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April 21, 2011

Effective commentary concerning political discussion of pot policy and the drug war

In the wake of President Obama's Facebook forum yesterday, I noticed this notable prior commentary at The Huffington Post by Scott Morgan.  The piece is headlined "Obama's Facebook Forum Fails to Silence Marijuana Legalization Advocates," and here are excerpts:

Despite being initially chastised as "Internet trolls," supporters of marijuana reform [have] repeatedly demonstrated their momentum in an open exercise of online democracy.

As startling as it was to see marijuana legalization taking a front row seat in mainstream politics, the outcome couldn't be ignored without defeating the purpose of the exercise entirely.  Obama was forced to respond, and after an unfortunate first attempt to brush the issue aside, he eventually conceded just months ago that legalization is "an entirely legitimate topic of debate," but rejected it without explanation nevertheless.

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....

[T]he 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.

If advocates of marijuana reform have become annoying in their efforts to get attention, maybe that's because there is no official time or place to have this debate.  How we deal with drug use in America is a question almost anyone would agree is profoundly important, and yet the discussion is ducked by our political leadership at every opportunity.

The real political significance of the Internet is that it's the one place where political priorities are spelled out by the people, unedited, uncensored, and allowed to stand on their own strength.  The fact that marijuana legalization gains newfound momentum here is testament to the flawed political machinery of the past, not the quirks of the new social media tools that are just beginning to reshape political landscapes.

Indeed, until he is prepared to discuss the problems with our nation's marijuana laws in much more detail, the President's online events will remain a rather pointless and impractical exercise.

April 21, 2011 at 08:43 AM | Permalink


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Such things aren't meant to be useful, at least not to the public. They are meant to be useful to the politicians to keep the faithful in line. Obama has to be looking to 2012 with a certain amount of trepidation, the numbers can only be cooked so much before the pressure cooker explodes. Anything that threatens to turn up the heat is to be avoided in such circumstances.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 21, 2011 9:49:11 AM

If you can't sell it to Barack Obama, and you can't sell it to Nancy Pelosi (who has one of the safest districts in the country and thus zero electoral peril), you can't sell it period.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 21, 2011 5:00:18 PM

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