This week, as the average American begins to pay close attention to the Presidential race during the party conventions, my organization, Americans for Safe Access, is preparing to flood America — and especially swing states — with a poster that asks the question, “Can Broken Promises Lose an Election? 1 Million Medical Marijuana Patients Will Decide.” This message is controversial, and many liberals who support President Barack Obama as well as compassionate use are asking why we are targeting a President who once made the boldest pro-access statement in history.
We are sending a message to President Obama and his supporters because he is our President, and his decisions have grave consequences for medical cannabis patients. His administration has rejected our petition to overturn the federal definition of marijuana as without “accepted medical use in the United States” — a decision that we will challenge in court on October 16th. Obama’s administration has raided more medical marijuana facilities in three and a half years than Bush’s administration did in eight. And his appointed U.S. Attorneys are shutting down dispensaries left and right, including model operations whose medicine is a lifeline for patients.
ASA has been accused of creating a propaganda campaign that will help Mitt Romney. But that’s not the reality on the ground. We are hearing from our grassroots — and reading in polls — that medical marijuana patients and their loved ones are considering voting for third-party candidates or not voting at all. This trend is most pronounced in the medical cannabis states that are also swing states, like Colorado and Nevada. In a close election, a few percentage points peeled off to a third party could make the difference in the Electoral College, and we want to wake Obama up to that fact.
Medical marijuana does not have to be a partisan issue — lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle have supported and led efforts to respect state laws on compassionate use in state capitols and in Congress. Republicans and Republicans-turned-Independents such as Ron Paul and Lincoln Chaffee have vocally supported medical cannabis access and efforts to reschedule cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act — a position we will advance in court just weeks before the election.
Patients Are Fed Up
Medical marijuana patients are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We don’t want our issue to be treated like a criminal justice issue, but as a healthcare issue. We need leadership that respects our medical needs. Obama’s biggest mistake was trying to deal with medical cannabis in a brief memo. He should have put together a team of agencies along with governors of medical cannabis states to find a long-term solution.
This is not in my control, it is in Obama’s hands. If I tried to rally support for Obama, I wouldn’t get very far, because the patients and their supporters who tell pollsters they support third-party candidates wouldn’t listen. If Obama doesn’t wake up to the needs of medical marijuana patients with an indication that his hard line could be softened, these votes will be lost.
That is why I and other medical cannabis supporters are distributing posters throughout the nation. We want Obama’s campaign to know that the reason they aren’t meeting their volunteer goals in deep-blue counties, or are uncomfortably close in polls in key swing states, is that people who would otherwise be strong supporters are finding this president’s policies on cannabis too hard to swallow. And we want Republicans to know that our movement is not just a wing of Democratic party: we are looking for compassionate leadership where we can find it.
Obama can make the difference
It’s not too late for the president to turn this around. We want to hear that the Obama administration’s historically harsh crackdown on medical cannabis access will be reconsidered, and only then we can begin efforts at rallying supporting in states like Colorado and Nevada. With polls showing the public’s overwhelming acceptance of state compassionate use laws, and with an outdated Controlled Substances Act the subject of our court battle in October, there is no reason for President Obama to go down in history as America’s latest hardline drug warrior.
If the subject of our posters bothers you, please email the Obama campaign and not me. I am just articulating the sentiment of the one million legal medical marijuana patients. Only Obama can ask for their votes.
This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.