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Why Obama Really Might Decriminalize Marijuana

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Esquire
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The stoner community is clamoring to say it: “Yes we cannabis!” Turns out, with several drug-war veterans close to the president-elect’s ear, insiders think reform could come in Obama’s second term — or sooner.

Famously, Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved the United States banking system during the first seven days of his first term.

And what did he do on the eighth day? “I think this would be a good time for beer,” he said.

Congress had already repealed Prohibition, pending ratification from the states. But the people needed a lift, and legalizing beer would create a million jobs. And lo, booze was back. Two days after the bill passed, Milwaukee brewers hired six hundred people and paid their first $10 million in taxes. Soon the auto industry was tooling up the first $12 million worth of delivery trucks, and brewers were pouring tens of millions into new plants.

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“Roosevelt’s move to legalize beer had the effect he intended,” says Adam Cohen, author of Nothing To Fear, a thrilling new history of FDR’s first hundred days. “It was, one journalist observed, ‘like a stick of dynamite into a log jam.’”

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Many in the marijuana world are now hoping for something similar from Barack Obama. After all, the president-elect said in 2004 that the war on drugs had been “an utter failure” and that America should decriminalize pot:

In July, Obama told Rolling Stone that he believed in “shifting the paradigm” to a public-health approach: “I would start with nonviolent, first-time drug offenders. The notion that we are imposing felonies on them or sending them to prison, where they are getting advanced degrees in criminality, instead of thinking about ways like drug courts that can get them back on track in their lives — it’s expensive, it’s counterproductive, and it doesn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, economists have been making the beer argument. In a paper titled “Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition,” Dr. Jeffrey Miron of Harvard argues that legalized marijuana would generate between $10 and $14 billion in savings and taxes every year — conclusions endorsed by 300 top economists, including Milton “Free Market” Friedman himself.

And two weeks ago, when the Obama team asked the public to vote on the top problems facing America, this was the public’s No. 1 question: “Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”

But alas, the answer from Camp Obama was — as it has been for years — a flat one-liner: “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.” And at least two of Obama’s top people are drug-war supporters: Rahm Emanuel has been a long-time enemy of reform, and Joe Biden is a drug-war mainstay who helped create the position of “drug czar.”  

Full story here.

This article was posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 11:01 am





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