Obama Dismisses Top Town Hall Question on Drug Reform Policies
The public did it again. They voted drug policy issues to the top of the agenda on Obama's latest experiment in civic give-and-take.
In preparation for the first online Town Hall meeting offered by the Obama Administration, the public was invited Wednesday to submit questions which would be addressed the following morning, live and streaming on Whitehouse.gov.
The Administration should be applauded for opening lines of communication between the public and the halls of power, but a significant measure of that openness requires taking the communication seriously.
As was the case in three prior open question sessions on Change.gov (the transition website) and one round on Whitehouse.gov, the most popular issue was, without doubt, an across-the-board objection to the nation's drug policy and a request for the legalization of cannabis. And once again the question was dismissed with a kind of nervous humor.
The question did not simply "rank high" as Obama framed it (it was, in fact, #1), but was also voted the most significant question in four of the eleven predetermined categories (Jobs, Green Jobs and Energy, Budget, and Financial Stability) It garnered more points, by far, than the top questions in the Education, Health Care Reform, Home ownership, Veterans, Small Business, Auto Industry, and Retirement Security.
Gathering 7,924 votes, in the Budget category, participants agreed that this question encapsulated the most significant issue facing America today:
"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?"
By comparison, the next highest vote getter at 6,422, appearing in Health Care Reform was: "Why can we not have a universal health care system like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs, rather than financial resources?"
But cannabis was not far behind, even in this category, at # 2, with 5166 votes: "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"
In spite of the fact that there was no category for drug policy, participants were not thwarted in their attempts to make their views known with questions like these:
Top query in Jobs (7,487 votes): "What are your plans for the failing, "War on Drugs", that's sucking money from tax payers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals?"
Top query in Financial Stability (5,579 votes): "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?"
Top query in Green Jobs and Energy (7,190 votes): "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.?”
It has to be remembered that this was a spontaneous response to the opportunity to speak to power. The Town Hall was announced on Wednesday, March 25 and the voting closed the next morning just before the online meeting.
It also has to be asked why the Obama Administration does not appear willing to address the serious nature of this issue, which speaks to prison and sentencing reform, basic civil rights, constitutionality, access to medicine, as well as the creation of new sector of green economics generated from renewable hemp-based bio-fuels and plastics, building materials, paper, medicine, and fabric.
Given this consistent public inquiry, isn't it about time that we begin an in-depth, science-based national discourse on the subject of drug policy reform? How about starting by awarding it with its very own category on the White House agenda list.
A list of all questions, and their ranking, can be seen here: Open for Questions