Why Nancy Pelosi is Right to Slam Obama's War on Pot

Pelosi's willingness to call out Obama over the huge gap between his administration's actions and past pledges shows how important and popular an issue medical marijuana really is.

President Barack Obama’s emphasis on raiding medical marijuana dispensaries drew a rebuke from none other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) this week, who warned in a prepared statement that she has “strong concerns” about her political ally’s policy.

Since President Barack Obama took office, “more than 200″ state-approved medical marijuana facilities have been raided, according to Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), who spoke to Raw Story on Thursday.

“That exceeds the number of raids his predecessor, George W. Bush, oversaw during his entire eight years in office,” he said.

The startling statistic wasn’t lost on Pelosi either, whose statement comes just days after she received a petition by marijuana patients in her district.

“I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana,” she said.

“Proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions,” she added. “I am pleased to join organizations that support legal access to medicinal marijuana, including the American Nurses Association, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, and the AIDS Action Council. Medicinal marijuana alleviates some of the most debilitating symptoms of AIDS, including pain, wasting, and nausea. The opportunity to ease the suffering of people who are seriously ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is an opportunity we must not ignore.”

“We applaud Pelosi’s leadership in urging President Obama to address medical marijuana as a public health issue,” ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer said in a media advisory. “Rather than defending a policy of intolerance, President Obama should end his unnecessary and harmful attacks once and for all.”

“The fact that a Democratic congressional leader like Nancy Pelosi is willing to call out a president from her own party over the huge gap between his administration’s actions and its previous written pledges shows just how important and popular an issue medical marijuana really is,” added Nate Bradley, a former California police officer and current medical marijuana patient who works for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Hopefully other elected representatives from California and other medical marijuana states will soon call on the president to get control of his federal agencies and stop breaking his campaign promises. It sure would be nice to hear Gov. Jerry Brown finally stand up in defense of our state’s duly enacted laws.”

Pelosi, who has long supported medical marijuana, is not alone in rebuking the Obama administration’s medical marijuana raids, but she is the highest ranking official to do so thus far. 

The San Francisco Democratic Party passed a resolution (PDF) last week calling for Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to curb the raids, and nine other members of Congress wrote the administration late last year demanding more respect for states’ rights with regards to marijuana. There’s also a bill in the house, put forward by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX), that would allow individual states to set their own policies with regards to marijuana.

They’ve got the American people behind them, too: a Gallup poll last year found that a record high 50 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol. When asked about medical marijuana in a prior Gallup survey, the approval rating jumped to 70 percent.

Despite all the pressure, Obama — who’s admitted to trying marijuana previously — has said repeatedly he does not support legalization. 

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Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.