Jacob Sullum writes in Reason about the reasons to be skeptical of the recent reports claiming that Obama will have a shift in drug policy in his second term. Jesse Walker has also written about it here and Mike Riggs here. The reality is that Obama could be doing more to move us away from waging a war on drugs, but he’s not. He hasn’t even been able to keep the promise he made on the campaign trail about respecting state medical marijuana laws.
These “leaked reports” feel like a half-assed attempt to pander to the left-leaning folks like myself who are considering supporting Gary Johnson over Obama’s horrendous record on all types of civil liberty issues. And they’re also very detached from what the reality is very likely to be in November. Both Washington and Colorado have full legalization initiatives on the ballot, and both are ahead in the polls. And Oregon may join them.
If any of these initiatives pass – and Obama wins a second term – we’ll know pretty quickly whether or not he’s going to “pivot” on the drug war. The federal government has the power to shut down any state marijuana regulations, but despite what Marc Ambinder claims about Obama’s powerlessness, his DOJ clearly has some discretion about what it considers a priority, and Obama is certainly free to appoint someone to head up the DEA who actually knows if heroin is a more dangerous drug than marijuana. Even if Obama doesn’t take a position in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level, he can take the position that he’ll tolerate a state’s voters making it the law. If he’s not taking that position, there’s no pivot.