Lessons to learn

A very interesting article about an entirely different subject: Obama and Gay Marriage: A Lesson for All Progressives and the Obama Campaign

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that in the wake of President Obama’s support for marriage equality, opposition to it is at an all-time low, at 39 percent. For the first time, strong support exceeds strong opposition. Moreover, there is now greater support for marriage equality among African Americans — a whopping 59 percent — than in the general population, breaking long-held stereotypes.

Look at that: Leadership happens. […]

And there’s a lesson here for all progressives — and for the Obama campaign. We were told by the Democratic strategists and the campaign pollsters, the Democratic establishment, that coming out for marriage equality would be harmful to the president. […]

But the opposite has happened.

This is a point that Scott Morgan has been making for some time when it comes to drug policy. The notion that a President would be damaged by showing real leadership in drug policy reform is a false fear, and way out of date.

There are things we can learn from the activism work being done in gay rights.

I find the statistic about African American support for marriage equality particularly stunning. Imagine what could have happened with an African American President speaking out compellingly about the devastation of the drug war in African American communities. Imagine true leadership.

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28 Responses to Lessons to learn

  1. N.T. Greene says:

    If/when an Obama term two comes up, we’re probably going to see something on this. The problem is that he’s been pandering to the moderates constantly instead of taking political “gambles” to show actual leadership skills.

    This jump gives me a bit of hope. The season for drug law reform is coming, if not already in bloom. I blame Super PACs for slowing it all down by turning contentious issues into tools for smear campaigns.

    Remember kids: this was the president who openly admitted to using -cocaine-, and managed to not get totally crucified. It really is a timing issue, I feel. We can’t wait forever, that’s certain — but striking at the wrong moment politically can set us back years. Slow and steady, I guess.

    I know I will be voting in favor of medical marijuana in my home state of Massachusetts, and we were almost successful in getting legalization on the ballot. And I am pretty sure we could push extant legalization bills if the feds would step out of the freaking way…


  2. I absolutely agree with Scott Morgan’s notion that showing real leadership in drug policy reform is a false fear.

    Obama has disenfranchised a large portion of the voting population across all demographics in one fell swoop by:

    1. ruling out marijuana legalization
    2. failing to stop Federal crackdowns in medical marijuana States.
    3. ruling out decriminalization strategies during a marijuana prohibition that is obviously slanted against Blacks.

    Possible fear of being labelled First Black President and “he legalized drugs” as a bad legacy for posterity?

    Whatever the case may be, ruling in favor of less freedom for the individual in a marijuana demand side war when polls show majority favorability is not a wise position for Obama to be in. He should reconsider his strategies. It might not end in the Presidential legacy that he expected.

  3. Drug treatment alternatives through the courts are nothing but a trump card plea bargaining tool for the Court systems. Makes justice cheap.

    Championing the cause for personal justice and freedom = priceless.

  4. Outlier says:

    Gay marriage and MJ legalization are rightly compared because of there incredible ascent in the polls over the last decade. However despite polling just as well if not better than gay marriage, we’ve seen nowhere near that support in the policy arena. In my mind its because of 3 reasons.

    1)Money: Gay donors are the bread and butter of many Democratic campaigns and 1 in 6 Obama campaign bundlers are gay. Those resources get you more attention with candidates and more commitment to your issues. This also allows them to make support for gay rights a litmus test in competitive Dem primaries. However given the Oregon AG primary and El Paso Dem congressional primary (Go Beto) we may be seeing the drug policy reform movement start to show its potential and start enforcing support for legalization as a litmus test.

    2)The Closet: While almost every politician these days has openly gay friends or staffers, its doubtful many of them know open marijuana users. This is pretty straightforward as there are plenty of laws that can get a marijuana user fired from their job as well as drug tests. If they’re hearing about the issue its likely from constituents who may seem eccentric to them or their staff. Although having worked in politics, I’ll tell you there are no shortage of totally productive staffers who like to toke rather than drink they just have to keep it on the DL.

    3)Lobbying Power: This kind of ties in with money as well but I think its pretty clear that gay rights lobbying groups (Human Rights Campaign, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Stonewall Dems, Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud) have more clout financially and politically than the big drug policy reform groups. LEAP, MPP, NORML, and DPA do great work but our extremely reliant on funding from Peter Lewis, George Soros, and a few other billionaires. I think this could be rectified if medical marijuana gains legitimacy at the federal level and the raids end. Then you will have hundreds of legitimate businesses making profits and employing thousands of employees. You can also start having those businesses pool their money together for a statewide association to lobby for them and set industry standards.

    • Francis says:

      And don’t forget about the other side of the money / lobbying equation. There are no industries that stand to lose billions of dollars when gay marriage is legalized. That’s obviously not the case when it comes to the drug war.

      • darkcycle says:

        In terms of pharma alone…possibly trillions.

      • Outlier says:

        While there isn’t an industry poised to lose money off gay marriage, they certainly have potent lobbying forces against it (Catholic Church, Mormon Church National Organization for Marriage) that spend money in the millions to oppose it. Although Pharma could potentially lose money off of legalization, I don’t see them opposing it as vociferously as say law enforcement or even the alcohol industry. At least based on the campaign contributions for medical mj and legalization initiatives.

        • Duncan20903 says:


          Legalization of gay marriage would likely inflate contributions to those specific enemies of freedom. Just imagine the increase in the volume of hysterical rhetoric such people would be able to generate while they invoke Sodom & Gomorrah, the fall of the Roman Empire, the collapse of western civilization, and the end of the world as we know it if we continue down the path that leads to people marrying apes/reptiles/children/their hand while practicing polygamy.

    • pt says:

      To be fair tho, no one ever proposed an ammendment to the constitution banning smoking herb or declaring that no medicine may be smoked.

  5. Trying to legitimize medical marijuana on a Federal level without ending marijuana prohibition is like mixing oil and water. Enforcement, drug testing and liberalized definitions for what addiction is all ensure that the problems will remain and grow worse (as in prison growth and overcrowding). Medical marijuana is legitimate and should allowed, but marijuana truly has no place in Federal substance classifications at all. Its a herb.

    • kaptinemo says:

      The reason why most physicians tell you to continue taking an antibiotic even after you start to feel okay is that the bug might still be active no matter how good you feel, and you need to follow through with the rest of the prescription to prevent a few cells of the bug from regrowing.

      We’ve all heard of drug addiction being likened to a disease…an opinion I do not hold with, BTW. But if the prohib’s insist upon that analogy, then here’s another: drug prohibition is a ‘disease’, a political disease. And Uncle Sam is the modern-day equivalent of Typhoid Mary, infecting the whole freakin’ world in his mad, Quixotic pursuit of a chimerical ‘drug-free’ society.

      Drug prohibition must be expunged as a whole from society, and the very concept so discredited that nobody who wants to be perceived as playing with a full deck would ever posit its’ return again. And this business about MMJ was a start…but only a start. The ‘disease’ is still there, and MMJ only ameliorated it for a few, while the rest continue to suffer.

      The ‘disease’ must be eradicated completely…or it will return, even more virulent than ever, as the recent Obama DoJ raids on dispensaries have proved. For this ‘disease’ has gravely sickened the body politic with alien concepts like ‘drug exceptions’ to the Bill of Rights, leading to further government transgressions, with all-too-often fatal consequences. When the putative ‘cure’ IS the disease, it’s up to the citizens to be the doctors…

      • Peter says:

        Good point about prohibition being an obsessive and compulsive mental disorder akin to addiction. However, i do want to take you up on the “addiction as a disease” concept which, admittedly as an aside, you dismiss. Prohibitionists have abused psychiatry and self-help groups for decades and have co-opted the disease concept from AA and misapplied it to ALL use of illegal drugs. That act of scientific abuse is the type of lie on a grand scale which we have come to expect from drug warriors like Andrea Barthwell and many others. The fact that her propaganda slyly and cynically uses terms from 12 Step groups is not a valid reason to reject those terms per se. The fact that some humans do become addicted to some drugs and experience very real difficulties in all areas of life including health is not in doubt. If the mental and physical compulsion to use a drug is not a “disease,” what exactly is it? My thoughts are that if the disease concept is thrown out we leave the field to those who would sling “moral failing” at us.

        • darkcycle says:

          That’s why I prefer “genetic predisposition” and “drug dependency”. But the fact remains. What to do with the approximately one to three percent of the population afflicted. The glaringly obvious takeaway from prohibition is that these people will be addicted at some point in their lives to SOMETHING. Contrary to the drug czars assertions, nobody to my knowledge has found a way to prevent this.
          BTW, has anybody else noticed (and been disturbed by) the recent statements from the ONDCP that include “prevention” in their wording right next to treatment? What exactly do they have planned?

  6. What do you do when the donkey and the elephant are both sick? I think we need a vet.

  7. ezrydn says:

    Unfortunately, “imagine true leadership” is ALL one can do with rank amateurs in charge of the Circus.

  8. Servetus says:

    The leadership imperative is dangerously underestimated by Obama.

    Deference to leadership is one of the many hominid behaviors wired into the human brain. It becomes more obvious if one observes a troupe of baboons, in which the alpha male and female become the focus of attention and behavior for all the lesser, star-struck baboons. Each glance, movement and response of the alpha apes is intensely focused upon and often imitated by the lesser apes. Celebritology is one manifestation of this behavior among humans. It’s why celebrities are often called upon and listened to when arguments against prohibition arise.

    Similar leadership dynamics were observed in ancient China, where the doge or imperial leader was treated like a queen bee. According to superstition, each simple action of the Chinese leader possessed enormous potential for good or harm. Thus an emperor was not allowed to look in any particular direction for lengthy periods of time for fear it would bring disaster to the region gazed upon. Superstitions like this made certain leadership styles much like being a caged, well cared for draft animal, although a practical benefit may be that the superstitions demanding absolute physical control made certain leaders less dangerous than they would’ve been otherwise.

    Using biology and evolutionary psychology as a basis, Obama’s fear of tackling the prohibition problem is completely without any political, pragmatic foundation. People like leaders who lead, even if they’re bad leaders and do harmful and stupid things. Just keeping a leader’s name in the news each day gives the appearance of leadership. Obama could do far more on the marijuana issue without suffering any political harm, and he should.

  9. allan says:

    This is a great place to point out that former US Atty (and Prohibitionist and ONDCP sycophant) Dwight Holton had his head handed to him in Oregon in the May 15 Dem primary race for Atty Gen precisely because he was such a pro-drug war candidate. It didn’t help that he’s from a seriously politically entrenched east coast family… but he pissed off the potheads. Between the wwweb, tweet and facebook (and props to the SSDP folks here for that social network attack). The WeedBlog folks, Jim Greig, Lee Berger and a host of others (including a last minute cash infusion from a couple of big spenders) took Dwight’s early poll lead and turned it into a near 2 to 1 loss. The winner, former Oregon judge Ellen Rosenblum, is proof that having high friends in places CAN beat having friends in high places.

    Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker has joined us and he’s deep in the Obama camp.

    It’s still spring folks… could it be a cannabis/anti-wo(s)d spring ? This old crank hopes so. I continue to recommend hard hats, visibility vests and not crossing the safety tape.

    Which brings up another point I’ve been musing upon… up in WA, along the Elwha River there is a dam removal project – actually a dam de-construction project to help restore the decades-absent salmon population. A long time ago I concluded that part of what must happen if there is to be any continuation of “civilization” is de-construction of much that has been built.

    The drug war is a perfect example of an old, entrenched and damaging bureaucracy that is prime for deconstructing. To simply blow it up would be irresponsible (like blowing up the Elwha dam would have been).

    • darkcycle says:

      Here’s a link to the Elwha River project’s facebook page (it’s up here near me and I have friends involved), the photographs are nothing short of stunning:

      • allan says:

        born in Aberdeen I still get up in the area on occasion. My family is from Gray’s Harbor, my dad worked for the CCC up the Quinalt, worked on building the Graves Creek trail. One of my favorite places to camp is at the end of the Quinalt road, in Olympic Nat’l Park.

        It’s nice to see examples of cooperation and how well it works compared to conflict.

    • claygooding says:

      But I want to see the newsreels of the DEA building exploding just like the ones of the Third Reich building where the swastika explodes.

      • kaptinemo says:

        I’ll do you one better; I want to see tribunals. Tribunals. For each and every trespass made by DrugWarriors against their victims.

        I know, it probably won’t happen. We’d probably have to have some kind of revolution before that takes place, and such are rarely ever containable and wind up spinning out of control, with bloody, horrific results. Only some crazy nihilist would want that. Me, I like what passes for civilization, crazy as it is.

        But something’s got to give, someday. The machinery of fascism built up under the aegis of the DrugWar is now threatening the freedom of every single American…just as drug law reformers saw it would way back in the early 1980’s, with Reagan practically erasing Posse Comitatus and resurrecting the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, whose job essentially was to militarize police forces.

        The writing was on the wall, so very long ago, but as usual, because the ‘Cassandras’ were not welcome (“Eeeeewwww, druggies“) the message was not heard by those who should have seen this coming (which is why I am so hard on so-called ‘progressives’). And just as a lot of us predicted, we now have scenes such as Officer Jack Boot in his DrugWar-supplied, hob-nailed regalia stomping on everyday Americans daring to protest injustices. Nothing to do with drugs. Nothing at all…or so many of those protesters foolishly think.

        This cannot go on. As Frederick Douglass said:

        “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are proscribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress… People might not get all that they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

        Sooner or later, something has to give.

    • Francis says:

      Re: your suggestion of a cannabis/ anti-wo(s)d spring, let’s also hope for a “Summer of THUD!”

  10. Duncan20903 says:


    At least we can count on the police to continue doing their part in the war on (some) drugs:

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