Why Is Barack Obama Afraid of Decriminalization?

Yesterday I noted that the New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted to decriminalize possession of up to a quarter ounce of marijuana. (You can read more about that bill at the website of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy.) NORML notes that the Vermont Senate approved a similar bill last month, with a one-ounce limit. If those bills succeed, New Hampshire and Vermont would join the 12 states that already have made possessing small quantities of marijuana a noncriminal violation, typically punishable by a modest fine.

Of these states the most tolerant is Alaska, where the state Supreme Court in 1976 ruled that the state constitution's privacy clause (which says the "right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed") bars arresting or punishing people for possessing small amounts of marijuana at home. Yesterday the Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case where the state is seeking to overturn that decision, defending a 2006 recriminalization law by arguing that marijuana is more dangerous than it used to be.

The Czech Republic, meanwhile, is codifying a policy of not prosecuting pot smokers, including those growing a few plants. According to the Drug War Chronicle, the law currently says possessing "more than a small amount of drugs" is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The revision will specify that anything up to 20 joints, a gram of hashish, or three plants counts as "a small amount," triggering a fine at worst.

In short, "decriminalization" in the sense of lenience toward marijuana users has been the policy in many jurisdictions for years, without any obvious negative repercussions. Furthermore, large majorities of Americans tell pollsters that pot smokers should pay a fine rather than go to jail. Is this policy really so controversial that Barack Obama had to back away from his support for it? Maybe he's just afraid of the word decriminalization, which is open to a variety of interpretations, ranging from tinkering with penalties to full-blown legalization. Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)? 

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  • Episiarch||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    Mainstreaming? Re-legalization? Semi-criminalization? Bullshit?

  • ||

    Maybe it has something to do with jass music.

  • Episiarch||

    I'm Hugh Jass!

  • ||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?


    Repeal?

  • Abdul||

    Is this policy really so controversial that Barack Obama had to back away from his support for it?

    The only black dude and admitted former drug experimenter in the race cannot afford to look soft on drugs. Especially not against McCain, who spent the 60's getting tuned up by VC guards while the baby boomers were toking up and digging on the latest Hendrick's album.

    It ain't fair, but it is reality.

  • ||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    Freedom?

  • ||

    I was shocked to learn that Ohio decriminalized possession. What the fuck, Ohio?

  • scott clark||

    calmification, relaxation, no-need-to-freak out-over-marijuana-fication, prioritizaion,. . .

  • ||

    oooh oooh!
    "regulation?"

  • ||

    I was shocked to learn that Ohio decriminalized possession. What the fuck, Ohio?

    I'm from Ohio, and I'm sure you wouldn't be shocked to know that Ohio is overrun by murderous marijuana addicts.

  • B||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers

    "Not being such a dick about it"?

  • Paul||

    "right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed"



    I still say that only applies to the National Guard.

  • ||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers

    Sanity. Next question.

  • ||

    In short, "decriminalization" in the sense of lenience toward marijuana users has been the policy in many jurisdictions for years, without any obvious negative repercussions.

    That may be true for you, but what about those of us who dumped our Papa John's stock right before this wave of decriminalization? My kids are going to have to go to a state school now, for crying out loud. A STATE SCHOOL.

  • ||

    Is this policy really so controversial that Barack Obama had to back away from his support for it?"

    His preacher told him the government invented pot and it has led to the devastation of teh blacks?

  • LarryA||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers?

    MYOB?

  • Taktix®||

    Yesterday the Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case where the state is seeking to overturn that decision, defending a 2006 recriminalization law by arguing that marijuana is more dangerous that it used to be.

    Technically, it is more dangerous. In fact, pot killed 100x as many people last year as it killed in 1970.

    True story...

  • ||

    Pot never killed anybody. Perhaps you are referring to their car?

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...what about those of us who dumped our Papa John's stock right before this wave of decriminalization?



    Two words: Due diligence. But I understand your pain. I could have bought PepsiCo (owner of Frito-Lay).

    Lamar - math test. 100 x 0 = ?

  • dhex||

    100 x 0 = 0

    ha ha ha get it?


    That may be true for you, but what about those of us who dumped our Papa John's stock right before this wave of decriminalization?


    wait, papa johns? people eat that shit?

    dear god.

    drug use isn't a victimless crime after all.

  • alan||

    The only black dude and admitted former drug experimenter in the race cannot afford to look soft on drugs. Especially not against McCain, who spent the 60's getting tuned up by VC guards while the baby boomers were toking up and digging on the latest Hendrick's album.

    More than one war vet has told me that smoking the reef was the only thing that kept them from blowing their own brains out. McCain's experiences in the war, with the incarceration and all, is not that typical.

    It is silly that we still live under laws pertaining to weed created by nervous nelly Nancy Reagan types who were afraid of beatniks, jazz musicians and a little later on, hippies.

  • ||

    Re: Taktix and math.

    The real question is why did it take me so long to get it?

    Thanks BakedPenquin!

  • ||

    "100 x 0 = 0"

    Frick. got me.

  • Tym||

    I guess he doesn't want to appear soft on drugs, but if he wants to be hard on drugs, perhaps he could use Viagra.

  • cg33||

    What about kwijibo?

    It's a perfectly cromulent word.

  • ||

    I was under the impression that it was criminalized as a tool against blacks and latinos. You know, the whole "god forbid they get stone and rape the white women," racist hateful dumbass bullshit.

  • Episiarch||

    More than one war vet has told me that smoking the reef was the only thing that kept them from blowing their own brains out.

    My dad was in 'Nam and he was high, tripping, or drunk 90% of the time. The locals would just come out of the bush with a fucking huge bag and they'd buy it for $5 or so.

    I suppose Charlie could have poisoned it or something but they weren't concerned and it never happened.

  • ||

    Technically, it is more dangerous. In fact, pot killed 100x as many people last year as it killed in 1970.

    Althought the second sentence is factually accurate, the first is "technically" inaccurate. Zero is not more than zero.

  • ||

    Belay my last. I should have finished the thread prior to posting.

  • ||

    I was under the impression that it was criminalized as a tool against blacks and latinos. You know, the whole "god forbid they get stone and rape the white women," racist hateful dumbass bullshit.

    It was. Google "Anslinger" for more info.

  • ||

    Here are the current New Hampshire laws.

    It costs a bunch of money to put dope-heads in prison. It's at least $19,000 per year. That's like the taxpayers are paying people's rent. Why should the taxpayers pay rent for marijuana users?

    NH Gov. Jon Lynch is threatening to veto the bill. Why does Jon Lynch want to put the taxpayers on the hook for $19,000 per year to pay for the arrest, processing, court costs, and incarceration (housing) of peaceful marijuana users?

    What would it take to get through to this dude?

  • Al Swearengen, Jr.||

    Fuckin' Hearst.

  • Fred||

    What would it take to get through to this dude?

    He doesn't want to send the wrong message to America's children that drug abuse is OK. Drug laws protect society, what of all the violence drug causes, what if someone drives high on the pot and start halusinating and causes a accident?

  • ||

    What would it take to get through to this dude?

    My guess: either (a) a hooker or (b) pictures of him with a hooker.

    Actually, I think Reinmoose has got something @ 1:45.

    "Regulate, Don't Incarcerate"

  • ||

    Hey Fred,

    I don't think anyone will be halusinating(sic). Maybe driving too slow though.

  • Taktix®||

    So I manager to trip up:

    J sub D
    KD
    Lamar

    Do I get the win by default? BakedPenguin for the assist?

  • Taktix®||

    MANAGED to trip up.

    Aww fuck it, it's Friday, I'm leaving to go play music in a few hours.

  • TallDave||

    On the other hand, decriminalizing Hamas might be a possibiilty:

    http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/191879.php

    Sen. Barack Obama's Chicago church reprinted a manifesto by Hamas that defended terrorism as legitimate resistance, refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist and compared the terror group's official charter - which calls for the murder of Jews - to America's Declaration of Independence.

  • Eric Dondero||

    Two libertarian Republicans were largely responsible for helping to pass the measure:

    State Rep. Jason Bedrick & State Rep. Steven Vaillancourt

    The Democrat Governor Lynch is now threatening a veto.

  • ||

    Hey cg33, you have embiggened the comments section with your thoughtful answer.

  • ||

    Is this policy really so controversial that Barack Obama had to back away from his support for it?

    In an election campaign, policy talk is used as a means of communicating values and beliefs. If a policy, even a popular one, works against the narrative you're trying to spin out, or helps your opponent with the narrative he's trying to spin about you, it can hurt you, even if most people agree with you on it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    If a policy, even a popular one, works against the narrative you're trying to spin out, ...it can hurt you, even if most people agree with you on it.



    This would typically apply whenever the people who are for the issue are weakly for it, and it's a deal breaker for the people against it. The thing is, medical marijuana is an issue with a growing number of adherents. Furthermore, they're more and more "telegenic" for nightly news producers. If Obama surrounded himself on stage with cancer & MS patients in wheelchairs, and asked "why does my opponent want to take away the only drug that relieves their pain?" It would be a harder question to answer than if he was hanging out with a bunch of guys listening to Phish.

  • Michael Brophy||

    OTOH stoned companies in 'Nam probably didn't fight too well.

  • ||

    The same way the PC crowd refers to illegal immigrants as "undocumented workers" guides us to refer to pot possession "undocumented hemp".

  • ||

    Uhhh...er...far out. What were we talking about again?

  • ||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    reclassification

  • Robert||

    The Internat'l Antiprohib'n League uses "depenalisation". You might want to z the s.

    If Obama surrounded himself on stage with cancer & MS patients in wheelchairs


    ...it would be understood by both sides as code-speak for much broader views re narcotics laws.

  • Abdul||

    If a policy, even a popular one, works against the narrative you're trying to spin out, ...it can hurt you, even if most people agree with you on it.

    joe said the same thing I did, but made it sound smarter.

  • Peter||

    The tales of constant pot smoking in "Nam are somewhat exagerated. A guy in a rifle company, in the bush, would get a major butt kicking for smokin' dope. In the rear, sure. Out where the Little People were trying hard to send us home wrapped in a shiney aluminum box, not so much.

    Back when a single joint was a major league felony in Texas the Sheriff's Dept. I worked for after 'Nam put out a series of memos. Seemed that the seeds in the baggies of dope we through out on the sides of the road were sprouting. Very few of us bothered to make an arrest for small amounts back then. When the Legislature dropped the crime down to a class A misdemeanor our arrests went way up. We didn't mind the small fines, a felony record on an otherwise harmless kid was a little much.

  • ||

    I think we have a winner: Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    reclassification sez Cab.

    I think we've got our answer.

  • ||

    I think he's (Obama) biding his time. It is politically inexpedient to advocate it, especially with his own history of drug use. But that doesn't mean he doesn't support it just because he is downplaying it and not talking about it. Face it, drugs just aren't a huge winning issue when it comes to politics, unless you're against them. Notice how well the LP and the Green Party do (not that their drug stances are fully to blame, but...)

    That said, I think most Americans admit that the War on Drugs failed and that mild drugs like marijuana should probably be legal/decriminalized, but it's not really a flag that they wave proudly and it's definitely not one of their biggest issues. For most people, it's more of a hesitant belief hidden behind the fact that most people believe "drugs are bad, mmmkay?"

    If Obama had made it a big issue in his campaign, he would have probably been written off a long time ago.

  • ||

    I think we have a winner: Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    Yeah. Legal and taxable

  • M. Simon||

    I think he's (Obama) biding his time.

    Too late for that now. His time has come and gone.

  • SIV||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    Property Rights

  • TallDave||

    The Czech Republic, meanwhile, is codifying a policy of not prosecuting pot smokers, including those growing a few plants. According to the Drug War Chronicle, the law currently says possessing "more than a small amount of drugs" is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

    It's a sad fucking state of affairs when former communist East Bloc states have more liberties than the USA.

    Maybe they can start broadcasting subversive Voice of Czech programs over here.

  • ||

    The "War on Drugs (WOD)" is an entire industry. Hell, Clinton added 100,000 cops on the street to aid in the "WOD". Think of the prison industry, the police industry, the confiscation industry, It's going to be difficult to defeat these "professionals" and their unions (PBA,AFSCME, etc.).

  • Someone Who Doesn\'t Want to L||

    Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?

    The reefer? Tokin' up?
    A fat chronic blunt?

  • windycityatty||

    Reclassification/rescheduling is good. Minimization may work. De-prioritize?

    Or the Brit: "Softly, softly" approach?

    Definately not 'liberal'ization.

    De-insanityization?? We can make up words in this contest right?

    How bouts to gin up support for one of our poll-tested words we create a freedom fried movement. If freedom fries support our troops freedom fried's must ipso facto support our stoners?

    There is something to be said for the genetic advances in the cannabis field...

    With re: to the right word... didn't MPP fund a few polls/studies on what precise words to use in their ballot initiatives to achieve maximum results? Rob Kampia knows the answer to this question. But he probably wouldn't share- doesn't seem like the type.

  • ||

    "Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?"

    de-Hannitize? Or does that only work at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse?

  • Richard Lorenc||

    "Is there some other, less scary term that could be used for a policy of going easy on pot smokers (and on drug users generally)?"

    Freedom.

  • liber8US||

    Prohibition abstinence? or Abstinence from Prohibition?

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