In the White House town hall meeting yesterday, Obama made reference to one of the most popular voted on questions solicited on his website:
“Do you think legalizing marijuana is a good strategy for growing the economy?”
To which he answered with a smirk,
“No, I do not think that legalizing marijuana is a good strategy for growing the economy”
It is sad that there are certain things that are untouchable in politics, even for someone as gifted as Obama. He must know what an abject failure the drug war is, and that treating drug abuse in this country as a criminal justice problem (rather than the public health problem it is) is likewise a costly failure. But there is a belief that there are some issues so radioactive one must never challenge the status quo, no matter how awful the status quo is. These issues exist on both the left and the right of course. They are kept in place by the willful ignorance of the electorate, and steadfast denial of reality (which would be fine if it wasn’t so costly and didn’t result in so much violence and death).
Obama apologists can hopefully and helpfully point out that he didn’t say he was against legalization, he only said he didn’t think it was a good idea for growing the economy. But the fact that he brought it up in the context he did, and passed on one of his teaching moments (remember how great the race speech was?) rather than ignore it completely was designed to appeal to a certain audience (and hint, hint: it wasn’t the legalization crowd).
Overwhelmingly, I have been pleased with the actions Obama has taken thus far in his tenure. And I give him wide berth on a number of things, waiting to see how these will pan out in the coming months. I understand strategically why Obama, with everything else on his plate, was reluctant to go there with anything resembling the cool logic he applies in most other circumstances. But it sure wasn’t pretty to watch.