Dear President Obama: Please Stop Making Jokes About Cannabis

Dear President Obama: Please Stop Making Jokes About Cannabis

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Dear President Obama,

Please stop making jokes about weed. And while you’re at it, please stop telling young people that cannabis prohibition reform shouldn’t be a priority. You’ve been called out on this before, but clearly you are still out of touch with what’s going on in America.

Yes, pot can make you laugh, and it can give you the munchies. Pot can be hilarious. But you know what’s not funny at all, not even a little bit? When the Commander-In-Chief of a country where people are literally dying from prohibition pokes fun at weed in any way, shape, or form. It would not be any less funny if you were joking about human trafficking or combat casualties or any of the other very serious issues that plague our society, because you could change cannabis laws and you haven’t. There is blood on your hands. And there is never, ever, anything funny about that.

Yes, you joked about weed at the DC Gridiron Dinner, just as you’ve done many times before. I appreciate that you spared us a Doritos joke during your VICE interview, but it was even more disheartening to hear you list all the things that young people should prioritize over cannabis reform.

Are you so out of touch that you fail to realize that for those of us in the trenches, legalization is not just about smoking weed and getting high? Although dominion over my own body and my preferred form of recreation is certainly part of it, for me and for countless other Americans, the wounds of cannabis prohibition run so much deeper than that, and your failure to acknowledge this is shameful and unacceptable.

I find it incredibly ironic that you said young people should be more concerned about health care than cannabis reform. Surely you realize than medical cannabis already plays a great role in the health care of many Americans, right?

I can’t even count the number of friends I’ve lost since I got cancer and got involved in cannabis reform. For patients with cancer, epilepsy, MS, ALS, PTSD, HIV-AIDS and so many other potentially fatal conditions, access to cannabis is more important that the other issues that you list as priorities. When my family watched my father die of a terminal brain cancer that cannabis has shown promise in treating, we took cannabis prohibition very personally.

As a health care reformer, do you really think it’s appropriate to joke about cannabis when epileptic children and their families have to move across the country to gain access to the one treatment that might save their lives?

And what about the parents of the children who have died awaiting access, Mr. President? Would you tell a Dorito joke to Phil and Paula Joana, whose beautiful daughter Sabina died while she waited for the opportunity to see if her intractable epilepsy would respond to cannabis therapy? While the Joanas watch other families of epileptic children celebrate weeks, months, or even years seizure-free using cannabis, knowing they have buried their daughter, could you look them in the eye and tell them that cannabis reform should not be a priority? As a parent, you should know better, and you should be ashamed.

But this isn’t only about patients. It’s about the other casualties of cannabis prohibition, the prisoners of our country’s shameful War on Drugs.

President Obama, can you look Kristin Flor in the eye and tell her that repealing prohibition shouldn’t be a priority? Kristin lost her father while he was in prison for violating federal cannabis law. Despite the fact that Richard Flor was terminally ill, he was prosecuted for helping patients by supplying medical cannabis, and forced to die shackled to a prison bed. The cannabis laws you say aren’t a priority caused unfathomable loss and irreparable suffering for the Flor family. Sadly, the Flors are far from the only family that has been torn about by the laws you say are less important than our nation’s job market.

My friend Larry Duke spent 26 years in federal prison for a non-violent cannabis-only offense. As young entrepreneurs make millions in Colorado, too many men and women remain incarcerated in American prisons for engaging in the same business a generation too soon. Yes, I am aware of the pardons you have granted. But until you free every last cannabis prisoner in our country, from those in county jails to those serving life terms in federal penitentiaries, you have NO right to make light of cannabis law or make juvenile jokes about weed. I repeat: YOU HAVE NO RIGHT.

There is still time for you to create real change. It’s too late to save Richard Flor or Sabina Joana or my father, and there is no way to compensate Larry Duke for the decades he lost while incarcerated. There is no way to make restitution for the lives lost, the families torn apart, the research studies categorically denied. But you can stop this deadly cycle of prohibition from infecting another generation.

The Drug War will forever be a dark stain on America’s history. Do you want to be remembered as the president who smoked weed in college but failed to see what prohibition is doing to American citizens? Or do you want to end this thing, right here, right now? We’re all waiting to see if you recognize that for so many Americans, ending the War on Cannabis is nothing to joke about, and it is absolutely, unquestionably a priority.


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Vanessa Waltz

Vanessa Waltz is a writer, artist, and marijuana reform advocate living in New Mexico. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1994 with a dual BA in Sociology and Studio Arts. Vanessa is a firm believer in the healing properties of cannabis, and has a special interest in advocacy for children with epilepsy and cancer. She is the managing editor of Ladybud Magazine and serves on the board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana - New Jersey (CMMNJ).
  • medimary

    Thank You!!!!

  • Socrates Smith

    . Every minute an American dies of

    Cancer. Every American Cancer patient deserves
    the right to have safe, legal,

    and economical access to Medical Marijuana.

    One day history will look back at

    prohibition and view it as a crime against
    humanity. We’re stripping our fellow citizens of their
    liberty based on ideas we know to be untrue. Truth means accountability, and
    accountability terrifies those who have gone beyond what is necessary. There is
    no room for lies to survive. Cannabis is the 21 century penicillin. President Obama its never to late to be what you might have been. Legalize /Decriminalize Cannabis

  • joniw

    This could well be part of the story of my life. My husband died of glioblastoma multiforme. My daughter of Melanoma. I am a vietnam era veteran with p.t.s.d. and loads of other acronyms which would benefit from cannabis therapy. Yet in my state, Minnesota, they’d rather incarcerate young black males 11 times the national average for small pot related crimes, and leave 88,000 people banned from participating in the unsustainable medical marijuana program because of Mark Dayton and his cop crony Police Unions. Governor Dayton admitted to being a cannabis user for a decade while in College, and when the sick and dying patients, and the mothers of sick children went to see him in his mansion to discuss it, we were told to just go buy it illegally. What kind of compassion is that? and from the Democratic Party as well. You get it and then laugh and make jokes when sick and dying people need it? Something is very wrong about that. Making people wait is blood on your hands. I do not use illegally, I am nearly 60. What are you waiting for? more to die in the military so that you don’t have to provide for them as promised? How many more will die because you and Governor Dayton wait. What if it was your child with sickle cell anemia? What it your mother with Alzheimers, or you Wife with cancer. How fast could you/would you move then! Please see beyond the over-rated Euphoria and let a cancer patient smile, even when on chemo. Give a parent the miracle of knowing their child’s suffering is eased. And don’t for get the Veterans. We are so lost without help.

    • Vanessa Waltz

      Thank you for your insight. I am very sorry for the losses your family has suffered.

    • Jennifer

      Your story is so sad and so uncommon. Thank you for sharing here; your words help convince others more fortunate that there is a time and place for everything. As for medical cannabis, that time is NOW.

  • Dr truth

    The only thing that’s a “JOKE” is our HYPOCRITICAL MORON of a President .. Who day in and day out chooses to do nothing when it comes to cannabis reform – Even while millions of people (including children and veterans) continue to die and suffer both directly and indirectly from these draconian laws – but hey Mr President go ahead and keep making those “weed jokes” and acting like it really isn’t that important of a issue , just shows how much of a out of touch heart less POS you really are

  • Great article Vanessa. Not only does this President take a glib stance towards the millions of activists and millions more cannabis users, but patronizes everyone by perpetuating a dynamic that healthcare reform is somehow separate from cannabis liberation.
    The other patronizing aspect of BHO’s continue glib stance is that the war on drugs is an example of the greater constitutional issues we have at the forefront with NSA spying and international data laundering. The younger generation will take political power in this country and conclude that nothing short of a constitutional amendment will suffice to keep the UN and Corporate interests from infringing on the individuals’ right to do with their body what they please.

  • ted mishler

    How true. I feel the same way.
    It seems more important to him to play the part of a clown with control of the guns and the nuclear arsenal, disgusting

  • iLikeTurtles

    Well the problem I have with this article is that Obama can’t just “change cannabis laws”. Sure, he could push for it and you can definitely want him to do that but let’s be real. It probably wouldn’t get through congress anyway. Congress shut down legalizing it in DC with the budget. So yes, if you want it to change, you should complain. Just try to complain to the right people

    • This blog post is less about the president and more about the people. Certainly we don’t expect that Obama will actually read it but he can definitely influence cannabis policy, starting with the cessation of joking about cannabis like a frivolous issue.

    • ted mishler

      To the Turtle liker,
      All those in public office take an oath to protect all people of the United States of America, not discriminate against them, to prevent them from employment, but that is just what discriminatorial urinalysis does.
      A presidential executive order could stop the war against all those who use cannabis in communities all across the USA, yes, he does have the ability to stop people from taking away our God given to hold a job for instance, or own a home with no confiscations, to own property without forfeiture, to have a family, with no abduction of our kids to be forced in to foster homes. That is what the Commander and Chief is supposed to do, to protect all the people of this country.
      What constitutional grounds do you base your statement of siding with those in office guilty of high treason?
      You are aware that warring on people in this country is the definition of high treason:
      “Participating in a war against one’s native country”

      is the definition, see for yourself:

      3rd paragraph, second sentence

    • Joseph Lee

      The President of the United Sates of America has the power to start a war. He also has the power to end marijuana prohibition overnight. This is simply a fact. It may piss Congress off, but all it would take our President to make marijuana legal on a federal basis, are a few signatures on the proper documents.

  • lol

    People who compare the tragedy of marijuana not being fully legalized to war casualties and human trafficking are probably part of the reason people don’t really take it seriously….come on….

    • Tiredofthecrap

      Quick vocabulary lesson: “Compare” = “analogy”, or “imprecise relation”. It’s not equal, it equivalent. A 3 year old suffering 200 seizures a day? How is that any more acceptable that war casualties? Neither is acceptable, dumbass. Stop being superficial. Jeez.

    • ted mishler

      you laugh at those in prison for life for cannabis?

  • dog8myhmwk

    An article that takes this approach and tone does nothing to help the cause. Do you understand how laws work? The President can’t just change the law. Who are you to tell the President that he has no right? I belong to NORML, and you do not speak for me.

    • Vanessa is a board member of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey and Ladybud Magazine Publisher Diane Fornbacher is on the board of nat’l NORML. Both realize the importance of reforming cannabis laws as well as ending the entire drug war. And both engage in manifest ways to do just that. We speak for those we have seen suffer.

    • Vanessa Waltz

      I’m not presuming to speak for you or for NORML. I’m speaking for myself in an online editorial. I am an American citizen, and the last I heard, the First Amendment is still alive and well. I have also lost loved ones to our country’s war on drugs, so I speak from that experience as well.

  • ddd

    yep fuck the smiley cunt

  • ted mishler

    thanks to the good pals you are true indeed
    you, your love for life, liberty, guidance, and the wonderful magical weed
    to think that bloomington is not happinin
    makes me fee like a true sapplin
    i still miss the stores of denver and believe i should venture there and see
    so much to do, gold to dig, gold to grow, from the wonderful tree
    there is no better feeling of contentment i have found:-)
    excuse me, while i eat some popped corn and watch prerecorded american idol shows, and other stuff too, what a wonderful world we live, long live the effect of never feeling blue
    god bless good pals for being true

  • retrodiva

    So sad to see glioblastoma multiforme mentioned here – I lost my mom in 2011, and it was devastating. It is also what made me into an advocate today. Surely those dying from brain tumors (or any other medical/psychological ailment, from simple to severe) deserve a chance to treat them. Withholding treatment, to me, is just immoral, and definitely not funny.

    • Vanessa Waltz

      I’m very sorry for your loss. My Dad’s cancer was Glioblastoma Multiforme as well, and was a big part of my journey into advocacy and activism.

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  • Mary Miller

    I, like so many, are so blastedly frustrated with our president regarding cannabis. It’ is a CRIME that each state is running the; let’s legalize cannabis, or medical use of cannabis, then write ENDLESS bills to kill it, until the people get so warn down they are no longer fighting to stop their senates, and house of representatives from KILLING all forms of cannabis in their states. Oregon is doing this yet again. Washington is trying to rid themselves of dispensaries, and yet more states are making use impossible for the MEDICALLY ILL.

    I am a user, not because I am a “pothead”, which is bad enough to label folks in derogatory ways. Those of us who are ILL with conditions that cannot be helped by pharmaceuticals NEED their medications, not jokes. What we NEED is compassion, and to know that next week, month or year, our medication will be available without risk of being imprisoned for using the ONLY usable medication that works for us.

    When did “We the People” fail to know “what’s good for us” and need our government, our elected officials to treat us like children? And since when is it Nobler to “kill” us, than to allow us to make our own choices when it comes to medical help?

    I had flames shooting out my face when the president started his “jocularity” making fun of “pot” and comparing it to HEROIN, Cocaine., and METH. Which is stupid and uniformed, not to mention: MINIMIZING those with severe health issues all for the sake of, what?Being concerned about being labeled, the “black president who legalized cannabis?”

    He needs to grow up, and he needs to realize that with all the advocacy coming to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with children having seizures, adults with AIDS, with Fibromyalgia, with Cerebral palsy, with Cancer, vets with PTSD, stop joking and consider the fact there’s nothing laughable about 200+ seizures a day, or children sent home to die: get educated by all these people who are writing to you, going to the senate and those picketing your home, there is a reason they are there, not because they are ‘potheads’.

    And may we please stop hearing he ‘can’t fix the regulations?’ We know damn well that it was NIXON acting ALONE that placed cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, as a means to end all of his ‘so called paranoid ‘ delusions that hippies were out to get him, and that Jews wanted cannabis to take over the government. If Nixon was able to schedule it ram rod through as a schedule 1, then by God, it can be undone by a President and the executive powers as well.

    We need adults in the white house, not children being either paranoid of their constituents, or being joking bullies to those in serious need: grow up.

  • moneyfields19

    “because you could change cannabis laws and you haven’t.”
    No he can’t.

    He might be able to if congress wouldn’t obviously block him from doing so, but as it stands, he can’t.

    “and it is absolutely, unquestionably a priority.”

    It’s a problem, but as the President he has more important things that he should be focusing on.
    It’s more of a priority for Congress and state officials than the President.

    If you want to rant and rave at someone, you should do it at someone who is actually capable of doing something.