Obama Avoids Questions About Legalizing Marijuana (Again)

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Another online Q&A contest concluded Monday without any straight answers from the President about why marijuana remains illegal. YouTube, which sponsored the forum, declined to ask the President a single marijuana-related question, despite overwhelming public demand.

As was the case with every previous online forum of this sort, questions about marijuana legalization were not only prominent, they were by far the most popular vote-getters.

These are the top three highest-rated questions from the entire contest:

"Mr. President, When you asked the country to give you questions, one of the most asked was "Are you going to legalize Marijuana". When you read it, you laughed like it wasnt serious. Why is that?"
None, Florida
1,906 Votes

"What are your plans for cannabis legalization?"
Anonymous, Oklahoma
1,783 Votes                         

"Why don't you legalize marijuana, it seems like a great way to gain tax money, and people should have to right to use it if they please, and it would cripple gang activity? Do you plan to?"
Lussy Picker, Kentucky
1,766 Votes             

Sadly, none of these questions were answered. In contrast, the most popular question that wasn't about marijuana received 1,331 votes and, yes, the President answered that one. It was about net neutrality, which Obama says he supports. So, at least we'll continue to enjoy free speech on the internet, even as the White House pretends not to hear us.

Incredibly, this political popularity contest was broken up into categories including Jobs & the Economy, Health Care, Energy & Environment, Foreign Policy & National Security, Education, Financial Reform, and Government Reform, yet it was the "Other" section which drew the most votes, due entirely to its emphasis on legalizing marijuana. "Other" has become a de-facto euphemism for drug policy reform in several of these White House sponsored forums, which wouldn't keep happening if "Crime & Drug Policy" were given its own well-deserved category alongside the other issues that supposedly encompass the modern political landscape.

Instead, the whole online voting process has become a self-evident mockery, as the contest's democratic structure is violated time and again simply to avoid answering one simple question. But if you're frustrated by all of this, don't be. We're winning the online debate, and we're doing so at a time when online outreach is important enough to the White House that they keep coming back for more.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Manufacturing Consent

I find this recurring theme fascinating, beyond the straightforward drug policy issue. It makes me think about Noam Chomsky's talks and book about 'Manufacturing Consent', a very cogent analysis of media control in the United States.

Chomsky started his analysis during the Vietnam war, and discusses the elaborate mechanism by which American media is controlled and censored to the point where even citizens of the (former) Soviet Union were better informed about our policies than we are. The fascinating aspect of the system is it's a decentralized, self-reinforcing one, that relies more on self censorship and a pre-filtering of individuals (based on ideology, mind set, and buying into a pretty rigid and uniform mythology), rather than some central control (such as that attempted by the Soviets). Clearly media control (and correspondingly thought control of the citizenry) is much better accomplished by a decentralized, unregulated system than by a centralized, heavy-handed state mechanism.

What the internet does is allow the 'wild voices in the lunatic fringe' to be heard proportionately to their number. This consequently shows a huge disparity between what our government and media are actually willing to, and volunteer to discuss, and what we want to talk about. Fortunately it's having an effect on the traditional media, so we'll have to see if the change is net positive.

What's even more fascinating is the reluctance of the Obama administration to take a bolder stance on Marijuana legalisation given the rapidly evolving public opinion on the issue. While I have some critical thoughts on Mr. Obama's actions and lack of courage (particularly his reluctance to cut 'defence' spending), I suspect his policy regarding Marijuana legalisation is a wise one. Why?

  1. Obama's having a hard time getting anything done. The Republicans block him at every opportunity because seeing the Democrats fail is more important to them than seeing the country do well. Based on the experiences of Carter and Clinton, he's probably worried about starting an all-out culture-war, and is probably treading very cautiously to avoid unifying the fractured Repubs.
  2. While it's a shame that peoples lives are still being ruined, and people are being killed because of prohibition, I think marijuana prohibition is essentially just a matter of time now, as long as there is no backlash

A nightmare scenario, for both us (as prohibition-repeal advocates) and for Obama, is the following: Obama comes out as being clearly for prohibtion repeal. The social conservatives use this as a rallying cry to unify all the terrified parents out there, and in the next set of elections sweep in a bunch of drug warrior social conservatives. Obama is left as a lame-duck president, and we kiss our prohibition-repeal dreams goodbye for another 8+ years.

Now, based on my understanding of poll figures over the last couple of years, I believe the above scenario is significantly less likely than it was just a year ago, and I think a lot of this is due medical marijuana legalisation (which Obama has been pretty good about so far). As medical marijuana spreads, and real, trustworthy research gets disseminated further into the American mindset, the public's support for prohibition repeal will increase. Then at some point, the administration can repeal marijuana prohibition based on a real and present demand, without worrying about any backlash.

So should we be worried that Obama's ignoring our online demands? I think the answer is 'not yet'. At the moment I can see strategic advantage to taking a slower pace. I think when medical marijuana is legal in 26+ states, it might be time to press the issue. In the meantime, I think it's far more important to focus on legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. I think pursuing total prohibition-repeal at this point would be rushing things, and would endanger the medical-marijuana agenda. I think making sure sick people can get their medicine is vital, and has the further benefit of de-stigmatising marijuana.

So I think patience is in order. Frankly I think ignoring the question is probably the best policy. At least he doesn't feel obliged to come out and take a drug-warrior stance. That's already huge progress. What I really want this term is rescheduling of marijuana so that the federal government recognizes it as useful medicine.

That said, I'm quite interested to see what the Obama administration will do if California succeeds in regulating MJ.


Good Points

The most important short term goal is re-scheduling. D.E.A. controls all cannabis policy because of this. That includes potency, testing and most importantly "credible information." How the D.E.A. can justify cannabis, AND therefore hemp, as schedule 1 and NOT even schedule alcohol and tobacco is certainly Orwellian. The only thing I am more excited about than Cali's November Showdown is what the Feds reaction will be. I do not find the term "civil war" appropriate but it is what comes to mind. I hope it doesn't come to that but with violence increasing in border towns and Mexico you gotta think it's gonna hit the fan if Cali has regulated and taxed market while other 49 eat popcorn.

Great observations, I was

Great observations, I was having similar thoughts about why the president would possibly be avoiding such a popular subject. It is definitely too early to show a positive stance on prohibition repeal, which must be handled very carefully. But, I do believe that the president has a plan for repeal that will hopefully gain more momentum sometime soon.
I enjoyed your post, it was nice to read a better thought-out take on what I also suspected.

YouTube has just earned my

YouTube has just earned my boycott. Considering, what little it will influence them, I am sure they are scared! .......... ;P

Just wondering...

I'm wondering how many drug policy reform leaders would answer in the affirmative if asked this question: Would you cease advocating for broader drug policy reform if the federal government supported enacting medical marijuana laws in all 50 states?

Daniel Williams

borden's picture

A very small number,

A very small number, probably none. That is setting aside the possibility of burnout or people who need a career change, which can happen anywhere. Certainly none of us here at DRCNet would stop at that point.

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC


This is silly. Are you suggesting that the people driving the drug policy debate are actually only interested in medical marijuana?

I'm not looking for Obama to do anything on recreational weed

either, he's got enough divisive issues to deal with, but medicinal cannabis, given it's overwhelming support, is another matter. I don't understand why it is so difficult to get it rescheduled when it is as clear as can be that it has medicinal uses, and allowing MMJ research to compete for gov't research funding (and providing a source of legal standardized cannabis for that research) would probably have overwhelming support as well.

This IS an important issue!

With legalizing marijuana we would also have a legal hemp industry that would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and provide a new source of food and fuel.The prohibition of marijuana affects many other more important issues including the economy.Obama says he wants to cut wasteful spending and create jobs,he could do both but he refuses to even listen to the people who put him in office.And this issue is not as divisive as it used to be,I post news from this site all over the internet and I get alot of support from conservatives who I disagree with on every other issue.I would estimate that 7 out of 10 conservatives I talk to support legalization.The politicians are way behind the people on this issue.


I bet it is because, most of those conservatives, were much more liberal leaning, when younger! But, I see nothing smart about continuing policies that have failed to decrease the potency, supply , and demand of cannabis (or any other drug)! Many conservatives essentially, are cutting off their nose to spite their face. Nothing like emotionality to block out reasonable, scientific, thought. A true conservative sees the error in filling private prisons with non-violent cannabis consumers! It is so fiscally irresponsible!

Hey, I was just wondering!

The folks over at Americans for Safe Access have said medical marijuana is their only issue, so that's at least one organization willing to call it a day should medical marijuana become settled law across the land.

That said, I'm not accusing drug policy reform leaders of being single-issue advocates. What I find silly, however, is that nearly all the oxygen in the room is being consumed by medical marijuana advocacy. Yes, I know, reform leaders believe ending drug prohibition to be the end game - I just find the way they play it to be meek and too conciliatory.

And I also believe we could benefit by taking a more confrontational approach - like the gay rights lobby. By keeping up the pressure on "Don't ask, don't tell," and gay marriage rights, they've made arguably more progress than drug policy reformers. But now that Obama has stuck it up our ass by naming Leonhart and escalating the drug war, perhaps our strategy will change. Like I've said before, perhaps we should all be gay for a day...

I've been told by Ethan and others that the primary reason for the emphasis on medical marijuana and, to a lesser extent, recreational use, is because they believe the American public just isn't ready to have the broader conversation on repealing drug prohibition. But a Zogby poll found that 76% of Americans believe the drug war has failed. So it appears the American public is ready to have the conversation. Could it be that drug policy reform leaders are unwilling to start it?

Lastly, I applaud the efforts undertaken by everyone at Stop the Drug War (even though, at times, it may not be apparent). Your dedication is sincere and often inspirational. I may be critical of the overall pace of reform, but I generally reserve it for those the mainstream TV media turn to most often for comments.

Daniel Williams

Google Takes Lesson from China and Censors American Content

Recently, Google has been in the news threatening to withdraw its company from China if they don't stop censoring the content that returns from searches on their website. However, the irony of it all is revealed when their subsidiary, youtube, actively censored marijuana questions for the president which democratically received the top votes for the on-line debate. It is time that we open our eyes and realize that if we wish for others in the world to follow the noble ideas of freedom and democracy that we must start leading by example and not by force.

welcome to 1984 buddy. hope

welcome to 1984 buddy. hope you got your Orwellian hat on tight because its going to be a wiiiilld ride. YEE HAW!

Hello I have read alot about Medical Marijuana

It seems I have read so much about medical marijuana, last night I saw
cop on the TV shows cops tell a young man that his medical marijuana id was not
honored in the california county he was in. He was in turn charged with a possesion
felony. He would not even look at the guys id even. It was and outrage that this cop
could treat someone like this. He berated the man for not telling him he had pot in the first place.
Then refused to look at his medical id.

Dear Mr. President...

Dear Mr. President,

I was wondering why you leave it up to politics to decide if marijuana should be leagalized. Instead I believe it should be up to the doctors and medical professionals to make this decision. I can give you many reasons why I SHOULD smoke marijuana.

1. Migraine Headaches
2. Neck and Back Pain
3. Asthma (yes read on it)
4. Anxiety & Depression
5. Nausea(from migraine)
6. Loss of appetite...

There are probably lots more. And the one reason I shouldnt smoke marijuana is that it is illeagal.

So I think first of all ... These bullshit sayings "We stand as one" and "united we stand" are rediculous because it is leagal in 13 states. Now how is that fair to the other states?

Benefit the people
Benefit the economy

The marijuana industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

PS: So you'd rather doctors hand out these oxycontins which are highly adictive, and deadly???? Makes no sense to me!

well put

that was very good and well put i think they should legalize weed for the peopel that need it and for the billions of money we could have by legalizing it

Marijuana should DEFINITELY be legal!!

It's ashame how the government has become Much more powerful and we the people cannot do anything!! Let's not forget "The Patriot Act" is still intact ever since around 9/11. All I'm saying is I hope that Big Bad Obama would do something that we can all or most of us can all agree on!

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