Following the raid on Oaksterdam University earlier this week, in which federal agents from the IRS and DEA seized bank accounts, plants, computers and records from the industry training center, founder and Prop 19 sponsor Richard Lee announced today that he will be leaving the business.
The government has yet to release the justification for this raid, but the damage is already done. The unbearable legal and financial burdens have forced Lee to step down, silencing an important voice in the movement; and the total lack of transparency will likely cast a chill over others in the medical marijuana industry as well.
It’s important to note that these raids – which candidate Obama repeatedly opposed – do not only intimidate. They also crush businesses and investors operating in a perfectly legal state and local environment, and sever a patient’s safe access to medicine – either driving them into the black market, forcing them to tolerate the dangerous and uncomfortable side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs, or leaving them to suffer.
These actions make it difficult for states to continue to pass medical marijuana laws. Some governors are blocking important medical marijuana reforms out of fear of federal retribution, and the window of opportunity for this state-by-state approach may be closing.
But simply rescheduling marijuana, which currently stands as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and ecstasy, would allow doctors in any state to prescribe medical marijuana to patients. Governors from VT, RI and WA have already signaled their support for rescheduling to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.
However, President Obama can reschedule medical marijuana right now with an executive order – no congressional approval needed. On his own, President Obama could end the war on patients in this country, save untold law enforcement resources, and maybe even convince young voters, a few of his erstwhile 2008 supporters, that he might not be totally awful on marijuana.
Both President Obama and AG Holder have deeply confused the public, local governments, and law enforcement on their stance on medical marijuana – claiming to let states self regulate while allowing these disastrous federal raids to continue. It’s time for President Obama to take real action if he wants the trust and support of the marijuana reform community.