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Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 16, 2008

    “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. … (W)e need to rethink and decriminalize our (nation’s) marijuana laws.”
    -Barack Obama, January 2004 (Watch the video here.)

    “I inhaled frequently, that was the point.”
    -Barack Obama, November 2006 (Watch the video here.)

    Q: “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.?”

    A: “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”
    -Statement from Change.gov, the official website of President-Elect Obama, December 15, 2008

    Okay, count me among those disappointed, but hardly surprised to see that Change.gov — the official website of the incoming Obama administration — answered the above question, which finished first out of over 7,000 public policy questions submitted to the website, in the most curt and dismissive way possible.

    That said, as StoptheDrugWar.org’s Scott Morgan writes, Obama’s brevity is, in fact, quite telling.

    As frustrating and insulting as it is to witness an important matter brushed casually to the side without explanation, Obama’s answer actually says a lot. It says that he couldn’t think of even one sentence to explain his position. Within the vast framework of totally paranoid anti-pot propaganda, Obama couldn’t find a single argument he wanted to associate himself with. That’s why he simply said “No. Next question.”

    All of this highlights the well-known fact that Obama agrees that our marijuana laws are deeply flawed. He‘s said so, and has back-pedaled recently for purely political reasons. If Obama’s transition team tried to give an accurate description of his position on marijuana reform it would look like this:

    Q: “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.?” S. Man, Denton

    A: President-elect Obama will not use his political capital to advance the legalization of marijuana. While he agrees that arresting adults for marijuana possession is a poor use of law enforcement resources, he believes that the issue remains too controversial to do anything about it.

    In fact, Obama essentially said as much earlier this year when asked about the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    Obama: “When it comes to medical marijuana, … my attitude is if it is an issue of doctors prescribing marijuana, … I think that should be appropriate. … Whether I want to use a whole lot of political capital on (this) issue; the likelihood of that being real high on my priority list is not likely.” (Watch the video here.)

    So then, disappointed as we are, how should we proceed?

    Answer: Just as we have been.

    To be fair to President-Elect Obama, he never pledged to legalize marijuana. Quite the contrary, during his Presidential campaign he backtracked from his previous comments supporting pot decriminalization, and he even went so far as to pick one of the chief architects of the modern drug war to be his Vice President. In short, to believe that the Obama team would have responded to the legalization question any other way was idealistic at best, and foolish at worst.

    But that hardly means that we activists should write off the next four years.

    In November, editors at the website Alternet.org asked me to draft “a progressive agenda for Obama” regarding marijuana policy. At that time, I listed several realistic, practical actions Obama could take to substantially reform America’s antiquated and punitive pot laws. (Note, legalizing marijuana by Executive Order was not on my wish list.)

    These actions include:

    1. As President, Obama must uphold his campaign promise to “not … use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws” that legalize the medical use of cannabis. (Watch the video here.)

    2. Obama can appoint leaders to the US Department of Justice, DEA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy who possess professional backgrounds in public health, addiction and treatment rather than in law enforcement.

    3. Obama can support the autonomy and health of Washington D.C. voters by encouraging Congress to lift the so-called “Barr amendment” (passed by Congress in 1998 and reinstated every year since then), which prohibits the District of Columbia from implementing a 1998 voter-approved ballot initiative legalizing the use of marijuana by authorized patients.

    4. Obama can call for the creation of a bipartisan Presidential commission to review the budgetary, social and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition, and to make progressive recommendations for future policy changes.

    Ultimately, of course, it’s Congress, not the president, who is responsible for crafting America’s oppressive federal anti-drug strategies. Moreover, it is clear that in the coming years this battle will continue to primarily be fought — and won — on the state level, not in Washington D.C.

    That’s not to say that we should not continue to keep the pressure on Obama by continuing to post questions to websites like Change.gov. (My suggestion for the next round of voting… How about: “On Election Day, over 3 million voters decided to legalize the medical use of cannabis in Michigan, making it the 13th state to enact laws allowing the legal medical use of marijuana. While campaigning, you pledged: ‘What I’m not going to be doing is spend Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue.’ As President, will you and your Attorney General uphold this promise not to target and prosecute patients and providers who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws?“)

    However, we must always remember that it will be the actions of tens of thousands — not the actions of just one man — that will ultimately bring an end to America’s vindictive and senseless war on cannabis consumers.

    Now let’s get back to work!

    82 Responses to “Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss”

    1. Jim Lunsford says:

      I have not had time to devote to reading all these comments, but I would encourage all to go to the discussion board and begin participating. It has taken a life of it’s own. A virtual revolution. Just remember, the replies are sent to your address, and make it easier for you to follow the discussion in a few panels of your browser. Perhaps we can all band together and let our voices be heard. I believe this change can happen, though not the change the government wants. The change the people want. Peace, Jim

    2. jerry says:

      in the next round of questions we need to push for a rescheduling of Cannabis for a category one to a 2,3,4,or 5.

    3. truthandconsequences says:

      It is time NOW to end Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. Marijuana Prohibition is a failed policy which costs federal, state and local governments billions of dollars per year in ineffective enforcement efforts, not to mention the immeasurable human and social costs attendant upon criminalizing a large segment of the citizenry. Aside from being an obscene waste of ever more precious taxpayer dollars, marijuana prohibition has perpetuated the black market, which serves to divert billions of dollars annually from the legitimate (i.e. taxpaying) economy into the hands of drug cartels and illegal organizations.

      Marijuana Prohibition in the U.S. is a policy which was born in racism and vested commercial interests. Prohibitionists initially justified their cause by identifying marijuana as “the reason all Mexicans are lazy and stupid” and warning the public that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men”. Marijuana Prohibition in the United States began at around the time that alcohol prohibition ended. It has evolved from the demagoguery of “Reefer Madness” to the current situation in which the government seeks to punish its citizens who choose to use marijuana.

      Marijuana Prohibition has been perpetuated upon notions that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug that causes criminal and antisocial behavior. These notions have been thoroughly and universally disproven. Yet while we no longer prohibit the use of alcohol, and have never prohibited tobacco use, our government continues to spend billions attempting to enforce marijuana prohibition in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence and public opinion to the contrary.

      In a nation which places great value on individual liberties, each citizen has the right and responsibility to decide for himself or herself whether or not to use alcohol, tobacco, and yes, marijuana. We the people should not tolerate, let alone encourage, any government to make these decisions for us. Prohibition, this time of marijuana, has once again become a national boondoggle and an unwarranted infringement of personal liberty in a country which calls itself the Land of the Free.

      President-elect Obama has said that our elected leaders must work to restore faith and trust in government. That purpose will be frustrated if we continue to waste taxpayer funds and resources on a prohibitionist policy that is now almost universally recognized to be without intellectual, moral or economic justification. The now well known practices and tactics employed by government in attempts to enforce prohibition continually diminish the credibility and character of those governments. These practices range from the militaristic assaults by heavily armed federal DEA agents upon medical marijuana dispensaries in California, all the way down to the local county sheriff who stages a big marijuana sting operation 2 weeks before an election. Truth and reliable information are what we must demand from our government, not continued stubborn adherence to wrong-headed policies.

      Mr. Obama has also recently said that he and his staff are going to have to look at “every line on every page” of the federal budget in light of the current economic crisis. Funding for many programs may have to be cut or eliminated. Ending prohibition now will eliminate billions of dollars of waste from the federal budget, and will be a positive step in rebuilding our belief that our government tells us the truth, acts rationally, and respects the rights and personal privacy of all of its citizens.

    4. Jakecool says:

      Wow… Some serious discussion here… Did anyone think that maybe it would be political suicide to embrace decriminalization of marijuana at this juncture in his career? At least let him take office and appoint a new drug czar…

    5. Jim Lunsford says:

      Excuse me, but when I said the discussion board, I meant the one at http://change.gov. Sorry about that, I’m rather excited about the prospect. Jim

    6. David Ertel says:

      We the people put Obama in and we the people can remove him as well for not standing up as he promised. It just goes to show what power can ans does to a person

    7. David Yett says:

      Look, Obama’s main supporters are the SEIU and other public leech unions. Did anyone really expect a change?

    8. David Yett says:

      By the way, I can find no mention of marijuana policy on Change.gov. Has it been removed?

    9. Jim says:

      This is the exact reason why I voted for Ralph Nader.
      The democrats and the republicans are beholden to their corporate masters and “change you can believe in” is just more empty rhetoric from one wing of the business party. Maybe next time you’ll think about voting for a third party candidate.

    10. Considering that the hill’s congress Blog has still to post any of our replies to Paul’s well written piece, here are a coupl;e of links to contact Representatives and Senators directly.
      Representatives: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
      Senators:
      http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

    11. Just a quick response to Robert V. up above. It is people like you who make people like me (no intention of ever using marijuana – well, shouldnt say that, I would use medical marijuana as you do if I had a condition and it worked as I’m sure it would!) care about marijuana legislation. Why should the government imprison people for relieving their pain by inhaling a plant???? That is what it comes down to, not to mention the hundreds of other negative effects we have had to experience due to prohibition.

      -DC
      http://www.davidcarlsonpolitics.com

    12. Matt says:

      We’re not done yet. We need to make sure everyone knows this issue is not going away. Back to work.

    13. Alejandro says:

      While Obama isn’t for the legalization of marijuana, he did state that he wanted to decriminalize it (Which I believe is the first step). I believe he’ll stay true to this and might eventually accomplish this in his term. One of the things he constantly stated was that he would get rid of plans/groups in office that were losing us money, and he knows that the current plan is a GIANT waste of the taxpayers money (as shown in the interview).

    14. Alejandro says:

      I’d also like to add that a reason that he quickly responded no to legalization is probably because its such a radical idea for a president to bring up (Last one who did was Jimmy Carter). At the moment he’s worried about financial issues and the war, if he makes such a radical move like bring up drugs then he would probably lose the support of several people in the American public (which is something that he needs right now)

    15. Kimber says:

      If Lincoln could free the slaves, why can’t Obama free the stoners? Slavery was way more of an issue back then, but Lincoln was man enough to face it and put an end to it. That said, Obama has no excuse to not face this issue because it is “too controversial.”

    16. Arlington, Tx says:

      I hope things change toward marijuana, it’s a waste of time and money to arrest marijuana users. It’s really disheartening to see that marijuana laws will not change on the federal level over the next 4 yrs…

    17. Zach Hawkeye says:

      People forget the invisible gun in the room. The government can’t enforce anything… ANYTHING… without the threat of violence.

      That translates to Obama basically pointing a gun to every individual’s head, telling us we can’t make these decisions for ourselves in the peace of own own home.

    18. joseph says:

      What will it take for Marijuana Prohibition to end. Is there a way to have a country wide vote. How come the liquor companies have a monopoly? Ads on tv news papers,billboards. There are lots of people who do not like liquor. Why can i not choose what I what to use to relax!! I voted for change, not some puppet. Mass numbers of people can change things. The goverment will have to listen.

    19. Jerry says:

      Well said. It is so easy to give up hope when Politics rears it’s ugly head. But, if every State said enough is enough and does what it feels is right. What then can they say? What can they do if no one believes thier lies anymore and seeks actual truths? Truths based on Science, not right wing law enforcement.

      Nothing, I say…but we shall see! I’m hopeful.

      Keep up the good work and keep our hope alive with your vigilence. Keep knocking and somebody will eventually open the door of truth in our Government and quit side stepping the issue.

      Happy Holidays to all

      Jerry Harrison, KY

    20. All we can do is hope and pray he does actually do something.

    21. John says:

      Their heads are stuck up their ass so far that we don’t have a chance. They simply can’t hear us with all that shit in their ears!

    22. Right! says:

      He is right they won’t legalize marijuana (for political reasons of coarse.), but he will give the people the platform to have our voices heard, which is something that wasn’t there at all during the Gov Bush administration. Now is the time to fight! We have four years to convince a “Stoner” that the people believe “Marijuana” is not bad. Do we have our work cut out for us or what? Why don’t we start by calling the plant the last name it had before it was ripped off the face of world “Cannabis Sativa anyone?”

    23. BS43 says:

      No, what’s BS is whenever I put my two cents on these blogs NORML rips through it like it has no value. Thanks NORML for being a bunch of condescending jerks.

    24. BS43 says:

      I’m just playing I’m just trying to prove that no matter who you are you have a voice and you should use it. NORML is in no way condescending or jerks I’m just being a typical everyday schmuck that is tired. In fact, I am the jerk for posting the remark b4 this one. See, I can take it. I love NORML and I value their work and everything that they stand for. If they posted the response b4 this one my point should be taken. Hope you all have a sense of humor no matter how jacked up mine may seem. (:P)

    25. Realistically says:

      When the pre-Baby-Boomer generation dies off completely, there would no longer be nearly as many powerful old-farties to criminalize marijuana. See, most of the government (Congress, state legislature, etc..) are filled of pre-Baby-Boomers. The most powerful people at around 70 years of age. They are making the middle-aged people like Bill Clinton and Obama think twice about pot.

      Give it 10-15 years, and basically all of the pre-baby-boomers (who were over 25 years old at the beginning of the 1960’s) will finally be gone! With the majority starting to accept marijuana, we’ll go back to the spiritual Biblical times of smoking pot in churches and worshipping God. I mean, if gay marriages are being legalized in some states, marijuana is definitely going to be legalized in roughly the same period. Just like with blacks being able to vote, and we knew that it was a matter of time before women could vote too.

      Heck, the Netherlands is a beautiful model. Why cant Belgium follow suit? And Denmark perhaps? It would help the horrible suicide rate in Sweden, by making them mellow (their beer doesnt seem to help). Pot use in Canada keeps on growing and growing, even the cops there are smoking it. Once, I went to a pot parade in Toronto, and we all smoked pot on the streets in downtown right in front of all those cops. I mean, if pot were legal, it would get rid of most corrupt police–since many of them smoke pot themselves. It would calm them down and satisfy them, not having to bust anybody with pot so that they can take it, smoke it, and steal the cash for it. It’s the only way for those cops to get their hands on weed, by going after the lower-class people more often than the ethical norm. Heck, if we all had access to pot, it would satisfy us from wanting the hard drugs. It would satisfy us from needing most of the prescription drugs, that only make us completely broke ($400 a month on Rx drugs for an average middle-aged citizen). Legal pot can be $100 a month tops.. or even cheaper if ingested by cookies or brownies.

      There’s a wonderful movie on pot.. like “Super Size Me”, but rather “Super High Me”! Watch it yourself, and find out the effects of 30-day trails!!
      http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/movieDetails/374092

    26. John says:

      I wrote in Ron Paul.

    27. Z says:

      We all neeed to get off our butts and stand up against our goverment, we’re letting the goverment control us, the people insted of we the people controlling it. WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE FOR AN ENTIRE NATION OF PEOPLE when our country is based on the PEOPLE HAVING THE RIGHT OF CHOICE. Yet congress, which is suposed to be the peoples reps couldnt be further from that original appointment. We NO LONGER have our rights givin to us by the constitiution, I cant tell a cop to go f himself without going to jail, i cant even step outside my house and have a beer out front without some over zealous local goverment agent (cop) giving me a ticket and threatening me, Hell I cant even come home from work and get assulted by a group of intoxicated idiots who are on parole without being the one questioned handcuffed taken to jail and im now going to court because of it even though it was on my property (private with no tresspassing signs ect posted) because i was sober and kicked the shit out of two drunkin idiots who assulted me befor i got out of my truck, on my property im suffering the legal repercussions. all i have to say is, F this goverment, F obama, F any president prior to and F you if you got a problem with it. Because these are the facts. Stand up and Man up or Shut up and sit down, If you’ve all got an issue with it then do something about it, insted of this crap online do like me, forget protesting (you can and most liekly will goto jail for it without the proper permits) Call your states goverment representitive and raise hell. THATS WHY THEY ARE THERE. We need to take back our freedoms and put our goverment in check. im tired of being harassed, arrested and tormented by the goverment for self defense or a natural herb that clearly has NO ILL EFFECTS.

    28. Gabriel Robles says:

      what we need is to make ads telling the trut a program of marijuana talking about hemp/medicinal marijuana and personal use marijuana history evrething…

      we need to keep like somewone in the comments said upsetting obama…make him note that our priority is this cause it is linked with most things the war on petroleum cause we can make fuel and energy out of hemp.we can help world hunger,global warming.

      we need to act now!Obama legalize marijuana completely!

    29. [...] Obama clearly says that we should… dude… you are way outta date. You’ve missed a lot. read this, this, and [...]

    30. Kerin...Who's Not A Criminal- Just Chronically Ill In NY, With Multiple Sclerosis says:

      I’m hoping that the use of marijuana for compassionate care and consumption, a.k.a. medical marijuana will finally be allowed in N.Y. and everywhere else in the USA for that matter…Obama needs to step up to the plate and do us chronically and terminally ill people a big favor and help make our medicine legal…He’s already done me one huge favor by repealing the bans on stem cell research, which offers hope for finding cures and treatments for Multiple Sclerosis and scores of other aflictions- and in his first eight hours of command…Now if he could just help us to be pain-free and asymptomatic while they find the cure of our diseases…That truly would be a miracle…I am NOT A CRIMINAL- I AM CHRONICALLY ILL AND SLOWLY DYING…yet the government and local law inforcement says I am, and I’ve been prosecuted twice, for trying to make myself well and be productively pain free. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed…but I hold faith in good things to come…

    31. paul jensen says:

      Is it time to tax marijuana ?
      Its Time to TAX Marijuana……………

    32. I don’t think Obama will be a good president. Look what he has done so far.

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