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Obama May Soon be Forced to Embrace Marijuana Legalization

The President is opposed to legalizing marijuana. He's said so himself, and that's not likely to change without a fight. But the fight is on. Amidst mounting evidence that democrats can benefit from warming up to legalization, a new political calculus appears to be taking hold.

Democratic strategists are studying a California marijuana-legalization initiative to see if similar ballot measures could energize young, liberal voters in swing states for the 2012 presidential election.

Some pollsters and party officials say Democratic candidates in California are benefiting from a surge in enthusiasm among young voters eager to back Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in certain quantities and permit local governments to regulate and tax it.

Party strategists and marijuana-legalization advocates are discussing whether to push for similar ballot questions in 2012 in Colorado and Nevada—both expected to be crucial to President Barack Obama's re-election—and Washington state, which will have races for governor and seats in both houses of Congress. [Wall Street Journal]

There's a strong case to be made that democrats can mobilize the marijuana vote in their favor. But in order for it to work, President Obama absolutely must shield Prop 19 from federal interference if it passes in November. Think about it: if DEA is busy waging war on the will of voters in California with the President's blessing, it will cast a huge shadow over any subsequent effort to reform marijuana policies in Nevada and Colorado. Legalization initiatives in those states could indeed produce a heavy turnout of young voters, but Obama can't cash in on those votes if he's made himself an enemy of their cause.

In the event that Prop 19 passes, Obama will have no choice but to take a position well in advance of the 2012 election. He can either order the drug war army to stand down and allow legalization to take hold, or he can authorize the DEA to intervene and accept responsibility for the raids and riots that would surely follow. There's really no middle ground here, because any federal interference whatsoever will be regarded as a massive declaration of war. DEA's harassment and prosecution of medical marijuana providers has provoked no shortage of public outrage, even though the vast majority of operators have been left alone. Everyone will be watching, and Obama's first move will be perceived as a definitive indication of what his intentions are.

History tells us that politicians will almost invariably bend over backwards to defend prohibition, but that tendency is born out of the political presumption that there's a price to be paid for getting pinned with the so-called "soft-on-drugs" label. In Obama's case, those calculations will have to be thoroughly re-examined as the growing movement for marijuana reform penetrates far too deeply into his support base to be ignored, or worse, offended. A win for Prop 19 will provoke tremendous excitement among a majority of Obama's supporters and, if he has any sense at all, he'll be awfully hesitant to throw cold water on an event of such historic and emotional significance to the same people who put him in power.

It's anyone's guess how Obama will handle the marijuana issue in the years to come, but there's no question we've entered into a political climate that requires some significant deviation from the standard script. The old approach of scare tactics and propaganda won't work this time around, and he knows it. With or without a victory for Prop 19, the legalization of marijuana will be a leading issue in the 2012 presidential election and Obama would be wise to begin developing a more thoughtful position than what we've seen from him thus far.

For more, Chris Weigant has a good piece in The Huffington Post that makes a lot of similar points. I noticed it only after writing most of this and I generally agree with his analysis.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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here's where you're wrong

"throw cold water on an event of such historic and emotional significance to the same people who put him in power."

Oh but this is where your entire analysis falls flat on its face. See, since Obama was elected he has done EXACTLY THIS REPEATEDLY. He does it so often that I think that he honestly believes that it is his duty to "throw cold water" in the faces of the people who put him in office. Like many, I was an enthusiastic supporter from before he even declared he was running, his ideals seemed right in line with my own, every speech he gave, every bill he authored and cosponsored, every position he publicly took, I EMPHATICALLY agreed with. But since he has been in office he has done nothing but fail to (not only deliver but even) stand behind the ideals he represented before he was elected. I am not talking about just his statement that "The drug war has been a failure and we need to decriminalize our marijuana laws," I mean everything. Immigration, transparency, education, torture, war, even healthcare was completely corrupted before it passed.

If you are expecting Obama to do the "logical" thing that seems in line with his base, you got another thing coming. My prediction? He never takes a public stance and a Republican comes along that publicly supports legalization, stealing votes from Obama, gets elected, then turns his back on the whole issue and tries to fight the drug war harder than ever, no matter what the "people" say.

This of course is my most pessimistic prediction. Hopefully by the time 2012 rolls around it will be far to late for any presidential nominee to have any real say in the issue. Hopefully by then it will just be common sense to support legalization. :D 

Fair enough

Obama's made it perfectly clear that he's more than willing to piss off his base, and this issue could easily become another example of that. On the other hand, by standing in our way, Obama could potentially give us an opportunity to make an example of him.

Justonevoice's picture

Fair Enough

I agree we will have to make an example out of him. It is time for politicians to feel the heat of those whom put them in office.I  think that this is beginning to happen as we are starting to see more local and State Officials leaning our way. So as the State goes so will the Fed as long as we keep pushing.

Countdown to Legalization Day

The unflappable Obama is patient enough to wait out the next 26 counting down days until L-day.

Obama’s staff have probably compiled two plans to cover the two possibilities of a Prop 19 victory or defeat.  There’s no doubt, however, that a victory will transmit a deadly-serious message. 

What Obama does with the voters’ message is less important than what legalizers do with a Prop 19 victory.

Despite the power of the U.S. presidency, the almighty office remains something that can be swept aside by current events.  I’d be less inclined to treat a Prop 19 victory as something that allows legalizers to sit on their laurels and wait—rather than act—on a strategy that carries a Prop 19 victory to other states, and ultimately to the federal government itself.

It’s not a make or break situation, no matter how the Obama administration may overreact to Prop 19’s passage.  Whatever twisted mistakes the administration makes in panicking over a harmless weed, I wish the poor bastards well.

The thing is we can’t let this be an Obama thing.  If anyone is to take credit for ending the drug war, it should be us.


Hear, hear!

Hear, hear!

What Obama and other

What Obama and other politicians need to learn is that although a bare majority of the national population may favour prohibition, the number that care strongly about keeping it illegal is much smaller.  I would guess that no more than a quarter of voters would refuse to vote for a candidate that favoured legalisation, and the number might be less than twenty percent, and most of them are fairly staunch Republicans unlikely to ever vote for a Democrat. 

Of course, the number of staunch supporters of legalisation probably isn't any higher, but that only means that the bulk of the population is willing to vote for a pro-legalisation candidate, but not certain to.

But what's most important is that independent voters are the most in favour of legalisation, and they're the ones that matter in elections.  By supporting legalisation, a Democratic candidate who is otherwise acceptable to most voters is likely to gain much support from the all-important independents, and to lose very little support since most of the prohibition supporters would not vote for a Democrat anyway.  It's clearly a winning strategy for Democrats.

And it's not a bad strategy for Republicans, either, at least not for those with a wide appeal.  Because although a pro-legalisation position would offend a significant part of the Republican base, that base is unlikely to vote for anyone else.  So Republicans with really unpopular Democratic opponents, and Republicans who are popular amoung independents and conservative Democrats are also likely to gain more votes than they lose, although less so than Democrats are.

Unfortunately, politicians tend to spend more time with party faithful and political activists than they do with regular people, so they usually have a distorted idea of how the public really feels on some issues.  And they tend to horribly overestimate the partisanship of the voters and the importance of appealing to their base.

Who to vote for

Nether party really cares about me as a person.  If Obama will step up to the plate and allow Prop 19 (if it passes) to be a social experiment, which is exactly the way things are supposed to work, then he will be my candidate of choice.  States started to pass laws banning enforcement of Alcohol prohibition during prohibition, even though it was still against federal law.   We shall see if history repeats itself.

That is how he will keep my vote.   Allowing the state the right to "experiment" with what we all know to be the right thing to do.


If Obama is re-elected, in 2012, then he will be "friendly" towards cannabis legalization. Politics as usual. A "black" President of north America` . Going easy on the cannabis would be red meat for the prohibitionists. Just another excuse for young folks to put one foot in front of the other and "vote". 

Go California!

We are all watching and hoping you can get this thing started. I hope we (CO) are next :)!!!

Justonevoice's picture

Thats what us Californians do

I just gotta love being a Californian. This is where we stand up when it comes down to it. We will be the Trend setters  of a new federal policy toward Marijuana based on common sense.

Life,Liberty, And the pursuit of Happiness

Just look at President Obama's approval ratings, and you can see he really does not care about his base until it is time to get elected.  Not only large numbers of young people know the benefits of cannabis,but many people from the 70's, 80's, and 90's are a large part of this base who believed the President was going to help bring about Change, instead of the status quo. In the name of Freedom, Mr. Obama should spend his time working on real problems, not on the cannabis issue. Contrary to his beliefs, cannabis & hemp will grow the economy in a time where nothing else will.

Presidential Candidate Obama and Medical Marijuana

2008 video - Barack Obama on Medical Marijuana | United Liberty | Free Market - Individual Liberty - Limited Government

This video gives the discussion with preelected President Barack Obama and his opinions on medical marijuana and the use of the Justice Department in such cases if he were to be elected President.

Watch them waste your money!

Watch your leaders waste your money!!!! They're your tax dollars, you paid for this, watch them desperately waste your money!!!!!!

borden's picture

your point is?

What's your point? Are you saying we should continue to have marijuana growers and distributors and sellers sent to jail or prison -- even users too, who can wind up there despite decrim laws like California's -- because the nation is not yet ready to support a tax- and regulation-free cannabis market? If so, I disagree.

If that's not what you're saying, please clarify.

Cannabis will bankrupt the NWO.

The New World Order can NEVER afford to allow Cannabis to be grown by the People ever again, for this will severely compromise their ability to maintain a stranglehold over the entire economy. Just ask George Bush Sr. - the NWO cannot tolerate ANY cultivation of Cannabis whatsoever, lest it lead back to a full-scale hemp industry. Cannabis coupled with modern mechanization such as the decorticator pulled America out of Great Depression #1, and the NWO knows it. This is precisely why we will continue to watch them desperately waste our money to struggle to maintain their control over American agronomy. And it's right there in front of everybody's face - everybody gets to see it. Watch them waste your money! They'll be wasting your money for as long as this behavior is not forcefully corrected.

let's kick the ballistics here: ain't no uzis made in harlem!!

Have you taken into consideration that maybe, just maybe, politicians, desperate governmental accountants, lobbyists (and perhaps even *gasp* our president) are starting to see just how deeply destroyed our current financial system is? certainly, i will definitely give major props to the federal, state, and local governments for locking up (otherwise innocent) marijuana users, myself included - and then reaping the benefit of both the fines we pay, and in more extreme cases, the money kicked down to prisons to house these 'offenders.' i read somewhere that roughly 80% of the incarcarated for drug charges are there for marijuana - so truly, that is a HUGE impediment to the legalization thereof. however, with california's decision to actually governmentalize the product, tax it, and ultimately, sell it at the corner store as readily as cigarettes (one can only hope!), it shows that perhaps they are listening to the lessons of mendecino and humboldt counties - 2/3 of their local economy is based on POT PRODUCTION. straight up! now, california, as well as the rest of the country, is in severe financial straits - perhaps legalizing marijuana, taxing the shit out of it, and making it readily accessible to the people would do wonders in terms of solving the 'debt crisis.' who knows. i think the day is coming, though. perhaps then i could finally get a job again... growing pot!! :) hehe.

namaste, blessed b,

~ melissA

[Wesley Snipes - from "New Jack City"] I'm not guilty. YOU'RE the one that's guilty. The lawmakers, the politicians, the Columbian drug lords, all you who lobby against making drugs legal. Just like you did with alcohol during the prohibition. You're the one who's guilty. I mean, c'mon, let's kick the ballistics here: Ain't no Uzi's made in Harlem. Not one of us in here owns a poppy field. This thing is bigger than (Immortal Technique). This is big business. This is the American way.


...we are all waiting with baited breath. If it passes, maybe in 20+ years Texas Politicians will 'grow some stones' and follow suit. Maybe. I donated $5. Not much but it was something. If every pot smoker or person who cares about this issue from across the nation donated just 5 bucks this law MAY still get passed. You know the 'squared away' crowd is organized and will turn out the numbers BIG TIME.



Obama is just one man, the president, he doesn't rule the entire country and has far less power than, apparently,  many people think he does. Although the recent arrests in Colorado show his limited power over the (rogue agents in the) DEA is slipping.

The Prohibitioners

Yea, these old folks are moving on out. The hypocrisy crowd is currently gravitating from the ballot box to the pine box. They know it. Yes on Prop 19.

Coulda made change real but flinched

I wrote Obama and Holder last year about this issue. This one issue, cannabis re-legalization, could have brought a concrete sense to the promise of change. Not only for users, but for those without a dog in this fight.  Only positive could happen with the re-introduction of cannabis hemp back into the marketplace, especially during the health care battle.

But he just maintained the status quo, emphatically stating that legalization was a non-starter. For all practical purposes, the status quo had been maintained throughout his term.

He has let everyone in his base know through his actions that change was just another campaign slogan.

If prop 19 passes, there will still be massive infighting and posturing by state and local pols afraid of alienating their base in the same way that Obama has done. No opportunity to punish perceived infractions of the new law will be allowed to slip. There's just too many potential dollars at stake for local LEO's to pass up.

Obama can't embrace re-legalization, either from a political point of view or a campaign finance POV. He's just another pawn sold to us.

Change will come, but from the bottom up. Start using hemp, creating a market for it.  Walmart can get cannabis legalized, not Obama.

Start with for more info.

If Obama cracks down, and

If Obama cracks down, and Holder just said they intend to, he will be able to kiss the State of California, and hence the general election good by in 2012. Even California voters who didn't support prop19 won't support a massive federal police presence to thwart the will of the people as expressed by referendum. Or was that reeferendum? Anyway, how far in the general does he think he gets if he loses Cali? 


Obama cannot be "soft" on cannabis in his first term. As the prohibitionists would say. A black president attempting to legalize drugs. Oh my aunties god, what will happen to the children? Will they be influenced by beer slogans at major league baseball games? start drinking at 15? God forbid they catch a buzz off a plant. Why they could just drink themselves to death and the law would not care. Obama kicked the drug enforcement agency to the curb here recently. Times are a changing.  How hard could it be to go and vote for prop 19 in big `un? One foot in front of the other maybe?

Remove from Schedule I

All Obama has to do after Prop 19 passes is to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and put it into Schedule II, which will acknowledge that it has medical value. This way, he appears cannabis friendly, getting a lot of young support going into re-election in' 12, but not pushing full legalization, which will calm down religious conservatives who aren't ready for "full legal" . Then, let the states do their own thing, with the DEA leaving them alone. There's time for a sensible policy to evolve doing it this way, and it's more Obama's style, anyway.

Legalisation and Regulation

Here we go. Taxing Cannabis at a higher level than Liquor would be Hypocrisy. Sell it at the local Cannabis store. Addictive drugs , such as, what` her name, powder , rock, needle, etc.. Buy at the Pharmacy, OTC, 21, sign into database. Go across the road and buy more? Not happening. In 48 hrs. you can legally buy another 1/2 gram of powder. Taxes and Enforcement funds would be diverted towards treatment issues. Hey man, the mayors wife would like to go to the local pharmacy and get some powder man. But see, she would have to sign onto that list man.  So maybe she would stop. Drug Prohibition is a sham on the American Taxpayers. And most of `em do not even know it. Here we go.

"In The Years To Come"


You're only talking about the next 2, right?  Don't scare me like that.

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