Parsing Obama's Words on Legalizing Marijuana 
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Parsing Obama's Words on Legalizing Marijuana 
Posted by CN Staff on December 14, 2012 at 07:45:38 PT
By Ethan Nadelmann
Source: Huffington Post
Washington, D.C. -- Anytime the president answers a question about marijuana and federal marijuana policy, as he did in a recent interview with ABC's Barbara Walters that airs tonight, it makes sense to parse his words. Four things stand out in ABC's press release about the president's comments.The first is that he responded in a serious and substantive tone, which contrasted with the jokingly dismissive ways in which he answered questions about marijuana legalization just a few years ago. The ballot initiative victories in Colorado and Washington gave him no choice this time. Marijuana legalization is now a political reality.
The second was his comment -- highlighted by ABC in its news release -- that recreational users of marijuana in states that have legalized the substance should not be a "top priority" of federal law enforcement officials prosecuting the war on drugs. "We've got bigger fish to fry," he said. That statement is not news. Federal law enforcement officials have never prioritized going after users of marijuana. Obama has said much the same regarding medical consumers of marijuana, but that begs the question of whether consumers will be able to make their purchases from legal or only illegal sources.The third was when Obama told Walters he does not -- "at this point" -- support widespread legalization of marijuana. The caveat "at this point" sounds a lot like how he responded to questions about legalizing gay marriage - until he finally decided it was time to publicly support it. Obama cited shifting public opinion and essentially made clear that this is not an issue on which he wants to provide leadership so long as public opinion is split and Congress unlikely to do anything constructive.The fourth, and most substantive, comment was the following: "This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama said. "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?" What stands out here are the words about the "need to have... a conversation" and the fact that he is framing the conflict between federal and state law as a question to be resolved as opposed to one in which it is simply assumed that federal marijuana prohibition trumps all.What remains unclear is whom the president sees as the participants in that conversation. Earlier this week Attorney General Holder said, in response to questions after a speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, "I would expect the policy pronouncement that we're going to make will be done relatively soon." All indications suggest that deliberations about the administration's position are being conducted primarily by and among federal law enforcement officials, many of whom appear most comfortable reciting the mantra that "it's all illegal under federal law" as grounds for dismissing any further conversation.That is why the letter sent last week by Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is especially significant. "What assurance can and will the administration give to state officials involved in the licensing of marijuana retailers that they will not face Federal criminal penalties for carrying out duties assigned to them under state law?" he asked, and then stated that "legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face."Voters in Washington and Colorado did more than just make history last month by voting to end their states' marijuana prohibition laws and attempt instead to regulate marijuana as a legal commodity. They performed a national service by catapulting the national conversation about marijuana policy to a new level of urgency and political significance. President Obama is right about the need for a conversation. He needs to ensure that federal officials engage in good faith and with due deference to the fiscal, moral and public safety and health arguments in favor of legally regulating marijuana rather than persisting with a costly and ineffective prohibitionist policy.Source: Huffington Post (NY)Author:  Ethan NadelmannPublished: December 14, 2012Copyright: 2012, LLC Contact: scoop huffingtonpost.comWebsite:   -- Cannabis  Archives 
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Comment #5 posted by schmeff on December 14, 2012 at 11:38:17 PT
If you're part of the Greedy One Percent, and want to criticize Obama, there's no need to wait for him to slip up.Just invent something. That's the Republican way.Donald Trump commenting on Obama's re-election on Twitter: "He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country." Fact check: Obama won the popular vote by more than 4 million.Don't bother a Republican with facts. Reality can't compete with ideology.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on December 14, 2012 at 08:24:37 PT
Obama does know how to use words well. With Republicans looking for any slip up you better know how to use words.
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Comment #3 posted by schmeff on December 14, 2012 at 08:18:01 PT
Waffles Anyone?
If you want to succeed in politics, you'll need to learn to NEVER say anything categorically. Speak directly, but not honestly. Use lots of impressive words, but don't actually say anything. "At this point" means that whatever you're saying is valid for only a millisecond at best, because in a heartbeat, you're at another point. Always qualify every statement: "possibly", "probably", "perhaps", "as far as I know", "not to my knowledge/recollection."Master politicians go one better: they take both sides of every issue at some point. Romney: "I don't recall exactly what I said, but I stand by it." If you say something without trying to qualify it and give yourself some wiggle-room, you'll come to regret it: "Read my lips, no new taxes."Never doubt for a minute that Obama doesn't know how to use words well.
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Comment #2 posted by Dr Ganj on December 14, 2012 at 08:10:41 PT:
States' Rights
Well, it's a good start. He still isn't man enough to say 60,000 Mexicans have died, 500,000 US drug users are in prison, and it's time for "real change".
The only real change I've seen, is from the voters in Colorado & Washington state. More states are soon to follow, along with Uruguay, and other Latin American countries. 
This was Obama's opportunity to show real leadership on the miserable, destructive, failed drug war, and once again, he says nothing definitive. Very typical of politicians. I expected nothing new and exciting, and sure enough, I was right again. 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on December 14, 2012 at 07:48:51 PT
At This Point
Excerpt: The third was when Obama told Walters he does not -- "at this point" -- support widespread legalization of marijuana. The caveat "at this point" sounds a lot like how he responded to questions about legalizing gay marriage - until he finally decided it was time to publicly support it.I believe Obama knows how to use words well.
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