Obama's New Marijuana Policies Also Target Alt-Weeklies and the Bill of Rights

Categories: Marijuana
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Say, is that hemp? Kill it!
​In their unrelenting quest to kill legal medical marijuana dead, President Barack Obama and the United States Department of Justice appear content to incur collateral damage.

Last week, property owners who rent to dispensaries were informed that the federal government could seize their properties within 45 days; this week, one of the four United States attorneys who declared open season on anything connected to state-legal cannabis told California Watch that the fourth estate is next. Specifically, the administration says any publication -- from print to web to broadcasting -- that accepts advertisements from medical marijuana businesses could face prosecution.

In other words, Barack Obama will screw California alt-weeklies, some of which rely on medical marijuana ads for 25 to 30 percent of advertising revenue, sources say. But in this move, legal and media experts contacted by SF Weekly say that the government has a First Amendment issue on its hands.

Could the Constitution become a victim of Washington's weed-killing zeal, too?
It was U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, Uncle Sam's top barrister in the Southern District of California, who told California Watch on Wednesday that her office is "going to be moving onto [prosecuting publications] as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California." Duffy said that she couldn't speak for her three counterparts, including U.S. Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag, but noted that federal prosecutors' efforts on state-legal weed have been coordinated thus far.

Haag, the U.S. Attorney for Northern California and author of cease-and-desist letters sent to at least four Bay Area dispensaries, did not respond to a request from SF Weekly for comment. Josh Eaton, a spokesman for Haag's office -- which has responded with silence to all press inquiries for some months now -- has nothing to say to us.

"We're not commenting on this issue," he said. 

Legal and media experts contacted by SF Weekly could not name a situation in which a newspaper shut down due to losses in revenue after federal prosecutors went after advertisers. Still, there is precedent that shows the feds mean business: Google recently shelled out $500 million to the federal government for selling ads to Canadian pharmacies willing to sell generic prescription drugs to Americans.

Newspaper publishers declined to comment on the record, but it's no secret that alt-weeklies, including SF Weekly, rely heavily on the medical marijuana industry for ad dollars -- just pick up a newspaper and see for yourself. Indeed, the additional revenue gleaned from pot ads allowed the Sacramento News and Review to hire additional staff, according to California Report.

Yet this may be a prosecution too far, says Liz Enochs, president of the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. "Regardless of how you feel about medical marijuana, this is about economics -- and, by extension, the First Amendment," she said. "An attack on the business model of news organizations could be seen as a de facto attack on the press."

There's contention that this latest federal move is mere saber-rattling, meant to scare dollars away from medical marijuana. That newspapers challenged in court would likely win, according to Peter Scheer, Executive Director of the First Amendment Coalition, is fuel for that fire. 

The government can and does ban illegal advertising, such as an advert for whites-only housing. "However, the illegal status of the service or product must be clear and certain -- otherwise, publishers will self-censor, refusing advertising that is, in fact, constitutionally protected," Scheer told SF Weekly. "In California, where state law says one thing, and federal law says the opposite, publishers can't achieve the requisite degree of certainty."

This ambiguity "confers protection, under the First Amendment, against federal enforcement actions, whether criminal or civil, against them," he said.

In other words, if the federal government is serious about punishing the news for cashing state-legal businesses' checks, it has its work cut out for them. But no amount of First Amendment outrage may be enough save an already-struggling industry from a government-sponsored threat.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly. Follow the cannabis reporting of Chris Roberts, who picked a real winner with that career decision, on Twitter at @chroberts_yeah.
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Troy McCormick
Troy McCormick

If Romney followed Bush's hands off approach to weed I would probably vote for him at this point. We would have gay marriage, tougher immigration laws, and someone that knows how to work with democrats.

Elizabeth Frantes
Elizabeth Frantes

I don't think medicinal pot should advertise, nor should any prescription drug, for that matter.  And most of the ads are almost indistinguishable from the sex ads .. . the vast majority of the "cannibis lie-fstyle" rags who yap about "medicinal pot" are more about "bud babes" showing their implanted titties . .. than about helping actual sick people.

gary rich
gary rich

     Obama has apparently rolled a big fat one using the constitution as rolling paper and inhaled. Since when can you not advertise prescription or non prescription drugs. I can't watch any TV without hearing about meds for ED, depresssion, etc. Is he going to target the ads for Extends that falsely tells the story of Bob the big guy in the neighborhood?  How about canceling ads that make political promises never intended to be kept........!!

 

david mowers
david mowers

Medical marijuana is a sham used as cover for dealing illegal drugs and recreational drug using. Just look at Montana's example;

Enactedin 2004 Montana legalized medical marijuana for the sick and dying. Since thenthis iconic western State of 989,415 has opened a whopping 4,438 marijuanadealing stores! That is one public dope dealing store front for every 222citizens!

Four Thousand Four Hundred Thirty Eight stores just for Montana? They have alot of seriously ill people there I guess? Did you know there are only 55,000pharmacies in the whole United States? That suggests that we will need fourtimes as many marijuana dispensaries than pharmacies nationwide to handledemand! What a miracle drug pot must be....I wasn't aware that marijuana curedmore varieties of illness and symptoms than ANY OTHER DRUG EVER FOUND ON EARTH.

Oh the compassion!

Since the D.E.A. began raiding Montana dispensaries this past March guess howmany of them stayed open because they think they are "legal"? 8.5% or378 total from 4,438 a 91.5% decrease! In plain English, 91.5% of the medicalmarijuana providers were... JUST IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

Elizabeth Frantes
Elizabeth Frantes

If they would dump the laws that make it so expensive, and allow cultivation, the prices would drop and criminals would have far less incentive to control the market.  As long as the supply is kept artificially low, prices are high and criminals, lawyers, and politicians make a fortune.  But I don't want to confuse you with causality, I can see you haven't gotten to that.

Daddyo2k3
Daddyo2k3

Not to question your impressive numbers, but a decent Google search of "4,438 and Montana and Cannabis" fails to turn up any links to such numbers. 

For the sake of accuracy, care to provide proof for the statistical pyrotechnics?

MikeParent
MikeParent

I never want to hear how left leaning politicians are permissive and weak. This is proof that they are oppressive and powerful, even if they are on a fools errand! In all my years, I've never felt my rights and the rights of the American public more truncated and abused than they are now. This administration has gone back on its' word and has become one of the most oppressive administration we've ever had. Trampling on States Rights and Individual rights is not a problem for them as they do it regularly. Strong arm tactics and storm trooper type raids have become the norm. There is no "great threat" from Marijuana, yet this govt. has treated it as if it was akin to Al Qeda. These people are not in touch with reality.  As far as "the children" issue, any reasonable person could see that legalization and regulation would do more to keep it out of the hands of minors than all the draconian laws put together. Currently we've been allowing Black Market dealers to control distribution. The current policy is not based on any sound reasoning but rather a continuation of a flawed and unenforceable law. 40 years of failure, a wasted trillion dollars, the caging of many millions of Americans and this administrations' solution is to ask for more time, more money and more laws to "punish" the "perpetrators of a victimless crimes, which is based on laws conceived out of greed, lies and racism. . The big question is WHY? The President has abandoned all his supporters who believed he would develop a sensible approach in regard to marijuana. Instead he has turned the DoJ into a Bully Pit bull, attacking non violent citizens on a wholesale basis.  Again, WHY?Mr. President, the model for marijuana legalization is in place. Just treat it as we do alcohol, with all the caveats, limitations and regulations. What you are doing will fail and will get you on the talk circuit in 15 months! Dems and Reps, different pages from the same bad book! Ron Paul 2012 LEAP.cc

weeddeservebetter
weeddeservebetter

HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION?.on http://weeddeservebetter.com/.... FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN THEN STOP TREATING PATIENTS LIKE CRIMINALS...HELP SIGN THE PETITION..if it doesn't get classified to schedule 2 we could NEVER MOVE FORWARD FOR GASOLINE, MEDICINE, CLOTHING AND SO FOURTH..HELP GET THIS PETITION SIGNED..PASS THIS LINK HURRY..THE D.E.A. STILL CONTROLS THIS AS A schedule 1 "DRUG" IT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED IMMEDIATELY https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/pe...

MikeParent
MikeParent

I never want to hear how left leaning politicians are permissive and weak. This is proof that they are oppressive and powerful, even if they are on a fools errand! In all my years, I've never felt my rights and the rights of the American public more truncated and abused than they are now. This administration has gone back on its' word and has become one of the most oppressive administration we've ever had. Trampling on States Rights and Individual rights is not a problem for them as they do it regularly. Strong arm tactics and storm trooper type raids have become the norm. There is no "great threat" from Marijuana, yet this govt. has treated it as if it was akin to Al Qeda. These people are not in touch with reality.  As far as "the children" issue, any reasonable person could see that legalization and regulation would do more to keep it out of the hands of minors than all the draconian laws put together. Currently we've been allowing Black Market dealers to control distribution. The current policy is not based on any sound reasoning but rather a continuation of a flawed and unenforceable law. 40 years of failure, a wasted trillion dollars, the caging of many millions of Americans and this administrations' solution is to ask for more time, more money and more laws to "punish" the "perpetrators of a victimless crimes, which is based on laws conceived out of greed, lies and racism. . The big question is WHY? The President has abandoned all his supporters who believed he would develop a sensible approach in regard to marijuana. Instead he has turned the DoJ into a Bully Pit bull, attacking non violent citizens on a wholesale basis.  Mr. President, the model for marijuana legalization is in place. Just treat it as we do alcohol, with all the caveats, limitations and regulations. What you are doing will fail and will get you on the talk circuit in 15 months! Dems and Reps, different pages from the same bad book! Ron Paul 2012 LEAP.cc

malcolmkyle
malcolmkyle

These 'fast & furious' gun-running Feds are not only guilty of perjury and murder but also of bankrolling ruthless criminals, international terrorists, right/left-wing paramilitaries and various death squads with their counter-productive, sado-moralist policy of Prohibition.

Colombia, Peru, Mexico or Afghanistan with their coca leaves, marijuana buds or poppy sap are not igniting temptation in the minds of our weak, innocent citizens. These countries are duly responding to the enormous demand that comes from within our own borders. Invading or destroying these countries, thus creating more hate, violence, instability, injustice and corruption, will not fix our problem. We need to collectively admit that we are sick. -- Prohibition is neither a sane nor a safe approach; left unabated, its puritanical flames will surely engulf every last one of us!

When we legally regulate something, (as opposed to when we foolishly attempt to prohibit something) we do NOT automatically condone it's use; the legal regulations concerning the sale and manufacture of alcohol and tobacco are there to protect us from the vast increase in criminality and mayhem that would otherwise surely exist if we were foolish enough to prohibit them.

When governments prohibit drugs they effectively and knowingly hand a monopoly on their sale to dangerous criminals and terrorists. Without a legal framework in which to operate, these black-market entities can always be expected to settle their disputes violently, while terrorizing many peaceful and innocent citizens in the process. Were the users of alcohol to blame for the St Valentines massacre in the US in 1929? Of course not! It is just as naive to assume that one can compel all the users of Marijuana or Cocaine to simply quit, as it is to assume that all the users of Alcohol should have stopped drinking after the introduction of alcohol prohibition in 1919.

Protect our Children; Legalize, Regulate & Tax!

Kelpal2003
Kelpal2003

Who you going to vote for then? MittRomney? Rick Perry? Michelle Bachmann? Newt Gingrich? Will you be inbetter shape, given your opinions about pot, voting for them or maybejust staying home and letting other people vote for you? Here is a President whose Dept. of Justice cameout saying that they would not hinder medical marijuana laws instates. Here is a President who said, in response to a question aboutwhether he inhaled when he smoked pot, “Isn't that the point?”

I live in Hawai‘i and we still havethe Feds come to fly green harvest. Yes, this is against what ourState and the Federal Government have said they would do. We alsohave and have had in the past, stupid Departmental goings on, one ofthe last ones, I think in 2008 or 9, was the current acting deputydirector of ATF allowing smugglers across the border of Mexico totake arms so they could trace where they were going to. They, like,didn't trace. I would doubt that would be a Bush policy, nor do Ithink that is an Obama policy. The people in charge of ATF areincompetent, just as the people in charge of Hurricane Katrina at thefederal disaster controls were incompetent, just like the Departmentof Energy was literally in bed with the oil companies. It is all abunch of corporate bull, the revolving door to government throughPACS. This is what the Wall Street protesters are all about –corporate greed. The President wants to actually make sure thatmillionaires pay their fair share and wants to close loopholes sothat large corporations cannot get by making billions and not payinga thing in taxes. The people running against him for the 2012elections are totally against that. 

Look into President Obama's record –check out for yourself what he has actually accomplished. You maychange your tune. Many of his appointments havenot been confirmed after 3 years, the people in charge of the ATF arestill totally right wing, he cannot get rid of them withoutcongressional approval, how is he responsible for all of theiractions? This is the most divisive and disrespectful behavior I haveever seen from any congress.

david mowers
david mowers

Obama is a politician and politicians are LIARS. He is not going to do anything to help pot legalization efforts. Just wait until the F.D.A. raids start you thought dealing raw milk was bad!

DonDig
DonDig

This sounds like the Feds would seriously like to kill the MMJ industry.  Unprecedented.  A violation of freedom of speech.  A fundamental, clearly accepted, and understood right.  The whole marijuana prohibition issue, though, is at its core a violation of personalfreedom.  These prohibitions are similar in that they are both too far reaching.  If we allow our government tolimit what we can consume, an inherent natural personal freedom, all personal freedoms become targets.  There is no legal justification for this in‘the Land of the Free’.  Nor can wecontinue to allow prohibitionists to hide behind the yellow press smear done inthe last century.  The only question iswhen will enough people realize that defining the activities of a minority,(cannabis users), that are causing minimal, if any, social harm, as criminal,is a policy that impacts everyone’s freedom.

 

This is not an issue about the will of the majority: thewill of the majority is what we use to elect candidates.  The freedoms of a peaceful minority must notbe infringed unless they are inflicting grievous social harm, and by everyreasonable measure, cannabis consumers are not doing so.  Informed people realize that cannabisprohibition causes much more hardship than its consumption.  Minority rights and freedoms were one of thereasons this country was founded in the first place.  

 

It would be so progressive and forward looking for our government to focus onminimizing harm. Since they can’t achieve an effective prohibition, (and afterforty years of trying, that conclusion should be self-evident), they shouldsay, "OK, how can we minimize all associated harm here?” 

Creating a criminal class with the stroke of a pen is nevergood government.  Intending to maintainthat same ‘criminality’ by decree now is a heinous affront to basic civilpersonal human rights and prohibition can no longer be tolerated. 

 

Want to help by signing petitions for cannabis reform?  Many have been gathered here:

http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2...  

VincentVonDudler
VincentVonDudler

This two part plan is the only action the citizens of the US need to take to end federal marijuana prohibition:1) EVERYONE that sees these links sign up at both sites and weigh in on the debate- http://pvox.co/CdiFqY- http://wh.gov/gDQ2) Propagate those two links and ensure that everyone that sees them go to both those sites.

Too many people are blaming the President for enforcing the federal marijuana prohibition. Contact Congress (the LEGISLATIVE branch [that's the important one when it comes to law]) via the first link. Contact Obama (the EXECUTIVE branch [until Obama vetos a passed H.R. 2306 it's on Congress - but tell Obama anyway]) via the second link. It really is THAT easy. Participate in democracy!

Fake
Fake

Half of all deaths from liver failure every year are caused by acetaminophen (eg Tylenol).  Over the years it's directly killed hundreds of thousands of people.  But it's very profitable for big drug companies that bribe politicians so it says on the market.

There are 0, that is no medically verified deaths from cannabis ever.  Decades of studies in dozens of countries have found cannabis is a more effective pain reliever than acetaminophen and much safer.  But it's not profitable for the big drug companies that bribe politicians because cannabis is easy to grow at home.  Cannabis requires no pesticides and uses the same basic plant care as tomatoes.

So Mad!
So Mad!

Now this is all about politics! Who knows the government is probably raiding all the cannabis clubs for money! Isn't Fort Knox empty? They are just in it to win it! They are in the bully stage to get it out of our hands and are probably making plans with pharmaceuticals to market it. They so call want a controlled substance! What is that! So far every drug in the pharmacy can give humans a bad side effect, other health risks and possible death. Marijuana is plant for god's sake!

Sean Boswell
Sean Boswell

There's another 250,000,000 votes he's NOT gonna get!!  Idiots!!!

Kelpal2003
Kelpal2003

This is not President Obama's policy. Isn't this an ATF issued rule? Isn't ATF still run by Bush era Kenneth Melson who has been acting director recently demoted to acting deputy director? Isn't President Obama's nominee Traver still not confirmed by congress because he is feared by the National Rifle Association? Am I really off base or is this article right out of FOX news in its outright lies? This is not journalism. This is propaganda in my opinion.

Fake
Fake

The ATF reports to the Executive Branch, of which Obama is the head.

Obama also claimed the right to assassinate not just foreign people but even US citizens.

Obama gave $700B to banks, not poor people.

Obama is not a liberal, he's just as much a statist control freak as Bush.

spectrewriter
spectrewriter

Just when you thought this administration cares about civil rights...

A different country may be in order after all.

Rick
Rick

I find the DoJ's actions as abhorrent as anyone, but is it a good idea to rely on one precarious industry for 30% of your ad revenue? perhaps alt-weeklies need to take another look at their business models...

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