Just a few days after I had implored President Obama in my blog to be the man of the people he promised us he’d be, he struck another blow against defenseless American citizens. On Thursday October 6th, letters from federal prosecutors were distributed to landlords of medicinal cannabis dispensaries throughout California. Invoking the precedence of federal law over state law, they are commanding that these nonprofit pot shops shut down within 45 days or risk prosecution and confiscation of property.
If all the shops are shut down, then patients by the thousands will be forced to turn to the streets for their pot or to other “legitimate” pain relieving drugs that have higher risks of dependency and side effects. Many are surprised that Obama has apparently switched sides on this issue. In 2009, the attorney general and the justice department told federal prosecutors not to pursue cases against medical marijuana and that resources would not be used to fight legal distribution channels in states with legalized medicinal cannabis. Many more thought, or hoped anyway, that Obama was just saying the right politically correct things to get elected and that he would lead the charge to legalization once elected. I know I did anyway. But the reality of his administration thus far has been a stark contrast to the perception of the “cool” president that I thought he might be.
The move against the dispensaries seemed to come out of left field. However, it was preceded by two moves that, though they did not grab the headlines like last week’s news, could hurt the medical marijuana movement more than the barring of any doors. The first happened at the end of last month. On September 21st 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, also known as the ATF, sent out a memorandum to fire arms dealers telling them that medicinal marijuana users who are in accordance with their local laws have no right to buy a gun. The Second Amendment to the Constitution has essentially been denied to people due their choice in therapy for treating their medical condition.
For the second move, the federal government sent its favorite dog, the IRS, to do the dirty work for them. Earlier this month, the IRS told Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center that they owed them a $2.4 million tax penalty after an extensive audit. This penalty is on top of the over three million dollars that Harborside has already paid this year in federal, state, and local taxes. So what’s this extra tax penalty for? Well, the IRS has decided that legal distribution centers under state medical marijuana laws are still considered drug traffickers, which means they are unable to deduct standard operating costs such as rent, payroll, and employee health insurance policies. This sets a toxic precedent for all current or potential pot shop proprietors. If dispensaries are not allowed to operate within the same rules as other businesses, then the marijuana trade will become exclusively an underground trade again, and will yield exactly zero tax revenue.
These actions by the government are not to prevent dangerous people from getting a gun, or to pump a few more million into the system to pay for Obama’s job program. The motive is the same for each. The federal government does not want to yield to the states in any matter. If federal law says cannabis is illegal, no state law can change that. Both moves were made to discredit the people who want cannabis legalized, decriminalized, or at least available to the sick people who want it. Taking away their right to bear arms makes cannabis patients less than full citizens. Likewise, if those who sell cannabis legally in their own state must pay taxes according to laws applied to illicit drug traffickers (who don’t pay taxes at all), then they are no better than common drug dealers. Both moves by the federal government seek to make those affiliated with medicinal cannabis into criminals by default. The effect of this is that the people supporting the movement are perceived as guilty in the public eye without ever being accused, charged, tried or convicted of any crime.
But there is one bigger effect of these actions; the stripping away of rights guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights from law abiding citizens. The Bill of Rights was added soon after the Constitution was ratified in order to protect important individual rights against future governments. As Thomas Jefferson said, "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth." These protections were built into our system of government to protect the people from the government and the weak from the strong. The 2nd Amendment was not included so people could hunt and defend themselves; it was thought necessary by the Founding Fathers that the populace of their new country be armed in case tyrannical rule reared its ugly head again. Thomas Jefferson voices this feeling when he said, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." The federal government infringing on the rights of the prescription pot people is just the latest example of them bullying a group of people who disagree with the government. We must not abide tyranny. The men who started this country wouldn’t have.
What about those Founding Fathers? Let’s hear what they have to say about it. First President George Washington said, “Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere." Second President John Adams said, “"We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption." Third President and my personal favorite Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson said, “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country." All of these quotes could be applied to just the useful fiber that comes from marijuana and some have maintained that this was the sole value these great men saw in the plant. They, however, must not have read George Washington’s journal where he noted that he "Began to separate the Male from the Female hemp —rather too late." If he is growing it just to make ropes, this quote makes no sense. There’s only one reason to separate the male and female plants, and that’s to prevent pollination which adds seeds to your crop and makes the yield less potent. They all smoked weed, and even if they didn’t, which they did, they still would have been ready to revolt all over again if anyone tried to impose such a bullshit prohibition during their time.
Our government is becoming what those before us fought so hard against. We have not cherished this great gift given us. This is not just about pot; it’s about the Patriot Act, and ObamaCare, and bank bailouts and so much more. This is supposed to be the government of, for and by the people. We are supposed to in control, but instead we have become docile as lambs and have let our inalienable right been taken for us. No, they haven’t even been taken from us; we have offered them up as sacrifices to our politicians so that we will be kept safe. Well, as famous pothead Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” We are not a country of the meek. We are not a country of lambs. We are the people of the United States of America. I just hope we realize before we all end up with computer chips in our brains.