After the Obama administration created a site where citizens could petition the government on an issue, the question of legalizing marijuana took precedence over all others. The petition, "Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol," had more than 61,500 signatures when we mentioned it last week, far more than any other petition on the site.
Well, Friday night the White House — via Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy — finally issued a response to the petition, and you'll never guess what the answer was.
We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health — especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20's. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
This answer has not gone over well with any hopefuls who thought the signatures might change long-established federal drug policy. Besides the new petition demanding that Kerlikowske resign — 1,224 signatures and counting — there's this statement from the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
"Five of the top 10 petitions on the 'We the People' site are about some aspect of marijuana or drug policy reform. The eight marijuana petitions that the White House's Friday rejection was intended to address have collectively garnered more than 150,00 signatures," said the press release. "Even though recent polls show that more voters support marijuana legalization than approve of President Obama's job performance, the White House categorically dismissed the notion of reforming any laws, focusing its response on the possible harms of marijuana use instead of addressing the many harms of prohibition detailed in the petitions."