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.

Don't let hope triumph over experience.

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.