I long ago gave up being upset at people reflexively dismissing the idea of marijuana legalization with cheap jokes, even though over the years I have spent a fair amount of time, energy and study on the subject and understand a fair amount about just how expensive, socially corrosive, counter-productive and downright cruel prohibition is. There’s something about pot that seems to demand cheap jokes. But I still reserve the right to be mildly exasperated.
In his online “town hall” meeting President Obama, who might be expected to know better, did what most conventional politicians do, noting the intense interest in the issue of marijuana legalization among those who submitted questions online and dismissing it with a couple of weak laugh lines. I suppose he thought it made him look properly middle-America, but it’s an example of serious unseriousness. The sad thing is that anyone who has given the issue more than a few moments’ thought knows legalzation would help the economy, not only by saving the money wasted on enforcement and imprisonment, but opening up huge markets that could be taxed, not only in marijuana but hemp.
I’m not quite alone in my assessment. Freddie DeBoer growls thoughtfully. Andrew Sullivan calls it pathetic. Radley Balko defends him from criticism. Pete Guither at DrugWarRant rounds up a host of responses. Steven Taylor at PoliBlog is also exasperated. And not surprisingly, the good folks at the Marijuana Policy Project are not pleased. I don’t know what it will take for the “mainstream” media to begin to take this issue seriously.