Obama and the Marijuana Question


Andrew Sullivan deems Barack Obama’s dismissive answer to a question about marijuana legalization “pathetic”.

I think it’s worth putting this into context. The administration has set up a number of mechanisms by which the public can get questions asked by the White House. This is a good idea, and will help break the hold that Beltway trivia has on the public conversation. This question—about whether legalizing and taxing pot wouldn’t be a good way to deal with the economic crisis—arose through one such process, as a result of an organized campaign by marijuana-legalizers to push it to the top of the agenda. The easy thing to do under the circumstances would have been to just ignore the question. Nobody made the administration do it. But they’re committed to the process, so given the organizers’ success in getting a lot of people to push this, they made it part of the town hall. That’s all a very good thing in my view.

But I do think the question deserved a more serious answer. Even something as simple as “I think the public health costs of legalizing marijuana would exceed any economic benefits” would be a real answer. Marijuana prohibition is popular, and pro-pot interests are not influential. So I don’t expect the president to come out in favor of reform. But it would be nice to see him discuss the issue seriously.