Marijuana Legalization Should Be a Focus in 2012 Election


President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would rather not discuss marijuana during their 2012 presidential campaigns. They said it’s not a priority. But, so far, they have no choice. They have been -- and will continue to be -- barraged by questions as to where they stand, particularly in some swing states, like Colorado, where the question of the legalization of marijuana is on the November ballot. 

In Colorado, there is no single candidate or party that has the political muscle needed to carry the state. And, interestingly, the voters on the marijuana issue are not broken along ideological or political boundaries. The Colorado Democratic Party recently endorsed the measure. And Pat Robertson, the 82-year old televangelist long associated with the Republican Party, did the same.

So, both parties will look for an opportunity to gain the state’s nine electoral votes. The key to presidential victory in the state and, possibly, the country may be the outcome of how the state’s electorate votes on Amendment 64, which tackles the question of whether marijuana should be legalized for recreational use for adults or not.

Along with casting their choice for president of the United States on November 6, voters will have the opportunity to give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on the bill.

President Obama was a recreational user as a teenager and refers to those acts as “wrong decisions.” He has consistently said that he supports medical marijuana for treatment and pain relief from diseases, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, and that, as long as the individual has a doctor’s prescription, the drug ought to be able to be purchased from state-licensed dispensaries. The work of the Drug Enforcement Administration kept a low profile. 

Recently, however, the work of the federal agents has been turbocharged 180 degrees. There have been raids and forced closures of dispensaries, not distinguishing between those that have been approved or not or have become commercial enterprises or not. Some patients have been forced to buy marijuana on the black market.

President Obama, how can you say one thing and yet permit Attorney General Eric Holder’s agents from acting differently? While there may be cause to make changes and reforms, the states of Colorado and California have experienced loss of jobs, loss of taxes and loss of money used to comply with the states's marijuana ordinances, only to have them undermined by the federal government. 

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate, says his religion prohibits him from using alcohol, smoking cigarettes, coffee or tea and that he was “wayward” once when he had a sip of beer and smoked a cigarette. Romney says that he “absolutely” opposes legalizing marijuana and its use medically.

Hey, what happened to the First Amendment? Is it to be adhered to by some and not others? Some political candidates, such as New York State’s Governor Mario Cuomo and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro are -- and were--practicing Catholics. On the issue of abortion, they all said that while they do not believe in abortions personally, they could not force their religious values on others and, therefore, did believe in a woman’s choice.

If Romney wins, does this mean the Mormon Church, of which Romney is a major donor, will dictate as to whether we can have coffee or tea? Romney and his wife Anne do admit to drinking diet Coke and hot chocolate.

The possession and distribution of marijuana, even for medicinal use, is a federal offense. Clearly stated, right? Sure, but there is a glitch. There are currently 17 states and Washington, D.C. that have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana. And, medical marijuana dispensaries, some state-licensed, others not, have appeared in each of these states. To further complicate matters, local city ordinances in Colorado and California were put into place to implement each state’s policy. Federal, state and city policies instead of being complementary are in opposition to one another.

Hopefully, whoever is elected will be someone who will provide leadership, clarity and understanding in the maze of conflicting polices. Let’s see what happens between now and November and hold our candidates accountable.