Really. Not one little bit. I'm not for it. I'm not against it. I'm not worried about it. It just doesn't have my attention. What does have my attention, though, is the level of attention it's getting from other people, and the apparent misconceptions that drive a lot of that attention.
First, let me say that what I'm about to say does not apply to medical marijuana issues. I get why that's an issue some people feel needs to be at the forefront of national attention--particularly with some states having legalized medical marijuana use, only to have their citizens arrested by federal authorities. But the medical marijuana issue is a much narrower one, and one that's fundamentally different from the larger issue.
It's fundamentally different because people who are using marijuana for non-medical reasons are free to stop. Am I saying that they should stop? Nope. I couldn't care less, so long as they're not driving around impaired or operating machinery or any of the things that might be dangerous to the rest of us. Just don't care. But here's the thing--the right to use marijuana (non-medically) is just NOT IMPORTANT. The economy is collapsing. Millions of people are losing their homes. People are dying in Iraq. And somehow "But I really wanna get high NOW" just doesn't resonate with me.
Proponents of legalization will point out (and rightly so) that we waste a lot of money prosecuting and jailing people for marijuana crimes. That deserves a look, but it's hardly the most pressing issue on our plates. The other major argument is that lives are being destroyed over marijuana charges..and it's true. As a former criminal defense lawyer, I can definitely attest to the fact that jail time usually does more harm than good. It' s a tragedy, for sure, when a young man with a family and a good job ends up in prison because he had a small amount of marijuana in his care.
But he has a choice. Until this issue is resolved, every single American is absolutely free to just NOT POSSESS MARIJUANA. Should he have to make that choice? Well, that's up for debate. But as of today, the law is what it is, and everyone knows what it is. And so anyone who doesn't want to risk going to prison can decide not to take that chance. That sort of undermines the sense of urgency in my mind. No one is at risk who doesn't choose to take that risk.
But let's say for a moment that it is a pressing issue, that we should set aside foreclosures and the death count in Iraq and get focused on making America safe for people who opt to use marijuana. If that's the goal, then let's get sensible about it.
First, let's consider the fact that the federal law against possession of marijuana was enacted by Congress--it's not an executive order. The President could, of course, encourage Congress to pass such a bill, but that's it; it's their purview, not his. And then if Congress DID pass such a bill, and the President signed it, the problem would be all solved...except that there would still be dozens and dozens of state laws criminalizing marijuana use--laws the President is ABSOLUTELY POWERLESS to affect. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, state and local prosecutions make up 99% of all marijuana prosecutions.
So...let's recap. An apparently huge movement within the United States wants the President of the United States to make it his priority to tackle something that's Congress's job, in order to repeal a law that will impact 1% of marijuana prosecutions across the country.
I've been hearing a lot of buzz about how disappointed people are in Obama over this issue. Seems to me that if all of those people got out there and rallied and donated money and campaigned to get Obama elected so that he could get the federal prohibition on marijuana repealed, the disappointment should be running the other way.