When Barack Obama was first elected, he immediately began his straight-to-the-people, end-run-around-the-press style of Q&A by encouraging people to ask questions at Change.gov. One's fellow citizens could then vote throughout Nov. and the first part of Dec. 2008 on their favorite questions, and Obama's people would answer the most popular. When the dust settled and the votes were counted, among the most popular was this question:
"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"
The incoming Obama administration offered well-reasoned, thought-out answers to a whole host of questions, including controversial ones such as "Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?"
But when it came time to tackle the oh-so-controversial topic of marijuana legalization, the response was a mere one sentence: "President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana."
No rationale, no justification. Just a blanket statement redolent of a parent smirking, "Because I said so."
Fast-forward to today's online town hall, and once again, marijuana legalization proved to be one of the most popular questions, with the most-approved-of pro-pot question being: "Should the U.S. legalize pot as a way to grow jobs and stimulate the economy?"
With all of his usual charisma and endearing jocularity, our president laughed off the question, stating "I don't know what this says about the online audience, but, no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow the economy." The mewling sycophants in the East Room audience laughed and burst into applause.
Once again, the Obama administration has greeted this question with an out-and-out rejection, with no reasoning underlying their position. Let's ignore for a moment that Obama's answer, in and of itself, is deeply wrong and ill-informed; moving from zero taxes on weed to any taxes is obviously an increase in revenue, not to mention the shift of growing and supplying jobs from the black market to legitimacy, which means more revenue in income taxes and more jobs.
Now, couple this with the millions, if not billions, of dollars that would be saved without the government being responsible for the care and feeding of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. From 1965 through the election of Barack Obama, our government arrested 20 million people for possession of marijuana. That, folks, is a lot of stoners.
In 2006 alone -- the last year for which statistics are available -- 829,625 people were arrested on marijuana-related charges, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. Of these, 89 percent were arrested for simple possession.
So, couple the tax revenues, both sales and income, with the savings involved in keeping potheads out on the streets instead of in the pen. Now, put that Everest-sized pile of cash aside for a moment and think about this: Who's losing money in the deal?
According to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, fully 75 percent of Mexican drug cartels' cash comes from the sale of marijuana. Legalizing marijuana would, of course, take away that massive source of income for the cartels, just as ending prohibition cut bootlegging as a source of revenue for La Cosa Nostra.
Combining all of the above effects, the legalization of marijuana means billions of dollars saved or made, the creation of jobs and the curbing of violence along the Mexican border, which in turn means saving thousands of lives.
Barack Obama can certainly be against legalization, but he owes it to nonviolent drug offenders caught in the horror show that is the U.S. prison system, the families of innocent victims of the Mexican drug wars and economically bloodied U.S. taxpayers to explain why. Ganja may cause the giggles, but legalization shouldn't be a laughing matter. And it certainly shouldn't be treated as cavalierly as it has by the current administration, especially when it has been proven to be a popular issue every time Obama has tried to go straight to the people.