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Drug Czar Doesn't Want to Discuss California's Legalization Effort

California could legalize marijuana this November and the drug czar isn’t sure exactly what to say about it:

The Obama administration's top drug enforcement official sidestepped a question Thursday on how the federal government would react if California voters legalize pot this fall.

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said he wouldn't speculate on what the Obama administration would do if California voters approve a ballot initiative that would make marijuana legal for consumption but subject it to regulation.

"Since it hasn't passed, right now it would be improper to speculate on what the federal government's role is," Kerlikowske said during an appearance on ABC's "Top Line" webcast. [The Hill]

There's not much here to try to interpret, but it's certainly an improvement from the hysterical response I'm sure we'd have seen under the Bush Administration. Isn't it incredible that the nation's top anti-drug official -- the man whose primary responsibility is to serve as head cheerleader for the war on drugs – can't think of anything more interesting to say about the country's most populous state attempting to legalize marijuana for recreational use? You could get as much insight from a random guy on the street.

This comment from the article is helpful in explaining what's going on with marijuana policy at the White House:

Obama has played the medical marijuana issue perfectly, allowing MM states to push the envelope and creating acceptance for cannabis in the general population while expending no political capital of his own…

This is exactly right, and it's vitally important to understand this concept even as we condemn the Obama Administration for upholding the status quo in most aspects of drug policy. We've reached a point where it's no longer politically wise for the Administration, particularly a Democratic one, to be visibly associated with aggressive reefer madness. They've appeared to understand this so far, thus the Administration's tone regarding the California legalization effort will speak volumes, regardless of whether or not they actually say anything.
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Totally, can you imagine ANY

Totally, can you imagine ANY administration that would not have immediately and vehemently opposed the effort to legalize? Saying, at least, that it would still be illegal under federal law and that the administration would not abandon federal laws that oppose state laws, giving endless fodder for legalization opponents to from their arguments upon. This knowingly saying nothing is definitely good for our side. They are probably just praying for it not to pass.

You are absolutely right about not expending any political capitol, they understand that the War on Drugs is a failure, and will undoubtedly go bust eventually. If that happens this year or in the next two, they can rest on the fact that they never publicly espoused the War on Drugs, in fact they publicly denounced it, whether or not they actually worked proactively to end the most egregious harms.

Decades’ Rise in Polling Numbers Tells the Story

Kerlikowske is trying to act neutral.  He's become Switzerland.  Given all the drug war screw-ups, a majority of bureaucrats and politicians are probably deliriously happy to see the citizens lead on repealing cannabis prohibition.  Obama always likes to say change happens from the bottom up.

The question a politician must ask is: do I ride the wave, or do I wipe out, sink, and lose all the glory that comes by trashing a destabilizing tyranny like the drug war?  In California, in all states, there can only be one answer:

Ride the wave!  Champion freedom.  Support public health.  Eliminate criminal financial resources.  Free up public resources.  Support and vote ‘Yes’ for marijuana legalization, taxation and regulation!


Ending the Drug War

Actually, none of the reasons that you give are the best one for ending the War on Drugs. The best on is a lesson that every military commander knows, and every good parent learns: don't give orders that you know will not be obeyed. Prohibition didn't work with alcohol; and hasn't worked with other drugs either. It will be a massive step forward for respect for the law if we quit trying to ban something that people are simply unwilling to give up.

Of course, the chance to cripple organized crime and the various drug gangs is nothing to sneeze at either. But I see that as a bonus, not the primary driver.

I doubt the administration

I doubt the administration will say anything positive regarding pot unless either a) A state legalizes, or b) Webb's blue-ribbon commission reports and gives him political cover.

Speaking of which, whatever happened to that commission? Feels like it's getting punted until 2011.

Good point about prohibition undermining respect for the law

I've been forgetting to make that point, and I don't recall seeing others making it much either. I'm not saying it's more important than the points Giordano made though, my crystal ball is cloudy on that score.
To spell out a little the public health benefits to legalizing: a safer alternative to alcohol is desperately needed, it is a life and death matter.
A comment on the issue of freedom: America is solemnly pledged to liberty and justice for all, there is no way in hell that alcohol supremacism over cannabis is compatible with that.

"Can you imagine ANY

"Can you imagine ANY administration that would not have immediately and vehemently opposed the effort to legalize?"

I don't have to imagine. The early Jimmy Carter administration.

All It Takes is One

William Aiken

During one of his townhall meetings when it became apparent that the most popular online question dealt with legalizing marijuana, Obama made a joke of the question and answered that he doesn't support legalization without explaining why he continues to support a policy which he, himself characterized as a failure during the Democratic Primary Campaign.

But the story didn't end there. The next day at a press conference hosted by Robert Gibbs at the White House, a reporter, April Ryan of Urban Radio wanted to know why the President even addressed the question. This prompted Gibbs to assure the press, that the President doesn't support legalization of pot. That answer lead David Corn of Mother Jones to ask "Why won't the President nt consider it, when there's a lot of people who support the idea of legalization?"

Gibbs merely repeated that the President doesn't support legalization. Even though, Gibbs failed to answer Corn's excellent question, it marked the first time I can remember that a member of the Washington Press acknowledged the reality of the public's popular perception on pot. The awkward moment also left the sentiment that Gibbs had gone out of his way to not explain the reasoning behind the President's position on the issue. As the California marijuana initiative approaches in November, I look forward to seeing how the Washington press in particular handles the issue when it comes to asking the Press Secratary to explain Obama's hypocriscy.

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