A forthcoming biography on President Obama is making headlines, with new details about the president smoking marijuana with his teenage friends in Hawaii…
While Obama’s term began with great promise for drug policy reformers, in the past two years it has been difficult to distinguish Obama’s drug policies from those of his White House predecessors. Although President Obama has acknowledged that legalization is “an entirely legitimate topic for debate” — the first time a sitting president has made such a statement — his administration has made a string of increasingly disappointing moves over the last year. Half of all U.S. drug arrests are for marijuana — more than 850,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana in 2010 alone, 88 percent for mere possession…
Roughly twice as many people are arrested for marijuana possession now as were arrested in the early 1980s, even though the number of people consuming marijuana is no greater now than then. If police had been as keen on making marijuana arrests back then, it’s quite possible that a young man named Barry Obama would have landed up with a criminal record — and even more likely that he would not have his current job.
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker took to Twitter on Wednesday, calling the government’s war on drugs a failure that unfairly targets the black population. His pointed criticism comes one day after New Jersey advanced a bill to decriminalize marijuana. If it passes, a person caught with 15 grams of pot or less would only face a $150 fine…
Booker extolled the benefits of addiction treatment over incarceration, saying the drug war was costing billions and destroying lives. He lamented the high percentage of blacks in New Jersey’s prisons, writing that they make up 60 percent of the jail population, despite being 15 percent of the state’s population.
Nick Gillespie asks the obvious libertarian question: Wait, hang on, this is the guy currently fighting the War on Drugs in full? Yes, but it’s worse than that. Maraniss includes this factoid about the late 1970s in the state with the postal code HI.
“The war on drugs had not yet started in earnest, and the Hawaii National Guard’s Operation Destroy in 1977, when troops went after marijuana crops in the island hills, barely made a dent in the supply.”
The young Barack Obama lived through a massive anti-drug police operation. It didn’t work, at all. You’d think he’d have noticed.
Of course, Obama has since disavowed this lifestyle, and it’s unlikely to factor politically. Asked by a voter in 2008 whether, unlike Bill Clinton, he had “inhaled,” Obama said he did: “It’s not something that I’m proud of. It was a mistake … But you know, I’m not going to. I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point.” In Dreams from My Father, Obama described that time in his life as the first stage of a serious and transformative identity crisis:
“Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn’t been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory. I had discovered that it didn’t make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate’s sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you’d met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl. Nobody asked you whether your father was a fat-cat executive who cheated on his wife or some laid-off joe who slapped you around whenever he bothered to come home. You might just be bored, or alone. Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection. And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism …”
A solid majority of voters nationwide favor legalizing and regulating marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated. Most also don’t believe it should be a crime for people to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes.
A new national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows that 56% favor legalizing and regulating marijuana in a similar manner to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated. Thirty-six percent (36%) are opposed to such a legalizing and regulating pot.
Despite California’s failure to pass Proposition 19 in 2010 – which would have legalized recreational use – some state may legalize marijuana soon, perhaps as early as this November, says Robert MacCoun, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, who follows marijuana laws. That means it is time to consider shifting the debate from legalization to consideration of how it should be done, he adds…
[Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML] says the trend can be expected to continue, since younger voters are more favorable toward ending marijuana prohibition than older ones. “Politicians ought to take note of the changing political wind,” he says. “Marijuana legalization appears destined to become the next big social freedom issue after gay rights.”…
“Polling now consistently shows that more voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana than support continuing a failed prohibition approach,” says Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “If the trends in public opinion continue in the direction they are going, the day is not far away when supporting a prohibition system that causes so much crime, violence, and corruption is going to be seen as a serious political liability for those seeking support from younger and independent voters.”
On its own, stories like these about a young adult are actually kind of funny, even humanizing — like something straight out of a stoner comedy. But when you realize it’s about President Obama, it becomes a little less humurous.
Less humorous because President Obama has repeatedly laughed off and dismissed serious discussion about drug policy, like in that 2009 virtual town hall where the president mocked online voters for picking a question about marijuana legalization.
Less humorous because the president shuts down medical marijuana dispensaries with a frequency that would have made Richard Nixon stand up and cheer. He presides over a DOJ, IRS, and DEA that have threatened, audited, and shut down legal pot sellers in California, Colorado, Montana, and Washington. All this despite once promising to respect state laws regarding medical marijuana.
It’s high time that Obama confronts his past marijuana use and extends the right to get high as a kite to all other Americans.
Speaking only for myself, I’m fine with having a president who used to get blazed out of his mind. It’s just funny that the same people who are scrambling to defend him were, shall we say, somewhat less accepting of Bush’s youthful indiscretions.