Free Aaron Sandusky, Mister President

[ Posted Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 – 18:53 UTC ]

President Barack Obama has it within his power to chart a new course for his administration on the Justice Department's continuing refusal to take into account the will of the voters in over one-third of the United States on medical marijuana. He could do so quite easily, by issuing a presidential pardon for Aaron Sandusky, who just received a 10-year prison sentence for running medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of California -- where such activities were legalized by the state's voters.

Sandusky, upon hearing his sentence, had this to say to the court:

I want to apologize to those with me and their families who have been victimized by the federal government who has not recognized the voters of this state. I want to apologize to the families who are suffering and who have to go through this. There are no winners here. Not the state, not the federal government, not the patients who need medical marijuana.

Two months after the voters of two states approved the full legalization of recreational marijuana for their citizens, the Obama Administration is still silent on what it plans to do in response. While there were initial rumors that Attorney General Eric Holder might be stepping down at the end of Obama's first term in office, those rumors seem to have died down. Which, unfortunately, might indicate a continued disdain for the will of the voters in almost 20 states now.

President Obama famously "evolved" on the question of gay marriage when a number of states changed their laws on the issue. The number of states which have legalized gay marriage, however, is half the number of states which have legalized medicinal marijuana. To the best of my knowledge, Barack Obama has never wanted to enter into a gay marriage himself. But, by his own recount, he was indeed a recreational marijuana enthusiast while in school. It is time for him to "evolve" his thinking -- by getting in touch with his "teenage Obama" and seeing things through the eyes of a member of what he called the "Choom Gang." Because I bet if you asked that teenage Obama what the federal government should do about marijuana, he'd give a very different answer than the man who is now Eric Holder's boss.

I speculated about what President Obama would do about legalized recreational marijuana over two years ago, when a proposition appeared on California's ballot (it wound up not passing). Sadly, I could run this article today and perhaps change "California" to "Washington and Colorado" and the rest of the text wouldn't need much editing at all to be brought up to date. The article outlines the possible reactions from Obama, one of which was "make some examples." In it, I wrote:

The second route the Obama administration could take is to "make an example" of a few people. Crack the whip on some high-profile arrests and court cases, but leave the low-level stuff alone. This could go a number of different directions, depending on which scapegoats the feds choose to go after. The Obama team has, for instance, said that they will not target medical marijuana shops that "are legal under state law" but will continue to bust those that fall afoul of the law (mostly by not checking the paperwork of who they sell to). Which they indeed have continued to do.

For the past two years, this is exactly what has happened. In fact, it is even worse, as the Justice Department seems now to be targeting folks not because they have fallen afoul of California law, but merely because they are making money by doing so. The federal prosecutors have decided that anyone making big bucks off marijuana deserves prosecution and (what's worse) legal persecution. If you set up a "mom-n-pop" medical marijuana dispensary in a building you own and make a modest amount by doing so, you'll probably be OK. But if you should desire to rent a commercial building, open a bank account, pay your federal taxes as you are supposed to do, advertise, or make a large enough profit, then you can expect the jackboot of federal interference to stomp all over your efforts.

Marijuana, of course, is illegal under federal law. The federal prosecutors are not doing anything technically wrong here. But at some point, this becomes not just a policing issue but a policy issue. And the Obama administration's policy on marijuana (medical or recreational) is either completely incoherent, or in fact worse than that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The incoherence stems from two memos the Justice Department has issued, the first of which seemed to be leaning in the "let the states experiment" direction, and the second which sounded harsh enough for Nancy Reagan to approve of it. The Obama Justice Department tried to influence California's recreational ballot measure with threats of a crackdown, but they did not do so for Washington and Colorado.

To put it another way: nobody has any idea which direction Obama's Justice Department will head next on the issue. Two months (and counting...) after Colorado and Washington made history by approving the end of Weed Prohibition at the state level, the Obama administration has not let out a peep about what it is going to do about the situation. While they dither, people like Aaron Sandusky are being sentenced to Draconian mandatory minimum sentences in federal prison for providing people medicine approved by the state.

It is time for such waffling and stonewalling to end. President Obama needs to signal which direction the federal government is going to take in the next four years, and he needs to do it soon. I call on President Obama to usher in a new era of state-level legal experimentation on a saner drug policy, and to make an even bigger example of Aaron Sandusky... by publicly issuing him a pardon for his recent conviction. That would not only send a strong message, it would send the right one. Free Aaron Sandusky, Mister President. Do it today.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


6 Comments on “Free Aaron Sandusky, Mister President”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Considering that Obama was a "druggie" for most (if not all) of his teen life, one has to wonder why he doesn't just make it all legal..

    Personally, I think it has to do with his narcissistic tendencies, his "do as I say, not as I do" attitude, his disdain and contempt for "common folk" and their problems and issues.

    Obama is acting more and more like Barack The First, The Anointed One...

    No other possibility fits the facts...

    You got your president, now ya got to live with him..

    Ya can't blame me this time around!! :D


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    I know it seems like I am ALWAYS knocking Obama..

    And I usually am..

    But seriously.. Look at things objectively..

    If there ever was a "drug culture" POTUS, it would be Obama..

    And his advisers are surely of the "I tried pot AND inhaled" variety. So it can't be his advisers telling him to maintain the crackdown on marijuana...

    There is simply no logical reason why Obama would still maintain the crackdown he has on marijuana..

    If anyone has a reasonable logical alternative explanation that fits the facts... well...

    "I am all ears."
    -Ross Perot, 1992 Presidential Debates

    But wracking my brain, I can't think of any other reason why Obama wouldn't "evolve" on marijuana..


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    If it's any consolation, my thoughts on marijuana have "evolved"..

    While I still believe that the "Oh it's too hard to enforce so let's just not" argument is complete and utter bullshit, the argument that marijuana is not as harmful as believed does have some merit...


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Looks like I'm not the only one. Petition is now up on White House site to pardon Sandusky.

    It currently has 6,600 signatures, and needs a lot more.


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Looks like I'm not the only one. Petition is now up on White House site to pardon Sandusky.

    Hopefully they will address it a little more seriously than they address other petitions they don't like...


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Hopefully they will address it a little more seriously than they address other petitions they don't like...

    Case in point...


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