ROLLING STONE: The war over pot may be far from over. Legalization has set Colorado and Washington on a collision course with the Obama administration, which has shown no sign of backing down on its full-scale assault on pot growers and distributors. Although the president pledged to go easy on medical marijuana – now legal in 18 states – he has actually launched more raids on state-sanctioned pot dispensaries than George W. Bush, and has threatened to prosecute state officials who oversee medical marijuana as if they were drug lords. And while the administration has yet to issue a definitive response to the two new laws, the Justice Department was quick to signal that it has no plans to heed the will of voters. “Enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act,” the department announced in November, “remains unchanged.” MORE
NEW YORK TIMES: Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts. Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol. Some law enforcement officials, alarmed at the prospect that marijuana users in both states could get used to flouting federal law openly, are said to be pushing for a stern response. But such a response would raise political complications for President Obama because marijuana legalization is popular among liberal Democrats who just turned out to re-elect him. MORE
USA TODAY: Americans are divided over whether marijuana should be decriminalized — 50% say no, 48% say yes — but they overwhelmingly agree on this: When states vote to legalize pot, the feds should look the other way. In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, those surveyed say by almost 2-1, 63%-34%, that the federal government shouldn’t take steps to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalize pot. MORE
ROLLING STONE: A big reason for the get-tough stance, say White House insiders, is that federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration are staffed with hard-liners who have built their careers on going after pot. Michele Leonhart, a holdover from the Bush administration whom Obama has appointed to head the DEA, continues to maintain that pot is as dangerous as heroin – a position unsupported by either science or experience. When pressed on the point at a congressional hearing, Leonhart refused to concede any distinction between the two substances, lamely insisting that “all illegal drugs are bad.”
“There are not many friends to legalization in this administration,” says Kevin Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida who served the White House as a top adviser on marijuana policy. In fact, the politician who coined the term “drug czar” – Joe Biden – continues to guide the administration’s hard-line drug policy. “The vice president has a special interest in this issue,” Sabet says. “As long as he is vice president, we’re very far off from legalization being a reality.” MORE
PREVIOUSLY: Another day, another set of depressing stories highlighting the futility and destructiveness of America’s drug policy. First, we have the saga of Ashley Biden, 27-year-old daughter of Vice President Joe Biden. A “friend” attempted to sell a hidden-camera video allegedly showing Ashley snorting cocaine. But instead of coughing up the reported asking price of $2 million for the 43-minute video, the New York Post watched 90 seconds of it and reported on its contents. That in turn led to the “news” that—a decade ago—Ashley had been arrested for marijuana possession in New Orleans and subsequently released. I, for one, am outraged. Not because the 17-year-old daughter of a Senator may have smoked pot, or because the 27-year-old daughter of a vice president may have snorted cocaine. Does that really surprise anyone? I’m outraged that our adolescent approach to drug prohibition gives bottom-feeders reason to believe that they can make millions of dollars exposing a marginally public person’s recreational habits. MORE
RELATED: Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) made drug reformers proud on Wednesday when he went after Drug Enforcement Administration official Michele Leonhartduring a hearing on DEA oversight. Polis refused to allow Leonhart to get away with half-answering questions about the relative health impact of marijuana versus other drugs.
Rep. Polis is an outspoken advocate of marijuana legalization (last year, he proposed a deficit-reduction plan that involved legalizing and taxing weed). During the hearing, he sought to make Leonhart concede that other Schedule I narcotics are much worse than marijuana — a point drug reformers often use to make the case that pot shouldn’t be classified with drugs like heroin and meth.
“Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?” Polis asked Leonhart.
“I believe all illegal drugs are bad,” she meekly replied.
As she began to repeat her same answer, Polis interrupted her, asking, “Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?”
“Again. All drugs…” she began to answer, before a frustrated Polis cut her off.
“Yes, no, or I don’t know,” he said. “If you don’t know, you can look this up. You should know this as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking you a very straightforward question: Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?”
“All illegal drugs are bad,” she replied.
“Does this mean you don’t know?” Polis interrupted.
Clearly she doesn’t. Or she simply refuses to acknowledge the facts. Plenty of studies show that drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine are much more addictive and harmful than marijuana. Heck, the same studies also show that alcohol and nicotine are more addictive and harmful than marijuana. Our own government even recognizes that nicotine is potentially as addictive as heroin and cocaine. MORE
RELATED: Authorities discovered hundreds of full-grown marijuana plants and others “in the incubation stage” at what they say was an elaborate Fishtown growhouse in which children were living. The District Attorney’s Office charged Vinh Quang Nguyen, 41, with possession with intent to distribute, risking a catastrophe, and endangering the welfare of a child. Nguyen was arrested Thursday after authorities raided his home on the 2300 block of Frankford Ave. He was arraigned and held on $1 million bail with a Dec. 27 court date set. The District Attorney’s Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said they found 343 full grown plants and 150 marijuana plants being incubated, as well as three large bags of cut marijuana. Many of the plants were over five feet tall, authorities said. About 500 pounds of pot, in all, were recovered, they estimated. MORE
PHAWKER: One MILLION dollar bail for growing plants that are no more illegal than dandelions in Colorado and Washington? Please. Know this: if the War On Drugs were Vietnam, we would currently find ourselves in the post-Tet Offensive stage. Even though we continued to prosecute the war for five pointless, bloody years after Tet, we’d already lost. Think about it, Seth.