Friday, March 27, 2009
Obama on Marijuana Legalization and the Economy?
We took votes about which questions were going to be asked, and I think 3 million people voted, or 3.5 million voted.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 [note: the live in-studio audience all starts chuckling at this point], and job creation, and ah -- I don't know what this says about the online audience, but I just want -- I don't want people to think that ah -- this was a fairly popular question -- and we want to make sure that it was answered.The answer is 'No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.'
*note that this link is to a petition created by Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman and signed by hundreds of economists
- There really are people who are finding a variety of medical benefits from marijuana, and reliable studies have even verified this.
- There are people whose lives are being destroyed, not by marijuana use directly, but by a penal system which follows biased and outdated ideologies, damning to jail those who use and distribute it.
- Marijuana has been shown to be far less harmful to people than alcohol or tobacco, but those are legal, regulated, and (heavily) taxed. Simply put, that is double-think.
- The drug war is class and race war -- blacks and latino/as are disproportionately represented among those who are put in prison (according to mandatory minimum sentences, even!) as a result of non-violent drug offenses.
- Marijuana plants produce a lot of oxygen -- the planet needs more oxygen NOW, and these can grow a lot faster than forests (of course I would also recommend reforestation ASAP as well).
- Finally, there is the issue of personal freedom to do as we choose. The United States has long been touted as "the land of the free." The war on drugs, coupled with peoples' continued desire to use them is a strong test against that notion -- because of prohibition, people are not free at all to use cannabis. Every argument I've heard from proponents for restriction on this freedom are either arbitrary or circular, frequently pointing to the illegality as the reason for itself.
- The pharmaceutical industry doesn't want people to be able to grow their own pain relief.
- If marijuana is legalized, there will be massive amounts of hemp fiber available for everything from clothing to rope, to sheets, to paper, to cooking oil, to insulation, to biodegradable plastics.
- The tobacco, alcohol, and coffee industries don't want to have to give up their corner on the recreational drug market.
- The prison and corrections industry has been enjoying a real boom lately, and the big box stores who hire prison labor at slavery wages also enjoy having locked-up non-violent drug offenders to help with their profit margins.** We, as shoppers, should take very careful heed of from where we buy our products.
- Drug traffickers and dealers, despite the possibilities of getting caught, enjoy the immense profit they can make when they sell plants at 100x their natural cost to produce.
- And V.P. Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel have both been fairly well linked to -- and supportive of -- the war on drugs in the past.
Health Care Reform (2 of top 10)
"Why is marijuana still illegal? Cigarettes and alcohol are far more harmful, and with the taxes put on the legal distribution of marijuana the US could make millions" Ben R, Washington, DC
"As a person with Multiple Sclerosis, I have many other MS friends who use marijuana just to feel some relief from their bodies. When can pressure be placed to reclassify Cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug (no medical benefit) to Schedule 5?" Marcia, Texas
Green Jobs and Energy (the top 2!)
""Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”" Green Machine, Winchester,VA
"Has your administration given any serious thought to how legalizing marijuana could help solve the economic crisis? We could tax this green product and create an influx of cash while reducing violence created by the war of drugs & illegal trafficking" Ashley, Brooklyn, NY
Financial Stability (the top 4!)
"Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence?" Anthony, Warrington, PA
"Has the administration given any thought to legalizing marijuana, as a cash crop to fuel the economy? Why not make available, regulate, and tax something that that about 10 million Americans use regularly and is less harmful than tobacco or alcohol." Sarah, Atlanta, GA
"Growing up I have noticed many around me always talk about legalization of marijuana, and I always thought, why not put a tax stamp on it. If marijuana was legalized it could really change a lot of things. America had the same problem with Alcohol." Peter McNamara, Minneapolis, MN
"Could legalizing marijuana and laying a tax on it, given restriction allow the government make back some of the glaring debt considering it's inelasticity and the history of economics of prohibition?" Andy Drake, New Brunswick, NJ
Jobs (2 of the top ten)
"What are your plans for the failing, "War on Drugs", thats sucking money from tax payers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals?" Matt B, West Bend, WI
"President Obama, Do you plan on letting Science end the failed "War" on Marijuana for personal and medical use thus taking the strain of our prisons and police forces so that we no longer have to arrest over 800,000 non violent drug offenders?" Phill, Georgetown,MA
Budget (the top 7!)
"With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?" Ryan Palmer, Dallas, TX
"Mr. Obama, Thank you for allowing us to ask our questions to you, unfiltered. What is your stance on legalizing marijuana federally, taxing it and regulating much like alcohol and tobacco? I believe that the Drug War has failed, and needs overhaul." Brian, Minneapolis, MN
"I am not a marijuana user, but I do believe that making marijuana legal could provide some relief as to it could be heavily taxed and regulated. Legalization of marijuana will also be a detriment to the drug cartels in Latin America." Ryan McLaughlin, Rindge, NH / Quakertown, PA
"Have you considered legalizing marijuana and taxing/regulating it like alcohol? Marijuana is America's largest cash crop. The tax revenue from marijuana sales would provide a massive source of new revenue and cut the insane costs of the "Drug War."" Matt S, Huntsville, AL
"Mr. President, we the people continue to ask you this general question, please do not fail to respond: Will you allow science and common sense to reign and end this failed WAR ON DRUGS starting with the legalization and taxation of Marijuana?" Mark B, Sterling,VA
"Should the recreational use of marijuana be legalized and taxed if it will help California reduce its budget deficit? How will you and the federal government respond if such a law is passed by the California legislature?" JHawk, Santa Barbara, CA
"Are you willing to seriously consider the idea of curtailing the failed & expensive drug war in favor of a fair, responsible policy of decriminalization? With Mexican gangs, drug-related disease, & addicition going unchecked we need another solution." T.Kapanka, San Francisco, CA
That's a lot of questions (17 out of the top 110 questions), and I imagine that they got spread out across all of those categories because among the available categories, none of them seemed to jump out easily a social policy reform, or prison reform, or marijuana reform. Funny how lack of a category for something can be a form of inhibiting conversation about it, or making it seem awkwardly shoe-horned in. In retrospect, it's no wonder that the economic angle is where the question was built on that Obama chose to answer. After reading all these questions, I find it so sad that he ended up simply answering, "No," and it really is kind of infuriating that he was so cavalier and jocular about it.
colors: Red, White, Blue, Green
chant/prayer/mantra: May the world get back to nature one day. And not the hard way.
agape to all,