Obama Takes Then Dodges Pot Legalization Question on YouTube

The digital president, Barack Obama held a sort of national press conference following his State of the Union Address this week. As he has done after every SOTU address since he took office, Obama told the nation to query him via YouTube and he would answer questions.

The video submissions Obama answered on Thursday afternoon  -- inquiries about Egypt, the economy, and the Super Bowl ("May the best team win," the chief executive replied) -- were the ones that received the most votes in an online poll.

For the third straight year, Obama was asked about the country's War on Drugs. The question about America's failed drug policy -- submitted by MacKenzie Allen, a retired Los Angeles sheriff's deputy and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition -- was the highest-rated question.

But this time, Obama took the question. Nevermind that the president dodged some key points -- the fact that he answered the question at all is a huge step forward, Allen told SF Weekly on Thursday.

"The so-called War on Drugs has been waged for 40 years at a cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, with nothing to show for it but increased supply, cheaper drugs, and a dramatic increase in violence in the underworld drug market," Allen said in his 30-second question. "Do you think there will or should come a time for us to discuss the legalization, regulation and control of all drugs, thereby doing away with the violent criminal market as well as a major funding source for international terrorism?"

Obama answered the question seriously. "This is an entirely legitimate topic for debate," the president said, before adding, "I am not in favor of legalization."

It buoyed Allen's soul when he heard the president say, "We have to think more of drugs as a public health problem, like smoking, drunk driving, wearing seat belts... with drugs, I think we're so focused on arrests and incarceration that we don't spend enough time thinking about how we shrink demand."

"This is something we in the White House are looking at very carefully," added Obama, before stating that "drug cartels" around the US-Mexico border are still a main target of U.S. law enforcement.

Obama offered no revelations of substantive policy changes or any kind of signal that the War on Drugs was coming to an end anytime soon.

Still, "I was pleasantly surprised [that Obama took the question]," Allen told SF Weekly. "But I think the president gave short shrift to the enforcement issue. We are never going to legislate away people wanting to intoxicate themselves, regardless of substance. It's not realistic on his or any other politician's part to think that we can throw more money and manpower away and that drug dealers and cartels are going to go away."

"A half-trillion dollars a year?" said Allen, referring to his estimate of what the black market for drugs is worth. "You can buy yourself a sovereign country for that kind of money."

The fact that his question is being taken seriously on a national stage is itself a victory, Allen said. But now that awareness is heightened, real policy needs to be established next before folks like David Goldman, of San Francisco's chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a medical cannabis patients' advocacy group, is satisfied.

"It was a baby-step forward, and thank you for small favors," said Goldman sardonically. "But until we get marijuana rescheduled, we're nowheresville."

Marijuana is classified by the U.S. Department of Justice as a "schedule 1" controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no medical value. Medical cannabis, of course, has been the law of the land in California since 1996. Marinol, a synthetic THC substitute, has been a Schedule II controlled substance (like Oxycontin) since 1999.

"President Obama discusses investing in education so we can "win the future" yet our current federal policy would sooner put our youth in prison than in higher education, regardless of the fact that education and employment are the best deterrents from drug abuse and the criminal system," said Dale Sky Jones, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 19 campaign who helped organize a Web-based drive to get Obama to answer the question.

"There is no apparent plan for action from the top down, therefore the individual states have a constitutional right under the 10th amendment, and a fiscal obligation under the current fiscal crisis, to take up the debate in the voting booth and state legislatures," Jones added.

So it's status quo for now. But at least Obama gave the issue a nod in between Super Bowl predictions -- that's more than legalization advocates received from both Bushes and Clinton combined.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly  

 

My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Mike D
Mike D

Be prepared for best case scenario, more empty promises from this Potus. Everything is just a game piece to that man including sick people. With 55 companies working on diff chemical coumpounds from cannibis, there ain't a chance in hell Obama gives a rat's patoot about people. To him, not only are, corporati­ons people too, those corporatio­ns are worth millions in reelection donations. The sick people have little to offer him.Then add in the Cotton industry-clothing last 2 times as long from Hemp Monsanto cannot corner the common MJ or hemp strains patent wise.ADM wants noo competition with Soy bean constituants.The tree farmers-weyerhouser ect don't want compitition from farms producing 4times the fiber from an acre.Anhuser doesn't want the alcohol competition.Philip Morris doesn't want the 'Tobacco' competition.DuPont doesn't want the 'fiber' competition.Johnson and Johnson doesn't want the 'asprin' competition.The DEA-80 countries-60 offices doesn't want to stop the competition.Wall Street doesn't want the Drug dollars to quit coming.Banks sure don't want to quit washing drug money.The Military loves the ability to decide Tribal nuances in supporting or denying a tribes harvest.For profit prisons getting 40K a yeara person  to incarcerate love prohibitionDrug testing companies are tring to get all scholl extra ciriculars mandantory testing (including 'Band' lol)Orgs trying to get all social programs mandantory testingLawyers love iprohibitionParole officers love prohibitionBail Co.s love prohibition.Drug dealers love prohibition.Obama will just follow the money flow.When asked about the chances of Marijuana bieng legalized Mrs. Clinton responded," No, there's too much money in it."

Leonard Krivitsky, MD
Leonard Krivitsky, MD

In this society of ever-increasing stress levels, how can anyone possibly justify keeping the substance that promotes violence (alcohol) "legal", while insisting that the substance that suppresses violence (Cannabis) should be kept "illegal"! Total absence of logic. Cannabis is not physically addictive as it has no documented physical withdrawal syndrome associated with its use; smoking Cannabis has been shown to have NO connection with increased risk of lung cancer, the so-called "gateway drug" theory is a non-existent entity altogether, and Marinol is a synthetic THC analogue, which is not at all the same thing as Medicinal Cannabis. This is together with the remarkable medicinal properties of the Cannabis plant, the denial of which is not even a "rational" thing to do! It is as pointed out in the prestigious "Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook" that states clearly that "Cannabis use suppresses violent behavior and only the unsophisticated think otherwise". Cannabis prohibition is doing more harm to this society than many people realize, as the (young) people are pushed to "experiment" with alcohol/hard drugs or dangerous, physically addictive prescription drugs, many of which promoting violent behavior instead of suppressing it as Cannabis does. CA Prop. 19 directly challenged the DEA "dogmas", and it was the reason why it infuriated the "powers that be" the way it did! Unfortunately, many lawmakers are still swayed by the DEA disinformation in all these respects, but one thing is clear: just like other repressive entities before it, the DEA will not be able to defend its mindless "dogmas" by repression alone; sooner or later the American people will clearly see this nonsense, and they will not tolerate it indefinitely!

Anon
Anon

Marinol is Schedule III, not II.

gavinsamu
gavinsamu

How can you solve like these horrible crimes? Get a degree in Criminal Justice from "United Forensic College" search online.

Missus
Missus

MacKenzie Allen's group is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, not Law Enforcement Prohibition.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...