Signs Obama Will Disappoint Marijuana Reformers

Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, takes a hard look at President-Elect Barack Obama's appointment announcements to date and finds them not a good sign for those seeking marijuana law reform.

While we've documented likely Attorney General nominee Eric Holder and VP-Elect Joe Biden previously (Also see NNDB and Radley Balko here), Allen points out three other stumbling blocks: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, ONDCP Transition Team Director Dr. Don Vereen and likely Drug Czar Former Congressman James Ramstad.

In an e-mail, Allen tries to put some optimism in the picture: [More...]

As Obama takes the reins of power in hands, we have to constantly remind him (and his staff) of his humanity, sense of decency, proportionality, a prohibition-stressed economy and the shared heritage he has with all past and present cannabis consumers.

Towards that end, NORML is holding a contest, "What do you want to say to President-elect Obama about cannabis?"

Produce 30 or 60 second videos or a flash animation, submit your video or animation to the NORML Foundation and you could win the newly increased grand prize of $3,500! (NORML Foundation donors have put up $10,000 in total cash prizes).

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    Simple (5.00 / 5) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 05:08:33 AM EST
    Obama has repeatedly said he won't govern from the left, or the right; he will govern by "what works."

    The "War on Drugs," like the "War on Terror," doesn't work.

    Here is the perfect issue for soon-to-be President Obama, to shine. Here is the perfect issue to display his "change we can believe in."

    I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do know "the war on drugs" has been going on for over a hundred years, and if you show me the person who believes we're "winning," you'll be showing me the stupidest person on earth.

    Just like "the war on terror" can't be won with aircarft carriers and "smart rockets," the "war on drugs," can't be won by more arrests and more prisons.

    The "war on terror" can be won by cooperative, clandestine, detective, and intelligence efforts. The "war on drugs" can be won by removing it from the criminal justice system, and turning it over to the education, medical, (physical and mental)  and rehabilitation systems.

    I know it's more complicated than that, but a more benign, helpful approach would reap much greater benefits to our country than a punative, criminal approach.

    Y'all know the saying, "when you're in a hole......." We've been digging for a hundred years; more digging simply means we're content to have insanity as our guiding principal.

    NYShooter, you're too rational (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 06:11:26 AM EST
    I know it's more complicated than that, but a more benign, helpful approach would reap much greater benefits to our country than a punitive, criminal approach. - NYShooter

    NY, the assumption you make would be a valid one, if the basic underpinning of the DrugWar wasn't one of racism to begin with, but rationality. Unfortunately, drug prohibition never, ever was based on anything but viciously applied stereotypes (cocaine made Blacks become unstoppable rapists of the flower White womanhood; Mexicans became machete-wielding dervishes after toking 'mair-ee-wanna'; the 'Yellow Peril' sought to destroy the White race through luring White women into opium dens, etc. that kinda crap.)

    And it truly was that simple before drug prohibition, as the individual was expected to exercise some degree of sensibility in using what they could purchase, prescription-free, off-the-shelf, at their local 'drug store'...as anyone could prior to 1914 and the Harrison Narcotics Act.

    No drive by shootings, no turf wars, no huge population of incarcerated minorities, no vast sums (some say a trillion dollars over 40 years)  spent in the fiscal, social, and moral equivalent of Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a mountain all day just to see it roll back down and have to start over. No destabilized borders thanks to the illegal drug trade turning Mexican border towns into shooting galleries. No 'terrist' groups being funded courtesy of that same trade.

    I could go on, but it should be obvious that since drug prohibition is such a botch, you have to ask just why it's been allowed to continue for so long...and the only answer is that somebody way up the political food chain is benefiting.

    After all, some of the most powerful banking families in America got their start in the opium trade. And when you consider how much dirty money created by drug prohibition is laundered in banks, and how much of that money is propping up the banks right now, well, I can be forgiven a  degree of cynicism as to just how much 'change' Prez-Elect Obama is actually up to; he has debts to pay, and some of those debts are to his banker friends.

    Well, you're a little more (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by NYShooter on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 07:40:34 AM EST
    conspiratorial minded than me, not that you couldn't be right. If I belonged to Mensa (instead of Densa) I might be able to keep up with you, so I try and keep it simple. It's like, very few psychiatrists practice psycho-analysis anymore; takes waaay too long, too expensive, and too demanding in our busy lives. They practice a form of "Power-Therapy." "What's your problem?" "O.k., 13 weeks, Tuesdays and Thursdays, you'll be good as new."

    There are many, many reasons why we probably won't see any reform in our approach to the "drug problem." The main one is probably political.  Look, 30% of the population would vote GWB for a third term. Sans the economic collapse, we might be inaugurating the "Maverick" and his visionary V.P. Yes, we have a problem when approximately half our people simply don't have the cognitive ability to think, and reason. But, Obama is on a roll, he's the "change maker,"

    Like Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" at the beginning of his term, Barack baby could ram this reform through at the beginning of his.
    He could frame it in terms of the economy; billions and billions wasted; billions and billions which could be made. It's perfect, just in time for the Super Bowl; "Attention K-Mart Shoppers, 20 minute Super Bowl Special, Chitos and Fritos in aisle 4, Sam Adams, on special, aisle 7, wacky weed, aisle 9.

    O.k, I'm kidding, but the drug situation is every bit as important as the economy, education, health care, etc. All these things have been going through a slow rot for decades. They cannot and will not be fixed incrementally. They have to be attacked in one major, all inclusive assault. D-Day, or the Manhattan project come to mind.
    If Obama doesn't do it, it won't be done in my lifetime. The facts are there, the solutions are not so difficult.

    This guy, Obama, advertised himself as the Agent of Change; he was going to change politics "as we knew it." Armed with a resume as thin as a sheet of vellum, he sold himself to a majority of our citizens. Surely, with his gifts, he could frame the subject in a way the people would understand.
    Let's face it; Bill Clinton was right. The public was so beaten down by years and years of stupidity and failure, they were willing to "roll the dice."

    We took the gamble; now show us what we won.


    the "war on drugs" (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 07:53:33 AM EST
    was never actually intended to be "won', if by won, you mean the illicit use of illegally acquired drugs is eliminated. it's sole purpose is to legitimize the expenditure of billions of dollars annually on the enforcement/penal industries.

    as well, it gives politicians of all stripes the opportunity to appear "tough on crime", by supporting draconian statutes, that will only be enforced on those unable to afford individual competent counsel.

    having the example of the volstead act's unintended consequences, no rational person would want a repeat. this, of course, is exactly what the "war on drugs" is. it must therefore be concluded that the end result was/is intentional; the funneling of huge sums of taxpayer dollars to public and private entities, all in the name of the public welfare.

    it's all a fraud, and has been since day one. with the exception of some true believers, everyone knows this. obama will do nothing different from his predecessors.

    Yes, of course. (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by NYShooter on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 08:50:03 AM EST
    But the situation isn't just drug abuse, rehabilitation, and recovery. Millions of people do drugs, in one form or another, for recreational purposes. Not everyone is a "dope fiend" needing to be saved.

    Look, recreational use of drugs has been around as long as there' been time. It will never go away. Societies have used "enhancements" forever, and professionals in anthropology, sociology, history, etc. know it's as natural as rain. You simply cannot stop free people ingesting substances that make them feel good. That was true ten thousand years ago; it's true today.

    Someone wrote a comment here a couple of days ago, something like: "thank goodness we're finally getting a President that believes in science."

    You cannot believe in science, and continue this insane policy towards mood altering substances.


    Sorry... (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by kdog on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 12:40:32 PM EST
    if I take this topic little personally, having the chains slapped on my wrist on a few occasions I do take prohibition personally.

    I totally the acknowledge the detrimental effects of drug and alcohol abuse on society (again abuse, not simple use, which has little to no detrimental effect imo).  They are real.  But bottom line, those detrimental effects are there whether it is legal or illegal, and when it is illegal we have additional detrimental effects on society....high unsustainable prison populations, broken families, increased police corruption, poisoning of South American coca fields...and not to mention the loss of liberty, which I view as the most important.

    Patrick Henry said "give me liberty or give me death"...not "give me workplace productivity or give me death".

    Centrism (none / 0) (#1)
    by koshembos on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 04:54:37 AM EST
    Obama never made a secret of his position at the center of the country' political spectrum. His tacit support of CDS and calling the Clintons racists calls into question the validity of the axiomatic assumption that "his humanity, sense of decency, proportionality."

    Drugs, overloaded jails and a skewed justice system are of lesser priority in a country that is fall apart financial, has the most expensive health care in the world that reaches decreasing numbers of citizens and is involved in two remote and costly wars.

    Altogether, my expectation are quite low.

    Good for the goose, but... (none / 0) (#4)
    by lentinel on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 07:12:04 AM EST
    It seems that Barack didn't mind a smoke now and then in his salad days. Why do these people then turn around and make it into a crime for everyone else?

    One really good sign (none / 0) (#6)
    by joanneleon on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 07:45:21 AM EST
    I don't know anything about Ramstad, but this is a really good sign:

    Ramstad has identified himself as a recovering alcoholic, having been sober since 1981; he is Patrick J. Kennedy's AA sponsor. Ramstad's sister, Sheryl Ramstad-Hvass, is currently a Tax Court judge in Minnesota.

    On February 25, 2008 it was announced that Ramstad had been elected to the board of directors of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University [11]

    It looks like he's an "old timer" by AA standards, and he knows about recovery.  I find this to be a really, really good sign.  In fact, I can't emphasize enough how positive I think this is, assuming he's genuine.  But we know that Kennedy has the right ideas about substance abuse and mental health.  This appointment would mean, to me, that Obama understands and is ready to address the root of the problem.

    It would seem to me that someone who believes in recovery is not likely to throw people in jail for decades for drug offenses.

    However, I now realize that in my excitement about this appointment in relation to promoting recovery, I'm talking about the drug war issues and overly harsh sentencing, and not necessarily medical marijuana policies.  

    His record (none / 0) (#17)
    by SamJohnson on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 12:46:24 PM EST
    is really awful. He has been as hard line as one can be.

    Bad assumptions (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by joanneleon on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 01:21:26 PM EST
    on my part, it seems.  It's hard to fathom why someone who seems so dedicated to recovery could be hard line.  That's too bad.  

    I assume you mean hard line on supporting prosecution and sentencing?


    Nheedle exchange, medical Marijuana (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 01:37:10 AM EST
    Voted every time against the Hinchey/Rohrabacher Amendment, which would have ended raids and prosecutions of patients in medical marijuana States.

    Sponsored a bill in late '90s to bar DC from spending its own funds for needle exchange.

    I had a chance to discuss the Ramstad pick with Sen. Feingold Friday. Convinced him to call the transition team, hopefully call it off.


    Drug law reform... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 08:41:06 AM EST
    was never in the cards, nary a peep during the campaign about it.

    Our only hope is that if the economic situation gets really bad, we simply won't be able to afford to play morality tyrant anymore.

    For about 5,000 years marijuana has (none / 0) (#10)
    by JSN on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 09:50:17 AM EST
    been used for
    1. Food & fiber: Seeds for food and oil and hemp for fiber. Industrial hemp would be a good feed stock for ethanol.
    2. Medicine:: Prior to 1901 marijuana was a commonly used pain killer until it was replaced by aspirin. Marijuana has several disadvantages as a medicine (short shelf life, difficulty in controlling dosage and it cannot be injected).
    3. Intoxication: Prior to 500 AD that use was restricted to India and the use spread to other continents over the next several hundred years.

    Evidently THC was isolated in 1937 and synthesized about 1980. Marinol a legal prescription drug is made from synthetic THC and is available in gel caps for oral use. The risk of abuse is thought to be very low because a Marinol high is very unpleasant. It has not turned out to be a generally acceptable solution to the medical marijuana problem but the drug warriors think it is.

    A key issue in the medical marijuana controversy is over the availability of  aspirin substitutes that lack serious side effects and are unlikely to be used as intoxicants.

    The most serious problems associated with the use of marijuana as an intoxicant are

    1. The increased probability of loss of employment because of cognitive side effects.
    2. A moderately high probability arrest and the associated stress and expense of dealing with the criminal justice system.

    It does not appear to me that the medical marijuana controversy will end very soon and legalization does not appear to be on the horizon.

    I think you folks are fighting (none / 0) (#11)
    by OldCity on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 10:21:15 AM EST
    a battle that isn't winnable in the immediate future.  

    The most permissive state in the industrialized world, the Netherlands, still maitains a de jure illegal status to pot possession, sale and  cultivation, etc.  

    That govt is now going to constrict availability further by closing shops with proximity to schools.

    This is far more than a US thing; there's a worldwide assumption that controlling intoxicants is a social good, even one so benign as pot.  So, I think quite a bit of the indignation is unfairly heaped on this country for it's drug policies (I'm not going to argue about the efficacy of those policies, more that they're just not so unique as many think.).

    In short, reform just ain't gonna happen, because the task would bne so great and require, honestly, the creation of another bureaucracy entirely.    

    Thank you for informing us (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by NYShooter on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 11:09:31 AM EST
    that "reform just ain't gonna happen." However, the previous 10 commenters,' implicit in their statements, understand that. The "indignation" you refer to is not that we don't understand the reality of the situation, it's that the "reality" costs us billions in unnecessary dollars, and countless destroyed lives in unnecessary, and counterproductive, penal approaches to this subject.

    The fact that the other counties also have moronic drug laws shouldn't result in our quiet acquiescence, while our country spirals into a self made and unnecessary abyss.

    Come January 20, 2009, another event, once deemed," just ain't gonna happen," is "gonna happen."


    Not to mention... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 12:17:21 PM EST
    a lot of the other nonsensical drug laws in other countries are in place because of US pressure.

    If a nation with whice we have diplomatic relations decided to legalalize marijuana, the State Dept. would squash it right quick.


    Not so much... (none / 0) (#20)
    by OldCity on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 03:55:53 PM EST
    Possession of small amounts has been decriminalized in some states.  The Dutch, even though they've not de facto legalized it, still have had some tolerance, not to mention a thriving drug tourism industry.  I'm pretty sure we haven't exiled the states or cut off relations with the Netherlands.

    The point that you seem to not want to contemplate is the sheer scope of the issue.  Cultivation, regulation, market share.  How about agitation from users of other drugs, cocaine and heroin, for example.

    The Dutch social experiment has not been a success.  Now, if you're honest, you don't want pot legalized because of the huge waste of money that much of the "drug war" represents.  You want it legalized so you can smoke it, eat it, however you choose to injest it because it makes you feel good.  It's no more noble than that.  You don't want to get arrested and you want to carry it, etc.  

    On pot, you're probably right, if you could somehow imagine an incorruptible regulatory structure.  Of course, you can't.  And, statistics, real statistics don't lie about consequential drug use, lost productivity, DWH, etc...but those are inconvenient, too.

    The Chinese fought a war to keep opium OUT of their country...and that's not a country known for a caring attitude, especially not at the time the war was fought.  There's all sorts of historical precedent for regulation of intoxicants...this government didn't make their regulations up out of whole cloth any more than any other country.  


    So what do you suggest OldCity... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 05:05:42 PM EST
    just keep on doing what we are doing?  What exactly are we accomplishing with prohibition?

    I can get you any drug you want within a couple hours...supply is there despite of prohibition.  Demand has been there since the beginning of time...people, for some odd reason, like to feel good.  Noble or not.

    The NCAA Basketball Tournament effects workplace productivity...should we ban college basketball?  DWI far exceeds DWH...should we ban booze again?
    Tobacco kills more than all the drugs put together...should we ban that too?

    We can be free and have problems with abuse (not use, abuse) to deal with, or we can be be denied our liberty to use responsibly and still have problems with abuse to deal with...I think it is a no-brainer.  Not to mention we'll have all this money saved to deal with abuse when we stop sweating responsible use.


    I'm beginning to think blogs (none / 0) (#23)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 05:08:03 PM EST
    are the #1 source of reduced worker productivity...

    Better Ban Blogs!.... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 05:11:40 PM EST
    punishable by 3-5 years in prison or 5k fine per comment...that'll solve the problem....lol.

    Double the penalty if they are overweight. n/t (none / 0) (#25)
    by JSN on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 07:15:13 PM EST
    For starters... (none / 0) (#30)
    by OldCity on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 07:43:32 AM EST
    it's not prohibition, as nice as that sounds.  Drugs are regualted in most cases because they are addictive.  Pot isn't, though I know a huge number of psychiatrists and pediatricians dispute that, in the sense that while it isn't physically addictive, it is psycologically to adolescents, and can result in serious retardation to academic achievment, motivation, etc.  Of course, if you know any hardcore stoners who have ongoing love affairs with their couches, you already know that to be true.

    Personally, I think pot is benign enough to be legalized, regulated and taxed.  Personal cultivation should be allowed.  However, and this is a big however, there has to be a strong, strong regulatory presence around distribution, market share, etc.  No one should delude themselves into thinking that the culture of violence surrounding the trade in marijuana is going to go away, right away.  Structures must be put in place to depress that, because otherwise any legalization effort will fail, big time.  No large distributors, period.  No InBevs, as it were.

    Of course, you will see demand for other drugs increase, as a result.  It's happened everwhere a passive attitude toward pot has been established.  

    And that's the larger problem.  I live in a big city.  I too, can get any drug I want.  That's not the point.  The point is that many, if not most of the drugs out there are dangerous to deadly.  If you've know any real addicts, and I have, you know that among the things that often prolong their lives long enough to get care are: cost...because it's expensive and: variability of supply.  Successful interventions often occur during the upleasantness of withdrawal.

    I'm not an abolitioninst.  But I certainly think there's a bifrcation between pot and other drugs.  I've seen the serious downside of abuse of illegal drugs and prescription drugs.  Anyone immersed in the drug culture who hasn't is just lucky.  And really there aren't parallels to alcohol use, no matter how hard anyone tries to argue it.  I'm not going to get into stats or trends, but I can prove it, easily and verifiably...no BS advocacy.

    People ignore the cnetral facts about drug use, which are that to do drugs, you have to commit criminal acts and associate with criminals.  You have to affirmatively violate laws with which everyone is familiar.  You have to have, to some extent a self-destructive impluse, a psychiatric or psychological issue, especially if you are using drugs of abuse.  Anyone who ignores those basic facts when engaging in a discussion like this simply isn't being honest about the issue.  One has to see all of the positives and all of the negatives...        


    It is prohibition... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 09:38:59 AM EST
    regulated implies you are allowed to posess it, there is no allowance for possesion of any marijuana under federal law. And of course drugs can be dangerous or deadly...so can driving an automobile.  Heck, prohibition is dangerous and deadly...ever hear of the Valentines Day Massacre?

    That isn't enough of a reason to deny liberty and prohibit, imo.  Freedom is dangerous and messy...still beats the alternative, a safe clean tyranny.

    I've seen the downside too...alcoholism being among the worst addictions I've witnessed personally...downright nasty business.  Still not enough of a reason to deny the right to responsibly use.  I've known addicts, namely pills and cocaine addicts...the threat of prison or the cost of their drugs did nothing to deter them...nothing.  If anything, the artificially high costs due to prohibition causes an increase in property crime.  

    You keep harping on this "commiting criminal acts" bit.  So freakin' what?  I'm fond of this Ayn Rand quote about criminals....

    "There's no way to rule innocent men.
    The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
    Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.
    One declares so many things to be a crime
    that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."

    Sums up how I feel...it has become impossible to pursue liberty and happiness without breaking laws.  All prohibition does is foster a greater disrespect for the law.


    Handy Guide (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 04:33:15 PM EST
    Regarding MJ and Hash laws around the world.

    "Signs Obama Will Disappoint" (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 11:18:20 AM EST
    Signs Obama Will Disappoint Marijuana Reformers
    How could anyone be disappointed? That would require the previous belief that MJ reform was even remotely on BO's agenda. No one could possibly have believed that.

    Do you anticipate TL will be (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 11:29:13 AM EST
    dissed for posting this graphic, in which Obama is "too green"?

    You funny. (none / 0) (#15)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 12:16:54 PM EST
    Promised in NH and OR Primaries (none / 0) (#27)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 01:40:43 AM EST
    to end raids on patients in Medical Marijuana States.

    as a Senate candidate pledged to work to repeal mandatory minimum sentences, but never came through as a Senator


    A brighter sign from Holder (none / 0) (#28)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 01:43:01 AM EST
    his firm donated many pro bono hours to Raich v Gonzales at the Supreme Court. While he was personally only marginally involved, Angel raich reports he was poplite and encouraging on her visits.

    The root of the (present) evil (none / 0) (#29)
    by SeeEmDee on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 06:55:36 AM EST
    Frankly, we've got so many problems right now that marijuana reform is rather low on my totem pole, even though I've been known to partake of that rather delectable herb every now and then -- okay, more then than now, but that's really beside the point

    What a lot of folks just can't seem to wrap their heads around is just how much of a foundation the DrugWar provided with regards to the rights-destroying aspects of abominations such as the (choke, cough) "PATRIOT Act".

    The fact of the matter is that our rights have been under continual assault from the inception of the DrugWar, but that process of rights erosion accelerated with Tricky Dick, then was boosted by Ronnie Raygun, and then had rocket sleds strapped on it by Georgie the Lesser.

    And Georgie became Prez in small part thanks to all the millions of potential voters who couldn't vote because they'd been disenfranchised by drug offense convictions. Real handy if you want to ensure that those members of the populace that represent the greatest threat to your agenda are conveniently neutralized courtesy of a faux moral crusade...which Repubs just seem to adore.

    Drug law reform is vastly more important than most recognize, because it isn't just the stoners who are affected; you pay for drug prohibition with your taxes, every two weeks, and it's used to destroy generally harmless people's lives and careers,  politically emasculate minorities and erode rights and liberties.

    It's a deadly serious business. Cheech and Chong, it ain't