At 11 a.m. today, a rally will take place outside President Barack Obama's local campaign headquarters. But the participants won't be calling for his reelection -- at least not yet. Instead, the charter members of the Patient Voter Project, made up of numerous prominent marijuana advocates, will be criticizing the Obama administration's approach to medical marijuana in Colorado -- and flexing their political muscles in advance of this November's vote.
"It's a large and wide ranging coalition of groups that care about medical marijuana patients," says Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, which is joined by the Marijuana Policy Project,, Americans for Safe Access, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation and Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America in the new organization. "These groups care about medical marijuana patients, and they've come together to highlight the fact that the Obama administration is engaging in hostile activities against medical marijuana patients in Colorado."
The prime example of this behavior for the Patient Voter Project are U.S. Attorney John Walsh's seizure-threat letters to 23 dispensaries near schools.
"John Walsh, who is President Obama's employee, has asked these state-legal dispensaries to shut down," Vicente notes. "We're concerned about those actions and any potential escalation, and the effect it could have on our state's 100,000 medical marijuana patients."
After the release of a memo by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, which advised federal law-enforcers not to expend scarce resources prosecuting MMJ operations that follow the law in states where medical marijuana has been legalized, the Obama administration was widely praised by those in the industry. But a followup directive by Deputy Attorney General James Cole drew a harsher line, opening the door to actions like the recent Walsh letters. And that's frustrating to folks like Vicente.
"There's a real sense among medical marijuana patients and supporters that the Obama administration and the federal government has turned its back on Colorado voters who support medical marijuana patients," he maintains. "We've seen the IRS getting active, shutting down these safe access centers. We've seen that with the ATF preventing medical marijuana patients from having access to weapons permits. And we've seen that in banking, with Treasury and the U.S. Justice Department not allowing banks to work with these state-legal and licensed facilities."
Given these developments, the Patient Voter Project is intent on reminding the Obama campers that they can't simply assume dubious marijuana reformers will eventually line up behind the President.
Page down to continue reading about the Patient Voter Project and today's event. "On the campaign trail, many of us supported Obama because he said he would allow states to regulate medical marijuana," Vicente allows. "And there's a real sense in Colorado that he's forgotten that promise. People are very concerned, and we want him to know that if he continues to escalate his tactics against medical marijuana patients and providers, we're going to be blasting that out to the 40,000 people already on our e-mail list."
And, in contrast, "if he does something positive for medical marijuana patients and providers, we're going to let them know that as well," Vicente adds.
Does that mean there are enough MMJ supporters in Colorado to form a significant voting bloc in what's thought to be an election swing state?
"That's exactly right," Vicente responds. "We want the Obama administration to pay attention to medical marijuana patients and their needs, and to realize that in this razor-thin election, their families and supporters can mean a great deal. And they should respect that."
Today's 11 a.m. event, taking place at President Obama's Campaign for Change headquarters at 9797 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, will feature talks by Vicente, MMAPA's Vincent Palazzotto and Damien LaGoy, an MMJ patient who's spoken out in the past on behalf of people like him.
"Damien is a longtime medical marijuana patient activist," Vicente notes, "and three different centers in his neighborhood recently got letters from John Walsh asking them to shut down. He lives on a fixed income and he can't afford to rent a car to drive further for centers. We need to make sure people like him have access in their communities."
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The bottom line for today's event?
"We want to convey the message that Colorado has done a landmark job of professionally regulating medical marijuana sales," Vincente says. "Patients have excellent access to medical marijuana here, and we want the federal government to leave it in the hands of our functioning state government to continue to do its excellent work."
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: U.S. Attorney 'not bluffing' about seizing dispensaries near schools."