The Obama Campaign's Poor Handling of the Marijuana Decriminalization Issue
This transcript from FOX News' Hannity & Colmes earlier today shows exactly why. The segment begins with a clip of Obama advocating marijuana decriminalization in 2004, followed by this comment from republican strategist Kevin Madden:
MADDEN: …Look, there's — if — for anybody who's wondering why Barack Obama was listed by National Journal as the number one liberal in the Senate, it's votes like this, it's a world view like this when it comes to law enforcement issues like the criminal laws that relate to marijuana.
This crystallizes, for a lot of Americans out there, in middle America exactly who Barack Obama is and what he would do as president.
Clearly, Obama is still being subjected to the same predictable and vindictive partisan attacks that he sought to avoid by dismissing decriminalization. Obama's revised rhetoric simply failed to prevent those accusations. It also ignored the views of the American people, 72% of whom support decriminalization according to the most recent poll, conducted by Time/CNN.
From now through November, Obama will be falsely and repeatedly accused of being pro-marijuana. Yet, because he recently rejected decriminalization, he can’t explain why it's a good idea. He will instinctively point towards his recent backpedal, which just makes him look weak. Rather than standing with 72% of Americans and making strong arguments for marijuana reform that most voters would agree with, Obama is stuck debating the meaning of decriminalization and struggling to define his views on the issue. He could instead be scoring points with voters that will appreciate some long overdue straight talk on this issue.
It is doubly silly when one considers the popularity of marijuana reform with libertarian-minded swing voters. A pro-reform stance could earn independent votes without costing him anything from his base, which cares way too much about the war and the economy to be turned off by a position on marijuana that liberals overwhelmingly support anyway.
Obama's communication skills, combined with broad public support for reforming marijuana laws, can still make this issue an asset for his campaign. But that can only happen if he goes on the offensive and takes a stand for sensible marijuana policies rather than hedging and trying to duck partisan attacks that are going to happen anyway. If Obama doubts his ability to sell Americans on an idea 72% of them already agree with, I'd be happy to help draft some talking points.
(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)