Obama Cannot Escape Cannabis in 2nd Round of "Open for Questions"
It is very interesting to watch how the Transition Team is dealing with Change.gov's second round of Open for Questions, because the cannabis issue is just not going away.
For those who don't know, Open For Questions is an interactive, community exercise on President Elect Obama's website where questions to our soon-to-be president are posed by the public and voted up or down by same. It was likely a small embarrassment in December of 2008, when, in the first round, this sticky question garnered the most votes:
“Will you consider legalizing cannabis/marijuana/hemp so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”
However, in spite of being the top vote-getter, when it came time for the answers, it was positioned low in the list, and although other answers were deliberative and thoughtful, this one was answered with a terse single sentence: “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”
It was a very obvious we are not amused moment.
Now, in designing the second round, the rationale of the Transition Team may not have been This time the children will be serious. Let's drag their giddy consciousness back to the important issues, but one wonders if the Team believed they could and ought to exercise a little more control over the process by creating pre-established categories – which is how they eventually set up the new round. In this new format one could pose a question under Economy, National Defense, Health Care, Energy/Environment, Science and Technology OR (apparently offered to avoid any über-dictatorial impression) Additional Issues.
But cannabis didn't disappear in the second round, because, clearly, it is important to a lot of people.
And while it failed, under the present scheme, to rise to Number One in absolute vote count, it did come in at at question #8, which out of 76,030 competitors, is a very respectable position.
The top vote getter at 22,779 votes was:
Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor - ideally Patrick Fitzgerald - to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?
Top questions 2 – 6, were all about the economy, fiscal oversight and keeping jobs in America. Number 7 (and virtually all those that followed in the Health Care category) was a demand for a single-payer health care system.
And then we get to the question with the eighth highest vote tally (and the second highest in that catchall category of political hot potatoes ADDITIONAL ISSUES. Coming in at 10146 votes:
The people of this country want marijuana decriminalization, when will marijuana be decriminalized? Why continue to spend billions of dollars to prohibit marijuana when evidence shows that the war on drugs is, as you said, an utter failure?
In fact the first top 15 questions in the Additional Issues category is basically a marijuana club sandwich with prosecutor Fitzgerald as the bread and a light garnish of Patriot Act abuse and GLBT rights.
But you don't have to dig too deeply into the other categories to find public concern over the ongoing war on drugs and cannabis prohibition. In fact the 6171 votes the following question received brought it to the top of the National Security selection:
Our current war on drugs is failing America. Billions of dollars are spent on a losing campaign. Our prisons are overflowing with people that don't deserve to be there. What is the government going to do in an effort to fix this major problem?
In the Economy, Energy/Environment and Science and Tech categories cannabis came in respectively, at #12 (for tax revenues), #23 (for distinguishing between industrial hemp and cannabis), and #26 (also hemp, for bio-fuels).
On January 9th, Change.gov posted a video on their website, and on Youtube which features incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs addressing the issues. As you may have guessed, questions about the War on Drugs and cannabis reform were completely ignored, the stated position being that these questions were already answered. Gibbs then discussed appropriate questions from each the pre-established categories except, notably, National Security with its #1 position in-your-face Drug War question. Along with its additional touchy queries about torture, wire tapping, domestic surveillance, cannabis, the drug wars impact on Mexico, and telecom immunity, this category was completely bypassed in the video.
The official Change.gov stance on this Open for Questions exercise, taken from the website, is as follows:
For this round we refined the process to make it more user-friendly, and broke out the questions into categories. We think this made for a more interesting experience, and ensured that a broader array of questions could get exposure. But we also wanted to try a new way of responding to the questions, so this time instead of text answers, we asked incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to sit down with us. Since there were so many popular questions in so many categories, we tried to pull out some of them that had been addressed previously by the President-elect or Vice President-elect in order to focus the video portion on questions that haven’t been as specifically addressed during the Transition.
Considering that the United States has been engaged in a self-proclaimed War on Drugs, which has lasted over 40 years (or 81 if you harken back to the Marijuana Tax Act 1937), complete with weaponry, search and seizure tactics and millions of arrests, it might be the time to start answering these questions in detail, because until they are addressed intelligently and in depth, they simply will not go away.
A Marijuana Sandwich
The Top 15 questions in Additional Issues (with vote counts):
#1 Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor - ideally Patrick Fitzgerald - to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping? 22779 votes
#2 The people of this country want marijuana decriminalization, when will marijuana be decriminalized? Why continue to spend billions of dollars to prohibit marijuana when evidence shows that the war on drugs is, as you said, an utter failure? 10146 votes
#3 Will the anti-Constitutional and poorly named Patriot Act be rescinded? 7952 votes
#4 Why do you believe that marijuana should not be legalized? How is the prohibition of Marijuana any different than the prohibition of alcohol? 100,000 Americans die every year due to alcohol but none to Marijuana? 7874 votes
#5 The Drug War has been an incredibly expensive failure since it's inception. Meanwhile, millions of our citizens have been incarcerated for using drugs. I think we need to end this folly. What do you think, Mr. President? 7082 votes
#6 Will you consider legalizing cannabis/marijuana/hemp so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.? 6852 votes
#7 You've stated during your campaign that you don't support marriage rights for GLBT citizens. How will you ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have rights equal to those of married couples? 6639 votes
#8 Will you appoint a special prosecutor to look into and file charges if necessary (we all know it's necessary) against key members of the Bush administration? Maybe even Patrick Fitzgerald, to avoid any partisan political accusations? 5909 votes
#9 Mr. Obama, please stand by your statement regarding not prosecuting medical marijuana patients in states that already have laws in place. Instruct the DEA to focus on meth problems, and illegal possession of prescription drugs such as Oxycontin. 5702 votes
#10 Recently, the United States shamefully declined to sign on to a United Nations declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. Will President Obama agree to commit the United States to signing on to this UN declaration? 5724 votes
#11 When can we change direction on the failed war on drugs. Marijuana laws are more harmful to people and families than the drug itself. 4008 votes
#12 Will the Obama administration relax the federal rules concerning serious, scientific research into medicinal uses for marijuana and any associated long-term effects? How? 3510 votes
#13 The 'War on Drugs' is ineffective-billions of dollars are put into the criminalization of people using/selling a drug has positive side effects. Legalization of marijuana could bring our nation out of it's economic crisis with proper taxing and laws. 3436 votes
#14 Is the legalization and taxation of marijuana being considered as an option for reducing the astronomical deficit? 3148 votes
#15 Are you going to tell Fitzgerald to prosecute Bush, Cheney and other members of his administration for the crimes they have committed? 3072 votes