If Obama Is Pro-Science and Honest

  If Obama Is Pro-Science and Honest

Posted by CN Staff on December 23, 2008 at 06:23:00 PT
By Alexander Zaitchik, AlterNet 
Source: AlterNet 

USA -- One of the many things that made Barack Obama such a refreshing candidate was his frank and unapologetic admission of drug use. True, Anderson Cooper extracted curt "yeses" from some 2004 Democratic candidates when he asked them point-blank if they had ever smoked pot. But Obama has written openly and without prompting about his experiences, not only with marijuana, but cocaine, a "hard" drug. On the campaign trail he even joked about inhaling deeply -- "that was the point," he said more than once. Unlike George W. Bush, Obama didn't hide behind evasive murmurs about "irresponsible behavior," or turn his drug experiences into a setup for some maudlin born-again conversion story.
As recounted in his memoir, Dreams From My Father, Obama was a normal American kid. Which is to say he used drugs, had fun and survived. The book doesn't romanticize the president-elect's days of smoking pot and snorting "a little blow when [he] could afford it," but it's easy to take what details he provides and imagine him with his basketball buddies on some Oahu beach blazing bowls of Maui Wowie, alternately laughing until his guts hurt and sitting in quiet wonder before a magnificent pink-and-yellow Pacific sunset. Obama has even written about his pursuit of heroin's moon-shot high. As a teenager, he went so far as to ask a junkie friend for an assisted first hit, but recoiled when presented in a deli freezer with the surgical tools of the mainliner's trade: rubber tubing and second-hand syringe.Partly because Obama was so reasonable and matter-of-fact about his own All-American experiences getting high, drug-policy reformers were among those most excited by his candidacy. If any aspect of America needs change, it is the country's prohibitionist and punitive approach to drugs and drug use. Obama, it seemed, was the right politician to take an executive hammer to the cracked marble pillars of America's disastrous war on drugs. Throughout the primaries and general election, Obama gently encouraged these hopes by advocating commonsense drug-policy reforms. He criticized federal paramilitary raids on state-sanctioned greenhouses and called for ending racist discrepancies in cocaine sentencing laws. (As a little-mentioned footnote to the first of these positions, Obama's mother died from cancer five years before the Hawaii legislature legalized medical marijuana.)Nobody expected Obama to tap Tommy Chong to run the Office of National Drug Control Policy. But maybe, just maybe, Obama would have the political courage to publicly acknowledge what an emerging majority of Americans now grasps: that the war on drugs is a failure, that it is unjust, and that it is an epic waste of law-enforcement time and resources.Still a month before inauguration, the hopes of drug-policy-reform advocates have had their wings clipped several times, beginning with the announcement of the Democratic ticket."The pick of Joe Biden was my first sign of digestive tumult," says Keith Stroup, founder and legal advisor of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Rather than oppose the Reagan-inspired War on Some Drugs, Biden became an enthusiastic supporter and legislative booster. He was at the center of creating the ONDCP [in 1988], mandatory minimum sentencing, civil forfeiture laws, the Rave Act, funding for DARE in public schools and the ad campaigns for the Partnership for a Drug Free America."NORML board member Dominic Holden says: "Biden is the drug war embodied."The selection of the emblematic Democratic drug warrior of the 1980s was followed by the selection of his 1990s counterpart, Rahm Emanuel. As President Bill Clinton's liaison with the ONDCP, the incoming chief of staff advised on and defended that administration's tough-on-crime punitive approach to drugs and its cowardly opposition to medical-marijuana initiatives and needle-exchange programs. While Clinton has since expressed regret over some of these positions, the tightly wound Emanuel has not.Obama's pick for attorney general, meanwhile, has a mixed record on drug policy reform that will hopefully be clarified during the expected Senate dogfight over his nomination. But the record is not encouraging. As D.C. attorney general in the 1990s, Eric Holder supported mandatory sentences of 18 months to six years for selling a range of drugs that included marijuana. He is also on record supporting the "broken windows" theory of neighborhood policing most closely associated with Mayor Rudy Giuliani's NYPD and the conservative Manhattan Institute. Holder's iron-fist drug politics find a public health counterpart in the confused mind of Obama's Transition Team point man on the ONDCP, Don Vereen, who as recently as November explained his opposition to medical marijuana by saying, "[It] sends the wrong message to children."Which takes us to the drug czar throne. Here the rumors are worse than most would have DARE'd imagine. The Obama transition team has done nothing to dispel talk that Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., is a leading candidate to run ONDCP or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In either position, Ramstad's nomination would make a joke of Obama's pledge that his policy decisions will be made "based on facts," not ideology and caveman politics. Earlier this month, hundreds of leading substance-abuse health professionals signed a letter to Obama expressing concern over Ramstad's opposition to evidence-based HIV/AIDS-reduction practices such as methadone and needle-exchange programs, as well as his support for arresting medical marijuana patients and failure to co-sponsor any of the three bills put forward by the last Congress to eliminate the cocaine-sentencing disparity. But it gets worse. As Maia Szalavitz first reported on The Huffington Post, Ramstad funneled almost a quarter of a million dollars in federal money to an abusive church-run addiction program that sees drug addiction not as a health issue requiring medication and counseling, but as a "sin" that needs cleansing through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as lord and savior. Ramstad is such a Bush-league freak show that concern over his possible nomination has spilled beyond the small world of drug-policy-reform professionals. Last week, the Boston Globe editorialized strongly against his candidacy.Of course, it's possible that the views of people like Holder, Emanuel, Biden and Ramstad are no longer what they were. But reformers are concerned that there's no way of knowing. "Because they haven't spoken on these issues in so long, we have to go back to what they said in the '90s," says Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML. "We hope they have evolved, or that at least Obama doesn't listen to them if they haven't. After all, the president sets the policy."Sound familiar?Regardless of where Obama's appointees stand and how much, if any, political capital he is willing to spend on drug-policy reform, the need to turn his campaign slogan into reality has never been greater. Last week, the Justice Department released numbers showing that 1 in every 100 Americans is now in prison, and 1 in every 31 is either behind bars, on parole or on probation. For this grotesquerie we can thank the war on drugs. More than half of federal prisoners (95,000 people) are behind bars for drug-law violations -- a record. Nationally, around half a million people are in prison on nonviolent drug charges. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that this is a tenfold increase since 1980, totaling more than the entire prison population of Western Europe.Reform advocates are realistic about the possibilities for progress in the coming years. Everyone agrees that a radical overhaul of U.S. drug laws, including ending the prohibition of marijuana, remains years if not decades away. But the major groups have clear goals for the first administration and are guardedly optimistic about meeting them.The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's largest drug-policy-reform advocacy group, seeks the repeal of the federal syringe-exchange-program ban and an end to racist federal cocaine sentencing laws, which continue to punish low-level crack offenders 100 times more severely than powder cocaine offenders."Obama talked about his opposition to the syringe ban on the campaign trail and mentioned it again in his AIDS Day statement," says Bill Piper, DPA's director of national affairs. "And both Obama and Biden are strong supporters of reforming cocaine-sentencing laws. Even if Congress doesn't pass a [crack cocaine] bill, the administration could instruct federal attorneys to ignore the law. We hope he'll do so."Another law that reform advocates hope will be ignored is the blanket federal prohibition of marijuana, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled trumps states' rights to legally grow and distribute marijuana for medical purposes. Obama has criticized federal raids on state-sanction dispensaries as a poor use of federal resources, a popular position. The electoral politics of medical marijuana also favor progress on this front."One in four Americans now lives in a medical marijuana state," Aaron Houston, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project, explained to Reason magazine. "And medical marijuana outpolled Obama in Michigan by six points. Medical marijuana states, including Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, were essential to Obama's victory, and continuing a federal war against a quarter of the country would make no sense."NORML, America's pot-reform spearhead, will push for the establishment of a National Marijuana Commission, modeled on congressional commissions formed in 1970 and 1972 to study pot prohibition. Both prior commissions concluded in favor of decriminalization, and activists think it is high time to throw another national spotlight on the law that last year resulted in 870,000 marijuana arrests."Any serious commission today would come to same conclusion [in favor of decriminalization]. We're willing to sit tight for a couple of years as Congress studies it," says NORML's Keith Stroup. "But we want high-profile hearings in the judiciary committees. We want to get our experts up there."Meanwhile, NORML will push Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to reintroduce his decriminalization bill, HR5843, also known as the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act. Co-sponsored by former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the bill would in effect decriminalize possession of up to an ounce. When introduced last year, it became the first bill to take aim at prohibition since 1982.Advocates may have their best ally not in the White House or in Congress, but in the economy. As state budgets shrink across the country, legislatures are often forced to choose between education and prison budgets. This phenomenon is most stark in California, where a budget shortfall and massive overcrowding has Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about letting people go and the legislature discussing sentencing reform."During the last recession, we saw an enormous number of states enact reform," says DPA's Piper. "This is the silver lining of an economic downturn. After the recession recedes, the reforms tend to stick, when the states realize they are saving money."If the economy ends up being the prime mover behind drug reform under Obama and the incoming Congress, it will be better than nothing, but still a sad commentary on the Democratic Party and American democracy in general. Polls and state ballot initiatives continue to show the public widening its lead ahead of their elected leaders on drug policy, who more often than not remain stuck in the 1980s, if not the 1920s. While changing the law ultimately falls upon Congress, Obama could help take his party and the country into the new century by using the bully pulpit to question the premises and effects of the drug war. If he chooses to do so, he is certainly surrounded by enough veteran drug warriors to provide political cover. Who knows? If President Richard Nixon could go to China, maybe Joe Biden & Co. can help Obama make the shorter but equally historic trip down Main Street to the local head shop.Note: Obama was frank about his own drug use, so why isn't he more honest about what a disaster war on drugs has been?Complete Title: Could Obama's Pro-Marijuana Commerce Secretary Spell a Golden Era for Pot Reform?Alexander Zaitchik is a freelance journalist.Source: AlterNet (US)Author: Alexander Zaitchik, AlterNetPublished: December 23, 2008Copyright: 2008 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #21 posted by rchandar on December 25, 2008 at 15:41:57 PT:
I disagree--Unfortunately what you're saying about politics is, "it's never happened before, so it can't happen." You have a valid point in that systems of injustice can last a long time. Let's take a look:--Salem Witch Trials=87 years.
--Spanish Inquisition=316 years.
--Communist occupation of Eastern Europe=43 years.
--Muslim occupation of India=700 years.From the movie, Gandhi: "there have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall."I don't think it's right to tell people to think they can't make a difference re MJ policy. True, we may not even live to see it. But if we are told to "not even dream," then how do we stop the injustices? How would we be felt? Are you simply saying, accept a bad system and pray that it doesn't hit you? We are not going to play down; there is an opportunity to stop the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of citizens, and it is worth that effort. You are making a MISTAKE, I believe--lots of countries have sentencing far worse than ours. It only takes the word "drugs" to send people to the alarm of punitivism. It's a MISTAKE to lay down our arms, to not try and put our issues out in Congress.And I personally don't care--I'm not selfish about my own life. It is preferable to die fighting for what's right than to accept how it is.--rchandar
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Comment #20 posted by FoM on December 25, 2008 at 13:18:04 PT
Just a Thought
I have been doing CNews for over 10 years and to this day I have no idea what the drug reform community wants. Some people think one way and others think another way. I have stayed out of the politics of all the organization and focus on how I see change coming. It really is a personal decision. I know I don't have the interest in drug reform except people who are addicted to hard drugs getting help not jail. I want to see the laws changed so states can have medical marijuana without so much hassle and someday maybe it will even be legalized. That will take a little more time I think. I won't be active in marijuana reform for many more years so I look to what I hope I will see done in the relatively near future. 
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Comment #19 posted by museman on December 25, 2008 at 11:53:33 PT
You are absolutely correct in everything you stated. The government, and the systems of values and beliefs that uphold and perpetuate it, are the true source of error.Compromises with liberty and freedom, and willing capitulation with evil and wrongness, doesn't do much for obtaining our liberty. Decriminalization doesn't solute the problem, it merely waters it down a bit, however the human suffering that has attended the oppression, social stigma, fines and imprisonment, along with the intitial brutal 'first contact' of the swat team -which we all know can be fatal- of cannabis prohibition, can use all the lessening we can muster, compromise or not.We just cannot stop with that, we must keep pushing the barrier until we actually get to freedom. We can opinionate, and lament the fact that we are only getting table scraps from the table of liberty, but it is prudent ot be thankful for the crumbs, while we cospire to take back the table.As far as Obama is concerned. A vote is a token action. It takes all of a few minutes. Anyone who thinks they've done their civic duty just by casting their vote is at best a bit naive, but like the distasteful compromises we must accept (temporally) on the way to real freedom and liberty, we must take this opportunity that this small window of liberal perspective has given us, and ACT.Expecting any 'elected representative' to be the 'savior of democracy' or 'liberator of america' is what the campaign managers want, but realisticly, that's about the same as expecting Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to show.In a Republic, the people abdicate their personal responsibility to the 'class' of leaders, with peasant-like expectations to be 'taken care of.' In a democracy (which does not currently exist in america) people take their part in self-governance seriously, and communities are involved from the local homeless, to the houses on the hill.If we want change, WE are going to have to change. This medieval thinking that we have to have someone to make the change for us, do the work, take the responsibility, has got to be left behind with the last age.FREE CANNABIS FOR EVERYONE
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Comment #18 posted by dreamdust on December 25, 2008 at 10:59:43 PT:
Decriminization is a farce
The logic behind decriminalization is just as inane and irrational as the logic behind prohibition. If we are a country where people are treated equally under the law, and we are free to choose what to do with our lives if it doesn't infringe on other peoples' freedoms, then the government has no justification to tax or regulate Cannabis consumption. What is the logic in letting people smoke some pot, and then jailing the people who provide them with it?We don't have the right to tax marijuana just like we don't have the right to tax eating at McDonald's for driving up health care costs. Decriminalization is a tool in the divide and conquer strategy to marginalize the drug reform movement. This has little to do with Marijuana and everything to do with liberty, privacy, and equality under the law. The logic behind the drug laws is the same as 100 years ago; the laws serve to maintain and expand the power of the upper-class.Those who voted for Obama should not kid themselves into believing they are a part of any change to restore America to a state of legal and constitutional sanity.
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Comment #17 posted by rchandar on December 24, 2008 at 12:26:17 PT:
There's No Excuse
There's no excuse, folks--We elected a Democrat President, and built a solid Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. It adds up very simple--the next two years are our chance to sponsor legislation that could change our approach.Our needs are simple. Our demands are simple, easy to follow, and very reasonable. Stop sending small-time users and small-time dealers to jail; stop arresting medical patients who have a doctor's prescription; and cut down the heavy penalties for growing pot. These are reasonable ideas in the new millennia, and should gain enough support in Congress to be viable.Listen, folks. I teach at an all-black university. When Obama won, they celebrated on the campus every day--people with free lunches, bands playing in the quad, and so on. What with the trauma of several hurricanes, and the bad record New Orleans has regarding race, these kids definitely deserved it. But even they were at times very skeptical--one student had me listen to a song, "My President is Black"--just to show me they were worried Obama wouldn't represent them. Barack, you and we have no excuse--Black men are the ones who bear the punitive brunt of this WOD--and it is time that we address bringing them back into the community and ending the needless persecution of the blunt-smoker who is usually not any worse a person than our pillars. This is one of the best things which could happen for the African-American community. Justice has always been a big concern for them. Merry Christmas!--rchandar 
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on December 24, 2008 at 11:23:38 PT
What Will Obama Do About Marijuana? 
December 24, 2008URL:
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on December 24, 2008 at 10:32:54 PT
Thank you. The article is posted now. Merry Christmas!!!
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Comment #14 posted by The GCW on December 24, 2008 at 10:15:11 PT
Goddard poses legalizing pot 
Goddard poses legalizing pot 24, 2008Arizona
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on December 24, 2008 at 04:21:52 PT
Comment 10 EJ
Probably the best gift we could get him would be to make him be able to stay on the job there in D.C. .
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Comment #12 posted by Hope on December 24, 2008 at 04:20:09 PT
I love the Spinelli Claus story. Thank you. It is often the "Spinellis" in our lives, it seems to me, that are there, when we need them, Johnny on the spot, more than most people realize.
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Comment #11 posted by Hope on December 24, 2008 at 04:15:28 PT
ekim comment 7
Good grief! I am so sorry to hear that! I've kept track of Howard's work and I feel sure he has done an enormous amount of good there in D.C.. An enormous amount!To me, he's not so much a lobbiest and more a diplomat and educator for our point of view. What a loss. If I could afford it, I'd try to keep him on the job there, myself... but alas. "If wishes were horses"... Misty would have another herd of equine friends.I thank God for Howard and all the work he's done. I'm hoping he's sown plenty of good seed and it's in fact sprouting and growing, firmly embedded, and ready to bear good fruit.Thank you, Howard!
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Comment #10 posted by E_Johnson on December 24, 2008 at 00:57:29 PT
Should we get him a retirement gift or something?
He's done such great things.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on December 23, 2008 at 19:44:52 PT
I'm sorry.
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on December 23, 2008 at 17:49:35 PT
Spinelli Claus on General Hospital today
There's a character named Spinelli on the TV soap General Hospital. He's a computer wizard and nerd and an implied pothead, which causes innumerable little putdowns from the more tightly wound characters regarding the smell, his bong, his weirdness, etc. You know the drill, right?Spinelli once furnished marijuana for another character when she had to go through chemo. Today Spin was amazed to find Santa Claus in his apartment. Santa had accidentally deleted the Christmas list for everyone in Port Charles, a fictional town somewhere near Boston, where the show is set.Spinelli couldn't restore the deleted files, so he and his best friend and unrequited love Maxie went around Port Charles trying to figure out what everyone wanted for Christmas.Spinelli wore Santa's coat, which Santa left behind in Spinelli's apartment. Every time Spinelli visited another family on the show, he would find something weird inside Santa's coat pocket that turned out to be exactly what the people needed to find their loving Christmas connection.In one segment, a new mother Robin with family coming over was upset because she couldn't find the pearl necklace her mother had given her, and her mother was on the way over, and her husband had forgotten to pick up dessert.Spinelli showed up and endured a few coded anti-pothead putdowns again from the more tightly wound characters as usual.Then he found something in his pocket -- a bag of Christmas cookies.He handed the cookies over before leaving. After much debate over whether the cookies contained anything dangerous that Spinelli might have put in there -- hint hint -- the characters started eating and surprise -- the cookies were identical to the cookies that Robin's grandma used to make her when she was little.It turned out that Robin's grandmother had always promised Robin this recipe but died before she could come through. The bag Spinelli pulled from his pocket contained the recipe too.Then her husband dropped his cookie on the floor -- and it landed right next to the lost pearl necklace.So the harried mom Robin had the Merry Christmas she'd thought she was too tired and grouchy and stressed out to enjoy.It's interesting because in this story, everyone put poor Spinelli down with all these coded anti-marijuana insults -- and he ended up bringing the Spirit of Christmas to the whole town anyways.I was crying and crying by the end of the show when Maxie gave Spinelli a kiss -- which is exactly what he'd been dreaming of getting for Christmas.If anyone gets SoapNet on cable, tape this show.I'm crying just typing this BTW.
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Comment #7 posted by ekim on December 23, 2008 at 16:49:29 PT
Howards last day Dec 31 -- damsad day for LEAP
LEAP on the Hill Stories from the week of December 19, 2008 High Pressure Sales Tactics?: The elevator was crowded in the Hart Senate office building this morning. The female lobbyist to my right looked at my name plate and asked, “What is LEAP?” I responded, ‘Police officers who believe the war on drugs is bad policy and that all drugs should be legal, regulated and taxed.’ “Wow. How do I sign up?” I drew a business card from shirt pocket and told her she could on line. She thanked me. “Tell the Senator you are about to visit how you feel.” were my departing words. LEAP is so easy to ‘sell.’ I have news for you! Riding the train in this week, a woman that I sit with from time to time was excited to tell me something. She said that last week on the expressway, she saw a red Toyota with big signs that said, ‘MOMS SAY LEGALIZE POT’ on the trunk lid. “Can you imagine?” She asked. “Your ideas must be catching on.” I began to laugh as I told her the car belonged to my better half.  She laughed too. Force Multiplier: Congressional offices will be mostly closed till the New Year. Thus my meeting at 3 PM today was probably the last of 2008. The senior legal counsel who represents one of the major Democratic Senators and I had met a year ago. He began the meeting by saying, ‘Since we met last year, I have told many about you and your message. It is so simple, direct and understandable.’ I thanked him for spreading the LEAP message in DC during 2008.  Mothballs: Due to lack of funds, the LEAP Board last week made the decision that my work here in DC is the least important segment of the LEAP effort to end drug prohibition. My last day is December 31.  It has been an honor and privilege to have worked for you in the halls of Congress the past 26 months. I remain an active LEAP member and speaker. I am medium confident that a position with another organization will open up this winter. I will use my retirement money to bridge the gap between employments. Wishing for you and yours the best in 2009.
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Comment #6 posted by HempWorld on December 23, 2008 at 13:35:22 PT

If Obama Is Pro-Science and Honest and not a ra-
sist!We have come full-circle! But I doubt anyone has realized this.
On a mission from God!
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Comment #5 posted by E_Johnson on December 23, 2008 at 11:14:33 PT

Obama has to balance two kinds of capital
There are two kinds of political capital Obama has to spend. In Congress, reefer madness can buy you a lot of nice shiny Republican votes.However, among the voters, reefer madness can't even win you one single county in Michigan.He's got to figure out how to get his agenda through Congress using just enough reefer madness for Congress but not too much for the voters in Michigan.Good luck.
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Comment #4 posted by E_Johnson on December 23, 2008 at 09:30:49 PT

He'd better count his political capital again
The sleeping giant of American politics is getting bigger by 850,000 bodies every year.Clinton poked the first four million with sharp stick for eight years and Al Gore paid the price when enough of them finally woke up at the polls to vote third party.Bush poked that four million plus his own six million with a sharp stick for another eight years and they woke up again and went to work for Obama.If Obama thinks he can get away with poking those ten million plus his own three or four million with a stick sharpened personally by Rahm Emanuel -- I hate to think what's going to happen in 2012.An angry beast might walk screaming out its cave and use its 14 million fingers to make Obama into the next Al Gore.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on December 23, 2008 at 08:41:41 PT

Why Obama Really Might Decriminalize Marijuana
I love these articles today! Ho! Ho! Ho!
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 23, 2008 at 08:38:30 PT

I think President Elect Obama is well aware of the plight of his African American brothers and sisters. I really do.Merry Christmas to you!
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on December 23, 2008 at 08:34:41 PT

Not only has Obama to take note of the science on
Marijuana or Cannabis but also he has to take note of his skin color. Has anyone informed our President-elect that all marijuana laws are racist? If science doesn't trump idiocy, then doesn't a 'black' president at least notice the racism in all the (drug) laws?
On a mission from God!
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