This week Rob Kampia, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, called President Obama "the worst president (so far) on medical marijuana."
It's a debatable statement, but one that would have been even easier for Kampia to argue if he'd waited for today's news to write it.
California Watch reports that attorneys in that state are planning to begin targeting newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, and other media forms that carry advertisements for medical marijuana.
U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of San Diego says that the crackdown will begin immediately.
Duffy said her effort against TV, radio or print outlets would first include "going after these folks with ... notification that they are in violation of federal law." She noted that she also has the power to seize property or prosecute in civil and criminal court.
. . . I'm not just seeing print advertising," Duffy said in an interview with California Watch and KQED. "I'm actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It's gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate - one has to wonder what kind of message we're sending to our children - it's against the law."
U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy
So that's what the U.S. Attorney says.
Now here's what the First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Of course commercial speech is a different beast, legally, than non-commercial speech, and it's not afforded the same protections. But defining what is and what isn't commercial speech is wherein lies the rub.
Four factors must typically apply to a form of communication for it to be considered commercial speech.
1. The contents do "no more than propose a commercial transaction."
2. The contents may be characterized as advertisements.
3. The contents reference a specific product.
4. The disseminator is economically motivated to distribute the speech.
So it stands to reason that overly generic medical-marijuana ads would still be legal under the threatened crackdown.
Cannabis defense lawyer William G. Panzer also notes to CW that deciding whether a publication or station is at fault for an illegal ad is also tricky.
"Technically, if I'm running the newspaper and somebody gives me money and says, 'Here's the ad,' I'm the one who is physically putting the ad in my newspaper," he said. "I think this could be brought against the actual newspaper. Certainly, it's arguable, but the statute is not entirely clear on that."
All these loopholes and defenses, of course, don't detract from the larger point, which is that under President Obama's watch, federal officials are growing bolder and bolder in their attacks on medical-marijuana providers, patients, and growers, and the local and state governments that tolerate them.
Yet this latest plan to target advertisers is perhaps the most concerning.
Until now, the feds have largely been content to target medical marijuana itself--its patients, dispensaries, gardens, etc. But with Duffy's announcement that she will target speech referring to marijuana, the government has decided to attack the very concept of pot as a medical substance.
Depending on Duffy's success--or perhaps regardless of it--other states are likely to see similar crackdowns soon as well.
Washington state federal prosecutors--mainly the one in eastern Washington--have shown no qualms about raiding dispensaries and arresting patients. It's hard to think they'll bat an eye at adding newspapers and radio stations to their list of wanted criminals as well.
Because, as everyone knows, it's of dire importance to the country right now that no hot nurses be shown with bongs in the pages of our newspapers and magazines.
Meanwhile a person can't watch a single commercial break on television without at least one big pharmaceutical company promising to cure their depression, clear their allergies, or stiffen their penis.