Giordano on Obama’s Transition on Marijuana Law Reform

From The Field’s Al Giordano: Re-Do It, Mr. President-elect: “Open for Questions” Gets an F. So, here’s the top question from Obama’s experiment with participatory democracy, in which citizens could write in with their questions, and vote them up or down — along with the Obama’s transition team’s response:

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 is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Giordano continues:

The five other drug policy questions among the top 20 were totally ignored, yet they were closer to the line of scrimmage on Obama’s own stated campaign positions. Here’s a summary of those questions:

– Will the federal government stop raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana users and their doctors?

– If not legalization, what about decriminalization?

(After all, on November 4, voters in Michigan and Massachusetts voted for exactly that; the context of the issue – and “conventional wisdom” about public opinion on it – has shifted somewhat since Election Day.)

– What about prioritizing treatment over incarceration for drug offenders?

– How do we fix the prison system?

– And what about the Food and Drug Administration’s cozy relationship – the freedom from liability and the protective legislation previously given – with the pharmaceutical industry?

Those were the more interesting top drug policy questions that deserved a sincere and transparent response. Instead, they were ignored in favor of picking the question to which he could give a typical politician’s “blow off” response.

It’s still too early to peg Obama as all talk and no action (though people with screwed-up epistemology have been making that case for at least a year now). And I’m pretty sure Giordano is not saying Obama should have come out hard for legalization. What Giordano is saying, though, is that in the first round of responses on the “open for questions” site, Obama had a chance to demonstrate the candor and responsiveness that he campaigned on. And so far, he has pretty thoroughly muffed it.

Hm. “Muffed it” is a baseball expression, isn’t it? I think we need to go with basketball metaphors for Obama. So say this instead: In the initial round of responses to the “open for questions” site, Obama shot an airball.

24 Responses to “Giordano on Obama’s Transition on Marijuana Law Reform”

  1. enkidu Says:

    I thought I saw a youtube where a voter asked specifically about medical marijuana policy and Obama states that he is not for the justice department raiding and prosecuting medical mj users (which is certainly not the same as outright legalization). The link is from 8/07, so things may have shifted towards the right a bit since then.

    or try youtube – search for obama marijuana

    I know several people with ‘the card’ and it helps them greatly.

  2. ymatt Says:

    Yeah, my understanding was that this questions thing was posted by staffers and answered by staffers, but I think people were expecting this to be more of a direct thing to Obama himself. So the answers were very canned and disappointing — hopefully this gets some attention and Obama gives it some personal attention.

    That said, I’m afraid there is an internet bias to be dealt with. Drug legalization is high on the internet activist’s priority list, but I bet it’s really low on the nation at large’s list.

  3. knarlyknight Says:

    I thought any internet activist bias’ about drug legalization (or the half-measure of decriminalization) were irrelevent tangents from the main issue that Obama’s internet Q&A provided meaningless, canned answers rather than the insightful nuanced thoughts expressed on the campaign trail.

    That was before actually reading the Giordano article. It seems the internet Obama Q&A did provide answers with similar insightful nuanced thoughts to those expressed on the campaign trail, with the blatantly obvious exception of answers relating to legal or illicit drug issues.

    It is clear that the bias to be dealt with is not that of internet activists. Rather, it is the bias implicit in the discrepancy of the Obama team answers to drug policy compared to other issues. If that is not addressed, a corrosive discontent as expressed by Giordano can only grow and spread:

    instruct your staff to stop ridiculing your supporters and give them concrete and thoughtful answers and arguments on the first round of questions before asking us to participate in Round Two.

    Round One is now an open sore, and an unanswered charade.

  4. ymatt Says:

    It’s not irrelevant, it’s the reason why the answer to the drug questions was so curt. It’s not a broadly-supported cause, it’s not a cause he has ever listed among those he thinks are important, and it’s a political hot potato. It would be nice if he would give a more complete answer, but when it’s clear that this issue of all those raised in the questions are at the top of the list because of the bias of internet demographics, it isn’t surprising that it gets treated this way. It would be nice if this weren’t true (and I’m certainly among those internet folk who strongly support decriminalization), but there’s nothing really in those questions that is new or isn’t adequately answered by “sorry, but no”. Obama’s not going to be our savior on this issue.

  5. NorthernLite Says:

    No he’s not. He can’t, at least right now. Like ymatt said, this is not something that is “high” on the majority of people’s list of priorities, especially right now.

    We came close a few years ago, and small amounts will not land you in jail anymore, so it’s becoming more socially acceptable. We’ll get there, eventually, I think (hope).

  6. shcb Says:

    As a little side tangent, one of the arguments for legalization is that it will cut down on the violence caused by it being an illegal substance. A position I agree with by the way. But one of the main reasons the Dutch are citing for reducing the number of coffee houses and brothels in Amsterdam by 50% is to reduce organized crime. I’m sort of scratching my head about that one, I though legalizing it was supposed to reduce crime. Do the Dutch know something we don’t after experimenting with legalization? Thoughts?

  7. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    Well, we don’t know the specifics of what the Dutch are doing. My guess is that, like anything that’s profitable, if organized crime can see a way to get a cut of the money, they’ll go after it?

  8. NorthernLite Says:

    Is it legalized and heavily regulated? I think for it to work, it would have to be government controlled. Like booze is here in Ontario.

  9. NorthernLite Says:

    “I’ll take a pack of 25 Northern Lights fatties, please.”

    Oh, I dream for the day!

  10. enkidu Says:

    that’ll be 3000 yuan please
    thank you!
    have a nice day! no heavy machinery ok? ok!

  11. shcb Says:

    I’m not exactly sure what the laws over there are. The article I read said something about pot being made legal in 2001. From what I understood you can legally own one plant for your own use and the coffee houses can provide a place to smoke it, I’m not sure if you can buy a joint in a coffee house or not. The article also said something about there being some problems with human trafficking in the prostitution. Oddly enough it also mentioned that they wanted to reduce the number of gift shops in Amsterdam. So maybe they are just wanting to give the town a different image and are blaming organized crime. Personally I was more distracted by the gift shops than the drugs or prostitutes. I found it rather surreal in a good way to have women selling themselves literally a hundred feet from Noorderkerk and find the old church now being used as an art gallery with a picture of bare breasted women in “The Last Supper” then walk outside and see a little hand written sign saying “smoke your joints inside please”. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

    I was just wondering if anyone else had read anything about it.

  12. NorthernLite Says:

    I think the coffee shops there serve.


  13. NorthernLite Says:

    I’m calling my travel agent tomorrow, fuck it.

  14. shcb Says:

    I obviously didn’t partake in the coffee shops, and wasn’t all that interested other than as a curiosity, I was more interested in the wares they were selling on Trompettersteeg street.

  15. ymatt Says:

    My understanding is that the coffee shops use a weird loophole to sell it. It’s illegal, but there’s no way that the police can legally catch them. Something like that. So it makes a certain amount of sense that organized crime would have a hand in it, especially since it’s a really easy, low-risk racket.

  16. knarlyknight Says:

    ymatt, If it’s illegal as you claim then it’s a crime, and if it’s a business then if must be organized, hence of f***ing course “organized crime” is behind the sales of cannabis in the Amsterdam’s coffeeshops.

    I’m just surprised you and shcb aren’t accusing al Qaeda of being behind the whole thing.

  17. shcb Says:

    That is sort of the way I understand the laws in Holland too, what I heard was that drugs and prostitution were (are?) illegal but everyone sort of turned a blind eye to it through the centuries. At some point they decided to tax the hookers, at that point someone said how can you tax something that is illegal? The government shouldn’t be profiting on something that is illegal. I don’t know what happened next. I have a feeling they did as NL warned above and didn’t really legalize it or have so many restrictions that everyone is still technically breaking the law but as long as the dealers don’t cross some unspoken line they are left alone. If that is the case we need to be very careful how we craft our laws so we don’t do the same thing, the only way to keep crime out of it is to make it totally legal in my opinion.

    One of my co-workers is coming over here end of January, first of February, I’ll ask him then.

  18. NorthernLite Says:

    Well in order to get the facts on this I think I’ll just have to go over there and check it out first hand. It’s no problem at all…really, I don’t mind. :)

  19. shcb Says:

    I don’t think we can trust your one sided approach, I better go with you. We’ll call it a fact finding mission. Although at 50 to 100 euro for 15 minutes I won’t be spending more than an hour or two on Tromp street, I’m sure my wife will understand.

  20. NorthernLite Says:

    Whatever you think is required to get to the bottom of this. I’m fully committed.

  21. shcb Says:

    If we pull this off they will probably commit both of us

  22. NorthernLite Says:

    My country wouldn’t do shit to me, they might even want a report on what I saw lol.

  23. shcb Says:

    I’m not worried about my country, my wife on the other hand…

  24. NorthernLite Says:


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