Advocates On Each Side Of Pot Debate Pressure Obama To Take Stand

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: With more than half of all federal prisoners serving time on drug charges, the Obama administration says it’s time to free more low-level drug offenders.

“This is where you can help,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the New York State Bar Association last week, urging lawyers to assist prisoners in creating “well-prepared petitions” to apply for executive clemency.

But while the Justice Department promotes the plan, the Obama team is making it clear that it has no interest in changing the federal law that sends many nonviolent drug offenders to prison in the first place: the one that outlaws marijuana.

On Tuesday, the president’s deputy drug czar, Michael Botticelli, told the House Subcommittee on Government Operations that while the administration wants to help more marijuana offenders get treatment, it won’t move to legalize the drug. “This opposition is driven by medical science and research,” he said.

 
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