Connect with us

Opinions

Obama’s assault on medical marijuana laws

Decision to prosecute state dispensaries could threaten D.C. program

Published

on

Bill Clinton said he didn’t inhale. Barack Obama now says he doesn’t want anyone else to do so either — including HIV/AIDS patients, cancer sufferers and those with chronic disease and illness.

The president’s startling moves in recent weeks — despite his 2008 campaign promises and subsequent assurances that state medical marijuana laws would be respected — threaten the survival of programs and laws in the 16 states that have approved them and may derail or further delay the long-awaited and pending implementation of a voter-approved program in D.C.

He’s serious about it. This is not the usual “wink of the eye” position the public has grown accustomed to hearing from politicians on the issue. The Obama administration has announced that the federal government will utilize a full complement of its powers to prosecute and shut down state-sanctioned cultivation and distribution centers.

The president’s “hands-off” approach has swiftly vaporized.

During the last campaign, Obama pledged that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

All that changed with a recent U.S. Department of Justice memo proffering a dire warning: “We maintain the authority to enforce [federal law] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

The effect of these federal directives threatening harsh criminal sanctions is already being felt around the country.

Arizona, where a 2010 voter referendum approving a program was in the process of being set up, has put implementation on hold. Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a statewide proposal that would have created licensed dispensaries on the day after federal raids on two businesses in Spokane and both of the state’s U.S. Attorneys warned her that even state employees could be prosecuted for their role in marijuana regulation. Gov. Chris Christie wants to delay New Jersey’s implementation of the state’s new medical marijuana law until there is some clarity about the legal jeopardy for workers and operators. Warning letters have been sent to government officials in Colorado, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

On Oct. 7, all four California federal prosecutors announced a coordinated plan to shut down state dispensaries, setting a 45-day deadline for compliance. They warned operators and their landlords that failure will result in criminal charges, with seven civil forfeiture complaints already filed against property owners. At least one landlord is facing up to 40 years in federal prison, property seizure and forfeiture of all rental proceeds for the last 15 years since voter approval of the program in 1996.

Even the IRS and the Treasury Department are now in on the game.

Two weeks ago, the IRS sent a $2.4 million tax bill to Oakland’s largest medical marijuana dispensary and has begun audits on at least 12 others in the state and has sent letters to landlords warning that the feds could seize their property at any time, citing a portion of U.S. tax code that prohibits illegal drug-trafficking organizations from deducting business expenses.

Colorado’s gay Rep. Jared Polis has introduced legislation requiring the IRS to allow all businesses — including marijuana dispensaries — to deduct expenses. “There are more pressing issues facing federal law enforcement, so it makes no sense for them to waste time and taxpayer money interfering with state-legal businesses that voters have approved, that are well regulated and that generate jobs and economic activity,” he has said.

“The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick,” proclaimed U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy. “It’s a pervasive for-profit industry that violates federal law.”

Like a memorably harsh bong hit, this kind of talk signals a clear and shocking policy shift on the part of the White House.

Among more cynical health advocates and caregivers, the Obama administration is motivated by a desire to eliminate less expensive market competition for pharmaceutical manufacturers preparing to introduce new products like Sativex, a proprietary liquid extract of cannabis.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says that “Barack Obama . . . seems determined to recriminalize as much as possible. It all adds up to bad policy, bad politics and bad faith.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jessica, Sparta, NJ

    October 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Great, Now the Fat Man will never get NJ’s legal law started. He has been delaying this for years. This is so stupid.

  2. filthy assistant

    October 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I thought Chris Christie was moving full steam ahead with NJ’s MMJ program? No? Damn, that’s sad. As to California, their MMJ laws do not allow dispensaries, per se, only cooperatives (a legal form of incorporation) and collectives (fuzzy less “official” versions of cooperatives) and individual caretaker or patient growers. And while there are certainly “real deal” dispensary-like ops in CA that are honestly about providing relief to patients, there are also many for whom the only important “green” is the dollar and since CA’s laws require non-profit status they got gigged. Live, learn: CA was the first state to decriminalize, apparently underestimated the greed factor, and now has some cleaning up to do. At least other states can learn from this and run tight enough ships to keep the feds at bay — if the states have the MMJ “situation” under control, there is no need for the feds to waste resources on a non- problem, right? (Sadly, in CA, the situation was apparently very much out of control, with some municipalities asking the Feds to step in.) Which brings us back to New Jersey, reportedly home of the tightest regs among MMJ+ states — why hast thou forsaken us, Gov. Christie?

    Note that this comment is about /medical/ cannabis, not recreational (with which I and many folks don’t have a problem), which is another discussion — I think many folks are conflating the two.

  3. bud101

    October 21, 2011 at 12:24 am

    The money hungry feds have gone too far and it’s time for the public to stand up to this ignorance. Alcohol is OK but pot isn’t? Prescription drug abuse is a bigger problem yet the Feds won’t shoot themselves in the foot and thwart that industry. Creating addictions and incarcerating people is a good market for them.

    Where is the real problem? All these stoned people should be causing more mayhem than what the law and paranoia expects. And if kids need to wait until 21 to officially drink, pot can follow that route.

    Obama’s about face may only be temporary. It’s being used as a scare tactic. Stopping the spread of dispensaries was key to get a handle on who is doing legit biz.

    I’m for less red tape on harmless things the masses feel is right for them. And I enjoy the medication value of the green too. good for old bones. more seniors should investigate the qualities.

  4. living the not so "california dreamin"

    October 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I live in California, am a medical patient, have grown Medical Cannabis and supplied clubs and I can honestly say that we do have a large influx of Medical Marijuana Clubs here since the law passed but the real problem is not the number of clubs or the increase in number of patients. The real problem here is the fact that, especially the clubs in lower So Cal, the product is coming from our horrible neighbors from the south. Those clubs that are run by the illegals provide product from good ole’ Mexico instead of coming from people that actually care about the patients and take pride in their product. I do understand that 50% of a clubs profit goes back to the growers but let’s take a realistic view on the whole legalization process. Let’s put the growers on the books and on the payroll. Any grower who has their ducks in a row will agree that they would like to do business legally and would rather provide their product to those in their community in need as well as do what they love to do without feeling like a criminal. There is nothing criminal about helping out a person in need. The real issue throughout all of this has to do with illegal immigrants and the border control issue. If we had a stronghold on the border, shut down all the tunnels from America to Mexico and deported anyone of an illegal status, no matter their race, there would be no issue. But, unfortunately, everyone involved in these aspects loves money, like most of us and if they are able to make a much larger profit for allowing things to happen that they can say they “have no control over,” and turn a blind eye then they will. I guess what I’m saying is America has gone from the land of the free to the land of the greed. Until we get the greed out of the people who control large policies, we will get nowhere. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    From my own personal stand point, I know that if it had not been for marijuana and the legalization, I would be dead right now. Most of my life from childhood I had a lot of depression, had suicidal tendencies in high school and have had many traumatic events happen to me in my young adult years. It all went undiagnosed for a long time and the first time I tried marijuana it was recreational and it was the first time in my life that I knew what other people normally felt like. The blue tint was gone and I could actually smile for real without faking it for everyone else. I genuinely felt happy. I believe there are a lot of people like me who use marijuana recreationally because they go undiagnosed with a health care system that it controlled by the pharmaceutical companies. If our main treatment for patients was to cure the origin of the illness or use natural products such as plants and herbs to cure or help instead of drugging up our nation with harsh chemicals that harm more than help, I believe there would be no issue with the legalization and distribution of marijuana. But once again, this issue comes down to greed. I believe we need to fight greed since it seems to be the root of all our sociological problems. Look at our politicians, drug dealer, heads of the pharmaceutical companies, heads and CEOs of large corporations, underhanded swindlers…..GREED. Let’s learn from this and be a bit more humble and a little more willing to give. Do unto others as you would like done to you. Where did we forget the golden rule?

  5. Smokey Stone Jones

    October 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve said it from the beginning and I’ll say it again.. Fuck Barrack Obama! He can’t even uphold the only positive aspects of the democratic party, the ability to remain immune to corporate bribery, but it would seem that the beloved Obama has fallen to his knees sucking down and regurgitating whatever the pharmaceutical companies care to ejaculate in his direction.

  6. larry

    October 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Typical government hypocrisy. They cite greed as the villain, yet out is the greed of the pharmaceutical industry driving the attempted crackdown

  7. Tyson

    November 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    The US’s new slogan should be “Growing more communist by the minute”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinions

Biden’s empty political theater on LGBTQ equality

President is a nice man who lacks the passion to fight

Published

on

Joe Biden, gay news, Washington Blade
President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shortly before Joe Biden was inaugurated, LGBTQ Nation leaked a conference call between mainstream LGBTQ advocates and the president-elect in which he backed off repeated, forcible campaign promises to make passage of the Equality Act a top priority during his administration’s first 100 days.

I wrote an article criticizing him for reneging on his pledge. The Los Angeles Blade picked up my piece as an op-ed, and it went viral. I got a tremendous amount of feedback, much of it negative, more of it counseling patience, but now that a year has passed, let’s take a look at how things worked out.

In the first days of his presidency, Biden did vital work with pro-LGBTQ executive orders — redirecting the federal bureaucracy, which had become overtly homo/transphobic under Trump, and working to fix transgender military policy — but he never pushed for the Equality Act, which would have finally offered LGBTQ people status as free people in our own nation, protected by law from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, education, etc.

Without the Act, his executive orders won’t be worth the paper they’re written on when the next Republican president takes office.

Not only did President Biden fail to spend political capital to make the Act a top priority in his first 100 days, he never made it a priority of any kind.

Beltway insiders tell me the president did nothing behind the scenes to honor the pledge he made repeatedly to LGBTQ people in exchange for our votes. He did nothing publicly either. No national speeches. No fireside chats. No appeals to the better angels of the American people. He just stopped talking about the Equality Act, like if he never mentioned it again, we’d forget he promised to prioritize it.

The House passed the Act again this year, but it stalled in the face of Senate filibuster rules, which require 60 out of 100 votes for most legislation to pass. Progressive Democrats have been calling for ending or changing the filibuster since the day Biden took office, but not until last week did he announce support for changes, which brings us to the second half of today’s grievance.

In recent days, pressure has been intensifying on President Biden to lead on passing meaningful protections to counter strict new state laws that Republicans have been enacting to make voting more difficult, especially for Black voters.

Two federal laws proposed by Democrats, — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — would protect voter rights by (among other things) creating national standards for mail-in voting and restoring stripped-out elements of the Voting Rights Act. Republicans know the only way they can stay in power in many states is to suppress votes, especially the votes of Black people and other people of color. Republican senators fiercely oppose voter protection and will filibuster.

President Biden traveled to Atlanta last week to make a speech about supporting voter protection. Finally, after nearly a year in office, he indicated he might support changing the filibuster custom. The nation yawned. Black voters blinked. LGBTQ voters sighed in dismay.

A number of influential Black political activists in Georgia snubbed Biden’s speech, saying in advance they would not bother attending an event they called a “waste of time.” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams was notably absent, which she and Biden both claimed was due to a scheduling conflict, but Georgia political insiders say she was sending the president a powerful message: Get serious. Take action. Stop with meaningless political theater, especially on my turf, where I’ve been doing the kind of real work you won’t do.

Obviously, the 50/50 Dem/Rep split in the Senate is not the president’s fault. Nor is he responsible for the recalcitrance of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They have each refused to consider filibuster reform, and without their votes it can’t happen.

But does Biden even want filibuster change?

He has consistently served up weak tea on the issue, calling himself an “institutionalist” and an “incrementalist,” which Democratic leaders have taken to mean he either doesn’t support overhauling Senate rules, or that he won’t get tough on Democratic senators who vote against overhauls.

If Biden has tried even half-heartedly to strong-arm Manchin and Sinema, he has not done so in public. Beltway insiders say he hasn’t done anything, just like he hasn’t prioritized the Equality Act.

Meanwhile, while the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden waffles and drifts, the Republicans maintain tight party discipline and look set to take the House back this year. They will continue to push agendas cementing themselves in power, putting democracy itself in grave danger, and making life for minorities increasingly unequal, painful, and difficult.

We don’t care about your institutions, Joe. We don’t value Senate customs and traditions, which mean nothing to us beyond what they can or can’t accomplish. We care about action. We demand results. You promised to deliver, and you’re failing us. Now you choose to go to Atlanta and say some pretty words? Nobody wants pretty words, Joe. You can keep them.

Look, we know your heart is in the right place, but we want your muscle to be in the right place. We want you to take charge, to LEAD, to exercise some of the awesome power of your office.

We expect you to play to win, to twist arms, to name and shame, to do whatever it takes to keep the promises you made to us when you needed our votes.

You need to get serious, Mr. President. If you don’t start kicking ass and taking names, don’t count on us to vote for you again. I mean that. There’s a REASON you’re dropping precipitously in the polls. It’s us, man. It’s Democratic members of minorities fed up with your milquetoast, do-nothing, business-as-usual approach to crises we see as EXISTENTIAL. While Republican rank-and-file are telling pollsters they believe armed violence against the government may be desirable, and while they’re demonizing Black people, immigrants, and queer people, you’re acting like everything is relatively fine.

It’s not.

We voted for a champion, but we got you instead, a very nice man who evidently lacks the gonads to fight for us. Please turn that around. Please get real. Please get tough. Please start fighting to win.

Today would be an excellent day to start keeping your promises.

James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and a frequent columnist for the Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

Continue Reading

Opinions

Support the arts: See ‘Our Town’ at Shakespeare Theatre

In-the-round production features diverse, stellar cast

Published

on

When we finally had the chance to go to live theater again, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) opened its doors with the pre-Broadway production of “Once Upon a One More Time” with Britney Spears’ music. It was a risk Simon Godwin, STC’s artistic director, took and it succeeded. Seats filled beyond expectations with many who had never been to an STC production before.

Now it’s hoped many of those new theatergoers will come back to see the classic play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. It will be at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) Harman Hall, Feb. 17-March 20. Many of those new audience members could find it a memorable and deeply thought-provoking night in the theater. 

The play is being directed by the talented D.C. resident Alan Paul, associate artistic director of the STC. Paul is a Helen Hayes award-winning director of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and has numerous Hayes nominations for productions, including “Comedy of Errors”; Studio Theatre 2ndStage “Silence! The Musical”; and “Man of La Mancha.” 

“Our Town” is Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play and its various productions over the years imbued audiences with a wonderful shared sense of humanity, something we are in desperate need of in today’s world. 

The play tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grover’s Corners between 1901 and 1913. It’s told through the everyday lives of the people of the town. Through them and what some might see as their generally typical lives, we are led to understand some universal truths about life and death, love, and community. 

In looking at the cast Paul chose, I realized all the ones I knew were from our own community. When I asked him about this he told me, “When I decided to direct ‘Our Town,’ the only way to do it would be to use the riches of talent who live in Washington, D.C. I saw many people out of work during the pandemic — actors and freelance artists were hit the most — so when we decided to do this play, I wanted to get the best actors I could find and found them here and knew I wanted to showcase them.” Turns out the great talent in our city is very diverse. The cast is white, Black, Latino, Asian and includes four who, along with Paul, are part of the LGBTQ community — Holly Twyford, Tom Story, Sarah C. Marshall, and Christopher Michael Richardson, all brilliantly talented and known to the community from their previous roles in various theaters around the DMV. The rest of the talented cast includes: Felicia Curry, Elliot Dash, Natascia Diaz, Josh Decker, Eric Hissom, Hudson Koonce, Jake Loewenthal, Tommy Nelson, Chinna Palmer, Maisie Ann Posner, Suzanne Richard, Kimberly Schraf, Craig Wallace, Summer Wei and Travis Xavier. 

“Our Town” is introduced and narrated by the stage manager (Holly Twyford), who welcomes the audience to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., early on a May morning in 1901. The play then follows the characters for 12 years through their everyday lives. After the stage manager’s introduction, the activities of a typical day begin. Howie Newsome (Christopher Michael Richardson), the milkman, and Joe Crowell, Jr. (Hudson Koonce), the paperboy, make their delivery rounds. Dr. Gibbs (Eric Hissom) returns from delivering a set of twins at one of the homes in town. Mrs. Gibbs (Natascia Diaz) and Mrs. Webb (Felicia Curry) make breakfast, send their children off to school, and meet in their gardens to gossip. 

What should make this show particularly exciting is for the first time at the Harman a play will be done in-the-round. The stage will be extended out into the theater and the audience will be seated around it with some seats actually on the stage. Some cast members may actually be in the audience and speak from their seats helping to bring the audience into the action. 

Paul also assembled a superb artistic team for this production including among others; Scenic Designer Wilson Chin, Lighting Designer Yi Zhao, Composer Michael John LaChiusa and Costume Designer Sarafina Bush.

The Shakespeare theatre will abide by all CDC and DC guidelines in place at the time to ensure the safety and health of its staff, actors, and patrons.

Supporting the arts is something we all should do; going to the theater is something all of us can enjoy. I have high hopes for a great night at the theater with “Our Town.” Tickets can be purchased online.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

Published

on

lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular