Always, Never, Whatever

NORML reports that Barack Obama, who was for marijuana decriminalization in 2004, against it last fall, and for it last week (when his campaign said he'd "always" been for it), is against it again:

A spokesman for Obama's campaign blamed confusion over the meaning of decriminalization for the inconsistencies, and said that while Obama does not support decriminalization, "we are sending far too many first-time, nonviolent drug users to prison for very long periods of time, and that we should rethink those laws."

It's true that decriminalization means different things to different people, but to equate it with opposition to mandatory minimum sentences distorts the concept beyond recognition. It's one thing to say decriminalization should be limited to simple possession of small quantities, or to say that it amounts to eliminating the possibility of arrest and jail, as opposed to repealing all penalties (i.e., the sort of "decriminalization" that has been adopted by 11 states). It's another to say that supporting decriminalization means thinking a crack dealer should serve one year instead of five. That certainly would be an improvement, and Obama should get credit for his willingness to go that far. But it defies belief to claim this was the sort of "decriminalization" he had in mind when he was running for the Senate and told students at Northwestern University "I think we need to...decriminalize our marijuana laws."

During the same appearance at Northwestern, Obama called the war on drugs "an utter failure" and said we need to "rethink" it, a position that makes him look decidedly better on this issue than Hillary Clinton. Assuming he still holds it.

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  • galthran||

    If only he would come out strong on this maybe I could forgive him wanting to ban all semi-auto handguns...

  • ||

    This is just a semantic issue, like "amnesty."

    Do you support amnesty?

    Oh, no sir. I support a path to citizenship. (My advisors told me the word "amnesty" polls badly.)

    Do you support decriminalization?

    Absolutely not. I just think we shouldn't be arresting and prosecuting people for this.

  • O||

    He should just start saying he's for "reduced criminalization" Not a perfect position but a step in the right direction.

  • ||

    Why can't he just be consistent and say what he said at Northwestern? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he is pandering.

    If he is too supportive of decriminalization he comes off as the black guy who wants to make drugs accessible to kids. My guess is once in office he would work towards decrim, second term of course. Question is how much he would enforce the drug war as president. He has been thus far unclear.

  • ||

    Do you support decriminalization?

    Absolutely not. I just think we shouldn't be arresting and prosecuting people for this.


    If that's his position, I'm onboard. Just revoking mandatory sentencing will still put youth and brown people at risk of imprisonment. A ticket for public use? I can accept that.

  • ||

    Interesting Op-Ed piece in Newsday today on a similar topic -- repealing the Rockefeller nonsense and the cost savings associated with repeal.

  • ||

    So, Obama supports kinda-sorta-maybe curtailing the war on drugs, while instituting his own war on private firearms ownership.

    It's a good thing he's so dreamy, because his stances on pretty much every issue just suck.

  • ||

    Question is how much he would enforce the drug war as president.

    I have a proposal. Give the DEA and other drug warriors ziploc bags, have then roam the cow pastures of America detecting and removing psilocybin mushrooms. Let them taze a cow every once in a while to keep them happy. Let the ones who taze bulls deal with the consequences.

  • ed||

    Who wants to bet Obama gets less and less controversial as the brass rings gets closer and closer? Most Americans still support the drug war and he wants their votes. What he does in office is another story. He has to get there first. And he's a politician, so...

  • ||

    Blah blah blah electioncakes. The froth that spews from a politicians mouth during the campaign is meaningless anyway. All this does, is further demonstrates how myopic and monochromatic this country is when it comes to the WOD. A politician just needs whisper that he doesn't think the cops should be allowed to gun down pot smokers on sight, and the backlash sends his campaign manager into epileptic fits.

  • ||

    This is just a semantic issue, like "amnesty."

    [. . .]

    Do you support decriminalization?

    Absolutely not. I just think we shouldn't be arresting and prosecuting people for this.


    If that's what he said then it might be just a semantics issue, but he didn't. His campaign gave a wishy-washy statement which if it has any substance it's difficult to find:

    "we are sending far too many first-time, nonviolent drug users to prison for very long periods of time, and that we should rethink those laws."

    So is it ok to send first-time, non-violent drug users to prison if it's not for "very long" periods? That's not decriminalization under any name. And the bit about needing to "rethink" the laws is a nice way to skate past taking a stand one way or the other. It's just a generic "some sentences are too long" statement and even that sentiment doesn't come across as very strongly held.

    Basically, that statement is designed to be as non-offensive as it is meaningless. Maybe that's what he has to do to get elected, but let's at least be honest about it and not pretend he's staking out a decriminalization position under a different name.

  • ||

    Brian Courts,

    Note that the statements in favor are clear, and the retractions are wishy-washy. Yes, he's coming out with statements that skirt the issue and have little substance.

    Since we're talking about someone competiting to be elected president, do you think such equivocation is more likely from someone passionately in favor of the War on Drugs, or who is skeptical about it?

    I don't recall many drug warriors making wishy-washy statements.

  • Bingo||

    joe: That is retarded and you know it. Obama is more of a panderer than Rombot is/was.

  • Dickin D\'Ass||

    Keep Dope Alive

  • ||

    I think that in the current climate I'd like him to just keep his mouth shut until he's in office.

    I'm betting that a lot of his supporters share my view that because he's young and seemingly intelligent his decisions in office will reflect our generational beliefs, regardless of what he has to say to get elected.

  • Dickin D\'Ass||

    Keep Dope Alive

  • ||

    P.S. - Marilize Legajuana!

  • Dickin D\'Ass||

    Too Many people in jail for Minor Drug offenses

  • ||

    I think for the first time ever I may agree with Joe's exact statement. Drug warriors are always very firm and clear about their intentions. Obama is doing what is necessary to get elected. I think once in office, he might review the drug laws in a favorable way. Until then, he is likely to either avoid it as much as possible or continue to give wishy washy answers. That's not defending him for not taking a better stand, but it makes good sense from his perspective.

  • ||

    So nice to know you can chisle in stone the candidates beliefs and views, not.

    I think the overlooked issue is that even if he was all for legalizing pot and got elected prez he would still have no power to change the law. Congress writes the laws not the POTUS so it is really a non issue unless you first have a Congress ready to act to change things then you need the Prez to sign off on it. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

  • ||

    Since Obama has very little track record on anything, how are we to know how he would govern and what he would propose, once he wishy-washes and emots his way to the brass ring?

  • ||

    "So is it ok to send first-time, non-violent drug users to prison if it's not for "very long" periods? That's not decriminalization under any name. And the bit about needing to "rethink" the laws is a nice way to skate past taking a stand one way or the other. It's just a generic "some sentences are too long" statement and even that sentiment doesn't come across as very strongly held.

    Just like Bush said when he was running for POTUS that if states decided to make their own drug laws then the feds should not interfere. Yeah, right.

    As soon as he got into office, his ONDCP and the DEA arrested more people for cannabis than ever before.

    /Not gonna believe it till I see it.

    //When are these ass clowns going to say that everyone caught getting high experimenting with drugs are not criminals and should not be treated as such?

  • ||

    Sorry, ONDCP just makes those stupid policies and commercials that are so hilarious if they weren't so damn expensive.

  • ||

    joe: That is retarded and you know it. Obama is more of a panderer than Rombot is/was.

    You give to much credit to joe...he does not know that is retarded...he thinks it is brilliant.

  • Paul||

    Do you support decriminalization?

    Absolutely not. I just think we shouldn't be arresting and prosecuting people for this.


    Or how about:

    Absolutely not. I just think some sentences are too harsh for nonviolent drug offenders. Perhaps 1/2 the jailtime would be more appropriate.

  • Paul||

    q: What about cigarettes and tobacco?

    a: We'd like to see a federal ban, instead of the patchwork of local laws we see now.

    You know it's coming.

  • ||

    "Rethink" = "Do nothing".

    Mark my words.

  • ||

    Obama is doing what is necessary to get elected.

    Yup he is pandering to dull minded pot heads with wishy washy statements so he can get their vote without sacrificing anything....and when he gets into office do absolutely nothing about it.

    Jesus Christ you are stupid. You can't hold an elected official to what he said on the election trail half the time...yet you expect this guy to make real changes to something he said he might sorta maybe look at.

  • ||

    A politician just needs whisper that he doesn't think the cops should be allowed to gun down pot smokers on sight, and the backlash sends his campaign manager into epileptic fits.

    Warren, I think that your assessment of the current political culture needs a slight reassessment. IIRC correctly, the Constitution Party thinks that individual states should (and are encouraged to) institute the death penalty for drug crimes. And you don't see this extremism winning elections, do you?

    I know that a lot of the electorate's viewpoints aren't libertarian, but that's no reason to look down your nose and declare them all bloodthirsty savages who'll hang Johnny McMarijuanauser from the nearest lamppost.

    Geez.

  • ||

    Jesus Christ you are stupid.

    Said the pot to the kettle.

  • Fred||

    I think we should eliminate criminal penalties for first time use and instead for people caught with marijuana first time give them required drug treatment.

  • Paul||

    Yup he is pandering to dull minded pot heads with wishy washy statements so he can get their vote without sacrificing anything....and when he gets into office do absolutely nothing about it.

    They're pot heads. They won't even remember voting for him.

  • alan||

    Flip flopping on drug legalization (decriminalization, whatever), what's next for Obama?

    Will he start favoring inertia over change , or despair over hope ?

    The Kennedy's better watch out, Obama's next move will be to betray the 60's, and get funky with the 70's instead.

    'What about Camelot, Sir Percival? Will you not take our fallen King Arthur's crown?' They 'll ask.

    Obama will turn with his admittedly very appealing teethy grin, "All hail Atlantis! All hail the Shining City on Hill!'

    And the democrats will just wither and die right there. I'm telling you, you are setting yourself up for a fall.

  • Zeb||

    How do you get a candidate to answer this question:

    "Senator, would the world be a better or safer place if you and all of the hundreds of successful intelligent people you know who use or have used marijuana had been arrested for marijuana possession and now had a criminal record?" That's what "success" in the war on drugs looks like.

  • ||

    What kind of drug treatment does marijuana require? Let them know it may be bad for their lungs and its a distraction from other things they might be getting done instead?

  • Russ 2000||

    caught with marijuana first time give them required drug treatment.

    Treatment for what?

    You can treat an physical problem, but using pot is merely a decision. It's non-addictive, so there's no physical dependency. Treating someone for pot is like treating someone for Catholicism.

    Let's stop calling it treatment and use the correct term - brainwashing.

  • ||

    Zeb - that's not personal enough. You need to ask the candidates:

    "Would the world be better off if YOU had been thrown in the clink for your drug-related "youthful indiscretions"?

    They're a pretty egotistical bunch, so you gotta frame it all personal and shit.

  • Zeb||

    Fred | February 8, 2008, 5:06pm | #
    I think we should eliminate criminal penalties for first time use and instead for people caught with marijuana first time give them required drug treatment.

    What a terrible idea. How about leaving people the fuck alone?

  • Paul||

    What a terrible idea. How about leaving people the fuck alone?

    Because it runs counter to the entire concept of politics. 99.999% of all politicians run for office because they have..."big ideas" for changing people's lives. Leaving people "the fuck alone" doesn't fit into that equation. Telling a politician to leave people "the fuck alone" is like trying to describe color to a blind man.

  • ||

    Ohnoes, joshua corning thinks we're teh stupid!

  • Fred||


    What a terrible idea. How about leaving people the fuck alone?


    Because drug use isw wrong, immoral, unhealthy and illegal.

  • ||

    I think we should eliminate criminal penalties for first time use

    Like you could even know that.

  • alan||

    Because drug use isw wrong, immoral, unhealthy and illegal.

    wrong -- as in opposite of right?

    immoral -- in what context? Eternal hell fire? Some dead Greek would not approve? Your momma's stern gaze?

    unhealthy -- so what?

    illegal -- ditto.

  • ||

    Because drug use isw wrong, immoral, unhealthy and illegal.

    wrong -- as in opposite of right?


    Alan...Fred was being sarcastic.

  • ||

    A spokesman for Obama's campaign blamed confusion over the meaning of decriminalization...

    Oh no! So the Obama campaign has hired Bill Clinton then?

  • ||

    "I think we should eliminate criminal any and all penalties for first time use" any cannabis use, period.


    There FIFY

  • ||

    while Obama does not support decriminalization, "we are sending far too many first-time, nonviolent drug users to prison for very long periods of time, and that we should rethink those laws."

    Does he mean we should send them for very, VERY long periods of time?

    Or just for long periods of time, with no "very"?

    Or rethink those laws a few more times as the campaign trail polling indicates slight shifts in what people say they want to hear?

    Is Obama channeling Romney now or what?

  • Geotpf||

    "Paul | February 8, 2008, 4:52pm | #

    q: What about cigarettes and tobacco?

    a: We'd like to see a federal ban, instead of the patchwork of local laws we see now.

    You know it's coming."

    Well, that was, in fact, Huckabee's position on tobacco. Then again, nobody who wasn't a pure fundie voted for him, so, who cares?

    Of course, he did much better than Paul...

  • Geotpf||

    "Fred | February 8, 2008, 5:34pm | #

    Because drug use isw wrong, immoral, unhealthy and illegal."

    So you are in favor of forcing anybody who drinks a beer into AA then?

    Alcohol is a drug, too.

  • ||

    Hey Obama:

    FUCK YOU. Your well-off, prep-school ass gets to smoke weed in your "misspent" youth while the rest of us hide from The Fuzz, hoping they don't "mistakenly " bust down our doors? And you're talking about your courage and idealism? Yeah, son, I ain't seeing it.

    FUCK YOU.

  • Robert||

    Just like Bush said when he was running for POTUS


    Then maybe certain issues like this are simply beyond politics, and we shouldn't evaluate candidates on the basis of them. Maybe drug reform can come only by surprise, by officials who made no mention of it beforehand. I'm not kidding, I'm really wondering about this.

    If so, what other policies might also be in the category of useless to discuss with candidates before elections?

  • alan||

    Alan...Fred was being sarcastic.

    Oh. Well, okay. I was wondering why Mr Mackie would be browsing something as inherently immoral as a libertarian forum.

  • Adam||

    This is just a semantic issue, like "amnesty."

    Could you bend over a little backwards to make excuses for your people, joe?

    Yeah it's semantics until you're in handcuffs or sweating a background check while applying for employment. Or sweating the baggie of weed in your car while pulled over on the side of the road, with the good chance that you're name will be published in the police blotter and jeopardize your current employment and good name.

    But hey, no skin off your nose, joe. Obviously a lefty victory is more important.

  • ||

    Adam and chocking on vomit

    Jeez, take a chill pill (still legal I think).

    joe's point is that "decriminalization" is an ambiguous concept to most folks and Obama admittedly finds some room to roam under that concept. Would it be better if he would fall more consistently on the end of that concept that we prefer? Well of course. But it's better to see him roaming in "decriminalization" than to see him roaming in the concept of "war on drugs" (meaning for the WOD).

    As someone who opposes much of the WOD I vastly prefer someone who is a wishy-washy decriminalizer over someone who is a consistent and firmly committed drug warrior....

  • M. Simon||

    Obama is only doing what is necessary to get elected.

    To get re-elected he will double the drug war efforts.

    It is an old Democrat trick invented by Bill Clinton.

  • ||

    "It is an old Democrat trick invented by Bill Clinton."

    Brought to you by.... someone who would send his own brother to the clink for cocaine.

    /I wonder if the activities at the airport in Mena, Arkansas had anything to do with that.

  • Robert||

    the overlooked issue is that even if he was all for legalizing pot and got elected prez he would still have no power to change the law.,/blockquote>
    Formally, yes, but in effect the att'y gen. can scuttle it by a determination that presently controlled substances have no potential for abuse, and move them off the control schedules.

  • Robert||

    Not that that would do anything about the state laws, which, it must be remembered, preceded the federal law.

  • Paul||

    As someone who opposes much of the WOD I vastly prefer someone who is a wishy-washy decriminalizer over someone who is a consistent and firmly committed drug warrior....

    I'm not sure I disagree with this, but something about it bugs me. I dunno. I guess it's all politic and pragmatic 'n stuff. I see the current situation as this: What we currently do have in mainstream politics is a bunch of firmly committed drug warriors, and a slightly smaller bunch of wishy-washy decriminalizers.

    The result of this divided political spectrum is that we have a firmly committed war on drugs.

    Let me put it another way. Pitting wishy-washy people who are for thing 'A' against a large group of committed zealots who are for thing 'B', what ends up happening is thing 'B' wins the day.

    At some point in time, no matter what you believe, you've got to make a firmly committed stand, otherwise, it's all just posturing resulting in nothing.

  • ||

    Ramping up the drug was is a "Democrat trick invented by Bill Clinton?"

    Somebody tell Nixon, Reagan, and Old Bush.

    Some of the posts on this thread - like Adam's deluded little freak-out - highlight the problem of absolutism and making the perfect the enemy of the good.

    How many self-righteous, Adam-like screeds have you seen about John McCain's position on the drug war? Mike Huckabee's? Hillary Clinton's? John Edwards? Without a doubt, every single one of the those figures would be vastly worse on the Drug War than Obama.

    But none of them opened their mouth to express an anti-Drug War position that the holier-than-though 0.5%ers can whine about being too wishy-washy.

  • ||

    "How many self-righteous, Adam-like screeds have you seen about John McCain's position on the drug war? Mike Huckabee's? Hillary Clinton's? John Edwards? Without a doubt, every single one of the those figures would be vastly worse on the Drug War than Obama."

    Until someone unequivocally comes out against the War on Drugs Citizen Rights they all have an equal amount of suckitude.

    If Obama was really serious about making a dent in the war on some drugs, he would be pointing out:

    The vast racial disparity in prisons from drug arrests,

    the loss in income due to marginalizing productive and able bodied recreational drug users,

    the costs of the legal system and police resources which are wasted up due to the war on some drugs victimless behaviour.

    Sorry, Obama is just a little less fail than the rest of them. He is not ready to allow us field n*ggers into the house to sit at the table with him. I'm surprised he has not been called out by his own as an UT.

  • ||

    Obama's drug war solution pandering is the same poison sold by McCain, Clinton, Edwards and Huckabee, just sweetened with some HFCS to make it more palatable.

  • ||

    Actually, decriminalization means EXACTLY what you say it is a stretch to mean. North Carolina, for instance, is a "decriminalized" state... but you wouldn't want to be caught smoking a joint walking around either.

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