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Ask Obama

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 24, 2012

    NOTE: If you feel marijuana legalization was an entirely “appropriate” topic for debate, tweet your dissatisfaction of the White House’s censoring of NORML’s YouTube question by tweeting them using #WHchat and @WhiteHouse.

    “Pres. Obama, what is inappropriate about saving billions and not arresting nonviolent american citizens for marijuana? #WHChat @WhiteHouse”

    – E. Altieri, Comm. Coordinator

     

    As of 7pm Pacific, I checked the YouTube.com/WhiteHouse page to see how many votes our question received in President Obama’s latest YouTube Forum.  The good news?  Our question, “With over 850,000 Americans arrested in 2010, for marijuana charges alone, and tens of billions of tax dollars being spent locking up non-violent marijuana users, isn’t it time we regulate and tax marijuana?” received 4,023 votes, making it one of the most popular submissions to the forum.

    The bad news?  See for yourself:

    “The submission has been removed because people believe it is inappropriate.”  Hmm, well, who are these people?  The question got 241 “thumbs down” votes from viewers, was that it?  I notice that of the 615 questions submitted that asked about “With over 850,000 Americans arrested in 2010″ in the text, some still remain with 28 “thumbs down” and others are removed with as few as three, so it doesn’t seem like “people” refers to viewers or the public, does it?

    Who are these people, President Obama?  They’re not the people out here who keep making marijuana legalization the number one topic of these online forums.  They’re not the millions whose lives are impacted by a marijuana arrest; the tokers and their families who lose jobs, houses, kids, freedom, assets, respect, security, and peace of mind because of marijuana prohibition.

    Sadly, I think these people are actually just one person… a guy who smoked weed (and snorted coke) back in the day as a teenager in Hawaii and was damn lucky he didn’t get caught or today he’d be Barry the Drug Criminal.

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  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 19, 2011

    Here's what happened last time Mr. Obama took votes from the public on policy questions...

    Once more President Obama wades into the online breach with yet another Facebook Town Hall to solicit questions on policy from the public.  The event takes place on April 20th, a.k.a. 4/20, the unofficial national cannabis holiday, without any sense of irony that these forums have been dominated by marijuana legalization questions every time the public votes on these questions.

    (President Obama’s Facebook) WHAT’S HAPPENING
    President Barack Obama will hold a special “Facebook Live” townhall to connect with Americans across the country.

    WHERE & WHEN IT’S HAPPENING
    Where? Well, everywhere! The event at Facebook’s headquarters, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg & COO Sheryl Sandberg, will be live streamed for anyone to watch. Just come back here at the right time: Wednesday, April 20 @ 1:45pm PDT / 4:45pm EDT. Unless invited to attend in person, please do not show up at Facebook HQ. You can watch and participate via the event’s live stream.

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT
    President Obama will connect with Americans across the country to discuss the tough choices we must all make in order to put our economy on a more responsible fiscal path, while still investing in areas like innovation that will help our economy grow and make America more competitive.

    HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE
    Facebook will be selecting questions for President Obama to answer during the event. Submit questions now by posting them right here, on this event’s wall. As an alternative, you may submit a question via WhiteHouse.gov/facebooktownhall.

    So how in the world can the president avoid what will surely be voted the number one question once again by the online democracy of Facebook?  Simple… don’t let the public vote.  Scott Morgan from DrugWarChronicle has the scoop:

    It had become clear that as long as Obama’s forums allowed the public to vote on topics for the president to address, the top-ranked questions would be about legalizing marijuana or even ending the War on Drugs altogether. Reluctant to confront the issue further, the White House recently changed its approach and announced an April 20, 2011 event on Facebook in which participants will not be allowed to vote at all. Questions can be sent in by email or posted on the Facebook page, but Obama’s staff will make selections without any public input.

    The inherently democratic, vote-powered economy of ideas on the Internet has proven to be a remarkably powerful tool for discovering content of social value. The ability to click on what you like is the currency of social media and it offers insights into public opinion that may be worth more than meets the eye. The participatory nature of a vote-driven web forum makes people care about the outcome. Advocates for a wide variety of causes are inspired to spread the word and work to make sure their issue gets votes. The Obama Administration has abandoned the process simply to silence one particular idea, but the effect will be to make the forum less interesting for everyone.

    Moreover, the rise of marijuana policy into the realm of mainstream public discussion should fascinate, rather than frustrate, our political leadership. It’s a phenomenon that should at least interest our elected officials, even if they don’t yet fully understand or care that marijuana prohibition funds murder in Mexico, that innocent family pets are slaughtered in botched pot raids, that precious wilderness is being devastated by black-market marijuana manufacturing, that racism defines our marijuana arrest rates, that public servants are being corrupted before our eyes, and that we blow billions each year just to keep the situation as bad as it’s been for so long.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 27, 2011

    $15.5 billion this year alone, 2/3rds for ineffective law enforcement.

    President Obama responded to the most popular question (or, the eighty most popular questions) on YouTube.com’s “Ask Obama” forum regarding the debate on drug legalization in America.  Despite being the most popular question and gaining four times the support of any other non-drug war question, the YouTube moderator didn’t ask the question until #15.  The President’s response is a lot of platitudes about treatment, reducing demand, and reallocating resources, despite the Obama administration’s budget that puts twice the resources toward law enforcement than to treatment. At its core, however, it retains the premise that responsible adult marijuana consumers must be persuaded by our government, through drug tests, drug courts, forced rehab, and incarceration, into not consuming cannabis.

    President Obama’s Drug War Answer

    Mr. President, we’re never going to stop smoking marijuana. Never. American demand for cannabis is here to stay. You can let criminals control that market or you can do the sensible thing and begin regulating it.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    [Update! While President Obama's YouTube remarks may have been predictable, the mainstream media's focus on the popularity of marijuana law reform has been nothing short of extraordinary -- as noted by the growing number of mainstream outlets (CBS, Fox, USA Today, etc.) that have devoted ink to the story. Via today's YouTube forum, the public has made their case to the mainstream media and that ultimately is just as important, if not more important, than making their case to the President.]

    Regardless of whether or not President Obama addresses the question of marijuana law reform in today’s live YouTube ‘Ask Obama’ Q&A, the American public has made their case to the mainstream media.

    Last night, Universal Press Syndicate ran with the headline, Top Obama YouTube questions: Legalize pot. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

    The top questions Americans want to ask U.S. President Barack Obama on YouTube Thursday deal with legalizing marijuana, a review of the questions indicated. … The YouTube questions Obama will answer will be based on the number of votes each question receives, YouTube said.

    More than 193,000 people submitted nearly 140,000 questions and cast almost 1.4 million votes by midnight Wednesday, the submission deadline, a United Press International review indicated. This is 10 times last year’s 14,000 questions, the first year YouTube hosted an Obama interview.

    The top 10 questions all involved ending or changing the government’s war on drugs, legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana and embracing industrial hemp as a “green” initiative to help farmers, the UPI review found.

    As NORML’s Russ Belville blogged yesterday, marijuana’s popularity is not just limited the top 10 questions. In fact, the top 100 most popular questions (See them here.) posed to the President are about marijuana and drug law reform.

    In the minds of the mainstream media, that is a statement just too big to ignore:

    USA Today: Obama’s questions from YouTube deal mostly with legalizing pot

    The Politico: Obama is urged to talk about drugs

    Huffington Post: Obama Barraged By Pot Questions For Upcoming YouTube Town Hall

    CBS News: Marijuana Dominates Questions for Obama’s YouTube Q&A

    Fox News: Mr. President, America Wants to Know About…Marijuana

    Washington Post: YouTube interviews President Obama

    Regardless of how President Obama responds, the media has their story: The American public is ready to engage in a serious and objective political debate regarding the merits of legalizing the use of cannabis by adults. Is the President? Tune in here at 2:30 est today to find out.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 26, 2011


    Dear President Obama,

    Once again you have asked us about changing American policy and the direction this country should take.  Your “Ask Obama” forum sponsored by YouTube promises to take questions from the American people on the issues they find most important in terms of national policy.

    When you did this in 2010 you heard from us loud and clear about marijuana law reform.  We asked about re-scheduling cannabis to allow medical marijuana to flourish, decriminalizing marijuana to end thousands of arrests, legalizing pot to raise tax revenue, ending prohibition to cripple Mexican drug traffickers, regulating cannabis to keep it out of kids’ hands, reforming drug laws to re-prioritize police resources, embracing industrial hemp as a truly green energy source, and using science, not politics, to dictate our drug policy.

    And you flat-out ignored us, despite those questions dominating in both quantity and popularity.

    When you did this in 2009 you got the same response from the public.  That time you didn’t ignore us; you just laughed at us (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLFmGu57jLI).

    We know you’re a busy man and there are many pressing issues facing this country.  So we took the time to review the Top 100 questions on the “Ask Obama” site just now and condense each one into a few words so you could get an idea what the country is voting on.

    Understand that this is not the list that appears when one clicks on the site.  This list is compiled by choosing “All Questions” and then choosing “Sorted by popularity”.  When one first visits the site, one of seven random topics including Jobs & EconomyForeign Policy & National SecurityHealth CareEducation, Immigration, Energy and Environment, and Other, is presented in “Sorted by what’s hot” order, so it isn’t as if a certain topic becomes popular and then gets more popular because more random visitors are exposed to it.

    So here they are, out of 97,344 people who have submitted 77,551 questions and cast 826,973 votes, these are the Top 100 Questions (as of Tuesday, 10pm Pacific).  I’ve taken the liberty of color-coding questions about the Drug War in white, questions about you ignoring our questions about the Drug War in yellow, and questions that are not about the Drug War in red.

    Wait, make that the Top 101 Questions, so I can have at least one red question… Click the graphic above to read the full-sized version… or continue reading for all the questions…
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