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Pot Policy at the Federal Level: Time To Get To Work!

Three suggestions for how Obama can take immediate, practical steps to reform America's antiquated and punitive pot laws
 
 
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We've had our celebrations; now the real work begins.

In Massachusetts, where 65 percent of voters mandated an end to minor marijuana possession arrests, police and pundits are already calling on lawmakers to amend -- or even repeal -- the new law. Therefore, if you reside in Massachusetts, it is critical that you contact your state elected officials, as well as Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley, and demand that they fully implement the will of 1,938,366 registered voters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts who voted "yes" on 2.

As for the rest of us, now is the time to make your voice heard federally. The election of Barack Obama, coupled with Democrat control of both the House and the Senate, presents a unique and critical opportunity for federal marijuana law reform. Voters on Election Day demonstrated overwhelmingly that they favor political reform in this country, and that reform includes new directions in marijuana policy.

Obama's transition team has established a website, http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople, asking for "our ideas" and "help" to "solve the biggest challenges facing our country." Unfortunately, neither the 'war on drugs' nor 'marijuana' appears on the "the agenda."

It's up to us -- the cannabis community -- to make it part of the agenda.

Please contact the Office of President Elect Obama and demand that our next President engages in a national dialogue on marijuana policy. Below are three suggested ways Obama can take immediate, practical steps to reform America's antiquated and punitive pot laws:

1. President Obama must uphold his campaign promise to cease the federal arrest and prosecution of (state) law-abiding medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by appointing leaders at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the US Department of Justice, and the US Attorney General's office who will respect the will of the voters in the thirteen states that have legalized the physician-supervised use of medicinal marijuana.

2. President Obama should use the power of the bully pulpit to reframe the drug policy debate from one of criminal policy to one of public health. Obama can stimulate this change by appointing directors to the Office of National Drug Control Policy who possess professional backgrounds in public health, addiction, and treatment rather than in law enforcement.

3. President Obama should follow up on statements he made earlier in his career in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana by adults by calling for the creation of a bi-partisan Presidential Commission to review the budgetary, social, and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition, and to make progressive recommendations for future policy changes.

On Election Day, voters in Massachusetts, Michigan, and throughout the country gave President Elect Obama and the incoming Congress a mandate to end the Bush drug war doctrine. Now let's get down to business to assure that our message is implemented.

Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC.

 
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