Why Didn’t He Take a Stand on Pot?

When a president takes a stand on a highly controversial issue like gay marriage in an election year, you know he is doing it solely to motivate his base. How so? The job of the president has nothing to do with who can and cannot get married, so in announcing that he supports gay marriage, President Obama is not announcing that he will or can actually do anything about it.

The Antiplanner thinks of gay marriage as one of three litmus sets for whether someone is a libertarian. Are you fiscally conservative but you support gay marriage and drug decriminalization? Then you are libertarian. Some libertarians disagree with one another on other issues such as abortion, immigration, and the war on terror. But I don’t think anyone would call themselves libertarians if they opposed gay marriage or drug decriminalization.

Drug decriminalization–especially for minor drugs like marijuana–is also supported by most of those on the left. Here is an issue the president can actually do something about, as he commands numerous agencies–the FBI, BATF, DEA, etc.–that enforce federal drug laws. At the very least, he can order those agencies to respect state laws in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Yet Obama has “massively escalated the federal government’s attacks on medical marijuana businesses,” says the director of the Marijuana Policy Project in the Washington Post. His administration has ramped up the war on pot in Colorado despite the fact that even most Republicans in Colorado support medical marijuana.

Here’s an issue Obama could have taken a stand on where he could make a difference (and should have made a difference when he first took office three years ago). Instead, he speaks out on gay marriage. Big deal.

One pundit argues that Obama was “forced” to comment on gay marriage because of careless remarks by his vice-president. If that were true, then the Obama campaign wouldn’t already have web ads knocking Romney for his opposition to gay marriage. It sounds to me like this has been a carefully coordinated effort: first Biden stirs up the issue, then Obama “bravely” takes a stand, followed by hits against his opponent.

Current polls show Obama and Romney in a statistically dead-even race. Obama won in 2008 by bringing out the youth vote, who are much more solidly pro-gay rights than older voters. The administration hopes that the president’s “risky” stance will attract young voters again and carry him to victory without actually committing him to ever take any action since he has no authority to act on the subject of marriages, which are governed by the states, not the feds.

All of which just makes me more cynical than ever about government and politics.

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43 thoughts on “Why Didn’t He Take a Stand on Pot?

  1. bennett

    “One pundit argues that Obama was ‘forced’ to comment on gay marriage because of careless remarks by his vice-president.”

    I saw a tweet from a stand-up comic yesterday that said “Yay! Now Biden, go make a statement about decriminalizing pot.”

    It made me chuckle. But I think your observations are astute. Politicians are very crafty in the way events like this unfurl. While it looked like the situation forced Obamba’s hand, I’m sure this was a result of weeks (if not months) of political strategizing. The fact that the guy Romney bullied in prep-school is making waves seems a little dubious to me too.

    I’ll be voting for Obama, but I hate the political football game. I think I hear swift boats in the distance, a sound that makes my stomach curdle.

  2. Andrew

    The World’s Smallest Political Quiz pegs me as a Libertarian since I support drug legalization, am against a Draft and National ID card (we used to call that an internal passport when we castigated the Soviets for requiring them for travel), and am for free speech. However, I am against the legalization of violations of traditional morality – abortion, gay marriage, etc.

    Forcing everyone into a little box where you must agree with all positions espoused to be part of the group is what turns people off to the political parties and politics and voting.

    The two current parties are unrecognizable to me as far as what the stood for 30 years ago or who could be an accpetable member.

    They are however, still the Stupid Party and the Evil Party.

  3. metrosucks

    The World’s Smallest Political Quiz pegs me as a Libertarian since I support drug legalization, am against a Draft and National ID card (we used to call that an internal passport when we castigated the Soviets for requiring them for travel), and am for free speech. However, I am against the legalization of violations of traditional morality – abortion, gay marriage, etc.

    Hey, what do you know. Basically the same here. But like you said,

    Forcing everyone into a little box where you must agree with all positions espoused to be part of the group is what turns people off to the political parties and politics and voting.

    …we are individuals and except for crass partisans, probably don’t see eye to eye on everything in some predictable manner.

  4. kens

    Yes, I hope now that Obama has evolved on gay marriage he will begin to evolve on pot legalization. I was very disappointed when his administration started its attack on the medical marijuana industry, especially after saying earlier it wouldn’t.

    As to the political games, I don’t completely blame the politicians. They can’t carry out their policies unless they get elected, and they only do these things because they work in helping them get elected. The problem is that so much of the public responds favorably to the dishonesty. I don’t think any completely truthful, straight-forward and game-free politician would ever have a chance of getting elected.

    bennett Reply:

    “…they only do these things because they work in helping them get elected…straight-forward and game-free politician would ever have a chance of getting elected.”

    That’s the crux of the problem.

    1. So much time is spent on winning the game it leaves very little time to do the job.

    2. Because the bewildered herd responds favorably to disingenuous attack ads and those with a half a brain are turned off by them, all of the spectators (voters) are either afraid and angry or disappointed by the choices and process.

    What we end up with is what we have today… a stalemate. It’s not a stalemate on moral or ideological grounds (it’s disguised as this), but it’s a stalemate in political gamesmanship. Oppose everything your opponent is for at all costs. Draft legislation that is impossible to pass and then when it fails you can make hyperbolic claims of Socialism, greed, social Darwinism, secular jihad, etc. etc. etc. I can only think of a few federal politicians that actually operate and vote according their principals today. Most are just trying to stomp the other team.

  5. LazyReader

    My grandparents suffered both from debilitating forms of cancer. I honestly do not know if medical cannabis would have had a beneficial effect on esophageal cancer. I support states should be able to decide whether to allow production of hemp, which can be used in producing medically clean cannabis that’s safer than the stuff bought on the street corner filled with additives or industrial solvents. I’m neither pro or anti gay, I simply do not care. I think a better example of Libertarianism is to simply shrug that which is for the most part largely unimportant. Biblically and historically, the government was very uninvolved in marriage. I like that. I don’t know why we should register our marriage to the federal government. I might consider state level to enforce current or post marriage contracts (divorce, child support, alimony, etc) In the past it was done as a matter of public health to involve government (not sure exactly how) and since then it’s become the standard credential or political affiliation. The nuclear family is a fairly new invention.

  6. Dan

    I agree he was likely pushed into taking a stand on gay marriage, but you can see BHO is using social issues against the Repubs so not out of the realm of possibility the weapon would have been used.

    Nevertheless, I question these federal raids around here, and the Fed telling small banks they can’t lend to grow ops or clinics. Bummer.

    But when you have approaching US$1T in costs of the drug war, you can’t just give it up like that. Hemp as a crop would solve several of our problems in the SJV in CA, and lessen chemical use on cotton crops, among others. That would cut into Dow’s/Monsanto’s bottom line, though.

    DS

    bennett Reply:

    “That would cut into Dow’s/Monsanto’s bottom line, though.”

    Which is the main reason it became illegal in the first place.

    Dan Reply:

    AIUI and IIRC the reason hemp finally became illegal was not only was the African-American man smoking it, but William Randolph Hearst had vast holdings of fiber in the southeast in the form of pine. Hemp has much more fiber/acre and his sunk costs were so high he eliminated the competition.

    Hemp does not need chemicals to produce fiber and very little water, and could replace all the high-input cotton in CA and AZ and the rest of the south. And I haven’t even mentioned human nutrition yet!

    DS

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Dan, I don’t give a darn about the profits of Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

    If cannabis were to be legal, I am confident that those companies (and others) would find profit in providing supplies to persons wanting to cultivate cannabis for human consumption.

    Dan Reply:

    CPZ, cannabis is one thing, hemp completely another. Replacing cotton with hemp would cut deeply into chemical companies’ revenues. And I haven’t even mentioned biofuel. ;o)

    DS

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Cannabis and hemp are (equally) illegal – at least as I understand our current “drug” laws.

    In my perfect world, both would be legal.

    bennett Reply:

    “If cannabis were to be legal, I am confident that those companies (and others) would find profit in providing supplies to persons wanting to cultivate cannabis for human consumption.”

    I’m sure they aren’t worried about the plant anymore. What is unfortunate was that Lammont DuPont and William Randolph Hearst, were the primary reason growing hemp became illegal. They were intrenched in the newspaper business and owned every bit of timber used to make them. DuPont made other textiles that contented with hemp products, and the threat of cheap hemp was unwanted competition.

    Hearst ran stories with headlines, “Marijuana goads user to blood lust” and “Hotel clerk identifies Marijuana smoker as gunman.” He published crazy stories about pot-crazed black men raping white women. He also used anti-pot propaganda to paint Mexican immigrants in a poor light, who 100 years ago often carried it for trade (as they did tobacco).

    It’s taken America a century to come to it’s senses and realize that pot just isn’t a big deal and hemp can be a useful resource.

    And don’t get me started with The War On Drugs. Much like the prohibition of alcohol it has caused waaaaaaaaay more problems that it’s solved.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    I’m sure they aren’t worried about the plant anymore. What is unfortunate was that Lammont DuPont and William Randolph Hearst, were the primary reason growing hemp became illegal. They were intrenched in the newspaper business and owned every bit of timber used to make them. DuPont made other textiles that contented with hemp products, and the threat of cheap hemp was unwanted competition.

    Didn’t this movie help to reinforce how evil (and illegal) marihuana should be considered?

  7. Sandy Teal

    I think there are a lot of good arguments against the drug war, especially in what it has done to Mexico, Columbia, Afghanistan, and many other countries. Those are terrible costs.

    My problem is that I don’t see a great alternative. The legal marijuana industry is certainly not a step forward for society, but I could easily live with that if it solved the war on drug problems.

    But legalizing marijuana doesn’t solve the drug war. The libertarian philosophy would have you legalizing meth, cocaine, Oxycontin, etc. That would undoubtedly be a very terrible mess too.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    I think there are a lot of good arguments against the drug war, especially in what it has done to Mexico, Columbia, Afghanistan, and many other countries. Those are terrible costs.

    Strongly agreed.

    My problem is that I don’t see a great alternative. The legal marijuana industry is certainly not a step forward for society, but I could easily live with that if it solved the war on drug problems.

    I disagree. Legal marihuana would still have some regulation by government, but I am sure the nation would lower government spending and increase tax revenues with legalization of this and other illegal substances.

    But legalizing marijuana doesn’t solve the drug war. The libertarian philosophy would have you legalizing meth, cocaine, Oxycontin, etc. That would undoubtedly be a very terrible mess too.

    Not so sure about that. The WCTU claimed that the End of the World would come with end of Prohibition, but it didn’t.

    Andrew Reply:

    My problem is that I don’t see a great alternative. The legal marijuana industry is certainly not a step forward for society

    Honestly, who cares? Criminalizing these drugs hasn’t stopped widespread availability, but it does create violence and crime. Violence and crime are much more of a step backwards for society than 5% of the population being stoned out of theit minds.

    I am a very happy stock owner of Altria and Reynolds America, earning 5.5% per year off of other people’s stupidity and cravenness. I would be very happy earning a return of potheads and dope fiends too – say thorugh shares in Medillin Cartel Inc. I say this as someone who has never tried and has no intention of ever smoking or using drugs.

    My mother-in-law was complaining to me about legalized gambling at casino’s in Pennsylvania. I asked her what she would prefer – a tax on stupid people who go to casino’s, or a tax on successful people who own business and earn an honest living. She grudgingly admitted she would chose to tax the stupid every time. So would I.

    Legal drugs are a tax on stupidity. Yes, drugs are harmful and can kill you. So can a lot of other things. But one things this world could really use is fewer stupid people with no self control.

    Sandy Teal Reply:

    Do you know anybody on crack or cocaine or Oxy? Have you seen what it does to their kids? It is far from a tax or minor concern, ever for Libertarians.

    It was a disaster to outlaw all drugs, i.e. prohibition. It might be OK to allow 2 or 3 drugs, like MJ. But I have never heard a rational defense of allowing 4-99 drugs to be freely available. Try to explain how legalizing meth for $1 a hit would work.

    Andrew Reply:

    ST:

    I just don’t care what drug use does to people. Most of the people who would use hard drugs in a legalized environment are the same people who are using them now. But now we also get the added bonus of widespread violence and crime and a bloated justice system and prison population.

    People’s natural tendency is for them to act in a self-destructive manner in the absence of internal guideance to be virtuous. See smoking. Laws do not create virtue. They create an ability to terrorize and abuse by people who are bullies. See the actions of your typical policeman.

    LazyReader Reply:

    Portugal doesn’t seem to have many problems. Although the Netherlands is known for it, its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled “coffee shops,” Holland has never actually legalized cannabis, the Dutch simply don’t enforce their laws against the shops.

    Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Actual hard drug use has declined. Five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground but incarceration is more expensive than treatment. Under Portugal’s change, people guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail. Police are now able to refocus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.

    Sandy Teal Reply:

    Actually Amsterdam has found its legalization to be a big problem and has drastically cut back on its drug allowance.

    Portugal has just stopped prosecuting minor possession as a tactic to concentrate on destroying the supply chain. That is not a libertarian solution.

    Would any libertarian even try to defend a meth industry in any country? Besides the Darwin Award theory, there really is not any rational argument.

  8. metrosucks

    But when you have approaching US$1T in costs of the drug war, you can’t just give it up like that.

    Agree with Dan, again. The feds, and most local agencies, are not going to back down on the highly profitable War on Drugs (trademark symbol). Profitable in loot (civil forfeiture) and rights stolen from citizens under the banner of fighting drugs.

    the highwayman Reply:

    Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920’s and it’s still not working today.

    Recreational drugs shouldn’t be illegal, they should just be sales taxed!

  9. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    The Antiplanner thinks of gay marriage as one of three litmus sets for whether someone is a libertarian. Are you fiscally conservative but you support gay marriage and drug decriminalization? Then you are libertarian. Some libertarians disagree with one another on other issues such as abortion, immigration, and the war on terror. But I don’t think anyone would call themselves libertarians if they opposed gay marriage or drug decriminalization.

    I certainly harbor certain Libertarian tendencies and sympathies, but I did not (as in could not) vote for Ron Paul, because my state has “closed” primary elections.

    Not sure if I am fiscally conservative or not. I do vigorously oppose spending of tax dollars on things that are a waste of money, including all (or very nearly all) new passenger rail projects, and the frequently coercive land use and transportation policies that go along with passenger rail.

    I certainly support gay marriage, since I oppose discriminating against consenting adults because of what they do (or don’t do) in the privacy of their own homes.

    As for drug decriminalization, I actually oppose that, only because I believe that most drugs that are illegal today (specifically including cannabis/marihuana) should be made legal and (now I am not especially Libertarian) taxable as well.

  10. Iced Borscht

    It’s an encouraging sign that, despite the constant bickering that goes on here in the comments section, we all love The Chronic.

    Given proper medication, I love you all.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Iced, I (personally) hate the smell of burning marihuana, and have never tried the stuff myself.

    But I still believe passionately that it should be legalized (and taxable).

    Iced Borscht Reply:

    C.P., first thing — you’re fricking awesome. Totally great. Love you.

    Personally speaking though, I’m a strong advocate of the Devil’s Thunderf*ck, the Chronic, 420, pot, marijuana, what have you; for medicinal purposes and other applications as well. The recent behaviors exhibited by the president make me resent him. I find myself in the strange position of strongly disliking a man whom I helped vote into office.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Iced Borscht, you obviously don’t know me well enough, but thanks for the kind comment anyway.

    Personally speaking though, I’m a strong advocate of the Devil’s Thunderf*ck, the Chronic, 420, pot, marijuana, what have you; for medicinal purposes and other applications as well.

    So I am I.

    The recent behaviors exhibited by the president make me resent him. I find myself in the strange position of strongly disliking a man whom I helped vote into office.

    I can think of people I would rather see in the Oval Office, but it would not be the likely Republic Party nominee. Curiously, I strongly disagree with many of the Obama Administration’s transportation policies (as well as federal involvement in land use policy), but I certainly think this President is an improvement over the previous one – and has (in my opinion) earned a second term.

  11. LazyReader

    The United States is home to roughly 5% of the global population but accounts for 25% of people imprisoned. For a nation that calls itself the land of the free, we certainly do an awful lot to incarcerate people. 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population in 2009. And the prison population has done nothing but grow despite the number of murders and other violent crimes have done nothing but decline mostly.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/US_incarceration_timeline-clean-fixed-timescale.svg

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    LazyReader, I strongly agree. The U.S. prison population (at the federal and state levels) is much too high – and many of the persons locked up in those prisons are there for various activities involved in marketing, sale or transport of various illegal drugs, or, in some cases, for laundering the profits associated with same.

    We could save a lot of money by reforming our drug laws and releasing those involved in nonviolent drug activities.

  12. Sandy Teal

    I love the hemp mythology. The Big Foot, Loch Ness Monster and UFO mythologies have died now that everyone has 5 MB cameras and no good pictures have appeared. The Electric Car Conspiracy has been killed by the abject failure of the Chevy Volt. Peak Oil mythology has died after 50 years of predicting the sky will fall tomorrow.

    But the hemp mythology will always survive as long as those who believe it are too stoned to open a business to try to make money off of it.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    But the hemp mythology will always survive as long as those who believe it are too stoned to open a business to try to make money off of it.

    Considering that I hate the smell of the stuff (at least when it’s burning), maybe it would be a profitable business for me?

    the highwayman Reply:

    Peak oil isn’t about the end of oil, it’s about the end of cheap oil.

    Andrew Reply:

    No Peak Oil is about the rate of flow of oil. Economics really doesn’t have anything to do with it.

    Oil is a finite resource, but endless 3% growth implies infinite demand. Eventually, the increase in demand reaches the maximum possible flow of oil from all oil fields in the world then active, and no new oil fields can be brought on line in a fast enough manner to counter the inevitable decline of the fields that are pumping.

    If existing fields decline 5% per year, and demand grows by 3%, then new fields must produce around 8% of the oil flow produced in the previous year to keep the system in stasis. At 75 million barrels per day per year (the plateau of crude production since 2004), 3.75 million barrels of new capacity are needed every year just to tread water – i.e. the output of Iran, and another 2.25 million barrels are needed to allow growth – i.e. 2 Libya’s. That 2.25 million barrels has not materialized any year since 2004, thus the increase in prices of oil.

  13. Frank

    “Are you fiscally conservative but you support gay marriage and drug decriminalization? Then you are libertarian.”

    Disagree. I don’t support gay marriage. Let me explain.

    The marriage the Antiplanner is talking about is government-sanctioned marriage requiring permission from the government in the form of a license. Government confers benefits once the license is used.

    Starting in 1913 (also the birth year of the Fed and the 16th and 17th Amendments), government began enforcing the use of marriage licenses to prevent miscegenation (a word coined in 1863, about the same time states began to require marriage licenses). To maintain racial purity, the state usurped what had been for most of human history private agreements between individuals and families and/or a religious matter.

    So I don’t support any form state marriage because I don’t believe in government intrusion into the bedroom, the church, or private contracts between individuals or families.

    As far as gay marriage, I don’t care what other people do. If a couple–or a group for that matter–wants to enter into a private or religious contract and can find someone to perform such a ceremony or write such a contract, it’s none of my business. Or the state’s.

    Sandy Teal Reply:

    I agree with you that there is no reason for the government to be involved in marriage. If there is a purpose, then it is to discriminate against single people.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Sandy Teal, I have been single most of my adult life, though I am married now, and I agree with you. But I also think that there are clear societal benefits to marriage, and that Congress and the legislatures are right to encourage marriage (but none of them should discriminate against gay people).

    Sandy Teal Reply:

    Why in the world does government have to subsidize something even if it is great for society? Biology is much stronger than government anyway. Marriage has been around one heck of a lot longer than government, so it doesn’t need government.

    And any marriage held together by government subsidies is definitely not one that benefits society.

    Andrew Reply:

    CPZ:

    None of the government rules concerning marriage discriminate against “gay” people.

    Any unmarried man is free to marry any unmarried woman.

    “Gay” people are just as free as anyone else to form a contractual familial relationship with a person of the opposite sex. So, no discrimoination.

    What you seem to be complaining about is that “gay” people lack an ability to redefine marriage to suit their own sexual proclivities. The non-mongamous have had the same complaint, and unfortunately for society have already succeeded in moving the legal definition to permit their perversion of the vow “till death do us part” to no long mean what it says.

    Since no one is forced to be married, and marriage brings numerous responsibilities and pitfalls, it boggles the mind why people who don’t accept what marriage is – mongamous, lifelong, between a man and woman – insist on entering into this state by changing what it legally is.

    Canadian Geese seem to understand the concept of marriage and live it, despite being irrational birds. If a silly goose can get it, why can’t smart people?

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Frank, there are (IMO) very clear societal benefits to marriage – as in two people being in a government-sanctioned relationship, mostly because of the tax implications of same (and yes, taxes are a government thing).

    Not saying that marriage wasn’t used as a tool to prevent miscegenation (though I have never heard that before), and as an aside, I know slightly one of the attorneys that represented Mr. and Mrs. Loving before the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1), in which the Lovings prevailed, and as a result, nullified anti-miscegnation laws in Virginia and every other state.

  14. Iced Borscht

    The proper nomenclature is “Canada Goose,” not Canadian Geese. I only know this because when I was editor at a small-town newspaper, a reader was furious with me for making this egregious mistake.

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