By Jacob Sullum
In the October issue of Reason (not online yet, but you can pick it up at a newsstand), I explain how Barack Obama has disappointed supporters who thought he would be better on drug policy than his predecessor. Summing up, I say:
It would be going too far to say that Obama has been faking it all these years, that he does not really care about the injustices perpetrated in the name of protecting Americans from the drugs they want. But he clearly does not care enough to change the course of the life-wrecking, havoc-wreaking war on drugs.
Or enough to formulate a coherent answer to a straightforward drug policy question. At a presidential Q&A in Minnesota a few weeks ago, NORML's Paul Armentano notes, Obama had the following exchange:
Woman in Audience: If you can't legalize marijuana, why can't we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?
Obama: Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, uh, you know—well—I'll—I'll—I'll—I'll leave it at that.
Did Obama suddenly remember that he broke his promise to respect state choices regarding the medical use of marijuana? Did he realize he would have a hard time explaining why he is letting the Justice Department and the DEA threaten medical marijuana suppliers and scare state officials away from licensing dispensaries? Maybe he just cares so little about this issue that he can't even bother to distinguish between medical exceptions to state drug laws and federal rescheduling of marijuana (which would allow doctors to prescribe it), let alone explain how marijuana's Schedule I status is consistent with his avowed commitment to sound science. "If the President of the United States can't publicly articulate why we continue to arrest over one-half million Americans each year for possessing marijuana," says Armentano, "then why are we as a nation continuing to engage in this destructive and illogical policy?"