The Obama Administration’s Schizophrenic Marijuana Policy: Ogden, Haag, and Cole


Prior to his election, Obama had a reasonable outlook on medical marijuana

“I don’t think that should be a top priority of us, raiding people who are using … medical marijuana. With all the things we’ve got to worry about, and our Justice Department should be doing, that probably shouldn’t be a high priority.” — June 2, 2007, town hall meeting in Laconia, New Hampshire

“You know, it’s really not a good use of Justice Department resources.” — responding to whether the federal government should stop medical marijuana raids, August 13, 2007, town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire

Nearly year after Obama was elected President, his administration, with great fanfare; released the Ogden memo. The memo essentially informed US Attorneys that the US government wouldn’t be focusing federal resources on the prosecution of individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.  As a result of this policy shift, the number of legal medical marijuana patients increased substantially in states allowing the use of medical marijuana.

On February 1, 2011, US Attorney Melinda Haag sent what is now known as the “Haag Memo”, to John Russo, Oakland City Attorney in response to Russo’s request of clarification of the federal stance. From the memo:

We will enforce the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law…. . ….Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their conduct violates federal law.

Although hardly publicized, the Haag memo is consistent with federal action the following month:

On Wednesday, for the second time in this year, the Obama administration released a memo on  medical marijuana, the text of which can be viewed here.  This memo purports to provide clarification of previous memos yet seems more like a warning to anyone involved in any level of cannabusiness.  The text of the memo seems to acknowledge that state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis is alright, but good luck obtaining it, because the federal government is waging a war against those who grow it.  This clarification certainly clears things up.

Americans were accustomed to raids under the Bush administration, but Obama promised a different approach, giving a very false sense of security to cannabis patients.  In reality, Obama is on target to in four years, double the number of raids under 8 years of the Bush administration.  At least Bush’s actions were consistent with his words.  Some are speculating that US Atty Holder or rogue US Attys are acting without authorization, but launching raids IS policy and the number, scope, and focus of these violent raids suggests that they are orchestrated from the top.

How’s your badass president now?  I’ve had enough “change”  Perhaps it is time for a President whose actions are consistent with his words, has a decades long history of consistent messages and dedication to individual liberties, constitutional government and sound monetary policy.  Or maybe not.  Maybe you prefer wondering if federal agents will gun down your children as well as your dogs in the next early morning raid.  H.R. 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act is currently in Congress.  To urge your Representatives and Senators to support this historic legislation, use this handy web form.

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10 thoughts on “The Obama Administration’s Schizophrenic Marijuana Policy: Ogden, Haag, and Cole

  1. great post. i appreciate the attention you’ve given this subject. this is yet another issue that seems to have a bit of cross-partisan consensus growing around it.

  2. I won’t lie and say I voted for Obama. I didn’t like him then, but now I despise him. He is disingenuis, manipulating, slick and drunk with power. The only thing that comforts me is knowing that 9 out of 10 of the dems I work with who voted for him are disgusted with him also. Now, if only the GOP can produce a candidate to appeal to those mentioned above, and the rest of us who want a fiscally responsible, truthful, ethical leader. The second guy you have pictured would be a wonderful choice!

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    • Geithner’s leaving.

      This sentence says the whole dealio, “The memo essentially informed US Attorneys that the US government wouldn’t be focusing federal resources on the prosecution of individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

      Liability is the foundation of the entire legalization path. My points are archived here.

    • Kyle, while this poll is interesting, it is also completely useless. Judge Reynolds made his decision on a solid understanding of the laws as they applied to the case. The average person taking this poll has no understanding at all of the underlying law and therefore, their opinion on the judge’s decision is acedemic and useless. A far better poll would have been “Do you support the overturning of SB 423” or “Do you think Medical Marijuana should be legal in Montana”. These questions are policy questions that politicians can respond to. They are not dependant on an understanding of the Law, but rather a direction for society to move.

      I hope I was, at least to some extent, comprehensable here… I sometimes have an issue with that when I talk law…

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