.

Hispanics accounted for 10 percent of voters in last Tuesday’s presidential election, reaching double-digits for the first time, and Obama won them by 71-27 percent, improving on his 2008 margin in this group.  In the exit poll, voters overall -- by more than 2-1 -- said illegal immigrants working here should be offered a chance to apply for legal status rather than being deported.

In this survey, support for a path to citizenship peaks at 82 percent among Hispanics, 71 percent among Democrats and liberals alike, and 69 percent among young adults -- all key Obama groups.  Support’s at 68 percent among nonwhites overall, compared with 51 percent among non-Hispanic whites. 

Obama lost white voters by 20 points last week, but won nonwhites -- who accounted for a record 28 percent of the electorate -- by 61 points.  It was a record racial gap.

GAY MARRIAGE: Fifty-one percent of Americans support gay marriage, slightly more than half for the fifth time straight in ABC/Post polls since March 2011, and up sharply from its levels in similar questions earlier this decade, as low as 32 percent (of registered voters) in mid-2004.

More in this survey are “opposed” to gay marriage -- 47 percent -- than said in recent polls that it should be “illegal” (39 percent last May), likely because making something illegal is more punitive than opposing it personally.

While 30 states have constitutionally banned gay marriage, voters approved pro-gay marriage ballot initiatives in Maryland, Maine and Washington last week, and those in Minnesota rejected a constitutional ban on it.  Obama announced his personal support for gay marriage in May, saying individual states should decide on its legality.

Last week’s exit poll found voters similarly divided -- 49-46 percent -- on gay marriage.  Supporters favored Obama over Mitt Romney by 73-25 percent.  And Obama won gay and lesbian voters -- 5 percent of the electorate -- by 76-22 percent, vs. 70-27 percent in 2008.

Support for gay marriage in this poll tops out at more than three in four liberals and more than six in 10 young adults and Democrats.  It’s opposed by a broad 81 percent of those who describe themselves as “very conservative,” and by two-thirds of senior citizens.

Relaxing restrictions on marijuana met with mixed results on Election Day.  It was approved by voters in Colorado, Washington and Massachusetts, but rejected in Arkansas and Oregon.

Americans split by 48-50 percent in this survey on “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”  Nonetheless, that marks a new high in support in polls back to 1985, and the first time opposition has slipped to less than a majority.  Support for legalizing marijuana has grown sharply from just 22 percent in 1997.

Despite increased acceptance of the idea, intensity of sentiment is tilted against relaxing marijuana restrictions: Thirty-seven percent are strongly opposed to legalization, vs. 26 percent who strongly support it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Wacky Pot Law That Failed in Oregon

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize pot -- but why not Oregon?

All three voted on marijuana-legalization ballot initiatives, and Washington and Colorado passed them by 10-percentage-point margins. But Oregon, which is bluer than Colorado, was the only state to vote against legalized pot on Tuesday, turning down Measure 80 54 percent to 46 percent. Some Election-Night observers are scratching their heads.

Part of the difference was that Oregon’s initiative failed to gather support from big-time donors. Or perhaps it’s also that Oregon’s law was kind of wacky: It would have turned the state, effectively, into a pot dealer.

The new laws in Washington and Colorado direct state boards to license and regulate commercial pot growers, processors, and sellers, with the states reaping tax revenues from the new commerce. (If those laws are implemented, that is; there are still doubts over whether the federal government will seek to block them). The laws loosely followed models suggested elsewhere, and both were supported financially by the Drug Policy Alliance, a national drug-policy-reform group.

In Oregon, had Measure 80 passed, the state would have licensed sellers and processors — but instead of regulating its sale, the state would have bought the weed, packaged it, stamped it with a state seal and a potency grade, and sold it to customers at a profit.

This all would have been done by something like ABC stores in liquor-controlled states: An Oregon Cannabis Commission (OCC) would have run all ends of the process, finally selling it at OCC stores. Profits would have gone to purchases, testing, grading, shipping, promotion of Oregon hemp and hemp-made biodiesel, and back to the state’s general fund. Like an actual drug dealer, the state could have stopped selling it to any legal, 21-and-over buyers who became pot-addled derelicts (failing to live up to “statutory or common-law dut[ies]“).

But the oddest thing about Oregon’s failed law was its preamble, which jumped quickly to a history lesson about George Washington’s cannabis growth and the preference of “Governeur Morris of Pennsylvania, who spoke at the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 more than any other delegate” for marijuana over tobacco. It also called marijuana’s legal ban “liberticidal.”

Paul Stanford, the initiative's main backer, for his part, has vowed to push the law again in 2014, unless the state legislature passes it first.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama and His Pot-Smoking ‘Choom Gang’

Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Unlike Bill Clinton, Barack Obama never tried to say he didn’t inhale.

In his 1995 memoir “Dreams of My Father,” Obama writes about smoking pot almost like Dr. Seuss wrote about eating green eggs and ham. As a high school kid, Obama wrote, he would smoke “in a white classmate’s sparkling new van,” he would smoke “in the dorm room of some brother” and he would smoke “on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids.”

He would smoke it here and there. He would smoke it anywhere.

Now a soon-to-be published biography by David Maraniss entitled “Barack Obama: The Story” gives more detail on Obama’s pot-smoking days, complete with testimonials from young Barry Obama’s high school buddies, a group that went by the name “the Choom Gang.” Choom was slang for smoking marijuana.

Maraniss portrays the teenage Obama as not just a pot smoker, but a pot-smoking innovator.

“As a member of the Choom Gang,” Maraniss writes, “Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends.”

The first Obama-inspired trend: “Total Absorption” or “TA”.

“TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” explains Maraniss. Here’s how it worked: If you exhaled prematurely when you were with the Choom Gang, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.”

As one of Obama’s old high school buddies tells Maraniss: “Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated.”

Another Obama innovation: “Roof Hits.”

“When they were chooming in a car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.”

Maraniss also says Obama was known for his “Interceptions”: “When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.”

Although Obama himself wrote that he and his pot smoking buddies were a “club of disaffection,” Maraniss says that’s not really true.

“In fact, most members of the Choom Gang were decent students and athletes who went on to successful and productive lawyers, writers and businessmen,” Maraniss writes. One notable exception was Ray, the group’s pot dealer who, known for his ability “to score quality bud,” would years later be killed by a scorned gay lover armed with a ball-peen hammer.

Obama himself managed to be a pretty good student despite all the pot smoking and unconventional study habits.

“He told his Choom Gang mates that the trick was if you put the textbook under your pillow the night before you would perform better on an exam,” Maraniss writes. No way, dude!

Back to the pot smoking.

Hawaii of the early 1970s was something of a pot-smoking Mecca.

“It was sold and smoked right there in front of your nose; Maui Wowie, Kauai Electric, Puna Bud, Kona Gold, and other local variations of pakalolo were readily available,” writes Maraniss.

Obama’s pal Mark Bendix had a Volkswagen microbus known as “the Choomwagon.” They would often drive up Honolulu’s Mount Tantalus where they parked “turned up their stereos playing Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and Stevie Wonder, lit up some ‘sweet-sticky Hawaiian buds’ and washed it down with ‘green bottled beer’ (the Choom Gang preferred Heineken, Becks, and St. Pauli Girl). No shouting, no violence, no fights; they even cleaned up their beer bottles.”

Of course, smoking, drinking and driving on mountain roads could also be a little dangerous. Especially the night they tried drag racing.

The race to the top of Mount Tantalus pitted the “Choomwagon” against another friend’s Toyota. Obama was in the Toyota. The Choomwagon made it to the top first. When the other car didn’t show up, those in the Choomwagon drove back down to find them. Here’s how Maraniss describes what happened next:

“On the way down, they saw a figure who appeared to be staggering up the road. It was Barry Obama. What was going on? As they drew closer, they noticed that he was laughing so hard he could barely stand up.”

His friend had rolled the car. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. And, amazingly, they avoided trouble by leaving the driver alone to deal with the police by claiming it was just an unfortunate “mishap.”

Maraniss concludes his chapter on Obama’s high school years by looking at a note Obama had written in his high school yearbook in a section reserved for students to give a line or two giving thanks to those who helped along the way.

Obama had written this: “Thanks Tut [his grandmother], Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray for all the good times.”

Maraniss notes: “Ray was the older guy who hung around the Choom Gang, selling them pot. A hippie drug dealer made his acknowledgements; his mother did not.”

The White House told ABC News that it has no comment.

See more photos of Barack Obama as a child and teen HERE.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Struggling Presidential Candidate Switches Parties

Matthew Simmons/WireImage(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson made little headway as a Republican candidate for president, so now he'll run as a Libertarian.

The two-party system, he says, is rigged for the wealthiest and best-known candidates in a handful of states.

If elected, Johnson vows to cut spending, support abortion rights, and legalize marijuana.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Invites Petitions with New Website

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The right to petition the government is as old as the republic itself, but the White House has decided to use the concept as a 21st century way to get Washington’s attention.

The new official White House website, which is not live yet, will allow citizens to post petitions on any issue.  If they get enough online signatures, the petitions will be reviewed by White House policy staffers, and President Obama might even report back on what his administration is doing about the public concerns.

The site was announced in an email Thursday morning from senior adviser David Plouffe, who offers a video tutorial on the new endeavor.

It's worth noting that over the past two years, when the president has solicited issues over the Internet for townhall meetings, the biggest number of responses has always been in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pot Politics on Capitol Hill: Proponents Aim to Shift Industry's Image

David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Supporters of decriminalizing marijuana are hoping to build momentum on Capitol Hill after a historic election that saw the politics of pot take center stage in four states.

The marijuana industry's public relations campaign has so far been limited to states, especially California, where a ballot initiative to legalize weed failed in November.

But on Wednesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association, launched in December to represent the interests of legal marijuana growers and distributors, will hold the first congressional lobbying day in the nation's capital, hoping to shore up support for an industry they say could bring billions of dollars in revenue to the government.

The industry already has some notable lawmakers on its side.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has in the past introduced legislation to remove federal penalties for personal use of marijuana.  Libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is also an outspoken advocate of full marijuana legalization.

Last summer, Frank and 15 other lawmakers sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner asking his agency to set rules that provide financial services to medical marijuana dispensaries and to assure banks they won't be penalized for conducting such business.

Wednesday's lobbying efforts will focus on eliminating such restrictions and on easing the tax burden on medical marijuana clinics.

Supporters of decriminalizing marijuana say it will help the United States in the long term by boosting profits for the government.  Socially, they say it will boost resources to crack down on hard drugs and will curb teen marijuana use, which is on the rise.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


ABC News: Prop 19 Defeated, Boxer Projected to Hold California Senate Seat

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use, is projected to be defeated in California, where Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is projected to win a fourth term. The country still awaits the results from the hotly-contested race for California governor.

Boxer won decisively among women, pulling an estimated 56 percent compared to 39 percent for her opponent, Carly Fiorina, according to exit poll data. The senator also was helped by voters who had a favorable view of the Democratic Party. Only 39 percent viewed the Republicans favorably.

Fiorina was endorsed by a number of prominent Republican politicians, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also endorsed Fiorina.

President Barack Obama and the first lady both made a last-minute push in support of Boxer, traveling to several campaign events in California.

The economy has been a key issue in the California races, with the state suffering enormously from the economic downtown.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use, is projected to be defeated in California, where Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is projected to win a fourth term. The country still awaits the results from the hotly contested race for California governor.

Boxer won decisively among women, pulling an estimated 56 percent compared to 39 percent for her opponent, Carly Fiorina, according to exit poll data. The senator also was helped by voters who had a favorable view of the Democratic Party. Only 39 percent viewed the Republicans favorably.

Fiorina was endorsed by a number of prominent Republican politicians, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also endorsed Fiorina.

President Barack Obama and the first lady both made a last-minute push in support of Boxer, traveling to several campaign events in California.

The economy has been a key issue in the California races, with the state suffering enormously from the economic downtown.

ABC News Radio