Pursuant to 1970's Controlled Substances Act, drugs (pharmaceutical or recreational) may be categorized by federal bureaucratic agencies somewhere on a continuum; Schedule I drugs being outright banned as diabolically dangerous.
To make Schedule I's Worst of the Worst List, the federal bureaucracies must determine it (1) has a high potential for abuse, (2) has no currently accepted therapeutic use, (3) cannot be used safely even under medical supervision. For example, cocaine and morphine meet criteria (1), but fail for (2) and (3). Neither is a Schedule I drug.
The bureaucratic agencies that determine drug scheduling are the DEA and the FDA. How a drug is scheduled also informs how aggressively law enforcement pursues, and how the justice system prosecutes and sentence those who sell or possess those drugs. Prosecutions are at the discretion of the Attorney General. Both agencies and the AG are within the Executive branch. In short, the president controls.
Initially, marijuana was placed on Schedule I, provisional to subsequent evaluation. Since then, a mountain of scientific evidence has been presented to demonstrate marijuana (1) isn't especially physically addictive or harmful, (2) has several beneficial therapeutic effects, and (3) no person has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
So far, the government has not found this evidence persuasive.
Many, many others have been highly persuaded. In 1996, California voters passed, through its initiative process, a law called The Compassionate Use Act which permits marijuana to be used only for specific medical purposes upon a physician's diagnosis and prescription. The law's stated intent was a guarantee that no party conforming to the limited legal medical purpose shall be criminally prosecuted or penalized. Since then, 12 additional states have legalized medical marijuana and more than 2,500 licensed physicians in the US prescribe therapeutic marijuana to tens of thousands of American patients. The American College of Physicians, the DEA's Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, The National Institute of Mental Health, the prestigious Institute of Medicine, and hell, even Newt fucking Gingrich is likewise persuaded that marijuana has medical benefits and should be rescheduled.
Nonetheless, the federal government makes scant distinction between the work of a state-licensed dispensary that provides prescription marijuana to patients, and the work of a major heroin trafficker. Both are subject to prosecution, prison, fines, and forfeiture of assets.
Then suddenly in March the Obama administration, speaking through Attorney General Eric Holder, sprung into action! He announced they would stop raiding dispensaries and no longer prosecute those who comply with state laws. That's swell, but too little, too late. A month earlier, DEA agents raided four more dispensaries and seized a bunch more private property.
Today another law-abiding citizen was unjustly sentenced to federal prison.
Like other folks before him, Charlie Lynch was convicted in a Los Angeles federal court for doing things that are entirely legal in California. The US Department of Justice called that little wrinkle "irrelevant." As in other federal trials regarding medical marijuana, the trial is rigged because the accused is not allowed to present evidence and the jury is not permitted to hear the truth. Seriously, this is some outrageous third-world shit.
The government presented evidence to the jury that Mr. Lynch had sold over 1000 kg of marijuana as a common drug dealer. Lynch was not permitted to tell the jury that the marijuana was sold as a legal product for a legal purpose under state law, and despite the cop's best undercover sting efforts, they couldn't get Lynch or his employees to violate the law.
The government presented evidence to the jury that Lynch carried a backpack stuffed with cash. Lynch was not permitted to tell the jury; that the money represented the receipts from a state and locally licensed business called Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers; that local dignitaries attended his ribbon-cutting ceremony; or that he paid all his taxes and operated without incident until the feds kicked in his door and put a gun to his head.
The government presented evidence to the jury that Lynch was a dealer in dangerous drugs. Lynch was not permitted to present witnesses to testify on his behalf to the medical benefit derived from patronizing Lynch's business.
The government presented evidence to the jury that Mr. Lynch sold pot to a teenager. Lynch was not permitted to tell the jury that the teen cancer patient's parents approved of his treatment, or that the marijuana was prescribed to the boy by a Stanford-educated MD.
The jury heard only the government's case and were denied the opportunity to weigh any exculpatory evidence. They convicted Mr. Lynch on all counts. The DOJ asked for the mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.
In light of the Attorney General's announced change of policy, the judge sensibly requested clarification from the AG's office before sentencing Mr. Lynch. The AG's response, in pertinent part:
...the Office...has reviewed the facts of this case and determined that the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of defendant are entirely consistent with the policies of DOJ and with public statements made by the Attorney General with respect to marijuana prosecutions...
Fortunately, Barack "I inhaled frequently" Obama today stepped up to proclaim, "we have reached a point where doing nothing...is no longer an option."
Unfortunately, he was talking about something else, and he continued to do nothing about this. Until Obama gets his head and his ass wired together enough to actually do something about the things he can actually do something about, all his blathering about injustices elsewhere is just so much empty bullshit.