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August 2008
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The Democratic Convention is over

… without any mention of drug policy (except from protestors)
And, as Matt Welch notes, the Democratic Party Platform does not contain the words “drug war,” “war on drugs,” “Fourth Amendment,” “marijuana,” or “cocaine.”
And my reaction is… “whew.”
Because, quite frankly, I knew that nothing resembling reform was going to come in a party convention. For some strange reason, the political masters consider it to be more politically dangerous than using euthanasia to abort gay immigrant assault weapons in a vegetative state.
So, if there was to be any mention of drug policy, it was more likely to be a “we need to get tougher about drugs in our streets” charge, which pleasantly, I did not hear.
But it’s nice to dream what it would be like if politicians could talk about drug policy reform. I imagined it at various moments through Obama’s speech tonight…

Its a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect. […]
Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. […]
The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. […]
I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

The principles that our politicians espouse are not incompatible with drug policy reform. It’s just that the notion of drug policy reform is incompatible with politics.
On that note, it was interesting to read Paul Armentano’s post about Nancy Pelosi’s recent confrontation regarding medical marijuana.
Pelosi said:

“We have important work to do outside the Congress in order for us to have success inside the Congress for [the] use of medical marijuana. … [W]e need peoples’ help to be in touch with their members of Congress to say why this should be the case.”

Paul Armentano’s reaction:

I humbly submit that those of us who work ‘outside’ the so-called ‘hallowed halls’ of Congress have done our part. It’s now time for our federally elected officials, in particular Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Presidential Nominee Obama, to pledge to do theirs.

The thing is, I believe that both Paul and Nancy are right.
Paul’s right — we’ve done the work, we’ve made the case, we’ve done more than enough for our elected representatives in a fair world to take on the charge.
But, annoying as she is, and as frustrating as it is that she is unwilling to make the sacrifice to put if forward, Pelosi is also right. And it’s not about medical marijuana. It’s about drug policy reform as a whole. Throughout history, there have been a handful of issues that fit in this same predicament. The politicians are never going to lead in this area. Once the people have risen up with overwhelming outrage, the politicians carefully, slowly, haltingly, will shuffle into line behind them. Only when the people hold the politicians accountable for the damage caused by the drug war will Congress find their courage.

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