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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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