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March 2009



Open Thread

“bullet” Holbrooke is already making waves in Afghanistan

Holbrooke, who was appointed by President Obama as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated that efforts to eliminate opium poppy crops had failed to hinder the Taliban insurgents‰ ability to raise money from the drug trade. ‹It is the most wasteful and ineffective program I have seen in 40 years,Š he said. Holbrooke believes much of the money should instead be used to help Afghanistan‰s expanding agricultural sector, which would in turn create many jobs.

“bullet” New York State Lawmakers Reach Historic Agreement to Reform Rockefeller Drug Laws. This is good news, but also note NYCLU Applauds Pledge to Reform Rock Drug Laws, but Cautions to Wait for Details

The New York Civil Liberties Union applauded the pledge made today by the governor, senate and assembly to reform the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, but cautioned that the essential details of the agreement have yet to be revealed. What has been outlined so far reflects a significant shift in policy and an important agreement in principle, but significant details have yet to be worked out. […]
The agreement appears to embrace š for the first time and in a meaningful way š two important principles of reform: It includes a reduction of mandatory minimum sentences, and it includes a restoration of judges‰ authority to send many drug offenders to treatment programs instead of jail.

“bullet” Sen. Webb: Prisons a ‘national disgrace,’ must be reformed

Even as President Barack Obama slapped down the hopes of American marijuana consumers as to his position on legalization, Senator Jim Webb (D-Va) was quietly preparing to introduce major legislation which has the potential to dramatically alter US drug laws.
Calling the US criminal justice system “a national disgrace,” two US senators called for a top-to-bottom review with an eye on reforms aimed at reducing America’s vast prison population.
Senator Webb, backed by Republican Senator Arlen Specter, introduced legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel that would conduct an 18-month assessment and offer concrete recommendations for reform.

“bullet” Bernd Debusmann at Reuters: Drug wars and the balloon effect

Why have billions of dollars and thousands of anti-narcotics agents around the world failed to throttle the global traffic in cocaine, heroin and marijuana? Blame wrong-headed policies, largely driven by the United States, and what experts call the balloon effect.

“bullet” John Aloysius Farrell in US News and World: Marijuana: Tax It, Regulate It, But Legalize It
“bullet” I don’t know what the Director of the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia Univeristy in the City of New York does for a living, but apparently it doesn’t involve much actual thinking. Aldo Civico really looks pretty silly with Legalization of drugs? An imperfect solution.
His thesis? Legalization would not get rid of all crime, so it’s not worth pursuing. Of course, he then fails to come up with a single idea that would be better.
“bullet” Marijuana legalization too hot for CNN

The final “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” was taped at CNN’s New York studios this afternoon. And it appears CNN higher-ups forced an edit on producers. A TVNewser tipster tells us, “a large section of a segment about marijuana legalization” was edited out of the final broadcast.

“bullet” OpEd in Alabama: War on Drugs as Effective as Prohibition

There are lessons to be learned from the failure of Prohibition — across the country in general, and in Mobile in particular.

“bullet” DrugSense Weekly
“bullet” “drcnet”

Reactions to Obama’s marijuana blunder

From liberal blogs:
“bullet” Dave Neiwert at Crooks and Liars

the “war on drugs” is a kitchen-table issue that affects millions of Americans in their homes, especially as we watch the tremendous waste of national resources spent criminalizing people who need medical treatment, and we witness the costs to our national and personal security in the form of the raging drug war on the Mexican border. […]
At what point will we finally wake up and recognize the high cost of an ineffectual drug policy maintained purely out of political cowardice?
It’s understandable that Obama wants to keep his eye on the ball and not let his agenda get derailed by a national argument about drugs. But dealing intelligently and effectively with drugs in the end is part of that economic and national-security picture too — perhaps not as big a driver as health care or energy, but it plays a role. The president would be wise to heed his own words about listening to what people outside the Beltway are actually saying to him.

“bullet” DDay at Hullabaloo

…while I didn’t see it, the President apparently snickered, along with his snickering staff, made a crack like “This is a very popular question to you online folks,” (did he mime taking a hit off a doobie at this point?) and then categorically said no, that it wouldn’t grow the economy, and moved on. Thus insulting the audience about their very popular question and giving it little respect.
There are two issues here. First, legalization actually does deserve a serious response. You don’t have to agree with it – I’m not certain that I do – but you ought to engage with it. The war on drugs has utterly failed, so it’s not like the status quo is any less silly. But the second issue is even more damaging. Obama’s Administration wants to bypass the media filter and open the tools of communication to a much larger community. And then a non-Village approved question gets asked and he snickers about it? For a real community interaction to work there has to be a certain level of respect, and that was apparently sorely lacking. […]
In Washington, every day is Punch a Hippie Day.

“bullet” TalkLeft

No surprise here, except for those who perhaps expected something different

“bullet” From live comments at Daily Kos

But did he have to be so…. Amused with it? I’m sorry, I understand that it’s marijuana, ha ha funny funny…but it was a serious question asked by a lot of people and I really think it deserved just as serious of an answer as the rest of them did.
I don’t have a real opinion either way (lean towards legalization, but no real dog in the fight…) but it was a JARRING difference from how he approached all the other questions. […]
Well, they chose a question that could be used to dismiss all the others; the actual question presented was about economics.
I found the use of this particular question, and using it as a mechanism – an excuse to laugh off serious questions about the myriad of issues about pot – to be very disingenuous. […]
I have to agree, I thought Obama was a little above that. But he’s in a position where he chooses not to be brave on this issue. Perhaps at the next townhall, after he sees some of our feedback, he will address it differently.

“bullet” Jim Gilliam, Huffington Post

Pot saved my life. […]
The President will be asked this question again, and maybe next time he won’t laugh at us.

“bullet” Sam Stein, Huffington Post

Jack Cole, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), said in response:
“Despite the president’s flippant comments today, the grievous harms of marijuana prohibition are no laughing matter. Certainly, the 800,000 people arrested last year on marijuana charges find nothing funny about it, nor do the millions of Americans struggling in this sluggish economy….”

“bullet” Dan Sweeney, Huffington Post

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.

“bullet” Via Hullabaloo, excerpts from live-blogging at TechPresident:

[Comment From Karen] Not sure making fun of the “online audience” for asking is the best way to have handled that.
[Comment From Josh] Probably not, he turned the question into a joke […]
Matthew Burton: Josh is right. There will be blowback from this.
[Comment From Karen] Now how many million people feel that they weren’t taken seriously? Frustrating. […]
Matthew Burton: He made it even more likely that the most popular questions in future town halls will be about marijuana
[Comment From Josh] The fact that he made light of one of the most popular questions being asked does not say a whole lot for mr. obama
Joan McCarter: It was a simplistic response on the pot question, particularly in light of the border violence that Napolitano talked about yesterday. There’s a connection he could have drawn to give a serious answer.

… and a conservative:
“bullet” Andrew Sullivan

Obama’s Pathetic Pot Answer. The chuckle suggests a man of his generation. The dismissiveness toward the question of ending Prohibition as both a good in itself and a form of tax revenue is, however, depressing. His answer was a non-answer. I’m tired of having the Prohibition issue treated as if it’s trivial or a joke. It is neither. It is about freedom and it’s deadly serious. As for your online audience, Mr president, have you forgotten who got you elected?

… and a media response:
“bullet” Chris Selley in the National Post

In other words: get a job, ya bunch of hippies. He couldn‰t really have sounded any more condescending unless he‰d thanked contributors, complete with air quotes, for their ‹groovyŠ questions. I‰m sure the audience would have lapped it up.
Now, admittedly, the President might well be right about what legalization would do for the economy. Imagine all the out-of-work drug enforcement workers, prison guards and support staff, the mass suicides from correctional industry lobbyists, and the tens of thousands of newly released inmates thrust into an already terrible job market. But that‰s hardly the point he was trying to make. Rather, he was aiming for laughs.

I’m sure there are plenty of others out there I missed.
So when will we be getting that apology?