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Hope and Change? Hardly


George W. Bush was a disgrace to the presidency. He initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he ran roughshod over civil liberties here at home in the name of what he called a war on terrorism. Barack Obama is worse.

Not only has Obama kept the United States engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s upped the U.S. military presence in Pakistan and Yemen, he’s building a base for drones in Ethiopia, he dropped bombs in Libya, and he just committed troops to Uganda. He ordered the assassination of an American citizen without due process — without anything beyond some secret evidence that will never be made public.

Is this the hope and change the president promised when he campaigned for the office three years ago?

But there was something Obama did get right, two years ago. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would not prosecute people for marijuana use if they were using it medicinally in states where medical marijuana was legal. But that was then.

Now, the Obama administration has announced that there will be a crackdown on for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries, as if making a profit is somehow a crime. This is just phase one in another assault on individuals’ rights and states’ rights.

Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, wrote a memo in February saying, “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.”

So there will be more raids, more threats to landlords and banks, and more wielding of the axe of the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on medical-marijuana dispensaries and those with whom they do business. But what would you expect from an administration that deliberately kills an American citizen without making an honest case against him?

Perhaps, though, this marijuana crackdown has to do, not with current law, federal or state, but with what could be looming on the horizon. In 2010, a proposition on the California ballot to completely legalize marijuana failed, but supporters vowed to bring it back in 2012. They were confident that a ballot question next year would pass because of changes in attitude and demographics. Coincidentally, that’s the same year Mr. Obama runs for reelection.

The feds are cracking down not only on medical dispensaries — in violation of the Tenth Amendment — but also on TV and newspaper ads, in violation of the First Amendment.

According to one report, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, whose district includes Imperial and San Diego counties, said marijuana advertising is the next area she’s “going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California.”

An article from local news station KPBS says Duffy may be backing down. Nonetheless, the chilling concern over First Amendment rights remains.

Michael Montgomery of California Watch writes in the Huffington Post,

Federal prosecutors are preparing to target newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that advertise medical marijuana dispensaries in California, another escalation in the Obama administration’s newly invigorated war against the state’s pot industry.

It does seem that the upcoming 2012 ballot is what’s motivating this crackdown. Jacob Sullum, writing for Reason.com, quotes Kevin Sabet, a former policy adviser to drug czar Gil Kerlikowske: “The legalization advocates misread the tea leaves.” “They were very excited about their prospects, and they are disappointed.”

Ironically there is now at least one lawsuit over a city’s refusal to accept other issue-oriented ads. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Oct. 19 that the NAACP and the ACLU filed a suit against the city for its refusal to accept a billboard at the Philadelphia Airport. The billboard was to have read, “Welcome to America, home to 5% of the world’s people and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Let’s build a better America together.”

Anyone familiar with the current war on some drugs knows those statistics are what they are because of prohibition; and most of those incarcerated are in jail for marijuana-related offenses.

The lawsuit says the city’s refusal is a violation of the NAACP’s First Amendment rights, while the city says it has a policy of rejecting issue or advocacy ads. But the story points out that the city has accepted ads at the airport for he World Wildlife Federation, the national PTA, the USO, and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

So, as the movie theme song asked, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

Sadly, the Obama administration is leaving in its wake an abomination of continued warfare and continued assaults on human liberty, both here and abroad. It’s just a continuation of the policies of George W. Bush.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.