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May 26, 2009 -- Raw Story (US)

Under The Radar: US Democrats Overseas Pass Marijuana Resolution

Obama's Position On Decriminalization Unclear

By Stephen C. Webster

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive


The Democratic Party Committee Abroad, otherwise known as Democrats Abroad, passed a resolution on April 25 recommending the legalization of marijuana in all 50 states.

The news appears to have gone completely unnoticed by all mainstream outlets.

The Democrats Abroad are considered a state party by the Democratic National Committee, which affords them eight elected, voting members. They help U.S. citizens who are traveling and living outside the United States cast ballots in national elections.

The DNC maintains a pool of 200 voting members divvied up by individual states' populations.

The resolution was first put forward by the Japanese branch of Democrats Abroad. After only minor debate, according to kos diarist YoYogiBear who says he created the resolution, it passed, moving up for debate by the Democratic Party Committee Abroad, where it was met with some resistance.

"Once the resolution passed our country committee, it was put on the agenda with the rest of the DA resolutions for consideration at our global meeting in DC," he wrote. "A couple of members of the leadership of DA seemed to think that this issue was not an area of 'core competence' for our organization and questioned vigorously whether we should be considering any resolutions that contradicted President Obama's position at all. Our primary function as a part of the DNC, according to the opponents, was to support the President and his agenda and to help elect Democrats. Implicit in their argument was that this issue would somehow hurt the Democrats and Obama though no evidence was ever presented to backup that assertion."

The resolution was put to a voice vote during the Democrats' Abroad April meeting in Washington, D.C.. After two attempts, it was passed.

In the 2008 election, Democrats Abroad aided the votes of American citizens in 164 countries, according to Toby Condliffe, a Democrats Abroad superdelegate to last year's DNC.

President Obama Opposed, But

Although President Barack Obama made light of a question about marijuana legalization repeatedly promoted on his Web site, efforts to topple marijuana prohibition have reached a fever pitch.

The president's position on the matter, however, is unclear.

Obama, as a candidate for state and national office, said repeatedly that he's in favor of decriminalization, but during a Democratic primary debate he raised his hand in opposition to decriminalization. (His campaign later said he was confused by the question and still supports decriminalization.) The campaign later added that he does not support decriminalization, but feels that current laws are sending too many to jail.

Obama has written about his experiences with marijuana and cocaine as a young man. In January, his half-brother was arrested in Kenya for possession.

Drug policy reform activists were given a small dose of hope with the nomination and confirmation of Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief, as the nation's drug czar. In Seattle, he was a strong proponent of treating addiction as a medical, not criminal, problem.

Shortly after his confirmation, Kerlikowske declared an end to America's "drug war," although substantive policy changes - apart from ceasing police raids on legal medical marijuana patients - have yet to arrive.

Another possible route by which marijuana policy may change during the Obama presidency is by the proposed commission on prison reforms, sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Arlen Specter (D-PA). Sen. Webb said the commission, which would make recommendations on how to lower US prison populations, will examine drug criminalization.

Sen. Webb told CNN in April that with this commission, marijuana legalization would be "on the table."

"We are not protecting our citizens from the increasing danger of criminals who perpetrate violence and intimidation as a way of life, and we are locking up too many people who do not belong in jail," he said.

Full text of the Democrats Abroad resolution follows.


The Obama Administration has wisely stopped Federal prosecution of marijuana sold for medical purposes in a manner compliant with state regulation, thus alleviating the suffering of cancer patients and others who would benefit from medical marijuana.

Only thirteen states regulate the sale of marijuana for medical purposes.

Criminalization of non-medical uses of marijuana continues to contribute needlessly to organized crime at home and abroad, illicit drug trade, overburdening of the criminal justice system, and diverts valuable criminal justice resources away from more serious crimes.

The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy heavily criticized U.S. drug policy and called on the U.S. to decriminalize marijuana in a report coinciding with increased drug-trade violence in Mexico;

The dominant argument against liberalized marijuana regulation, the gateway theory, has been consistently disproven, most recently by a RAND Corporation study commissioned by the British Parliament;

According to a World Health Organization survey conducted in 2008, the United States of America has the highest rates of marijuana use in the world.

In the Netherlands, where adult possession and purchase of small amounts of marijuana are allowed under a regulated system, the rate of marijuana use by both teenagers and adults is lower than in the U.S.

55% of Americans believe possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be a criminal offense, according to a 2005 Gallup poll.

In the U.S., almost 90% of more than 9.5 million marijuana-related arrests since 1995 were for simple possession ­ not manufacture or distribution.


We praise the Obama administration for its bold step to make marijuana available for medical purposes,

We call upon states that do not yet provide the reasonable regulation of medical marijuana to do so as soon as possible, to alleviate suffering wherever possible.

We recommend replacing the current policy of marijuana prohibition with a taxed and regulated system modeled on how alcohol is treated in the U.S.

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