Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama strikes out on marijuana

Here's a blog item I posted on the Register's Orange Punch blog on how disappointing it was to see Barack Obama acknowledge the great interest people who submitted questions online for his vaunted online "town hall" meeting and then dismiss it with a couple of lame laugh lines. I can understand that he has a lot onhis plate and this might not be his first priority, but the issue deserves serious consideration rather than reaching for a guffaw or two. More than 7,000 people have died in Mexico in the last 15 months or so, largely because of our counterproductive drug war. How many more will have to die before more than a handful of politicians and the so-called "mainstream" media catch up with the public on this issue?

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.

1 comment:

SunflowerPipes said...

I respect Obama he is a talented politician, President Obama seems to posse’s insightful, reasonable judgment on many issues, although in the case of marijuana prohibition laws I find Obama’s choice to answer with mocking humor to be lacking. Smoking marijuana is an easy thing to laugh about, it seems there is something about being stoned that brings a smile to people’s faces, however marijuana prohibition is not a joke. We should not be making jokes as millions of Americans are arrested for being caught on the wrong side of moral politicking, we should not laugh as we spend over 30 billion dollars a year going after Americans for smoking weed, we should not giggle and poke fun as we watch billions of dollars in tax revenue slip through our fingers each year, and should we not be jolly as thousands of people are murdered by cartels profiting from America’s moral hypocrisy. I believe there are profound latent consequences in prohibition that are not even factored in to our assessments of the effects of illegality, such as how we view the rule of law and the role of law enforcement in the community, the divisiveness between users and non users, the stigma of mental shock of incarceration. I say pot prohibition is no joke it has real costs paid for in real lives. Freedom is achieved in a country by placing responsibility in the hands of the citizen and not by the state legally enforcing morality.