President Elect Obama is known for reaching out beyond the beltway to take the pulse of the nation. His website, Change.gov offers all of us the chance to communicate our hopes, dreams, fears and needs. This is governance from the ground up, the way it was meant to be. A new program just instituted on the website, is one where citizens may pose specific questions, and others can vote on their importance, bringing significant questions to the top of the list. In the short six-and-a-half hours the âOpen for Questionsâ segment of Obamaâs change.gov website actually stayed open, 7300 questions were posted, 10,000 people participated and 600,000 votes were cast for the most important issues on peopleâs minds. Guess which question had the most votes? "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" Yes, itâs true. With all of the incredible and difficult issues facing us today, the question above was the most prominent in peopleâs minds. Questions two through six, in order of popularity, read: "What will you do as President to restore the Constitutional protections that have been subverted by the Bush Administration and how will you ensure that our system of checks and balances is renewed?" "What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?" "Will you lift the ban on Stem Cell research in your first 100 days in office?" "What will you do to promote science and mathematics education to Elementary and Middle School students?" "Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor - ideally Patrick Fitzgerald - to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?" I want you to get this. Constitutional protections, the Wall Street bailout, stem cell research, elementary and middle school education, and the investigation of torture and a warrentless wiretapping by the Bush Administration played second fiddle to a demand for a change in marijuana laws. Not only that, the seventh of the top ten questions reads as follows: "13 states have compassionate use programs for medial Marijuana, yet the federal gov't continues to prosecute sick and dying people. Isn't it time for the federal gov't to step out of the way and let doctors and families decide what is appropriate?" trumping questions about our farming policies, use of mercenaries in our military, and âgreeningâ the environment. Then thereâs this one, just missing the top 10 by one slot: "The US "War on Drugs" wastes billions every year tracking down and incarcerating non-violent users. What is your position on the legalization of marijuana? How do you feel about treating rather than imprisoning users of harder, addictive drugs?" Question 12 was one about universal health care. Here is Question 13: "How will you fix the current war on drugs in America? and will there be any chance of decriminalizing marijuana?" Question 14 asks the president to preserve Net Neutrality. Hereâs question 15: "What kind of progress can be expected on the decriminalization and legalization for medicinal purposes of marijuana and will you re-prioritize the "War On Drugs" to reflect the need for drug treatment instead of incarceration?" Questions 16 and 17 reflect demands for solar energy investment, and banking accountability, and 18 reads as follows (followed by demands to sever the relationship between the FDA and big pharma, and investment in high-speed passenger rails. "The U.S. has the world's highest incarceration rate, largely due to the War on Drugs. Our prisons are festering pits of rape, racism, and gang violence, and divert a lot of tax money to the corrupt prison industry. How can we fix this?" So, hereâs a quick tally. Two of the top ten, and six of the top twenty questions addressed our governmentâs policies surrounding cannabis (recreational and medicinal) and the War on Drugs in general. It doesnât end there. Following question 21 about tax incentives to home owners for installing energy efficiency measures we have: "Would you consider the legalizing of growing hemp (not marijuana) for food, clothing and bio-fuel use?" and "Drug control policy in America is a mess, most specifically with regards to marijuana. Federal and state laws are in conflict all over the country. What do you plan to do about this? Will you allow the states to make their own determinations?" After that folks asked about public transportation, gay marriage, sustainable farming practices, and abuse of executive power. Then we get to questions 28 and 29, "What about the use of Hemp and finally legalizing marijuana for personal use?" "If we did not have over 2 million people in jail, many of which on marijuana charges, we would save billions a year and keep families together. Will you commit to a comprehensive drug treatment plan that will help keep families together?" These two queries just edged out a request to prevent bailout recipients from using the money for lobbying. Apparently, the arrest of nearly 1,000,000 otherwise law abiding citizens each year for mere possession of cannabis, the relentless persecution of the sick and dying, and the continued incarceration of 1 out of every 100 adults, (and jailing or probation of 31 out of every 100 adults) is finally getting on peoples nerves, Yes, these questions will not go away. Iâm afraid lawmakers around the country will have to suck it up and realize that, as Barney Frank put it: this is an issue where the public is way ahead of the politicians. To see all 7,300 questions in order of their importance to the populace, click here. P.S. I kind of like questions 33 and 34 "What will you do to ensure that the government takes scientific research into account when making laws? Especially when it comes to questions about the legalization of marijuana and the use of medical marijuana." "On the campaign trail, you said you would put an end to the federal raids on medical marijuana patients. Will you implement this policy within the first year of your term?" Get my point? Are you listening? You can read other posts by Brinna on OpenSalon.com
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