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December 28, 2008

Should we be worried or hopeful about the Obama Administration and the drug war?

A couple of new commentaries about the incoming Obama Administration and marijuana policies can give those interested in this aspect of the drug war either new hopes or new fears.  First, over at Esquire, John Richardson has this piece headlined "Why Obama Really Might Decriminalize Marijuana."  But, Jacob Sollum at Reason has this response that explains why he fears that the most anyone should expect is "A Blue-Ribbon Panel, If We're Lucky."

Ever the moderate and sentencing fanatic, I think (or at least hope) that the Obama Administration will see the virtues of a sensible casualty assessment and than a slow and steady troop withdrawal in this area of the drug war.  I believe that a sober cost/benefit analysis of modern marijuana policy would lead to the conclusion that we right now spend too much taxpayer money in order to punish unequally a small percentage of those folks involved in distribution and use of a drug that few consider very serious.  If the Obama Administration is seriously committed to reviewing all federal programs to assess their efficacy, the federal investment to the pot portion of the drug war ought to be reduced in the years to come.

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December 28, 2008 at 08:50 AM | Permalink


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I agree completely with Jacob Sullum, the most we'll get is yet another "study" which will produce a nother 200 page unreleased, unspoken of memorandum concluding that the war on drugs (esp. marijauna) is a waste of time, money, and resources. Every presidednt since Nixon has commissioned and received the same memo, and Obama won't be any different.

No government can reverse a position based on half a century of propaganda. Nazis will change course and declare Jews to be wonderful, productive, generous people before the U.S. will change course and declare marijuana not to be so dangerous as to warrant prohibition and criminal sanctions.

Americans have absorbed their government's anti-drug propaganda for decades. You can't just have the government now decide that drugs WON'T fry your brain and that we can just say yes. "Oh but marijuana is different than heroin" you say. No, it's not, and 50+ years of gov't propaganda has made no such dinstiction either. Drug prohibition is based on logical fallacies, half-truth statistics, and flat out lies. But for the perjured congressional testimony of Harry J. Anslinger we may not have ever had the Harrison Narcotics Act in the first place (actually that's not true, Congress would have found someone else to put the desired perjury in the congressional record, just like how they forbid testimony that contradicted it).

Even if a president, who has been in office a few years, gave a primetime speech where he admitted to the american people that for decades the government - himself included - has been LYING to them about the dangers of drugs... people are so brainwashed at this point they wouldn't believe it! And that president would be called soft on crime just for daring to tell the truth. It would be like Hitler saying he was wrong about the Jews - every Nazi would stare at him for a minute, then rush the stage and slaughter him for being a traitor.

The only way for any drug prohibition to end is for all the drug warriors to be rounded up and shot. That might mean 90% of the population, though I really don't know the figure. It will never happen, though (and to be clear, I'm not advocating any extra-judicial killings - I'm just saying what it will take).

Posted by: BruceM | Dec 28, 2008 11:04:13 AM

The drug war has been one huge failure and although I am in favor of legalizing marijuana it is hard to believe that it will ever happen,unless "change" really does come to Washington!

Posted by: BS | Dec 28, 2008 12:00:28 PM

Richardson does identify the best argument for ending marijuana prohibition - the massive economic boost it would bring while deflating black market profits for drug cartels - but it's not a point that's being widely emphasized even among the legalization movement. California's experiment with medical marijuana shows a legal, licensed domestic market can be established within a couple of growing seasons, bringing with it an economic boost with a significant multiplier effect.

If pot legalization were re-messaged to emphasize economic development instead of justice for pot smokers - the way legalizing beer was seen as an economy booster by Franklin Roosevelt - the current recession could provide cover for such a move, but right now trends don't appear to be leading us in that direction.

Sullum's is a more clear-eyed prediction is less sullied by Hope's cruel and empty promises, which of course makes it altogether less fun but more likely to be accurate.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 28, 2008 12:05:07 PM

Whoops, one to many is's in that last sentence. Excuse the typo. It should say, "a more clear-eyed prediction, less sullied ..."

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 28, 2008 12:07:34 PM

BS: if the drug war has been "one huge failure" (no disagreement there), why are you only in favor of legalizing marijuana and not all drugs? Or are you in favor of ending prohibition and I just misread your statement?

Posted by: BruceM | Dec 28, 2008 1:46:30 PM


Since the Supreme Court has now prevented itself from acknowledging the question of whether Barack H. Obama is or is not an Article II “natural born citizen” based on the Kenyan/British citizenship of Barack Obama’s father at the time of his birth (irrespective of whether Barack Obama is deemed a “citizen” born in Hawaii or otherwise) as a prerequisite to qualifying to serve as President of the United States under the Constitution -- the Court having done so at least three times and counting, first before the Nov 4 general election and twice before the Dec 15 vote of the College of Electors -- it would seem appropriate, if not necessary, for all Executive Branch departments and agencies to secure advance formal advice from the United States Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel as to how to respond to expected inquiries from federal employees who are pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” as to whether they are governed by laws, regulations, orders and directives issued under Mr. Obama during such periods that said employees, by the weight of existing legal authority and prior to a decision by the Supreme Court, believe in good faith that Mr. Obama is not an Article II “natural born citizen”.

Moreover, each and every member of Congress should be notified that he or she is personally liable (can be sued) for his or her own failure, or the same in conspiracy with other members, to perform what is a ministerial and constitutional duty, that is, to require and/or insist that Presidential electoral votes only be counted for candidates who are “natural born citizens” under Article II of the United States Constitution, the failure of which creates a cause of action for deprivation of claimants’ constitutional rights (as allowed under the Bivens case) against employees of the Federal Government, in this case, to a lawful President and Commander in Chief, and therefore, for deprivation of adequate continuation of the United States as a Constitutional Republic. The constitutionally tortious conduct is not subject to congressional immunity and would be the jettison of Article II of the Constitution by failure to stop and/or object to the counting of electoral votes for Barack H. Obama who has admitted that at the time of his birth his father was a Kenyan/British citizen and not a citizen of the United States of America.

Finally, if 1/20/09 comes and goes with a usurper in the Whitehouse (that is, Obama is definitely NOT an Article II “natural born citizen” -- dad Kenyan/British citizen at BHO’s birth -- albeit he MAY be a 14th Amendment “citizen”) with usurper enablers in Congress and the Supreme Court … God help us because many of the people will -- rightfully and under our Constitution and Declaration of Independence -- endeavor through other means to take back the Government from what is nothing less than a non-constitutional coup d’etat. (SCOTUS now does have the power to forestall that grim yet inevitable scenario, otherwise the blood and possible loss of our Constitutional Republic is SQUARELY ON THEIR HEADS.)

Posted by: Ted | Dec 28, 2008 5:21:17 PM

Bruce I think the general population may go for the legalization of marijuana not sure how they would feel about people on Heroin,crack,and meth. To be honest with you I myself might have a problem with the harder drugs. No one to my knowledge has ever overdosed on marijuana, adding these harder drugs with the shape our health care system would only worsen the system.

Posted by: BS | Dec 28, 2008 10:55:58 PM

The nutty thing is that Marinol (made from synthetic THC) is a legal prescription drug and marijuana is not.

I recent reviewed the marijuana related death issue and the CBC has updated their data on the subject. There do not appear to be any deaths were marijuana is the only substance mentioned. There are some deaths where marijuana is one of two substances mentioned (the other is often alcohol). One of my friends is a pathologist and he said that it is common for marijuana to be one of the substances reported in a blood test but in his opinion that is more of a life-style issue rather than cause of death.

Marijuana has been used since 2,500 BC and up until 1901 it was commonly used as a pain killer. It was replaced by aspirin and there are more deaths caused by aspirin overdoses in a year than all marijuana related deaths reported by CBC since they started keeping records.

False facts about marijuana have been around for several generations and it will take a massive reeducation program to correct that problem. The best we can hope for is that the feds will allow the states take the lead on this issue. If that is done we will find out what works the best by reviewing the state-by-state results. With that information we will have a better chance at devising a rational national policy.

Posted by: John Neff | Dec 29, 2008 11:47:00 AM

BS: either prohibition is a failure or it's not - you can't have it both ways. Unless, I suppose, you're opinion is that we should perpetuate failure as our public policy. But that's quite a wacky position for any rational person to take.

The bottom line is a free society is incompatable with victimless, possessory crimes. How can a free society enforce a prohibition on possessing leaves, powders, and pills without violating every fundamental tenet of privacy and limited government - as well as personal freedom? It can't. Every degradation of the Fourth Amendment has come from necessity to enforce drug prohibition. It would be impossible to lock up people for having a leaf in a box in their home if the Fourth Amendment didn't have ten billion exceptions to it. It's gotten to the point where there is a literal "drug exception" to the Constitution.

I'd highly recommend you read Jacob Sullum's excellent book "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use." You've heard one side of the issue for your whole life - it's time you hear the other side, which at this point sounds so implausible (drugs are not bad) that you'll have a hard time absorbing it with an open mind.

Drugs don't hurt people, drug laws hurt people. If you're life is ruined because you're convicted of felony possession of a drug and thrown in prison - it was not the drug that ruined your life, it was the drug law under which you were convicted that ruined your life. But they won't let you out until you are brainwashed and 'admit' that the 'drugs ruined your life.' It's so perverse, and most people are just too dumb to see the nuances of what is true and what is not.

Posted by: BruceM | Dec 29, 2008 2:55:01 PM

So thanks to the marijuana stamp act the government has LIED to so many of its citizens and demonized a plant(drugs are manufactured by man, you have to mix ingredients) Marijuana grows out of the ground and unlike DRUGS made from other plants you don't make drugs out of Marijuana you simply use the PLANT...Coffee beans contain a common drug known as caffine and still has to be processed so you tell me how we live in a free country when you can't even use a PLANT that grows naturally without going to jail..also these anti-marijuana commercials on tv make me want to vomit they openly lie to the public and tell you its for your own good. Oil Barons are the ones who pushed to get Marijuana illegal because they knew they couldn't compete with hemp seed oil...think about it we wouldn't have to pay out the butt for oil and gasoline these days if the public would have understood what was happening so long ago. Thomas Jefferson wrote candidly about enjoying Cannabis and he was a very influentual man, not some useless bum stuck on a couch who never wants to do anything like they want you to believe..Marijuana is a gateway drug according to our government and their so called experts that turn you into a coke snorting/heroin shooting junky or whatever harsh drug they want to tell you you'll end up on..Last but not least we live in a society today that has a pill for everything under the sun most with side effects that are worse then what you were trying to fix in the first place so in the eyes of our government Alcohol(one of the worst drugs out there kills a whole lot of people but its ok you can use it it's LEGAL and 99.9% of the population is swallowing prescription medicine like its candy so do we have a drug problem in this country...you better believe it...however MARIJUANA IS NOT A DRUG!!! I REPEAT MARIJUANA IS NOT A DRUG IT'S A PLANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: big poppy | Apr 28, 2009 9:42:37 AM

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