How to Convince Drug War Skeptics That Obama Is Secretly On Their Side

Did you know Al Gore was the Legalization Candidate for vice president in 1992? Don't feel bad if you didn't: I don't think Gore knew it either. But if you were an American opposed to the drug war in those days, you might have heard a rumor that the Democrat had quietly told an activist, "You have to trust us on this hemp thing." The tale eventually made it into print in High Times, where the editor earnestly suggested that Gore was "soft on hemp."

We found out just how soft on pot the Clinton/Gore team was when they moved to quash California's medical marijuana reforms a few years later.

Now GQ has published an unsourced report, attributed to "ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates," that "if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War." Marc Ambinder's article goes on to make a sensible argument against that war, but it doesn't say much more about why we should believe that Obama would suddenly shift gears after the election. All it says is that "from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure." And indeed, Obama did declare the drug war a failure when he was a state senator in Illinois; but as president, his record has been a lot less impressive. Jacob Sullum detailed Obama's drug-war disappointments in a feature for Reason last year, and anyone who reads GQ's exercise in wishful thinking should follow it up with Sullum's sobering assessment.

So on one hand, we have Obama's actual record. On the other, we have some unidentified "aides and associates" who have persuaded GQ to plant the idea that Obama intends to reform the country's drug laws if we'd just re-elect him first, and who have done so in such a way that their candidate will not be held accountable for a promise. You'll have to forgive me if I'm not excited.

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  • mitch||

    Who are you going to believe, GQ or your bloodshot eyes?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Hey - anyone wanna get high?

  • tarran||

    I've read that FDR got away with a lot of the awful stuff he did because people gave him a pass out of gratitude for his efforts to repeal alcohol prohibition. It was the one aspect of the FDR political trajectory where he bucked the progressives good and hard.

    If Obama had the guts to do the right thing (HA!), he would make ending the drug war a central part of his platform, and it could help turn his flagging fortunes around.

    But that would require going against the progressive need to beat the shit out of the lower classes to force them to live like White Anglo Saxon Lapsed Protestants.

  • neil k.||

    I don't entirely understand why people think "the drug war" begins and ends with raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Doesn't Obama get any credibility for reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity? Apparently not, because he hasn't completely ceased the enforcement of federal drug laws against rich white people!

    How can we trust Obama to end the drug war when he hasn't ended the drug war?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yay! The disparity went from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1! And the Victory chocolate ration went up from 20 grams a week to 60 grams a month.

  • Mainer2||

    double plus good

  • Jesse Walker||

    Jacob's article mentions the reduction in the crack/powder disparity as Obama's one genuine drug-law reform. He also mentions drug-war disappointments that go beyond medical marijuana raids (and of course, the effect of those raids isn't just to bust people who might be rich and white; it is to tell the states they have no business attempting to set more liberal drug policies of their own).

  • neil k.||

    Indeed.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Nobody thinks the Drug War beings and ends with raids on dispensaries. But the demonization of marijuana by the feds is one of the most appalingly transparent lies of the modern age. Dispensary raids target drugs that are intended to help sick people, in businesses that operate legally in those states, and go after soft targets in storefronts instead of people who actually hurt people in the name of smuggling drugs.

    Does Obama deserve some credit for narrowing the sentencing gap between crack and powder from 100:1 to a mere 18:1? Sure, here's a cookie.

    But he also deserves to be called out for all of the hypocrisy, arrogance, and outright lies attached to his actions regarding the War of Drugs.

  • neil k.||

    So rescuing the sentence of thousands of young poor street dealers by a factor of 5 is worthy of "a cookie" while not keeping an implied promise to completely cease enforcing Federal drug laws against rich California business owners is "all of the hypocrisy, arrogance, and outright lies?" Just trying to keep score.

    I have yet to read the story, by the way, about the medical marijuana patient who was unable to receive care because of Obama's heartless crackdown. I know several patients and none of them has even noticed the supposed crackdown outside of the papers, which leads me to conclude that it's being severely overblown.

  • neil k.||

    *reducing

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I know several patients and none of them has even noticed the supposed crackdown

    The science is settled, then.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Let's be real about something. The Fair Sentencing Act was an act of Congress. Obama's contribution to it was a signature.

    The medical marijuana raids are carried out by the DEA, which is a federal department directly under executive control. Obama could stop those raids tomorrow if he wanted to.

    So yes, Obama does get some credit for not vetoing a bill to reduce (but not eliminate) one of the most egregiously racist aspects of the Drug War.

    But the other 99% of his policies, statements, and actions demonstrate pretty clearly that he is in no way serious about curbing the damage that the War of Drugs does to people in this country.

    So the score is Obama 1, Human Decency 99.

  • entropy||

    How the hell should making the penalities for drug offenses more egalitarian count toward legalization?

    It doesn't.

    Woopdedoo, crack smokers, you're only going to get half as much jail time. Thank you Obama!

  • neil k.||

    Crack dealers. And if reducing the penalties associated with anti-drug laws isn't part of ending the drug war, I really wonder what is.

  • sarcasmic||

    When faced with the undeniable fact that blacks were spending more time in prison than their white counterparts because their cocaine was smoked but the white person's was snorted, they had to choose between greater penalties for whites or lesser penalties for blacks.
    They didn't choose greater penalties for whites.

    I fail to see how that relates to ending the drug war.

  • sarcasmic||

    "they" being politicians

  • Brett L||

    Technically, they simply gave themselves cover to impose higher conviction rates and harsher penalties on black people who smoke cocaine. They lowered the minimums and changed the guidelines, but the judge is not required to sentence anyone to the minimum, nor apply the guidelines exactly as written.

  • entropy||

    Legalization.

    "Reducing penalties" changes nothing, because the object remains to not get caught so long as there are penalties. It does not provide a legal alternative to the black market, it does not allow sunlight and transparency into the drug industry, it doesn't do squat really.

    Maybe some lucky punk gets a bit less jail time for something he shouldn't go to jail for at all.

    In the mean time, the penalities (and their reductions) are mostly meaningless since the primary goal will remain not being caught in the first place, with jail for the unlucky.

  • Metazoan||

    No, crack users. They like trumping up those charges.

  • ||

    And if reducing the penalties associated with anti-drug laws isn't part of ending the drug war

    I found a penny yesterday. It made me wealthier.

  • Brett L||

    Reducing the penalties from 15-25 to 5-15 years is your big point? So, just to be clear, he's done a good thing by guaranteeing that these people will go to prison for at least five years for possession.

  • ||

    How about ending the sentencing discrepancy between crack and alcohol? That would be a significant step.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Crack dealers.

    The difference between possession and "possession with intent to distribute" is what the prosecutor feels he or she can get away with.

  • John Thacker||

    Congress passed the reduction. Obama signed it. He gets some credit.

    He loses credit, however, because he has failed to commute the sentences of people convicted under the harsher standard to the newer standard. Only he has the power to do that, and he has declined so far.

  • ||

    Does that make our president a racist?

  • PapayaSF||

    Only his white half.

  • daveInAustin||

    @Neil, Obama has serving at his pleasure a women who called the Mexicans dying for our stupid war on drugs animals. He has the power to free people of all races serving unjust sentences, but he doesn't have the guts to do it. On the WOD, he's no better than GWB. If you want to see this end, voting for Obama won't do a damn thing.

  • ant1sthenes||

    True, he's done a lot for crackheads. Now if only he show as much compassion for cancer patients.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I forgive you Jesse.

  • sarcasmic||

    Obama's aids are trying to court Ron Paul voters by promising to legalize their bud.
    You're have to be pretty stoned to fall for that.
    Wait a sec...

  • AlmightyJB||

    By shamelessly lying?

  • ||

    Rick Santorum will buttfuck Andre the Giant on national TV before Obama stands against the drug war. Expect nothing.

  • Mainer2||

    Andre the Giant is dead which implies necrophilia....and that's just icky.

  • ||

    Par for the course, of have you not seen Santorum's zombie wife?

  • ||

    Thanks for the visual. DICK

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Unless I missed something, Obama has been consistent in saying he is against legalization. At best, you are getting weasel statements from him about "rethinking" policy. Complete bullshit, of course, as is this leaked nonstory.

  • neil k.||

    The very first thing the leaked non-story says is that he's not going to come out for legalization. So it's good to know that you read it.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Re-read my comment, dude.

  • Cavpitalist||

    "The very first thing the leaked non-story says is that he's not going to come out for legalization. So it's good to know that you read it."

    Fuckin Alanis Morrisette over here.

  • Hugh Akston||

    He's trying to pull the Old HopenChange, and get gullible people to project positions onto him that he has either evaded or outright stated the opposite.

    I understand people falling for that in '08. I don't understand them falling for it in'012.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Seriously. This idea that politicians should get credit for what they might, maybe do, except that they won't, is nuts.

  • Sudden||

    Not to the Nobel Peace Prize award selection committee.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I don't understand people falling for it in '08. He made his stand pretty clear in Berlin - "This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets."

    So his old pal "Ray", whom he thanked in his HS yearbook for selling him weed, is now the moral equivalent of al-Qaeda. Got it.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    You can fool all of the people some of the time.

    You can fool all of the people some of the time.

    But you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

    Here's lookin' at you, clause 2 fools.

  • T o n y||

    Don't be excited then. Just compare the two options and figure it into your vote.

  • ||

    Yeah, because the choice between two prohibitionist cocksuckers is a sublime one!

  • T o n y||

    Keep disingenuously supporting "divided government" or Republicans explicitly because they agree with you on billionaires' tax rates, and see how far we get on drug liberalization.

  • grylliade||

    We'll get exactly as far supporting Democrats explicitly because they "oppose" the drug war.

    See, Democrats can't actually oppose the drug war. Because they're seen as "soft on drugs," they have to be tougher on drugs than Republicans to get re-elected so they can oppose the drug war. Except they can't even then, because they're seen as "soft on drugs," so they have to be tougher on drugs than Republicans to get re-elected so they can oppose the drug war. Lather, rinse, repeat . . . as needed.

  • o3||

    "but it doesn't say much more about why we should believe that Obama would suddenly shift gears after the election."
    _
    perhaps obama got the msg from south american leaders, at the recent summit, that some were considering full pot legalization.

    also, hemp should be legal regardless as a useful and hardy crop.

  • Spartacus||

    Obama: you have to pass him to find out what's in him.

  • o3||

    *DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER*

    MEME CHANGE ALERT!11!!

    obama is the [muslim, kenyian, commie] so we know whats in him

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Urine - you were doing so well, then - BAM - full retard.

    Son, I am disappoint.

  • o3||

    i agree that birthers are full retard.

  • ||

    muslim, kenyian, commie

    Technically at different points in his life he was all those things...the Muslim part probably lasted for 15 min though.

    Also I am positive he still is of Kenyian decent. His Autobiography says so.

  • grylliade||

    I'd rather not "pass" Obama; I have plenty of other things to "pass" that are smarter than him.

  • Sudden||

    Like a kidney stone?

  • grylliade||

    Or gas.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I know, right?

    What would I do without you, AnonBot?

  • db||

    Here is why I don't buy Obama's (or any President's) promises of second term miracles. In matters of Executive business, Presidents have leeway to make significanr changes. They also have the ability to delegate with clear direction. Any President who claims that his undivided attention is rewuired to bring about change on Executive matters either suffers from serious micromanagement issues or has the wrong pwoplw working for him.

  • db||

    Hit submit too soon. A President always has the ability to order a Cabinet member to deliver a plan to reign in a department's excesses and then act on the recommendations. This does not require direct involvement by the President. Poor leaders are reluctant to hand the reigns to their subordinates.

  • wingnutx||

  • ||

    Not use the full force of the federal government against unapproved drugs? I was not aware ObamaCare allowed any self-medication whatsoever. I call bullshit on the wink-wink to GQ.

  • fried wylie||

    I call bull fucking, shit bag, shennanigans

    ftfy.

    Oh? This time he really means it?! Well, ok, I guess I can take a few more shots to the face if he REALLY REALLY means to hopey-change. Plus, Obamacare will get him some badly needed counciling. It WILL be different this time!

  • fried wylie||

    (posted from my iHistory of domestic abuse.)

  • ||

    Why the hell does this not happen more?

    If I was running for president I would tell everyone what they wanted to hear through aides and associates, especially if it was the exact opposite of what my record was.

  • ||

    It's almost as if they think voters don't understand the concept of revealed preference, aka, "watch what I do, not what I say."

  • Lincoln||

    Of course GQ was sourced. Who still believes what comes out of Obama's mouth? If you want someone to believe your lies, have someone else tell them for you.

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