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Obama's Pot Politics

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Message John Pagoda

Seventy years later perhaps it is time to realize that by decriminalizing drugs cartels will have nothing to supply to the gangs, the gangs won’t have anything to distribute, the violence associated with drug crimes will decrease and we can use the over 40 billion dollars a year it costs to wage this failed war to address the crisis facing our economy.

Why we wouldn’t consider decriminalization as a possible solution to the existing drug problem south of the border and here at home was the first part of the question President Obama chose to ignore. The land of the free and the home of the brave constitutes 5 percent of the world’s population while constituting 25 percent of the world’s prison population and that was the second part of the question that the leader of the free world ignored.

Here’s a suggestion - decriminalize it – distinguish between use and abuse and treat the later as a health problem rather than a crime – since it costs more to incarcerate someone in New York State for one year than it does to send him/her to a state college for four years save the money wasted on a failed policy or use it to hire more teachers or provide health insurance to those that need it.

Regulate it like alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs are or should be. Tax it – with a stamp to use, a stamp to grow and a stamp to sell, based on the previous years taxable income with a minimum tax established. Use the revenue saved for education, health insurance, housing and building a strong middle class. Now that’s change I can believe in.

President Obama recently announced that in the coming weeks he was going to be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs “shown to be wasteful or ineffective.” In addition he said there would be “no sacred cows or pet projects.” He claimed that he was doing this because “All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.”

In the face of a failed drug policy instead of mocking proposed solutions and dismissing those who ask “why not decriminalize” it’s time for President Obama to make some hard choices about our drug war. The question which must be put to President Obama is will he eliminate this government’s war on drugs because is has been “shown to be wasteful or ineffective?” How Obama responds will be a measure of his administration’s credibility and more importantly a reflection of the content of this President’s character.

In a town hall meeting on March 26 President Obama accepted the following online question: “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?”

To that question President Obama responded “And I don’t know what this says about the online audience, but…this was a popular question. We want to make sure it’s answered. The answer is no, I don’t think that’s a good strategy to grow our economy. All right.”

Since I really expected much more from this President after eight long years of deceit, deception and outright lying from the previous President I was quite surprised and disappointed by President Obama’s dismissive demeanor and politics as usual response.

In fact the question said nothing about the online audience but did expose President Obama’s empty rhetoric about bringing change to Washington because his response was nothing more than the slight of hand employed by most politicians i.e. he changed the question to suit a safe response and moved on as if he actually answered the question that is more pressing than popular given the emergence of a narco-state south of the border.

On the same day of President Obama’s town hall meeting his Secretary of State was south of the border saying that Americans have an insatiable desire for illegal drugs as if to explain that we are part of the problem that has caused the carnage produced by the cartels to protect, defend and expand their market share of illegal drugs they supply to satiate our desire implying that if we didn’t have an insatiable desire for illegal drugs there would be no need for cartels to export that which is no longer demanded thus the end of violence produced by the problem of illegal drugs.

During President Obama’s recent visit to Mexico he said that the U.S. would have to work on curbing demand for illegal drugs. We’ve already tried just saying no and we’ve already tried incarcerated so what’s left to curb demand? After being sworn in President Obama said he wanted the role of science to play a large part in his administration’s policies yet what science supports the claim that we have an “insatiable desire for illegal drugs” as alleged by Secretary of State Clinton? In fact since the science of neurobiology with the aid of modern technology has actually found cannabinoid receptor sites in the human brain it seems that curbing demand is a fool’s errand.

If anything the historical record supports the position that we Americans more likely seem to have an insatiable desire for violence after all our nation’s history is written in blood from day one. How else can one explain a drug policy that is waged by violent means? More guns are smuggled into Mexico from the U.S. and other countries, more guns are purchased by cartels that supply illegal drugs, more guns are purchased by gangs that distribute the illegal drugs, more guns are bought by the police, more guns are purchased by people who use illegal drugs and more guns are purchased by citizens in cities where the war on drugs is playing out.

As for drugs let’s face it as a people we are more predisposed and programmed by daily advertising by the pharmaceutical industry to have an insatiable desire for “drugs” period. Caffeine to wake up, No Doz to stay up, a cornucopia of pills to suppress our appetite or too loose weight after all one can never be too thin, pills to get a rise out of one’s Mr. Johnson and provide sexual satisfaction before taking Ambien to fall asleep and if that sequence of daily events seems monotonous and depressing there are drugs that can make one smile once detached from reality.

The Mexican cartels are now exporting drugs to over 230 U.S. cities which have become major distribution hubs for illegal drugs because the demand exists here in the U.S. but that same demand exists in most if not all other sovereign nations. The difference is how nations respond to that demand to that reality.

Some like Portugal actually decriminalized all drugs and since 2001 the prevalence rates of drug use among the Portuguese has actually decreased through 2008. Others like the U.S. have been waging a war against the cannabis plant since it was declared in June of 1971 by Richard Nixon.

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