DENVER–President Obama may be in danger of losing the Colorado weed vote.
Proponents of medical marijuana held demonstrations Thursday outside Obama campaign offices nationwide, including outposts in Boulder, Denver and Louisville, to protest the Obama Justice Department’s crackdown on dispensaries.
At the Obama for America headquarters in Denver, a small band of demonstrators shouted slogans like, “I’m a patient and I vote” as cars whizzed by on Downing Street during rush hour.
“He broke his promises,” said Malinda Lewis of Aurora, who identified herself as a medical-marijuana patient and cancer survivor. “When he took office, we had all these raids. I’ve been affected by these raids. My caregiver was in jail.”
The demonstrations were organized by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a California-based group that promotes medical-marijuana legalization, as part of an action called “Camp WakeUpObama.”
The group announced that it had organized at least 15 rallies in eight states designed to “draw attention to the Obama administration’s aggressive efforts to shut down legal medical marijuana dispensaries and obstruct the passages of laws that would regulate such activity.”
The Justice Department issued a memo in 2009 indicating that it would leave enforcement of medical-marijuana laws to state authorities, prompting a huge jump in the number of dispensaries in states like California and Colorado, where voters have approved marijuana for medicinal use.
Since then, however, the ASA says the Drug Enforcement Agency has conducted over 200 raids on pot shops in six states, or twice as many as were conducted during the Bush administration, resulting in more than 70 indictments.
“President Obama must tell the more than one million patients in this country how he intends to move this issue forward in his next administration,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We are sick and tired of being told to vote against our health.”
Robert Chase of Denver, wearing a green “Yes on 64″ T-shirt, said he voted for Obama in 2008 but won’t do it again in 2012.
“I’ve left the Democratic Party–I’m sick of Democrats in general,” said Chase. “Obama is the most progressive president in my lifetime, and I’m sick over having to part company with him over this. But the U.S. is not the land of the free if it’s imprisoning as many people over this as it is.”
Chase said he hasn’t decided whom to support in 2012, but he’s considering Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson, or possibly one of the four Socialist candidates on the Colorado ballot.
Certainly he has no shortage of choices: Colorado boasts 17 candidates for president on the Nov. 6 ballot, which is believed to be the most of any state and possibly the most in U.S. history. In 2008, the Colorado ballot had 16 presidential candidates.
Jabari Smith, an Obama for America field organizer manning the Downing Street office during the protest, said the campaign had been warned about the demonstrations.
“Ultimately Mitt Romney’s stand on medical marijuana is more on the right than Obama’s,” said Smith. “They should be protesting the Republican stance, which would be to close all dispensaries.”
A bigger worry for the Obama campaign is that voters could opt for a third-party candidate such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. A former New Mexico governor, Johnson supports marijuana legalization and is polling at 3 percent in Colorado, according to last week’s Denver Post poll.
In a state where Obama and Romney are locked in a statistical tie, Johnson could act as a spoiler by peeling off pro-marijuana Democrats, said Sherer.
“[S]upport for Gary Johnson and the closeness of the race make Obama’s unpopular medical cannabis crackdown an unnecessary roadblock to his reelection,” said Sherer in a Thursday article for Huffington Post.
Demonstrators said they hoped the protests, coming six weeks before the election, would persuade the president to reverse his stance on the dispensary crackdown. Both candidates are campaigning heavily in Colorado, seen as a key swing state.
“The tactics the DEA has resorted to are what we would call jackboot-thug operations,” said Tim Tipton of Denver. “We’re hopeful that before the November election, Obama’s going to lighten on up the dispensary raids.”