Paul Jacob

What do 13 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — have that other states of the union lack?

Each of our United States has great people and not-so-great politicians. So what sets these states apart?

Medical marijuana. Each has passed legislation to allow marijuana to be used by patients of legitimate doctors, if prescribed.

In the bulk of these states it was the citizens who initiated the reform as ballot measures and citizens who voted medical marijuana into law. Other initiative states have tried and failed, and at least one state is in the process of placing a medical marijuana initiative before the voters. Which one? Florida.

Few people remember this, but, in his run for the presidency, George W. Bush pledged to honor state law regarding medical marijuana. But once in office, Bush broke his word and set the power and weight of the federal government against legally established marijuana outlets, doctors, and patients. Many are in jail, now. Many are dead, after their fights with cancer or AIDS (for example) took them, and after being harassed by the federal government. And still others await trial.

Such was the state of affairs as President Obama took office. He, too, had promised to back off of voter-approved, doctor-prescribed cannabis use in states that had approved that use. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he stated. Would he honor his pledge, where Bush dishonored his?

Judging by his heavily nuanced approach to other campaign promises, there may not seem much reason to expect consistent follow-through.

But the recession does give medical marijuana activists some cause for hope. The recession seems to be worsening, and current policy indicates that a greater worsening is likely. The whole debacle looks more and more like Great Depression II.

And during the last Depression, Prohibition was repealed.

So there’s precedent.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.