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How to Score Political Points by Stopping Marijuana Arrests
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel shows how you can please almost every political constituency by not arresting people for marijuana possession.

In giving his blessing to the ticketing proposal, the mayor availed himself of one response to Chicago’s rising crime rate and a police force that has shrunk due to budget cuts — even if it falls far short of providing a far-reaching solution.

Emanuel also no doubt acted knowing there was little political downside to the move. It appeared to appeal immediately to a broad range of people, which certainly factored into the decision of a politician who pays close attention to polling data. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Cue applause:

…those who welcomed the mayor’s announcement as a common-sense approach included blacks and Latinos concerned that pot arrests involve them disproportionately; white liberals who long have disdained the “war on drugs” approach; and fiscal conservatives looking at the costs of processing pot cases that usually end up being dismissed anyway.

The idea of arresting people for pot is unpopular with almost everybody these days, and we're starting to see prominent politicians piling on as well, from Rahm Emanuel to the Rhode Island legislature to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

And so we've happened once again upon an excellent opportunity to test the conventional wisdom that fixing marijuana laws will invite a brutal backlash from opportunistic political opponents. As Paul Waldman puts it:

At the moment, there remains a strong incentive to support the status quo, lest you be targeted in your next race as some kind of hippie-lover. 

If this is true, then we've got two state governors, a billionaire mayor and an entire state legislature at risk of being stigmatized viciously for their hippie sympathies. But I can't hear anything over the uproarious applause.  

Really, when it comes to navigating the politics of marijuana reform, the trick is just to do it. Ignore the people who say it will hurt you politically because it won't at all. Ignore the people who say it sends the wrong message to children because children don't even know what decriminalization means. Ignore any and every stupid thing anybody says in defense of the infinitely idiotic idea that we should be forcibly ripping pot out of people's pockets as a matter of public policy.

The first thing that will happen after you endorse marijuana reform is that you'll get positive press coverage and supportive feedback from constituents. The second thing that will happen is you'll save money and resources while reducing racist drug war harassment and other random injustices. And finally, after all that, when you run for re-election, the whole issue will never even come up. Your opponent will never say you love hippies or call you a pothead or offer you Doritos during a debate. Why? Because pointing out that you advocated marijuana reform would make voters more likely to support you, not less.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!
primus's picture

Blow that horn loud, long and

Blow that horn loud, long and clear.  Once the message is understood, pols will line up to distance themselves from prohibition.

Marijuana is the New Litmus Test for Politicians

Polling everywhere shows that mainstream America is recognizing the truth about marijuana and the government’s phony intentions concerning this valuable herb.  Fifty-percent or more have no stomach for continuing the current prohibition farce.  They want regulation, not prohibition.

Any politician who ignores the poll numbers does so at their own political peril.  Politicians who fear confronting America’s drug policy perversions say more about their own narcissistic character than anything they say, don’t say, or do about illicit substances.  It reveals the politician as out of touch with the people, perhaps in denial about the magnitude of the prohibition problem, too cowardly to lead, or just too lazy to think like a professional.

Politicians who believe they’re helping the judicial industrial complex make money by promoting drug wars over drug peace might want to consider how their tactics play out in reality.  Marijuana users are very much aware of the role played by Big Pharma and its partner in crime, the FDA, in drug marketing strategies.  They know about for-profit prisons and prison guard unions.  Any and all government support for the corporatists in this matter not only faces certain failure, but also risks a far greater public mistrust of capitalism itself, exactly what the corporatists don’t need or want at this critical period of economic history.


Well said, Giordano!

Well said, Giordano!

'Litmus test'? Nope. make it an 'acid test'.

The kind that burns. An why not? He's burned us, hasn't he?

Despite "all the king's men"'s efforts - all those who profit very handsomely now from the status quo and work against the cannabis community to maintain it, to the point of killing a few of us - the upwelling has already started.

The generational shift necessary for that sea change  has already taken place: recall the old saw about "We'll legalize when Grandma dies."? Well, she is her 'Greatest Generation' mindset of taking anything government says as Gospel, and were thus easily hoodwinked when it came to illicit drugs. The post-Watergate generations that, unlike a certain mendacious President, did inhale and felt no need to apologize for it, are coming into their own.

As such, they comprise the single largest minority in America, for it crosses nearly every demographic imaginable.

This cannot be emphasized enough. The pro-cannabis community has always been a sleeping giant. In the past, the organs of state repression have felt safe in kicking that giant with impunity. Now that giant is waking up, and realizing that with its power in numbers, with its' electoral arm it could sweep aside its opponents within a couple years. Two elections, that's all. That's all it would take to make the point that we're 'mad as Hell and not gonna take it anymore."

The fact that Ron Paul has garnered so many youthful voters has the Establishment sweating bullets to the point where Obama is planning on making tours of campuses, in hopes of suckering his former supporters again - many of whom are deserting the Democratic camp by the tens of thousands for various reasons, foreign and domestic...i.e. like his Administration's betrayal of his pledge to base policy on science not ideology, thus raising hope for what proved to be a false dawn of rationality when it came to drug laws.

Too late, Mr. Zero. You've lost them with that betrayal. Forever. No more Pollyanna. It's mean-eyed card-sharp time, with contracts written in blood. No contract to end cannabis prohibition, as Ron Paul is determined to do, then no support. And, given what Obama has already pulled, I wouldn't trust his signature, anyway...

We’re Bigger Than the NRA

We’re even bigger than U.S. Steel.  The possibility that the marijuana lobby will establish the cohesiveness necessary to carry it into the future, such that it becomes a major player in politics that far surpasses the power of the National Rifle Association, is very real.

The longer the battle between liberty and oppression ensues over little ol’ marijuana, the longer the marijuana lobby will have to organize and recruit activists.  The drug war sows the seeds of its own destruction. Every pot arrest, every college loan denied, every job lost to drug testing, represents a potentially new activist.

Relying on its current affiliations with nature and ecology, the herbal industry, the right to privacy, and strengthened 4th Amendment protections, the marijuana lobby may well have an interesting and promising future ahead of it, even after the bud is freed.


I can't argue with the obvious

We’re even bigger than U.S. Steel.  The possibility that the marijuana lobby will establish the cohesiveness necessary to carry it into the future, such that it becomes a major player in politics that far surpasses the power of the National Rifle Association, is very real.

True enough...and actually has been for years. The problem has always been funding.

For too long, cannabists have been (understandably) wary of sending in donations to the front-line groups (DPA, MPP, NORML, etc.) involved in reform, and in turn those groups have been forced to be too dependent upon the charity of Big Bux donors.

Like as not, what's needed are war chests...courtesy of mass donations. (And, for the record, no, I am not affiliated with any organization seeking such funding.) 

And on this issue, I can only make an observation:

22 years ago, the outstanding Ken Burns production on the Civil War was broadcast. In the first episode, a story was told of a Black freedman in the South who'd bought his manumission. When he saw his first Union soldier, the freedman was reported to have said, "If I'd known you 'gun men' were coming, I'd have saved my money."

At first it seems humorous, but really isn't. That man had said essentially he was quite willing to remain a slave and let someone else do the fighting and dying to free him. An attitude far too many of us have.

The point being that the only person who will free you from cannabis prohibition is the one that looks back at you from the bathroom mirror every morning. And that person has to realize that it will take money from their pocket in order to accomplish this.

The tide is turning, it's coming in for us and flowing out for the prohibs. This could happen a lot faster by having more victories such as the one DPA has won by helping to defeat an anti-reform candidate Dwight Holton In Oregon. And there's only one way that will happen.

So, the question really is: When do we want to be free? The answer is: When we, like that freedman, are willing to pay for it. We don't have to be like the Union soldier; we don't have to put our bodies on the line, only our wallets. And in the end, that's what will be the deciding factor.

But the Chick-car-go Mayor has a problem with a CHICKEN SANDWICH


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