I see there was a lot of pearl clutching and plaintive wails about Obama murdering someone’s unicorn regarding Obama’s response to marijuana the other day, and I would like to note a few things. First, though, his response:
“…we took votes about which questions were going to be asked, and I think 3 million people voted or 3.5 million people voted,” he said. “I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation.”
The president then joked that “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” prompting laughter from the roughly 100 people gathered in the White House East Room for the event.
“…but I just want — I don’t want people to think that — this was a fairly popular question,” he continued. “We want to make sure that it was answered.”
First, and this is directed right at the drama queens at Reason, who have turned into the most tedious online presence since the PUMA crowd (“Obama on Pot: Har Har Har, The Joke’s On You!”), Obama has never supported legalization. It was never a position he took during the campaign, it was never a promise he made, and the farthest I believe he ever went was to support some level of decriminalization, re-thinking rehabilitation, changing the way we deal with medical marijuana, and shifting many of these decisions back to the state.
Second, I don’t know of anyone who is suggesting that marijuana legalization is the key to economic recovery. I hear people throw out the “legalize it and tax it” stuff, but I don’t know of any studies that break the numbers down (if there are some, I would love to see them). For all we know, it might be a push economically. Considering all of the social costs of alcohol use and abuse, that is not unrealistic to think that perhaps marijuana might be the same. Personally, I would bet that there would be modest economic benefit to marijuana decriminalization and legalization, but an even greater societal benefit (in both cost and in other variables) to decriminalization and legalization. Regardless, anyone who thinks that in a $14 trillion GDP that marijuana will be a meaningful and substantive force to economic recovery probably has other reasons they want marijuana legalized.
Third, I would argue this is more a reaction to the folks “freeping” the online town hall with marijuana legalization questions than it is a deep insight into what Obama and the administration thinks. They have already made moves regarding DEA raids of medical marijuana shops, and we need to make sure they keep to that promise.
Fourth, when did it become unacceptable to make stoner jokes? Has anyone told Hollywood? Has anyone told Seth Rogan?
Finally, I would like to note that Obama is, to a fault, a cautious politician. All these notions of him being a reckless radical lefty are creations of the brain-dead right, and there is simply nothing out there to suggest he is going to move quickly or radically regarding marijuana laws. It really does seem that a lot of people bought into the right-wing bullshit about this guy. He isn’t a socialist. He isn’t a radical Muslim. He doesn’t hate capitalism. He doesn’t hate Wall Street. He has gotten where he is by moving slowly, calculating, and being non-threatening. As we also discovered regarding gay rights, he doesn’t think there is any point to rapid change that will be overturned, and instead prefers slow, sustainable change.
I honestly don’t remember a time when people of both sides of the aisle projected their own beliefs so heavily on a guy and then felt betrayed or surprised when he didn’t behave according to those beliefs. The reaction yesterday among the right to his Afghanistan plan was just more of the same. They were actually surprised when he proposed a serious plan, with benchmarks and an actual commitment to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban and a pledge to increase troops and material support to the region. Where have you been for the last three years when Obama was stating his position on Afghanistan over and over again?
Long story short, there is nothing in Obama’s past to suggest he would suddenly support legalization of marijuana. There is no evidence that I am aware of that legalizing marijuana would be a significant measure for economic recovery. There was nothing in his response that showed any deviation from what he has always said. There is no reason for anyone who supports legalization to feel betrayed. You may not like his position, may not think it is right, but if you thought he ran on a platform of marijuana legalization you are either stoned or just plain stupid.