Pot Gardens and Strategies

Fred Gardner writes Obama Never Promised You a Pot Garden

Drug-policy-reform advocates are complaining bitterly that they have been double-crossed by Barack Obama. “What’s Behind the Obama Administration’s About Face Regarding Medical Marijuana?” asked Paul Armentano of NORML in the Huffington Post May 5.

“Obama’s Sudden, Senseless Assault on Medical Marijuana,” was the headline on a piece by Scott Morgan, associate editor of Stopthedrugwar.org. According to Morgan, “Recent months have brought about what can only be described as the rapid collapse of the Obama Administration’s support for medical marijuana.”

This is way wrong. There is nothing “sudden” or unprecedented about the DEA raids and other oppressive measures emanating from the Department of Justice. And neither Obama nor the DOJ ever expressed unambiguous support for medical marijuana. It was the reform honchos themselves who misread and misrepresented Administration policy. How could they? And why did they?

Of course it’s true that Obama and the DOJ never expressed unambiguous support for medical marijuana.

And I certainly can’t speak for the reform movement, but I know that it was clear to me that Obama and Holder had not given support for medical marijuana in their memo.

In fact, even before the full text of the memo was out (which I then posted for everyone to read and judge for themselves), I had characterized it: “based on these preliminary reports, it still amounts to little more than a well meaning, but toothless, suggestion.” I later referred to it as the memo “that puts in writing the administration policy of not interfering with state medical marijuana operations unless they feel like it.”

I realize that Fred isn’t writing about me, but rather about the large organizations that depend on funding, and he targets his criticism of their “enthusiasm” regarding the memo on the funding aspect.

Why did the pro-cannabis reformers misinterpret and misrepresent Obama Administration policy so consistently and for so long? Why did Ethan Nadelmann afix his “kosher” seal to Obama’s baloney? Wishful thinking is not a good enough excuse. Political leaders owe the rank-and-file accurate information and analysis. Obviously it is advantageous for fund-raising purposes to report success, and this was certainly a factor. But it wasn’t just their own interests that the reform honchos were advancing with false claims of Administration support.

Above all, the honchos were serving the interests of Cannabis-industry entrepreneurs eager to attract customers and investors. Starting in the fall of 2008, the line “Obama is going to let it happen,” induced countless thousands of people to visit pro-cannabis doctors and then their local dispensaries. The most successful California dispensary operators developed franchising ventures and pitched investors, using Obama’s alleged hands-off approach as part of their pitch. “Money that was sitting on the sidelines came in after the election,” is how one of them summarized the boom that continued through 2009 and well into 2010,”

Again, unlike Fred, I can’t speak for the motives behind the various organizations. I also don’t have the time to sort through various statements to determine whether Nadelmann and others actually misrepresented Holder’s memo, or whether they merely emphasized a favorable interpretation. (I did question whether Steph Sherer’s claim of victory was “good strategy,” or whether it might “lead to disappointment.”)

I can, however, provide another possible and compelling reason for reformers to have promoted the memo as something that actually has meaning.

Fred likes to point out that if you watched the Obama Administration with any closeness at all, it was obvious that significant reform was not on their agenda, that there was no real change in policy. True. And we’ve pointed that out here often.

However, the memo was real, from a political perspective.

Again, lets’ go back to my first reporting on it:

It’s interesting that the administration chose to roll this out on a Monday, and even went so far as to advance prep the AP on the story. Rather than dumping it in the trash (ie, when the White House wants to downplay a story, they release it with a bunch of other stuff on Friday afternoon to reduce the coverage), they seem to be promoting it.

The administration was putting out a memo that actually said nothing, yet they were promoting it as a major policy shift. They were looking to get political value (with their base) from doing this while not actually changing policy at all.

They wanted a freebie.

They needed to find a way to mollify an increasingly vocal and powerful marijuana movement (yeah, they noticed the town hall questions). The memo, with the Monday flourish release was their attempt to make that happen.

They knew the media would promote it as a shift in policy (they prepped the AP!) So if reformers came out and said “there’s nothing there,” they wouldn’t be believed. The press would control the message for a few days and then forget it, and the administration could go back to doing the same old thing.

But the reformers jumped in to reinforce (not create) the perception that the memo did something real (and remember, in politics, the perception of reality can sometimes be as powerful as reality).

Even though the reformers knew the memo said nothing, they constantly reminded people about it in order to force it to assume more power than it had.

Shortly after the memo, I commented:

So far, the responses to the Holder memo (that puts in writing the administration policy of not interfering with state medical marijuana operations unless they feel like it) has gotten a lot of favorable press — so much so that it’s likely to help apply pressure on the feds to actually make good their… pledge to prioritize. So despite the lack of teeth in the memo, it has served up a powerful result.

I was wrong about it causing the administration to make good their pledge, but I was write right about it having a powerful result.

With the media being constantly reminded that the memo was an actual shift in policy, every time the Obama administration has made a raid, it’s been easy to paint it in the press as a betrayal — a flip-flop — an inconsistent policy that is impossible for law-abiding citizens to understand or follow.

Yes, it makes the Obama administration look bad for following their policy unchanged.

It’s quite possible this is an important reason for reform columns that Fred terms “whining.” It’s certainly a valid strategy, whether you agree with it or not.

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23 Responses to Pot Gardens and Strategies

  1. darkcycle says:

    Pete, Fred is setting up a very elaborate straw man. Complete with articulating limbs, and articulating nonsense. He knows very well we knew what the Banana Holder said. And he also knows that regardless of how the cannabis reform community portrayed or didn’t portray that memo, TENS of thousands of average everyday folks took it that way. With no help whatsoever from the “reform community”. We’re a tiny part of the response to that memo.
    It caused Colorado’s number of patients to increase tenfold. It started a real and profitable business boom. Entrepreneurs entered the scene with money and did it on the faith in that memo. States began to move to regulate it on the strength of that memo. And now people will begin going to jail after being mislead by that memo.
    In the process the toothpaste has left the tube. And it ain’t going back in without making a considerable mess.

  2. Scott Oof says:

    Seems to me that “Banana Holder” meme is weak mockery of Mr Banana Grabber, the animated character beloved by millions(though not when we needed it with the Neilsens).

  3. Paul says:

    Grrrr. I know what I heard, and I know a campaign promise when I hear one. I can’t be told now that he didn’t say it, or that it was said with an asterisk at the end of the sentence.

    His implication was clear, and his betrayal of his base is undeniable, unless you are a party hack apologist for the president.

    • DdC says:

      BS, the only demoKratz American running on ending the Ganjawar was Kucinich. Why does everyone hear things that never were spoken? Blame Kratz and the short term memories of Boozheney fad away. La la la la. Pitifools display.

      Obombo said he would make states with an initiative for using medicinal cannabis a lower priority for the Just Us Depo. Nothing is in Prop 215 about Buyers Clubs or Cooperatives giving it away free. He has not busted WAMM or any Coop I’ve heard of. Those in it strictly for the money have nothing legally to stand on. In this fascist environment under the CSA. Bogus as it may be, you can’t blame Obombo for Nixon’s lies. Or should you ever rely on a politician to do your job. If the people want Ganja they have to go get it.

      Ganjawar for dummies. Uncle Sam has patents on several cannabinoids. Bayer and Sativex and a German company and potentially others have a sublingual, under the tongue spray. Without the smoke that is falsely demonized. Obombo has the Schwag Farm in Mississippi to keep it in the family of Wall St thieves. Now the truth hits that naive desperate sick people and moneysluts taking advantage of them tried to make the claim they were authorized by Holders less aggressive stance. To sell what wasn’t meant to be sold. On an initiative designed to keep people out of jail and to get unconnected people RxGanja. A defensive measure that (for the youngins) was an island retreat in the sea of worms called the Ganjawar. A sanctuary from the lame GOPerverts who killed Peter McWilliams after 215 passed. Lungreen was then voted in as a member of Congress for christ sakes. Boosh Cheney and Walters are walking around free men after committing crimes against humanity and you blame the first term little guy? Clean out your ears.

      I didn’t campaign for Obombo but to write off the Boosh Boner Newty Neocon Dick Armey is ludicrous. Either petition to remove Ganja and Hemp from the CSA or live within the rules of the state initiatives. Not wishful hopes from strange unspoken sounds. The Progressives are still the only viable representatives politicians getting seats and giving any sign of assistance. Sublingual will help the patients grow their gardens and hospice care providers like me can get access without local cops interference and predominately GOP politicians getting in the way. More than Wilson Lungreen gave them. Klintoon being the exception, but I always thought he was a Boosh puppet. Hilary? Edwards? Biden? These are Neocons wearing Kratz clothing. You can bet your bippy would have been aggressive as McCaffrey busting bird seed. I can’t blame Obombo for anything but being status quo. I can’t respect him either, but fantasy isn’t were reform lives. It’s corporations pulling the puppets strings and most Gerbaltarians and Neocon GOPerverts gladly climb on board. Whooping and hollering all while shooting themselves in the foot.

      Do you really believe Obombo would actually say he wasn’t going to bust growers? Knowing the fascists corporations and Kochroaches stay in business because of prohibition. He’s just going to give them up for the people to have an inexpensive medicine and stress relief alternative to the booze. Like this was America or something with a Bill of Rights protecting citizens from government tyranny? Blow drying kittens he rescued from the storm drain. Licking rainbow lollipops while reciting the Constitution. Auuuuuuuum. He’s a lesser evil than the sonsabitch evils before him. Nothing more. Looks like selling sacraments brings Karma. With the help of lies and bogus laws.

      One more time…

      Is The DEA Legalizing THC? For Big Pharma only. For patients, not for getting rich growing weeds. For them to grow themselves. In a collective but not for sales. Wall St isn’t going to roll over just because its safer, cleaner and healthier for we the people. Obombo isn’t spiderman. He’s a chicago politician.

      Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze/Ethanol or Ganja//Hemp.

  4. Nick says:

    “but I was write”.
    Your use of an improper word, (by accident), only shows how our government uses the context without the proper meaning. It’s all in how it’s said.
    And to the other posters: What do you mean by a “Banana holder” ? I’m not missing a racist slang am I?
    Great post Pete.

  5. dt says:

    great analysis, thanks Pete

  6. warren says:

    What else is new. We know what a pack of lying bozos are running the country. Thank someone for captalism its the only thing holding the country together. The govt or their news cronies can`t be believed with ANYTHING that is said. Total distortion.At least with drugs we come down.The govt lies never stop.Its time for change.

    • DdC says:

      Almost every single damn time its the GOP pushing the Ganjawar and filling the prisons. Yet some still whine about the democrats. Here are three quick examples in three different states. Many more besides these. All GOP sponsored terrorism and fascists tactics. Obombo has busted less in states with initiatives than Boosh Walters did in a month. The only people who preach GOP are narks and moneysluts profitting on the Ganjawar or complete partisan idiots without a sense of reason. Kratz are the lesser evil with a pro legalization base while the GOP and Libertarians are for Wall St and their very lucrative war on some plants and their users. Get over it. Stop feeding the Beast.

      Marijuana Decriminalization Bill In Jeopardy
      Connecticut — The drive to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana appears to be coming up short in the legislature this year. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, conceded Friday that a bill to soften the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of pot or less does not currently have enough support in the chamber. “We did have a caucus last week and we were somewhat short of the number to pass it with purely Democratic votes,” Looney said. “We may circle back around to that issue again.”

      Advocates Ask Montana Gov. for 2nd Veto
      Advocates say the bill, the work of the Republican leadership in the state legislature, now seeks not to regulate but to cripple Montana’s medical marijuana program.

      Christie Blowing Smoke
      The Christie administration has found yet another way to delay implementation of New Jersey’s medical marijuana law. Enough already.

  7. Tony Aroma says:

    I too was skeptical of the original DOJ memo. An ambiguously worded memo at that. Any lawyer should have known that a memo does not change the law. Nor does a statement from the Drug Czar that the war on drugs is over. And since when is a campaign promise binding? Aside from the increasing number of raids and the new ONDC budget being the same as the last, surely the president laughing at the people asking about marijuana legalization should have been a clue that policy is not about to change under his watch.

    Until it is changed or marijuana is rescheduled, the Controlled Substances Act is the law of the land, and federal agents are sworn to uphold that law. Anyone possessing, growing, or distributing marijuana is violating federal law. Period.

    Here’s some more earth-shattering news: Politicians lie. They will say anything to get elected.

    • Windy says:

      Tony, “Politicians lie. They will say anything to get elected.”
      Except two. Ron Paul is telling the truth all over the place. Hopefully, being one of the only two who are telling the truth will get him elected (you know the other is Gary Johnson, but I prefer Ron Paul over Gary Johnson due to their differing stances on Gitmo and foreign affairs).

      • DdC says:


        The GOPerverts including the Kochroaches are the total aggressors in the drug war. Why would anyone think they would be the best choice for reform is beyond imagination. Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are good billboards to get a message out. Nothing more. No chance of being chosen for the Neocon fascists. The only candidates or status quo offering any reform with any chance of winning are Progressives. Totally because of the base, not like they’re actually concerned anymore than the GOP. So trashing a vote for quasi libertarians is a wasted vote. Wasted votes let the lesser evils roll in without challenge. Looks like 4 more wars of Obombo. Republicans have to stand up to their masters on Wall St for any libertarian reform. But with most gerbaltarians investing in the corporations producing the Ganjawar. I’m not optimistic. Status weird rules. Guess I’ll just keep toking illicitly. Or use the sublingual. Watch the jobs outsourced to India by the moneysluts while Hemp has thousands of potential jobs.

        The Fascists that be will never put Paul or Johnson on the ticket. They come in as undercover Libertarians because they know no one seriously votes Libertarian and the only way they can get elected is through the original small “r” republicans. The Lincoln Goldwater followers who didn’t convert from being southern democrat racists. Money is why the Ganjawar exists. Until that is understood nothing will change.

        Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze/Ethanol or Ganja//Hemp.

  8. just another episode of “as the drug war turns”

  9. auggie says:

    Political doublespeak at it’s worse. In a time of economic uncertainty a lot of people took this memo as an ok to move to medical states and start growing. Hopefully this will bring out more discussion and a call for candidates to clearly outline how they would deal with medical marijuana if elected.

  10. divadab says:

    We knew our cardboard emperor was a cipher before he was elected when he voted as a senator to immunize criminal breach of the FISA statute under the Bush regime.

    I’d argue, however, that people acting on his lies as though he were honorable have created facts on the ground which will NOT be undone. The evil America-hating prohibitionist house of cards is slowly falling.

    (A little slower than building 7, since the resistance has not been blown up!)

  11. ‎…in 2010, while discussing the Mediacal Cannabis Bill before them, the NY State Senate Codes committee. Which had for the past decade declared they could not Codify into Law a Bill that went against Federal Law. They used the Eric Holder Memo as an ok to move forward, they saw this as an ok to Codify and make into Law.

  12. I was in the room sitting directly behind Senator James Seward a staunch opponent of anything Cannabis. He agreed with Senator Duane, the sponser of the Bill that yes this was permission to Codify Medical use of Cannabis. Thus allowing the Bill to get approval of the Codes Committee and move to the floor to be discussed and voted upon. The Bill though having then having been passed many many times by the New York House, and now having made it all the way through the Senate Codes Committee NY Senator James Sampson blocked by Parlimentary Prcedural tricks the Bill from ever being brought to the Floor for discussion or Vote. The New York State Senate are not “Reform Honchos”

    • Duncan20903 says:

      That permission is from the SCOTUS decision Gambino v United Stats of America, 275 U. S. 310 (1927), not from any memo or such.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        That permission is from the SCOTUS decision Gambino v United States of America, 275 U. S. 310 (1927), not from any memo or such. It’s ironic that Gambino was about agents of the State of NY illegally arresting Mr. Gambino for violating the Volstead Act subsequent to the repeal of the New York laws that were based on the idiocy of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act.

        If New York can’t eliminate cannabis laws, why is it that evasion of Federal income taxes is completely legal as far as NY State is concerned?

  13. DdC says:

    Fred Gardner writes

    Marian “Mollie” Fry, MD, and her husband Dale Schafer, an attorney, turned themselves to U.S. marshals Monday, May 2. They were taken to the Sacramento County jail, where they are awaiting transfer to federal prisons. They have begun serving five-year terms -ostensibly for the crime of Cannabis cultivation ( growing plants ), but actually for the crime of political organizing ( educating people ).

    Dr. Mollie Fry gets 5 ******* Years! MM

  14. Shaleen says:

    Well put.

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