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By Scotty Reid – Last month at the urging of members of Congress, President Obama took bold executive action on gun control accusing Republicans of refusing to pass “common sense” gun legislation that most Americans supported. In tearful emotional announcement of his executive action he said “we can’t wait and “until we have the Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives.”
However, when it comes to taking meaningful executive action on issues revolving around a racist criminal justice system that has destroyed millions of lives over non-violent drug offenses, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States has shown a lack of urgency and a lack of will to take similar action on federal cannabis regulation.
On Friday President Obama was asked by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on whether or not he planned to “reschedule marijuana” which is scheduled as one of the most dangerous drugs known. The science shows otherwise and President Obama acknowledged as much in 2014 when he said “marijuana” is no more dangerous than alcohol. In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, Obama said, “As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” He went further to say that “pot” was actually less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
Here we have a man who admittedly used pot a lot as a young man but luckily was able to escape being arrested, prosecuted and convicted for possessing the plant is unwilling to take executive action that is within his power to change an insane policy of executive branch that would have a huge impact despite there being majority support among Americans to take such action.
Does the President not feel the same empathy for Black and Brown communities that are being disproportionately targeted by law enforcement resulting in members of those communities being disproportionately incarcerated and disenfranchised by unjust drug laws? Has he no tears for those lives being destroyed not by the use of pot but destroyed by unjust drug laws that have lead to mass incarceration also known as modern slavery?
President Obama stated that Congress should pass legislation to remove pot from the schedule list of drugs but gave no indication that he would sign it into law. Let us be clear, President Obama does not need a law to make the requested changes as he can take the same executive action he took on expanding the regulation of gun selling and purchasing he took in January of this year. He can take the same bold executive action he took to allow members of the gay community to serve openly in the US military. Taking executive action to remove weed from the corrupt Drug Enforcement Agency’s schedule list of dangerous drugs would not be as controversial as his action on gun control and gay equality in the military.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders does support the removal of pot from the list of controlled substances by the executive branch. In 2015, Sanders introduced a bill in Congress to do just that but it is unlikely to reach the desk of Obama who said he’d “probably sign it”.
This is unacceptable from a man who would not be President if not for the progressive vote, the Black vote and the Hispanic vote in 2008 and 2012. This is unacceptable from a man who admits that pot isn’t anymore dangerous than the alcohol he uses. This is unacceptable from a man who can executive action on a number of controversial issues for certain special interest groups but refuses to take action for something he knows is the right thing to do, the just thing to do.
When Obama signed a bill into law aimed at reducing the crack/cocaine sentencing disparities, he worked behind the scenes to stop the law from applying retroactively directing the Justice Department to fight against it in court. Obama’s legacy in the Black community is shaping up to be the Black president, elected largely because of Black voters, who did not do anything substantial to alleviate the pressure of white supremacy on Black and Brown communities put on them by the racist drug war and racist enforcement officers.
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