At the top of the Obama Transition Team’s change.gov website is the following quote from the President-elect:
“Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today”
The website allowed for users to submit questions through the site about the incoming administration’s agenda. After visitors to the website were able to vote for or against the submitted questions, the following question was the most popular:
“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 create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”
One could easily argue that this isn’t the most pressing issue facing America right now, but it’s certainly the one for which the continued lack of a sane answer from politicians confounds the highest number of people. Obama’s response was predictable:
President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.
While I never expected Barack Obama to simply end maijuana prohibition from the Oval Office, there are potential situations for which his role in drug policy will be interesting to watch. During the Democratic primary campaign, he vowed to stop the federal raids in medical marijuana states (then again, so did Bush in 2000, but that certainly didn’t happen). If Obama follows through on that promise, it’ll be a good start. But what happens if a state takes the next step and moves towards regulated and taxed sales as a budget-boosting measure? Will Obama use federal government resources to fight it, or will he also view that as a states’ rights issue?
The reason that these questions matter is because much of the reluctance at the state level to move forward on drug policy is because they fear coming in conflict with federal law. If we have an incoming administration that accepts the right of the states to decide these issues for themselves without interference – even if its something that Obama doesn’t necessarily support – we may start seeing states finding that ending a costly and counterproductive prohibition is a smart move in these tough economic times (remember that alcohol prohibition ended very quickly in the early 1930s after the economy went south).